Take Brookyln street appeal, top-shelf cocktails, mouth-drooling Reuben sandwiches and land them in a graffiti plastered room with barred windows, at the bottom of a multi-storey car park and you’ll find Uncle Kurt’s. Opened in 2016, this award winning bar was Parramatta’s first small bar and a fan favourite in Parramatta’s CBD.
In the video, Unkle Kurt's Bar Manager Sasha Berdyshevsk prepares their signature cocktail the Carpark Martini while in the images, Owner George Makram, talks about where the concept for Uncle Kurt’s comes from.
"I wanted to create a bar in Parramatta that takes absolute pride in what it does – that pursues uncompromising excellence.
"The bench mark was the best bars in Sydney, Melbourne and New York City ... There's a lot of people in Parramatta who travel to Potts Point, Newtown and Darlinghurst to drink in small bars, so I felt there was a need for a local."
"I was thinking about a Brooklyn vibe, so I headed off. I spent time in Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Bushwick and Clifton Hill, where I looked into the gentrification process and the hipster movement. I tried to find the look and feel I was after, as well as the service style, food and drink."
Every handcrafted cocktail served in the 45-seater space features premium spirits and fresh ingredients, made from scratch in-house. The signature Westside, for example, contains kaffir lime leaf-infused gin, yellow chartreuse, citrus, sugar snap pea, honey and ginger. Then there's the Poor Man's Mezcalita, another original, made up of smoked tequila, dry vermouth, sage honey, citrus and hopped grapefruit bitters.
"It's like liquid cooking," explains George. "We make our own syrups, infusions, tinctures, bitters and perfumes. We dehydrate fruits and vegetables ourselves. We carve our own ice daily."
Beyond the ever-changing signature cocktail menu is a solid list of classics, such as the Old Cuban, the Penicillin and the Naked and Famous. Plus, at 4pm daily, $10 Negroni Happy Hour clocks on, signing off at 6pm. For non-cocktail drinkers, the craft beer selection is an international journey, beginning in Australia, crossing the Tasman to New Zealand and then the Pacific to the U.S. Just a few of the drops behind the bar are Young Henry's Newtowner Ale (on tap), Sour Puss Raspberry Ale from Camperdown's Wayward Brewing and Brooklyn Brown Ale.
During the tightest COVID-19 restrictions, Uncle Kurt’s quickly pivoted to deliver their signature dishes and drinks to the local community.
Uncle Kurt's Signature…Uncle Kurt's Signature Carpark MartiniGeorgeMakram/sites/placebrand/files/2020-07/UK%2060s%20with%20end%20card.mp4,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-05/George%20Makram%20Uncle%20Kurts.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-05/Reubens%20from%20Uncle%20Kurts_0.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-05/5U8B5214_0.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-05/Uncle%20Kurts%20cocktails%202.jpg/sites/placebrand/files/styles/thumbnail/public/2020-05/Reubens%20from%20Uncle%20Kurts.jpg?itok=WvsAFLyO
Riding, running, swimming, skating…Riding, running, swimming, skating, Georgia's ParramattaBorn just 6 minutes away from where she has lived her whole life, 10-year-old Georgia loves everything that Parramatta has to offer. Along with her younger sister, her weekends and school holidays are busy with bike riding, swimming, playing with friends and visiting many of the local parks with scooters, helmets and snacks.
“My mum loves to take us on adventures to Parramatta. Sometimes it’s just for lunch and an ice-cream, but other times we take a train to Sydney, have fish and chips for lunch at the Rocks before catching the ferry to Parramatta and a bus back home. So much fun how easy it is to get around.”
With Sydney Olympic Park having so many great facilities, Georgia often finds herself there on weekends, whether to play at Blaxland Riverside Park, to see her first concert (Taylor Swift) or to use the many sporting facilities.
“I’m so lucky Sydney Olympic Park is close as I love sports and there is always so much to do there. My sister and I love splashing around at the Aquatic Centre and this year was my third Kids Tryathlon at Sydney Olympic Park.”
Lake Parramatta has always been a great spot to visit with kids, but since the Lake reopened for swimming in 2015, it’s become one of Georgia’s favourite places to go.
“Lake Parramatta is just a few minutes down the road so we go there often. We usually get there quite early, especially if it’s going to be hot. One of my favourite times at Lake Parramatta was in winter when we took our art books and did some great drawings as we did the bushwalk around the lake.”
