Kopi-Tiam Spice Alley, behind Kensington Street, Chippendale NSW
Dr Stanley Quek, chairman of Greencliff Realty, has a grand vision for the future of Sydney. He believes in filling vacant and hollow lanes with the fire of South-East Asian culture and cuisine. And boy, do we like his vision.
Stanley has succeeded in epic fashion. His laneway venture, Spice Alley, is absolutely bursting with life. The space is a vibrant fusion of Asian hawker-stalls and Kensington Lane’s distinctive architecture. Complementing the gorgeous food stalls and South-East Asian inspired murals are exhibition spaces showcasing the brightest talents of Sydney’s contemporary art and design. The result: an eclectic, lively space with a red-lantern glow.
Aptly named, Spice Alley is luring crowds of hungry customers into its embrace of fragrant spices and aromas. With a range of stalls and four permanent kitchens, the alley is committed to keeping its food as true to the hawker culture as possible. All wares are less than $10 a pop, and the sizzling woks and pounded spices are made fresh for you to devour.
And it’s all provided by the four veterans of Sydney’s South-East Asian culinary scene. The first of the quartet is Alex Lee, the master of Singaporean cuisine. Hailing from Sydney’s popular Ginger & Spice and Temasek, he’s offering freshly flipped rotis served with flaming-hot sambal, and delicious bowls of his hallmark Chatterbox rice at his stall, Alex Lee Kitchen.
We can thank the team behind the awarded Chef’s Gallery for Hong Kong Diner, which offers patrons a chance to sample the diverse and comforting tastes of Hong Kong. It upholds its unique fusion of East and West cuisine, resulting in a range of scoffable offerings including delicious crispy wontons, caramelised BBQ’d pork, handmade noodles and other humble delights.
Tiw Rakarin, previously of Mama’s Buoi in Surry Hills, offers a fusion of Thai and Vietnamese street food at his stall, Bang Luck Thai. With a star-studded international career, Tiw has fused the wonderful tastes, colours and fresh produce of Northern Thailand into his modern take on Thai street-market curries and noodle dishes. Pair these classics with one of his signature creations, such as the spicy papaya salad with chicken ribs or the tender slow-cooked pork ribs, and you’re in for a Thai-rrific treat.
Jim Yong is Spice Alley’s specialist in Malaysian Nyonya cuisine, and he’s fondly known in the industry as Uncle Jim. His stall, Old Jim Kee, serves up the perfect taste of Penang. For the price of your spare change you can grab one of his crispy chicken wings before sampling his char kway teow – a traditional Malaysian pad Thai served with crispy croutons of pork lard. Wash it all down with an icey Milo, or if you’re feeling traditional, a sweet, frothy Malaysian milk tea, and you’ll be embracing all kinds of good-food feels.
With Spice Alley’s bustling vibe and hot, authentic tastes, this dream team of South-East Asian cuisine has created a hidden oasis that truly showcases the tastes of Asian metropolis.
Words by Georgie Macrae | Who loves haggis and red velvet equally, but not together.