Treating yourself to a cocktail and some decent bar food after a hard day's doomscrolling can feel indulgent, but at times necessary. The team behind Redfern's Sunshine Inn certainly thinks so.
This slick, smart-casual newbie takes over the former Redfern Continental site (RIP disco ball and date nights at GDR), and dishes up plant-based snacks care of chef Emma Evans (ex Alibi).
Co-owners Dan McBride and Dynn Szmulewicz are excellent good-time merchants. Their first bar Golden Gully has earned plenty of fans in Leichhardt and the pair is determined to keep the good vibes going with their affordable two-part venue.
Split into a snacky section at the front (Sunshine Inn), and a moody, multi-course vegan dining room at the back (DD's), McBride and Szmulewicz are keen to showcase dishes that are big on local, native produce and easy on the wallet.
Evan is the brains behind the menu, and manages to deliver three-course meals at DD's for a hot $39 – not bad for a dinner that's served at a velvet booth and ends on a Ferrero Rocher pie. But more on that later.
Pull up a stool at Sunshine and start with a bright, photogenic cocktail. The Cure-All will wake you up after a laptop-bound day, thanks to a healthy swig of tequila, mezcal, plus a hit of ginger and jalapeno to boot. Want a second round? Good. Because the food is made for drinking.
And while there are old-fashioned fries (with mustard mayo!), Evans' menu is more thoughtful and delicate than stomach-lining dishes.
Her hummus with chargrilled sourdough (from Bread and Butter Project) is rich and smoky from garlic that's been smoked with Tasmanian blackwood and blended into the mix.
The soaking liquid (aquafaba) from the chickpeas is then used as an egg white replacement for cocktails. More fun, less waste.
Roast pumpkin is served skin-on, and dusted with a native dukkah – a pine nuts and pepitas mix that's spliced with wattle seeds, bush tomatoes, pepperberry and cinnamon. It's delicious, though the thin slices left us wanting more.
You'll also see king oyster mushrooms cooked like scallops in a nori broth, served on a bed of creamy polenta. Evans wants to make plant-based food accessible for everyone and nods to familiar flavours to win over meat lovers.
"Making things taste like fish is a very simple way to introducing people to new flavours. If you add lemon and seaweed to anything, it makes it taste like fish," says Evans.
Oh, and don't skip the "meatball" sub. A classic, smashable snack that's big on flavour and texture thanks to some solid prep work.
The juicy, textural "meatballs" are held together by flaxseeds, and laced with old school Italian spices such as oregano, onion powder, different herbs and dried porcini to keep things moreish.
The "meat" itself comes from a lentil and veg protein mix. "Half of it is blended, and half are [left coarse] so you have the texture of a meatball," says Evans.
What's more, the tomato sauce is based on a recipe by co-owner Dan McBride's mum that features a secret ingredient – Vegemite. Don't worry. It's so subtle that you'll just be visited by the spirit of it.
For those looking for a more restuarant-y outing, go through the padded door at the back and land yourself a table at DD's. Booking is recommended. Though the room also turns into a walk-in cocktail lounge when dinner service is over.
The set menu starts at three courses ($39) and goes up to five ($59) and is highly seasonal.
Think an entree of asparagus and avocado ceviche, a main of corn crusted fennel confit with wattle seed beurre blanc and the aforementioned Ferrero Rocher pie that comes with toasted hazelnuts and chocolate soil.
Our advice? Don't share. You deserve the whole slice – and a good dose of the this handsome newcomer's happy vibes.
Sunshine Inn + DD's
Where: 180 Redfern Street, Redfern
Main attraction: The co-owners of Leichhardt's Golden Gully have teamed up again for another cute bar with tasty plant-based snacks, plus a (semi-hidden) cocktail lounge that serves affordable multi-course vegan meals at the back of the venue.
Must-try dish: The meatball sub. Yes it's the ultimate smashable bar food, and yes it's super affordable. Bonus factor? Those juicy meatballs are plant-based.
Insta-worthy dish: The roast pumpkin with native dukkah and snow pea tendrils is delicately plated and pretty to look at – though we could do with a bigger helping.
Drinks: Cocktails from $18; wine by the glass $8-$14
Hours: Wed-Sat 3pm-midnight; Sun 1-10pm; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays