Exploring- Chatswood

When you’re on holidays overseas, you do your research and pinpoint areas where you want to go, restaurants you want to eat at, and time your visits to maximise what you can see and do. But why can’t we extend this same level of preparedness to visiting a suburb in our own fair city? Turn a regular weekend into an inexpensive weekend adventure? Become a tourist in our own ‘backyard’?

So here starts our monthly exploration of suburbs in and around Sydney, starting with the City in the North, Chatswood!

Chatswood is located 10Km North of Sydney CBD, and is a major commercial and retail district for peeps in the North Shore. A go-to for shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and a hang-out place for locals in the North Shore area…And with the soon to be completed Hills to Chatswood Metro train line, an alternative destination for those living in the Hills District if they want a change from their current go-to shopping and entertainment precincts.  

How to get there? Chatswood is only a 20 minute train trip from Town Hall train station. Trains depart frequently (no more than a 10 minute wait at most). Catch the train on the T1 North shore line ($4.40 adult Opal fare each way).

On this summer’s day we set out during the hottest part of the day and it was noticeably warmer in Chatswood, compared to Sydney CBD. Stepping off the train and walking down Victoria Avenue, you were reminded that Chatswood is a City in its own right, but it is also set in the suburbs. The sounds of cicadas chirping in the heat, an odd combination to the otherwise city feel of Chatswood.

Arriving by train, the vast majority of shops and restaurants are located along or just off the main strip of Chatswood which is Victoria Avenue. So as you walked to wherever you’re aiming for, there is much to see and many distractions (good distractions) along the way. For example, on Thursdays and Fridays there are the Melody markets (food and craft stalls along the pedestrianised portion of Victoria Ave – otherwise known as Chatswood Mall). Although today was a Thursday, unfortunately the stalls were not set up due to that weird time in between Christmas and New Year’s. But from previous visits to Chatswood, we remembered the mall being lined with food and craft stalls, good to experience if you can time your visit to Chatswood right.

On this visit to Chatswood, in my mind I’d dubbed this visit a ‘Chatswood mall crawl!’ The aim was to duck in and out of the 8 shopping centres/Malls/Arcades located within the Chatswood CBD to take in what each centre had to offer. So with a list, we began our Mall crawl. **Musings: If an individual who hangs-out all day long at a mall is known as a ‘Mall Rat’. Then being promiscuous and seeing many malls at one time, will we be known as a ‘Mall Cat’? If so, that’s fitting, considering Chat is French for cat! …… I’m channelling my inner Jonathan Goldstein with that musing.

Mall 1: Chatswood Chase- We first went to the furthest of the shopping centres with the aim to work our way back towards the train station for our departure. Chase is the second largest mall in Chatswood, and used to be known as the ‘classier’ mall, with the higher end clothing stores. But I’m not sure if it’s changed over time, or perhaps I’m just older and the brands don’t wow me anymore, but the brands now all seemed like your regular run-of-the-mill chain stores. So 4 stories to the top, and a basement food court at the very bottom,  it was a nice stop along the way and small enough that we could easily walk the length and breadth of each floor. On a sensory level, the air con was nice and cold (revitalising us) and oddly the whole entire centre was fragranced by the same perfume (they must’ve piped it into the air ducts), so the entire place smelt very pleasant indeed.

Chatswood Chase Shopping Mall

Mall 2: Westfield Chatswood- A short walk in the direction back towards the train station and on the other side of the street (still on Victoria Ave) is the much larger Westfield Chatswood. It’s so large that getting in and out you’d always appear and reappear from a completely different entrance/exit, needing to walk around kind of lost for a bit trying to regain your bearings. By far Westfield was where everyone was; don’t get me wrong, Chase had a fair few people but Westfields had many many more. There was just a hub-bub of many people moving and talking at the same time. Westfield has 5 levels, each level quite large so we didn’t do a circuit of each. But we caught the escalators all the way up to the top floor, and by that time we already got a little bit hungry and gave in to our rumbling tummies and we made our way all the way back down to the ground floor food court.

A couple of years back Westfield installed Hawker Lane, a corner of the   food court devoted to Asian eateries. The stalls lined up one-after-the-other with seating down the centre. So we made our way to this part of the food court and found stores from all your usual Asian cuisines, e.g. Malaysian, Vietnamese, dumplings etc. And after making a round, we actually opted for Indian (Chachu’s). On their menu they promoted their Signature Roll, and being a sucker for trying what a restaurant is known for, my wife and I both opted for a roll and for an extra $4.50 we made our rolls into a meal (includes drink and a side). I opted for a Crispy chicken roll, fried chilli potato and apple juice (yeah, I know….. I’m consuming processed sugars again after being off it for 7 months); while my wife had the Saffron roasted chicken roll, garlic naan and Mango Lassi (for an extra $1.50 on-top-of-the meal price).

