Nothing says winter quite like strolling through a brisk, outdoor market with your hand dipping into a brown paper bag full of hot roasted chestnuts.
While The Rocks Markets, which take over Playfair Street, George Street and Jack Mundey Place every Saturday and Sunday, is not really a food market, you will still find plenty of tasty treats.
The Rocks Markets is also known as a place full of interesting stories. Start your visit at The Licorice Shop and let friendly proprietors Ric and Pam bend your ear about licorice. Before any of you screw your noses up, this is the place that finally sold me on black, unsweetened licorice with a product sample and a yarn about why it's good for you.
What keeps me coming back however, is their utterly delicious bags of Celery, Cinnamon, Turmeric and Cherry Licorice ($6.00/200g). Don't ask me to explain the flavour - just buy some - it's got no added sugar, but is still as addictive as crack.
Before wandering on, take a moment to relish the sight of long forgotten candy old-timers like Choo-Choo Bars ($1/each) and Aniseed Slate Pencils ($3.50/18).
The Rocks Markets have really come a long way from my memories of it being a tourist-focused market, only attractive to those collecting souvenirs.
While the covered George Street section of the market does retain an element of collectable Australiana, as you wind your way down cobblestoned streets towards Jack Mundy Place, you’ll find a surprisingly well-curated selection of hip designers.
With customised denim vests, and long white lace dreaming dresses, Garage 16 brings a bit of South American flair to our Aussie beachside life. Byron Bay jewellery designer Libby Pool takes the seaside motif a step further by fashioning vibrant aquamarine paua shell into the kind of bikini you'd expect to see gracing the pages of high-end fashion magazines. While Libby’s beautiful collection of New Zealand paua shell designs start at around a hundred dollars, and run all the way up to a gorgeous peacock necklace priced at $1600, at neighbouring stalls you’ll find items to suit all budgets, including Valeria D’Annibale’s quirky 3D printed hand dyed nylon rings and earrings.
Before heading back into the more crowded George Street market fray, take in a quenching ale at one of the many bars and restaurants lining the market's edge. Hearing the Löwenbräu Keller, famous for their dubious bus advertisements featuring busty, jug-clutching women, had recently been rebadged as the Munich Brauhaus I popped in for a peek into their cavernous beer halls.
My citrussy, refreshing Butcher's Bride Pale Ale ($8/300ml) and toffee-flavoured Hop Dog Wheat Beer ($12/500ml) were delivered by men and women clad in tightly fitting lederhosen. Biting into a Brez'n Bavarian Pretzel ($4.50) I muse that the perving is now at least equal opportunity...
Shaped like French Impressionist Claude Monet's haystacks, Mini Monet Cupcakes are worth another pitstop, if only to hear the story of their creator, Sheryl Fong, and her partner who quit his day-job to follow her into the cupcake business.
It'd be rude to listen in without also devouring a Coconut Mini Monet Cupcake ($2.50/each).
If you're a fan of filled chocolates but have always wished for a bigger filling-to-chocolate ratio, stop at the Emporium of Chocolate. Their dome-shaped, hand-made chocolates are beautifully wrapped and suprisingly satisfying to sink your teeth into, especially if the creamy, caramel Dulce de Leche ($2.50) is emblematic of the rest of the range.
Pumping the smell of caramelised cashews into the air, Your Nuts is another stall that's hard to walk by. I'm currently enjoying their delicious Macadamia Nut Butter ($6) on toast for breakfast too.
With talented live music acts like the Mimosa Duo adding to the festive feel of the place, The Rock Markets is certainly an enjoyable place to while away a wintery Sunday afternoon. By the time I left, my canvas bag was full of everything from soft South African style biltong made using Aussie beef by Brookvale favourite Biltong2Go, to rock candy from the corporate candy specialist, Sticky.
Impressive when you consider this Saturday and Sunday affair isn't The Rocks' food-focused market, which takes over Jack Mundy Place every Friday!
The Rocks Markets
10am – 5pm, Saturdays & Sundays
Playfair Street, George Street, Jack Mundey Place, The Rocks
Playfair St & Argyle Street, The Rocks
Ph: (02) 9247 7785