The Riverside Theatre Spot On Children’s Festival has been running for many years and has continued to grow and expand. As well as a great line up of shows and events every year, the courtyard offers a range of free activities including craft, roving performers, face painting and performances.
“I love going to the Spot On festival at Riverside Theatre during school holidays. Sometimes we just go to the courtyard where there is always something going on, other times, we see a show. My favourite show was Mr Snot Bottom’s Stinky Silly Show. When my nan comes to Riverside Theatre to see a show that she likes, she comes and picks me up from school which I like.”
Parramatta is well-known for its family-friendly festivals and events which include Parramatta Lanes, New Year's Eve, Australia Day and Lunar New Year.
“I love going to different events in Parramatta. One of my favourites is the Winterlight festival. One year, I was so obsessed with Elsa from Frozen that I even wore my Elsa dress ice-skating.”
Georgia’s top ten favourite things to do in Parramatta:
1. Swimming at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre
2. Bushwalking and swimming at Lake Parramatta
3. Throwing snowballs at Winterlight
4. Running through the splash park at Dundas, even when its winter
5. Going to Spot On Children's festival at Riverside Theatre
6. Riding around Parramatta Park and end up at the trampolines
7. Eating gelato at Gelato Messina
8. Trying some new food at Lunar New Year Festival
9. Catching the Ferry to Sydney
10. Tenpin bowling at Parra LeaguesGeorgia/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-GeorgiaGover-LakeParramatta.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-GeorgiaGover-IMG_3170.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-GeorgiaGover-IMG_1159.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-GeorgiaGover-20151001_133359.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-GeorgiaGover-IMG_1207.jpg/sites/placebrand/files/styles/thumbnail/public/2020-03/240-160-GeorgiaGover-20151001_133359_0.jpg?itok=lzETA4K8
Growing Up in Art: meet Gillian…Growing Up in Art: meet Gillian Kayrooz“Some of the most exciting things in art and music are coming out of Western Sydney at the moment,” says multi-disciplinary artist Gillian Kayrooz. “So many people are working hard and turning their passions into a reality.”
Kayrooz, who grew up in Guildford, has wanted to be an artist for as long as she can remember. Straight after school, she headed to Sydney College of the Arts and, four years later, graduated with First Class Honours in Visual Arts.
Since then, she’s completed residencies in Australia, China and Japan, won several awards and exhibited solo shows. In December 2019, she started a year-long residency at Parramatta Artists’ Studios, which provides her with a low-rent studio space — plus loads of opportunities, like hosting exhibitions and holding workshops for the local community.
“The amount of support we get from the Council is huge,” says Kayrooz. “They really treat us like working artists and that makes me treat myself like one. I approach my practice like a job — and try to be there five days a week, from 10am till 7pm. When an exhibition is coming up, I can be there seven days!”
Much of Kayrooz’s work delves into stories of Western Sydney. Her February 2020 show FRE$H PAIR, a collaboration with artist Kimberley Peel at Liverpool’s Casula Powerhouse, is inspired by youth culture through sneakers.
“For some people, ‘sneaker culture’ is about collecting — about buying a $1,000 pair and keeping it in a box. But, when we were growing up, you had one pair of sneakers you loved and you wore them to death. You wore them at home, you wore them when you saw friends and you worked hard in them. They express the origins of community and identity.”
Her 2019 series of portraits printed on organza silk celebrates local identities. One, titled “You Going Parra Late Night?”, refers to the popular local teenage Thursday night ritual of meeting friends at Westfield, Parramatta, to “hang out”. Another, “Guildford Is On The News Again”, explores gang violence.
“My friends and I pride ourselves on being from Western Sydney. There’s nowhere else like it. It makes me the person I am and allows me to be the artist I am. There’s a humbleness and community feel that I’m not sure I’d experience anywhere else.”
In between making art, Kayrooz supports the local community by working as a Visual Arts Assistant at Catherine McAuley High School, Westmead, and as Arts and Culture Editor at FBi Radio. She also spends time soaking up the arts scene.
“Over the past few years, more and more galleries have opened up and projects have taken off,” she says. One of her favourites is OPN.SRC, a media platform that spotlights artists, musicians, fashion designers and entrepreneurs through interviews and events. Then there’s the Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), founded in 2017. Among its initiatives are the Granville Boys Barbershop, where disengaged school students train in barbering, and New Age Noise, a free electronic music production program for female-identifying, transgender and non-binary youth.
“These kinds of projects are so important for school kids because they show them they don’t need to look elsewhere for art, music and opportunities. It’s all here and it’s thriving … As Parramatta grows as a city, with all the development going on at the moment, it’ll lend more and more of a hand to upcoming creatives.”
