7 Kellett St Potts Point, NSW 2011
|Opening hours||Wed-Thurs 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 5pm-midnight|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||0403 240 456|
Going to Deans, that late-night bastion of Monstrous Nachos, battered couches, cigarette haze and a perennially broken jukebox, was a byword for comfort in the wee hours of the inner-city, from 1976 to 2011.
Like visiting a friend's dusty, peeling, lamp-lit share-house, it was an after-dark refuge for post-theatre, post-dance party, post-break-up sojourns where baggsing a rattan lounges to bunch-up over toasties, coffee and beer was a bleary-eyed prize.
If you were desperate for sticky-date pudding, a chocolate milkshake and Prince's When Dove's Cry blasting into a barely lit front room at 4am, Deans delivered in a grand old Victorian terrace framed by white columns, fairy-lights in fig branches and glowing brothels across the street.
And now, it has returned, reincarnated, and apostrophised, as Dean's Lounge. Run by husband-and-wife team Louka and Justin Marmot, of Shirt Bar at Barangaroo, and housed in the terrace next-door to the original, it's schmicker and more grown-up but still reminiscent of the cafe's beloved past.
Gone are the ramshackle chairs and painting of angels sharing a stuck-on cigarette. Moody, witty and retro Hollywood art works adorn the walls in four handsomely dark and low-lit areas including an open fire, velvet lounges, Persian carpets and smart booth seating on chequered floors.
There's an arcade table blinking with Donkey Kong and Pacman, a coffee machine operating after 10pm and a back bar area ringed by smouldering portraits of Rita Hayworth, Paul Newman and the Redhead matches girl beside a wall of moodily lit crystal glassware.
There is also a jukebox which, in true Dean's style, is not working tonight according to Louka. She and Justin have a proper history with the cafe. Justin used to be a waiter in the original cafe and Louka, who still has the original Dean's menus squirrelled away, says the pair first met there in 2002.
Keen to travel back in time we order a platter of nachos from a succinct food menu ranging from nibbles to jaffles, ice-cream and cake. It turns out to be drastically better than the humungous corn chip-heavy 1990s version my babyfaced cohorts ploughed their fingers into. With smoky black beans, fresh red onion, gooey cheese and salsa fresca, it's spicier and more buxom.
Equally good is a spicy lamb jaffle, plump with slow-cooked meat, chilli tomato, and melting goat's cheese. It's one of four toasties including spanikopita, eggplant parmigiana, cheese truffle macaroni and ham, cheese and onion jam.
To the tune of Tears For Fears' pensive Mad World on the sound system, we savour a white negroni, the traditional Campari and sweet vermouth swapped for Suze and white vermouth, and a banoffee old fashioned, sweet but not sickly via caramelised banana and caramel.
The greatest change to Dean's might be its expansive drinks menu ranging from classic and house cocktails to Australian, organic and natural wines, beers and 37 types of whisky.
But just like olden times, there is still sticky date pudding, a pioneering Deans dessert in its time. It's sweet cakey heaven in a bowl of glistening caramel syrup and house-made vanilla bean ice-cream.
Nearly 50 years after it first opened, the modern-day version of Dean's has managed to keep all the good bits of the original – a late-night licensed bolthole with snacks, coffee, '80/'90s hits and soothing pre-dawn lighting – and married them to present-day Potts Point wants, namely smart retro furnishings, a notable and expansive drinks menu and seamless service.
Still the byword for comfort for midnight souls seeking comfort, couches and vast platters of nachos.
Main attraction: Late-night, low-lit retro lounge with open fire, slinky booths, velvet couches, nachos and sticky-date pudding serenaded by Blondie, Prince and Culture Club hits.
Must-try dish: Monstrous nachos for old-time's sake, a moreish mini-mountain of crunchy, chewy, spicy bean-sauced layers.
Insta-worthy dish: Sticky date pudding swathed in sweet golden caramel sauce and homemade vanilla bean ice-cream.