There are lots of excellent reasons to visit The Eathouse Diner. There's the mural of a giant budgie with a fork in its mouth flying through the jungle. There are the vintage nudie pictures wallpapering the loos. There's the simple fact that it is a diner, of which there are not enough in the world, let alone in Redfern. Most of all, there's the fact that every single person - from the waitresses to the customers to the guy doing dishes - looks effortlessly hip.
Chef and co-owner Age Durrant, who has spent time at Sean's Panaroma and Longrain, obviously knows his stuff and he's come up with a menu that perfectly matches the winkingly kitsch decor. Just as the room mixes fairy lights with an empty birdcage, so Durrant serves up food that's part international survey of down-home comfort food, part classic restaurant dishes of the 1970s.
There's fried whitebait with aioli and what they call jerk spatchcock - splayed, marinated, oven-roasted, then char-grilled and served with rice and beans and mango salsa. This sits, rather incongruously, alongside duck-liver pate, rich and luscious when mashed with caramelised onions and smeared over chunks of charred Sonoma bread.
Naturally, the house salad features iceberg lettuce, in a successful '70s-inspired mix with beetroot, gorgonzola and apple. The rare beef in a salad with heirloom tomatoes and lentils is slippery goodness, the flavours light but deep.
The diner's fancy version of fish and chips perfectly showcases the skill in the kitchen: pan-fried barramundi is textbook juicy yet firm, the kipflers are golden and the zucchini and herb salad is astringently spiked with capers.
Best of all is the banana split, with banana ice-cream and all the trimmings: glass boat, wafer, chocolate and caramel sauces, hazelnuts and, of course, a cocktail umbrella.
The wine list is short but handy and there are some great beer choices. As the waitress tells us, eyes agog, the Estrella Damm Inedit is made by chefs from El Bulli in Spain! And they take cocktails seriously. If you want to appreciate such delights in truly decadent fashion with a bar snack or two, Eathouse has recently started opening from 3pm.
The food is all good but, really, the vibe is the thing. The place has all the trappings of a straight-up '50s diner, down to the long, Formica-topped bar, red and chrome bar stools and a tilted mirror above for perving on those around you. The walls are jelly-bean green, with windows and doors in vibrating red. The fun lies in the irony of it all: in the impressive range of swizzle sticks and the way the waitresses' embroidered aprons are worn with short dresses, ankle boots and the odd tattoo.
But the reason I can see myself going back again and again is that for all its hipness, it's welcoming, even to the daggy. It's fun and efficient and committed to good food and booze at excellent prices.
Like the vintage sign outside says: Eat Here.
- 02 8084 9479
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Chef(s) - Age Durrant
- Owners - Age Durrant
- Opening Hours - Mon-Sat, 3pm-10pm
- Author - Catherine Keenan