The Bearded Tit

Rachel Olding
Quirky: Arts and entertainment take centre stage at The Bearded Tit.
Quirky: Arts and entertainment take centre stage at The Bearded Tit. Photo: Christopher Pearce

183 Regent St Redfern, NSW 2016

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Opening hours Monday-Thursday 4pm-midnight, Friday-Saturday noon-midnight, Sunday noon-10pm
Features Bar, Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 02 8283 4082

So, where to start? Perhaps at the entrance to this wondrous place. There's a shop-front window full of knitted penises beneath an awning that screams "FREE LOVE NOT FREE BEER". And the walls glisten with gold paint. Does that give you an idea of what's cooking in this otherwise drab part of Redfern?

The doorway to the Bearded Tit is painted with dreamy clouds, leading you to a little hideaway that is part Spiegeltent, part local saloon, part artists' hub. "It's as if colour-blind carnies and travelling salesmen have taken over a zoo and started pouring drinks," reads the bar's website. 

Arts and entertainment take centre stage here. After a six-week stint, the woollen genitalia recently gave way to two pieces by indigenous artist Blak Douglas. It's one of five mini-exhibition spaces around the venue and there's a nightly program of entertainment that's sure to include a leg spread and a good vinyl collection.

This delightfully intriguing place feels welcoming and lived in.
This delightfully intriguing place feels welcoming and lived in. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Not surprisingly, owners Joy Ng, Peter Manwaring and Emma Price come from artsy backgrounds. Manwaring owned Medium, Rare Gallery for years, Ng has done circus and club shows for two decades and Price is an artist, COFA lecturer and member of the Kingpins female art collective.

They wanted to create a place that was as much about exhibiting art as it was about giving artists a place to talk, drink and throw ideas around. 

"We wanted a place that we could support artists but make it sustainable as well," Ng says. 

But don't expect a food and drink game as tight as the red bow-tie on that little taxidermy rabbit above the bar.

It's a pub-style offering, served up with plenty o' friendliness (this place prides itself on its egalitarian policy, quickly becoming known as a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-friendly venue).

There is Reschs, Peroni and Murray's Angry Man pale ale on tap, Hillbilly ciders and a decent wine list divided into categories like bright aromatic whites and meaty earthy reds (and starting at the artist-friendly price of $6.50 for a Tuckerbox semillon sauv blanc or shiraz from Gundagai).

Food is delivered by local restaurants – Chinese from Wah Fung BBQ, pizza from Lorentto, savoury pies from Looma's Patisserie.

When in doubt, head for the Wah Fung duck. And wash it down with a cold beer rather than a cocktail, none of which were remarkable.

But let's face it, it's not the Bloody Marys and XO long beans that'll have you coming back.

It's how welcoming and lived in this delightfully intriguing place feels. Somehow, for a newcomer, it feels as though the Tit has been around for decades like an old faithful you can always depend on for a rowdy night of wines, a quiet drink on the way home or a beer in the sunny courtyard.

Ng puts it down to the fact that all the bits and pieces in the bar were found items.

"They've already had a life before we got our hands on them and customised them," she says.

There are creepy barber chairs in one corner and a carnie caravan of love in the courtyard plus dozens of little pieces from the stunning (like a taxidermy-flanked flatscreen TV playing experimental film) to the down-right creepy (is that a leg protruding from the wall? And a moose's arse?). 

It's a shimmering gold haven of quirk and quaintness ... tits, penises and all.

THE LOW-DOWN
You'll love it if... you're looking for the oddest, greatest new local in Sydney.
You'll hate it if... you're not cool with knitted penises.
Go for... adventurous art, Murray's pale ale on tap.