133A Redfern St Redfern, NSW 2016
|Opening hours||Dinner Tue-Sat 5.30pm-late|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9699 2018|
Much of the furniture looks like it was bought as a job lot from the back of an abandoned high school demountable. The lighting cues are mostly taken from the Chinese restaurant scenes in Muriel's Wedding.
But therein lies its charm, with a menu that salutes the best of Sydney's west, service that makes you feel like you've stumbled into the world's friendliest house party, and a bar that's an ode to the rumpus room you dreamed of having growing up. Yep, Ron's is the most lovable thing to have happened to Redfern since the Convenience Store across the street started their own Instagram account.
There's certainly a moment of "Am I climbing up the right set of stairs here, or am I about to walk into an illegal gambling den?" as you head up to Ron's, via nondescript stairs signalled by a gleaming neon "Open" sign next to a kebab shop. Locals might recognise those stairs from their days at Pron Prohm, the much-loved Thai restaurant that serviced Redfern for 30 years.
It's the third venue for Brett Pritchard and David Jank, the pair who opened small bar Arcadia Liquors back when Redfern was still what real estate agents refer to as "emerging". It's well and truly emerged now – from small batch design studios, pricey mid-century furniture stores, hand-churned gelato to large-scale cocktail bars.
Decor-wise, think of Ron's as Eastern Bloc Fabulous. The tables are wood veneer, the chairs are covered in the kind of material you don't want to touch with bare thighs in summer and there are bunches of fairy-lit plastic grapes as far as the eye can see.
Head chef Damir Mujanic (Est, Three Blue Ducks) is on the rotisserie here, but it's not unusual to spot co-owner Brett Pritchard at the pans, whipping maple syrup through a savoury, citric dressing for a salad of smoky wilted radicchio, ruby red grapefruit and fresh goat's curd, all crunched up with toasted hazelnuts.
The menu is centred around the grill with plenty of Euro influences at play. There's the signature rotisserie chicken, with its blackened salty skin and juicy meat served with garlic and chilli sauces that salutes Granville's El Jannah. Tomato-soaked rice is a little gluey, but comforting in its own way, like a Portuguese-style after-school snack.
When it comes to heft in the kitchen, though, there are more representative dishes on offer. Like a hot tender and lemony kale salad with a salty right hook, which also makes for a nice foil for that chicken. Ultra cucina povera. A side of roast potatoes is, on two out of three visits, beautifully crisp. Third visit? More confit than crunchy. But hey, just like anything worth pursuing, it's a numbers game.
It's the simple proteins that land the most hits here. Lamb rump, say, skewered, barbecued and covered in the raw vinegary heat of house-made hot sauce tempered by puffy grilled flatbread and a squeeze of lemon. Or pipis bathed in melted butter, stinking of garlic and peppered with celery leaf. Dredge a bit of Iggy's bread through the leftover sauce.
You could do dessert, but I'd venture that there's more fun in an extra carafe of wine or a cocktail at the adjoining bar. If you must, check out the dense, sugary, nutty, spicy Persian love cake, joined by a line of dehydrated halva and tarted up with cherry puree.
The thing to remember here is it's all about vibe. And that vibe is neighbourhood fun. Whose house? Ron's house.
Drinks Small list of cocktails, neat wine list with a few Aussie naturals from Sparrow and Vine by the carafe
Vegetarian Enough that the average carrot fancier won't leave disappointed
Go-to dish The rotisserie chicken with garlic and chilli sauces, $26
Pro tip Check out their other place across the road, Redfern Continental, with the utterly delightful GDR bar hidden out the back.