Expect the unexpected: Mary's, Newtown. Photo: Steve Lunam
Don't bother with Mary's unless you want booze and burgers. And music. And don't be thinking you'll have conversations at a normal volume. And please, don't expect, like, a sign outside.
Mary's is new and it's in Newtown. It's a bar that does good food with class and care, but it's also a diner that has really good drinks. Its owners' beginnings are in Porteno and Bodega (the chef is ex-Tetsuya's) and it's been packed out and roaring loud since it opened a few weeks back, off a side street down a little hallway inside a former Masonic hall and pool room with a high ceiling. It has a pubby downstairs with counter and open kitchen, and a dark-as upstairs mezzanine - suspended under a vaulted-timber ceiling and black wrought-iron beams.
And no, there is no street sign. Just follow everyone else on Mary Street because that's where they're heading, too.
Booze and burgers and music: The Mary. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
The tag-line is burgers - and excellent ones they are, too. There's a cheeseburger, a Mary burger, or a shroomburger for the vegos. The minced-meat patty is a mix of brisket (which they smoke themselves), chuck and rump. The sweet, yellowy, shiny topped, silky soft buns come from a secret bakery source. There are pickles and cheese on the cheeseburger that imitate the Maccas model without any erky feelings afterwards. And the Mary burger has lettuce and tomato (salad, yay!), a mayo-y sauce and a lovely smokey note. The burgers come wrapped in grease-proof paper in low plastic baskets with a pile of skinny fries. Tomato sauce comes from a squeezie and pepper from a mini-bar-size Jack Daniel's bottle, both on your table.
And what to drink with your burger? An Aussie cab franc or Hunter shiraz, minimum intervention-style, or maybe a nice Argentinian malbec? Or simply a crafty schooner or two of Young Henry's Newtowner? The drinks blackboard is a thing of great interest. Not least because there's a long list of champagnes (Diebolt-Vallois, Bereche et Fils, Perrier-Jouet) with the odd Australian and Argentinian sparkling. Just the match for fast food, really, especially fried chicken.
Because the other menu item is chook - chunky, dark-fried crumby hunks with a little kick of spice - have a piping hot half or whole bird or a Larry, which is two. Then go for broke with Mary's mash, drowned in a seriously chicken-y gravy - ladled into a shell of grease-proof and served with a spoon.
And, yes, there are cocktails and the music pumps along. The nice waiters in their white V-neck tees are relaxed and know their stuff. Owners Jake and Kenny are behind the bar and say, ''See you later,'' as you roll out into the night.
Do … Consider ordering a burger and some chicken to share.
Don't … Come here if you're on a diet.
Dish … The Mary burger with fries, a thing of beauty.
Vibe … Hipster heaven, with a few local oldies and food tourists dropping by.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagencies, bookshops and at The Sydney Morning Herald's online shop (thesmhshop.com.au).
- Cuisine - American (US)
- Prices - Burgers $12-$14, chicken $16-$50, mash and gravy $5.
- Features - Licensed, Bar
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat, noon-midnight; Sun, noon-10pm
- Author - Joanna Savill