By Ryan Gandiaga @ryangandiaga
Norton Street in Leichhardt might not be the dining destination it once was but it is on the road to recovery. In the past few years the presence of the Italian community has died down dramatically as the street has changed to being more diverse in its food offerings.
“There’s a lot of great businesses that have been here for a long time, but I think there’s always room for improvement, especially with the demographic around here people are always looking for new things,” says Dan McBride, one of the owners of vegetarian bar Golden Gully.
Despite the street being known for its Italian culture, there are few venues left that offer this experience (such as Bar Italia). The Italian Forum, which has been around since 1999, signifies this decline now being almost entirely empty storefronts. It also contributes to the some of the public view towards the street.
“There’s not a very big diverse range, there’s a lot of Italian, the culture that’s sort of around this area,” one local said.
“It looks like it needs a little bit of love at this stage,” said another.
A lot still needs to be done to revive the dining scene of the street but the introduction of different cultures and styles of venue is a step in the right direction. Places such as Thainamic, The Twisted Indian, Peanut Butter Bar, The Royal Hotel, and Golden Gully are all offering something that Norton Street wasn’t known for in the past.
More venues like these spanned across the street are needed to change the perspective that Norton Street is still an Italian hub.
Hospitality juggernaut Merivale is also planning to soon open a new venue on the street after recently purchasing Norton’s Irish Pub for $24 million, CEO Justin Hemmes noting in a recent interview that pubs play a special role in shaping a suburb’s culture.
McBride added: “People hate Merivale in the industry but I think they do good offerings and it’s bringing more choice and excitement to the street, so hopefully more good operators keep coming in and add more vibrancy to the neighbourhood.”