One place that Kayrooz hopes won’t change is Temasek, a Malaysian-Singaporean eatery hidden in a laneway in the Parramatta CBD. “My family’s been going there for more than 30 years. Growing up, we’d eat there once a week. I think I developed my high tolerance spice palate when I was about 8! Hands down, it serves the best laksa and best sambal chicken you’ll find anywhere.”
Photo by Jacquie Manning, 2020. Image Courtesy Parramatta Artists’ Studios.
Women Who Cycle, Nicola RutzouWomen Who Cycle, Nicola Rutzou“Parramatta is such a nice, relaxing place to ride,” says Nicola Rutzou, founder of Women Who Cycle, a blog dedicated to getting more women into cycling. “Recently I rode to Prospect Reservoir and, along the way, I went into Parramatta Park to do a lap.”
Living in Concord and riding in and around Parramatta for 11 years, Nicola finds city easy to reach on two wheels, thanks to a network of bike paths that extend north, south, east and west.
“From my home, I follow local streets to the northern bank of Parramatta River and, from there, a bike path leads me all the way into Parramatta CBD. It’s flat, safe and scenic.”
One of Nicola’s favourite places to cycle is Parramatta Park, 160 years old and made up of 85 hectares of glorious greenery — dotted with 19th century buildings, stunning gardens, shady trees, swathes of bushland and pretty picnic spots.
For cyclists, the drawcard is the 3.2 kilometre loop. Nicola thinks the best time to go is the morning, when the weather’s cool and there’s a real fitness vibe.
“It’s the most amazing place to ride, with lovely sweeping bends and little hills,” says Nicola. “I also love the living history. Parramatta and the river are such a huge part of Sydney’s past.”
What’s more, the loop suits two wheelers of any kind. Nicola says, “Cyclists of all levels go there, from triathletes doing fast loops for training, to kids who are learning … It’s great for beginners. If you’re nervous and don’t want to ride from home, put your bike in the back of your car, drive to the park and cycle at your own pace.”
In addition to being a cycling destination, Parramatta Park is an excellent starting point for longer rides. The loop links to the Parramatta River bike path, which travels east along the water to Sydney Olympic Park and beyond, as well as to another path that runs north, adjacent to Old Windsor Road.
These days, cycling is one of Rutzou’s passions. She rides between 100 and 130 kilometres per week, writes feature articles for Bicycling Australia magazine and runs her blog.
“I’m so in love with cycling, I love sharing it with other people, especially women.” says Nicola. “Women don’t take up cycling for many reasons, including the perception that it belongs to middle aged men in Lyrca. I want to encourage them to get out there — the more we do that, the more normal it becomes, and the lower the levels of angst. The fantastic facilities in Parramatta make it all the more possible.”
Heritage still in its original…Heritage still in its original garden settingsMy husband (Alan Rodger, pictured) and I once lived in Melbourne, now we live in Glasgow Scotland, our country of birth. We are not young but whenever we escape Scottish weather to visit Sydney we are sure to visit Parramatta. Sydney and Parramatta are within sight of each other with only 24km between them. It’s an interesting journey by river ferry or, during our most recent trip, by “double decker” train from Central Station Sydney to the smartly modernised but heritage, Parramatta Station.
There are so many early domestic and Colonial Government buildings to see in town, but not so far apart that we could not walk to many on our day tour. Sydney has lost many early buildings but in Parramatta they are still in their garden settings. From the excavations and display cases at the “Philip Ruddock Heritage” site to experimental farms with convict handmade bricks and period interiors to tour, and on to Old Government House (which housed a few Scottish Governors and guests in its day) and its Unesco World Heritage park setting we appreciated the early NSW history.
The modern Parramatta city centre is looking good and getting ever taller. We ended our busy day on the 26th floor of the “V by Crown” building at stylish “Nick and Nora’s” a huge bar with good food and its 270-degree view stretching to Harbour Bridge. We picked up the great little guide booklet “Discover Parramatta” or you can see it online. Next time we need to stay in Parramatta and see more.PeterMacaulay/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-PeterMacaulay-11.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-PeterMacaulay-12.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-PeterMacaulay-13.jpg,/sites/placebrand/files/2020-03/1228-719-PeterMacaulay-15.jpg/sites/placebrand/files/styles/thumbnail/public/2020-03/240-160-PeterMacaulay-13_0.jpg?itok=W57is3GU