Hawker Lane at Westfield food court

Armed with a buzzer (that was great! As it suggested that our food was made to order), we sat on high stools in the centre of Hawker Lane. And after a short wait, we were called back for our food. We didn’t know what to expect with our ‘Indian rolls’, methinks it’s naan-traditional? (get it…..naan-traditional, as opposed to “non-traditional”? Yes/No?!?). But we were pleasantly surprised that it was like a wrap, the wrap being a thin tortilla which had been pan fried so that the outside was blistered and flaky! My crispy chicken bits were well-sized, lightly battered, tender chicken tenders, which reminded me a bit of a chicken wrap from KFC, i.e. lettuce, and a mayo-like sauce, but having tasty Indian flavours, and additional Indian herbs/spice fillings. My wife was pleased with her roll as well, it was spicy but not just a ‘hot’ spicy, but a ‘tasty’ spicy. Although our sides were a bit hit and miss. The spicy potato was interesting enough, it was a potato mash, with all sorts of spices mixed into it, but then it was re-shaped back into a potato shape, and then deep fried. So the outside was nice and crunchy, while the inside was soft and melty. It came with a chilly dipping sauce, but it was tasty enough without it. But the garlic naan was a miss, it was stale so we gave up on it (but we were already quite full by then). And lastli, the Mango Lassi was really tasty, not like a smoothie (as a smoothie is watered down with juice), but the Lassi was more like a yoghurt but liquid enough that you could drink it with a straw. Very tasty, refreshing and filling at the same time. So when we were done eating we were very satisfied, and satisfied to kick onto the next mall on our list.

Our neatly packaged lunch from Chachu’s

Mall 3: Mandarin Centre- By this time when we re-emerged from Westfields (from another completely different exit) it had gotten hotter again, so the prospect of hunting around for the 6 other smaller arcades seemed a little less appealing now. What can I say? Sydney-siders only enjoy the great-outdoors when the weather is in-between 20 and 28 degrees, anything more or less, and we’re more than happy to remain indoors. So we just walked past Victoria Arcade and made a beeline to the Mandarin Centre (the third largest of the malls in Chatswood).

Mandarin Centre

One thing about me, is that I’m predictable and bound by routine. So for the past few years, always at this time in-between Christmas and New Year’s, I’d come out to Chatswood> Mandarin Centre> Trade Secret to buy a new pair of jeans, adding it to the “jean rotation”. While saying that, last year we must have skipped our annual Jean Day as in the interim Trade Secret had been taken over by TK Maxx, and European chain which did something similar i.e. offered designer brands at a discounted price. But unfortunately the store wasn’t quite the same, yes the stock was now more orderly, but there were less things on offer. In the past there were so many designer jeans to choose from, you could narrow down your search by size, cut, brand, and then colour. In past years, I’d have 5 pairs to try on, to select the best fitting one. But this time they only had 2 racks in total, and no surprise I couldn’t find even one pair in my size. Boo! So we left empty handed, so I guess after years of scoring designer jeans for half of the RRP, its back to General Pants Co for full-priced jeans. *Sad look*.

But when leaving the Mandarin Centre, this image did cheer us up though!  

Giant panda at Mandarin Centre

Mall 4-8: Chatswood Interchange, Lemon Grove, The Gallery, Victoria Plaza, and Orchard Arcade. Unfortunately we didn’t have the stamina to locate and walk the 5 smaller centres/mall/arcades. But maybe you can continue where we left off? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

After the Mandarin centre, we started to develop separation anxiety from our beloved Sydney CBD, so we went home. Haaha.

What else is in Chatswood? If you drove, you can visit Windsor Gardens and Seven Gables (both heritage listed sites).

And there are plenty of restaurants located in the centres/malls/arcades and on the street level for you to try. According to Zomato, you have 301 bars and restaurants to choose from in Chatswood alone! Some notable restaurants are Manpuku (Japanese/Ramen); Burger Patch (Trending Burger Joint); Kho Pla (Thai); Mamak (Malaysian); or Chimichuri (café), and many many more!

Final thoughts, Chatswood is like any other major central business district, but still worth checking out if you haven’t been recently. And if you’re looking for something in particular (retail wise) and willing to hang around for both lunch and dinner you can most definitely turn a visit to Chatswood into a whole day trip! Enjoy!

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