The green wall at Arcadia Liquors in Redfern. Photo: Bob Wong
Redfern's main streets can still feel a little devoid of after-dark activity, despite being just a stone's throw from Surry Hills, where you can't swing a martini glass without hitting a new small bar. But the tide has started to turn. First Dry Land and the Fern set up camp and now the Dock and Arcadia Liquors have joined ranks to boost the suburb's credentials for a good night out.
IT HAS TAKEN ONLY a few weeks for Arcadia Liquors, a clean and light space sandwiched between a Vietnamese bakery and a discount store, to be jam-packed with people on a Friday evening. The space is underdone in just the right way. Exposed brick, light wood panelling and random guitars and ceramic rabbits on the walls strike a balance of warm, homely and offbeat cool, kind of western bar-meets-grandma's house. Out the back is a courtyard stuffed with pot plants. At the front is a large window and some cosy tables looking streetward. Everything in between is just as good.
THE FIRST ROUND OF DRINKS gets the night off to a good start. They're cheap. Hurrah. Cocktails are the user-friendly price of $14. And they're good. A list of classics includes a strong and smooth White Lady (gin, Cointreau, lemon, $14) and a Whisky Sour (whisky, lemon, sugar, egg white, $14) that is a tad heavy on the lemon but still impressive. The elegant classics are well suited to this smart, Berlin-inspired space. Nothing fussy, just cool, calm cocktails. The special on this particular night is an outstanding ''gluhwein'', a mulled red wine scooped from a steaming vat on the bar and served warm and spicy in tumblers ($7).
THE WINE LIST has about a dozen reds and whites, covering Australian drops and internationals. Like the cocktails, the focus is on being unfussed and easygoing rather than impressing connoisseurs with over-the-top lists of expensive drops. I like the Monte Blanco verdejo from Spain ($11) and the Bolshie Trapiche merlot from Argentina ($8). There's a heavy German-Spanish flavour in the beers and ciders, too, such as an excellent Spaten lager from Munich on tap ($5.50) and some tongue-twisting Franziskaner beers by the bottle ($10).
THE SERVICE IS WHAT I'VE COME TO EXPECT from tight little start-ups like this one - personal, genuine and generally pretty spot on, if a little wobbly at first. A bevy of young men in button-up shirts shake the cocktails, clean the tables and know their stuff when it comes to spirits and wines. Two of those lads are the owners, David Jank and Brett Pritchard, who met working at the Old Fitzroy Hotel in Woolloomooloo and decided to try their hand in Redfern where, as they say, ''there's still a bit of community''. Jank describes their love child as a bit of everything and nothing at once. ''It's not meant to be a wine bar, it's not meant to be anything.'' Whatever it is, it's working. One Saturday recently they had to stop letting people in at 8pm. But that's not Jank's ideal. ''I really don't want to become some exclusive place,'' he says.
FOOD SHOULD TAKE A HIGHER place in a sit-down, Euro-style bar like this but, instead, it's a small selection of simple snacks such as toasties and German sausages. If that doesn't grab you, the Wah Fung BBQ Restaurant across the road will deliver takeaway and you can pay at the bar. It's too tempting an offer and we order some delectably greasy duck to down with a clean-as-a-whistle Squealing Pig sauvignon blanc ($8). Too easy. Too good. Redfern's on to a winner.
Address 7 Cope Street, Redfern, 8068 4470
Open Mon-Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat, noon-midnight; Sun, noon-10pm
- 8068 4470
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri 4pm-midnight, Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-10pm
- Author - Rachel Olding