Redfern is a big suburb. A stroll starting at the Bat & Ball Hotel on the corner of South Dowling and Cleveland and finishing at the Glengarry Castle on the Darlington border takes a solid 30 minutes. Longer if you want to Instagram some street art, window shop for Parker sideboards on Regent Street, or face Redfern Oval and give thanks to all 36 Burgess brothers.
The South Sydney heartland has undergone a culinary transformation of late and has a wealth of top joints for a bevvy, or dinner, or both. Here are some of our favourites.
Small bars have been breeding like rabbits over the past 12 months in the 'Fern and the watering-hole warren is a 100-metre radius around the corner of Regent and Redfern streets. The newest bar on the block is The Bearded Tit. Into knitted phalluses, taxidermy animals draped in flowers, unisex bathrooms and Bloody Marys so spicy they threaten to inflict stigmata? The Tit is your ticket if so.
Nearby neighbours Arcadia Liquors is every bit as muted-brown and take-a-load-off as the The Bearded Tit is rainbow-bright and elbow-room-only. Fairy lights are aplenty, as is mulled wine in winter and fancy toasties all year round (Arcadia is also set to grow a European kitchen around the corner in the coming months).
A few doors up is Your Ex Lovers, which is a wine bar serving gruyere fondue (and not a couple of your high-school flings comparing notes). It's a cute spot for a vino and the cheese plate is value at $10 a head. Across the road, The Dock is a place to anchor yourself for a couple of well-made negronis (bonus points to the bartender who mixed ours while nursing a broken arm). It's a super-small room and feels even smaller thanks to walls full of tightly Tetrised booze advertising from the '50s.
There's a nautical theme at The Dock, but nothing like the seafaring levels of The Angry Pirate where staff are uniformed in blue-and-white-striped T-shirts and everything that doesn't move is decorated with an anchor or ship's wheel motif. The Pirate's cocktail list is a good one (unsurprisingly heavy on rum) and if an evening of small-bar-hopping in Redfern demands sustenance, the galley pumps out simple and satisfying pizzas. We're big fans of the "Hispaniola" number with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and spicy Pamplona-style chorizo.
Way down the other end of Redfern, Black Penny is serious about quality drinks and decent prices (hello, two-for-one cocktails during happy hour Wednesday). The vibe is high-fiving with a mix tape of soul, hip-hop, and reggae that goes well with the twice-cooked pork crackling on the menu. There's also a design-your-own breakfast bagel available seven mornings a week.
The Bearded Tit, 183 Regent Street, 8283 4082
Arcadia Liquors, 7 Cope Street, 8068 4470
The Dock, 182 Redfern Street, 0405 757 458
Your Ex Lovers, 139 Redfern Street
The Angry Pirate, 125 Redfern Street 9698 9140
Black Penny, 648 Bourke Street, 9319 5061
Portion sizes in Redfern seem at odds with the state average. The Greek-tinged Metaxi Mas sells killer burgers, sandwiches and take-home dips, but the generous open-plate of herby grilled chicken breast, Greek salad, haloumi, tzatziki and crisp potatoes is a standout.
The Norfolk Hotel has one of the best $10 lunch menus around (weekdays only) with afternoon-nap-inducing items such as a triple-decker sandwich of smoked chicken, ham and cheese, and stuffed capsicums with lentil and eggplant mole, salsa rojo and queso. Upstairs at The Norfolk, House of Crabs boils all manner of crustaceans in 500-gram lots with a choice of lemon pepper, Mexican, oriental and Cajun sauce. It also has a plate of fries covered in lobster gravy, bacon and corn that's as delicious as it is stodgy.
Closer to the train station, The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish is a platform for burgers with minimal funny business and maximum free-range beef. The Ish karaage-crab omelette is a tad legendary around these parts, as is the "PBJ" milkshake with salted peanut-butter ice cream, crunchy peanut butter, and raspberry and blueberry jelly. Then there's Milk Bar Pizza by Ish around the corner with traditional (margherita) and not-so-traditional (curry) pizza-pies plus gluten-free bases at no extra charge. If you're in need of a cleanse after all this, the Nourishing Quarter serves vego, whole-food goodness laden with quinoa, amaranth, chia seeds, and tofu.
Tany's Japanese has Redfern's best gyoza and sushi but if it is barbecue duck you want and not yakitori chicken then Wah Fung HK BBQ Restaurant has a window full of glistening birds and shiny pork to sticky your lips and fingers (Arcadia Liquors is across the road and totally cool with you getting Wah Fung delivered there, too).
Metaxi Mas, 668 Bourke Street, 9319 4286
The Norfolk Hotel, 305 Cleveland Street, 9699 3177
House of Crabs, Norfolk Hotel (upstairs), 305 Cleveland Street, 9699 3177
Milk Bar by Cafe Ish, 105 Regent Street, 9699 8828
Milk Bar Pizza, 152 Redfern St, 9699 3366
Nourishing Quarter, 315 Cleveland Street, 8399 0888
Tany's Japanese, 92 Redfern Street, 9699 4382
Wah Fung HK BBQ Restaurant, 9698 2898
There are as many places to grab a decent coffee in Redfern as there are faded South Sydney jumpers hanging in windows. Hole-in-the-wall Chapter Five Espresso supplies jaffles and caffeine to morning train commuters while on the other side of the tracks the button-cute Scout's Honour assembles healthy sandwiches and a colour-filled lunch box of potato salad, dill pickle, cheddar, relish and a choice of bone ham or corned beef.
Pitt St Diner is good for weekend brunch as is Three Williams over on Elizabeth. The Williams' poached eggs with crisp polenta, nduja (spreadable sausage), croutons and oregano dressing is something special and pairing it with a green smoothie of kale, apricot, apple, ginger and other fun things is a hell of a way to start the day.
If you want a cafe latte with your cut, the bearded and tattooed staff at Cleveland's Salon and Cafe will brew you some Little Marionette beans while your locks are looked after.
Elsewhere in cafe-add-on stakes, the 107 Projects creative space has its own cafe serving Golden Cobra coffee and nanna-esque baked goods while plant-trading Garden Life has the tranquil (and licensed) Twig Cafe hidden out the back with Single Origin coffee and fresh, seasonal salads.
Chapter Five Espresso, 2/115 Lawson Street
Scout's Honour, 118 George Street, 0421 203 382
Pitt St Diner, 96 Pitt Street, 8668 5936
Three Williams, 613A Elizabeth Street, 9698 1111
107 Projects, 107 Redfern Street
Cleveland's Salon & Cafe, 311 Cleveland Street, 9698 8449
Twig Cafe, 357 Cleveland Street, 8021 6406
With a minimalist interior, natural-leaning wine list, and dishes such as dotorimuk (acorn jelly) with mushrooms, tofu, brussels sprouts and fresh truffles, Moon Park is not your average Korean diner and it's worth a visit for the fried chicken alone.
Moon Park has a chef's hat in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2015, as does Kepos Street Kitchen a couple of blocks over on the Waterloo border. At Kepos, chef Michael Rantissi creates modern, zippy dishes grounded in the cuisine of the Mediterranean and Middle East. If you're a fan of celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi, eating at Kepos Street Kitchen is a must.
Similarly, if you're a fan of mid-century Americana worth your while is a visit to Eathouse Diner where you can sit at one of the red formica tables and polish of a porchetta sandwich at lunch or southern-style fried spatchcock at dinner.
Moon Park, 34 Redfern Street, 9690 0111
Kepos Street Kitchen, 96 Kepos Street, 9319 3919
Eathouse Diner, 306 Chalmers Street, 8084 9479