Pure Redfern: Graffiti complements the 1990s hip-hop music soundtrack. Photo: Marco Del Grande
As one door closes, another opens in Redfern.
With the sad departure of neighbourhood bar and diner Dry Land has come a very different little bar at the other end of Regent Street - a hip-hop joint pumping old-school tunes, serving up Snoop Dogg-approved Gin and Juice, and giving local artists an airing on the graffiti-laden walls.
There was certainly a prolonged hustle going on behind the sliding doors of Hustle & Flow, with the anticipated opening stretching on longer and longer until it seemed the good folk of Redfern almost couldn't wait any more.
With no major financial backing, it might have taken Tim and Lisette Duhigg a little longer than usual to get everything up and running but they finally opened in late April.
Hustle & Flow, they say, is based on the four ''Rs'': rap, R&B, Redfern and respect.
They've certainly got the rap and R&B down pat, with a cabinet of hilarious memorabilia and a tight playlist of '90s classics on rotation all night, from Tupac and Biggie to Beastie Boys and De La Soul.
The Redfern component is well represented on the walls, which are covered in street art by local artists such as Phibs, Pudl, OnShow, Amuse, Pezm, Jackpot, Froth Monster and Rotek.
Respect is not lacking either and the bar is always manned by a polite, friendly bunch of tattooed, basketball-singlet-wearing guys.
Aside from the four ''Rs'' there is a menu of basic beers, wine and cocktails presented with kitsch rap puns, quotes, analogies and matching lyrics. Even a Heineken comes with two lines from A Tribe Called Quest's Jam: ''It was Friday afternoon in the middle of June/Heineken bottle caps and the aroma of boom.''
The beers and ciders are an interesting bunch and include a solid Brooklyn lager and pale ale, Hillbilly ciders from the Blue Mountains and two fabulous local brews from St Peters Brewery - a classic Green Star Lager ($10) produced without additives, preservatives and made unpasteurised and unfiltered to be as natural as possible (and even delivered from the brewery in reusable crates); and a Cinnamon Girl Spiced Ale ($10) that uses natural cinnamon infused with a hoppy amber ale.
Cocktails turn it up a notch with drinks such as Snoop's Gin and Juice, Tupac's Thug Passion and Tech N9ne's Caribou Lou. They were closer to the kind of mixer drinks you'd make at a party (when drunk) rather than top-class creations, but they were fun all the same and pretty cheap, too, just like the wine and beer.
The Caribou Lou was a simple and deadly mix of Bacardi 151, Malibu and pineapple juice ($12) and the Hurricane definitely evoked Bourbon Street memories of the sickly sweet, overly alcoholic New Orleans classic, with its messy melange of Bacardi, Bacardi 151, triple sec, pineapple juice and grenadine ($15) that is definitely best left to the wee hours.
The wine list felt like an afterthought, with half a dozen Australian and New Zealand wines by the glass. They say they're still getting their food game tight so for the time being it's just peanuts to snack on.
To some extent the lyrical stylings of the menu hide the fact that the drinks game is not that tight either, but it seems the Duhiggs are going for the bigger picture.
Music, graff, community and fostering a unique and genuine Redfern vibe inside this cool little hang-out seem more important. Let's just hope the fans agree.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF … good music and vibes are more important that fancy cocktails.
YOU'LL HATE IT IF … the opposite is true.
GO FOR … St Peters Brewery Cinnamon Girl Spiced Ale, Snoop's Gin and Juice cocktails, '90s hip-hop.
- 02 9310 5593
- Prices - Bottled beer $6-$16, cocktails $7-$15, wine by the glass $6-$9.
- Features - Bar
- Opening Hours - Tuesday-Friday, 5pm-midnight; Saturday, 2pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding