Is Redfern getting the Surry Hills treatment? All signs point to yes. House prices are going up, young married couples with fluffy dogs are moving in and the quality of food and drink is improving faster than you can say half-shot, Bonsoy, decaf latte. But this is my 'hood and what I love about it is it's still a bit gritty, still a bit barren and still a bit uncrowded or, as some twit in a Surry Hills viral video on YouTube said: ''There's still a few homeless people around.'' The last part should never be true but you get my drift.
DRY LAND IS IN A SIMILAR MOULD to many small bars around town these days: polished, quirky and very small. There is room for about 30 people spread between tiny tables, skinny bar benches and a couple of wooden booths. It joins the Fern, Pitt Street Diner and Eathouse Diner as Redfern's foodie up-and-comers - perhaps not enough to warrant the ''it'' status journalists such as myself are giving it but enough for people to take their hard-earned there and check it out. The owner, Roy Leibowitz, came across from Love, Tilly Devine, another bar perfect for small groups wanting a couple of drinks and some top snacks.
WE TAKE A SEAT at a tiny round table in the middle of the room. I last about 10 minutes on the wooden stools before my back starts to feel like a wilting flower. The only solution is to drink more. I order a Charlie Chaplin (apricot brandy, sloe gin, lime juice, $16) and my friends pick a cool, smooth Domaine Espiers ($9) from the Rhone Valley, France, and a tasty Lowe ''Tinja'' shiraz from Mudgee ($9). All go down superbly on a Friday evening. The cocktail list covers classics and they're fairly well made, though some aren't as strong as I would like. The Hemingway (white rum, amaretto, grapefruit juice, lime juice, sugar syrup, $16) is nicely tangy and, like the Charlie Chaplin, is far too easy to drink in one gulp.
THE FONT USED ON THE MENUS IS WEIRD. The letters are long and thin and give me a headache, so I ask our divine waitress, who gives exceptionally attentive but unobtrusive table service, to recommend some more drops. We barely leave our uncomfortable stools for the night but heading to the bar is no chore. It is decorated beautifully with shelves stacked with glistening bottles of spirits, old vinyl turntables pumping out funky jams and the efficient Micky Dhinse, formerly of Grasshopper, doing his best Edward Scissorhands behind the bar.
IT'S EASY TO SLURP the night away on wines and cocktails but the food is an unexpected winner. Pork scratchings with apple sauce ($5.50) and scotch eggs on pease pudding and prosciutto ($14) are flying out the kitchen. A gruyere cheese burger ($17) is a must-have, with a chunky patty, melted gruyere and mustard and onion jam. Salt and pepper prawns with celeriac puree ($16) are a little gluggy but a cheese plate is generous with a killer blue vein. Although most places are doing the hare-plate thing, these meals are more individual. Dry Land might not be breaking new ground but it's just what the neighbourhood needs.
Follow me on Twitter: @rachelolding.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF you've run out of places in Surry Hills.
YOU'LL HATE IT IF you have a bad back
GO FOR gruyere cheese burger, pork scratchings, Charlie Chaplin, scotch egg.
IT'LL COST YOU cocktails $16, wine by the glass $9-$12, bar food $1.50-$17.
Dry Land Address 92 Redfern Street, Redfern, 9699 3869 Open Tue-Sat, 5pm-midnight
- 02 9699 3869
- Opening Hours - Tues-Sat, 5pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding