The Hayberry

Callan Boys
Chilli beef-topped Borderlands burger with waffle fries.
Chilli beef-topped Borderlands burger with waffle fries. Photo: Christopher Pearce

97 Willoughby Road Crows Nest, New South Wales 2065

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Opening hours Tue-Thu 4pm-midnight; Fri-Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm
Phone 02 8084 0816

Like any young male with a penchant for plaid shirts and David Sedaris, I found myself listening to the This American Life podcast a couple of weeks ago. One of the blokes was quite peeved that seafood franchise Red Lobster was advertising an all new, ultimate "lobster-topped lobster".

"Isn't that just a bigger lobster?" he asked.  "The one thing you can't top a lobster with is another lobster. You can't top a thing with more of the thing. It's not the top. It's just the thing."

Maybe. All I knew is that I wanted lobster-topped lobster more than anything else in the world. Even more than I wanted a new Back to the Future film or for Boy and Bear to stop making music.

The Hayberry in Crows Nest.
The Hayberry in Crows Nest. Photo: Christopher Pearce

I was filled with a great deal of delight, then, when reading The Hayberry's laminated menu. The Crows Nest bar doesn't sell lobster-topped lobster. It sells something even weirder/better: beef mince-topped beef mince.

How now, ground cow? It's called the Borderlands burger, it costs $17 and comes with sour cream, jalapenos, red onion, lettuce and cheese. The bovine bonanza is a standard beef patty (well seasoned, cooked just over medium) smothered in chilli beef from the kitchen's quesadilla station. It's all kinds of awesome. The best part is when roaming chilli beef falls on to the accompanying waffle fries (the burger is a three-serviette job) and you can make sloppy joe sliders with chips for buns.

Camouflaged between a bottle shop and pharmacy on Willoughby Road, The Hayberry is a bigger place than its facade suggests. The front half is a limp-wristed attempt at Australian colonial (I think), which means framed pictures of manly men with manly beards, empty whisky bottles and corrugated iron. Ever visit the "Aussie sound stage" at Leyland Brothers World before Mike and Mal fell into financial hot water? It's like that but not as weird.

Barrel-aged Manhattan with a cherry garnish.
Barrel-aged Manhattan with a cherry garnish. Photo: Christopher Pearce

A large courtyard out the back is plastered with Americana signs pimping Jack Daniel's, Budweiser and Elvis. They're mismatched to the Old Sydney Town inside, but what the hey. It's Friday night and the place is pumping. Every table is packed with locals hoeing down burgers, popcorn chicken ($12) and bacon and cheese fries ($12).

There's freshly squeezed juice cocktails for $16, a rotating selection of craft taps and a tinnie menu (six Melbourne Bitters, please). Young Henrys and Mountain Goat also feature by the can, as does XXXX Gold, although $6 a tin for Queensland's finest is a bit rich.

A footnote on the drinks list says to ask for the full whisky list. Don't bother. It doesn't exist. (New whiskies were making an appearance too often to keep the list up to date.) Just have a gander at the impressive collection of American and Scottish liquor on display and ask the accommodating bar staff for suggestions. Also ask about the Buffalo Trace barrel-aged Manhattan ($22), a balanced and boozy number not listed on the menu.

Would I cross the bridge for a drink again? Probably not. It doesn't offer much that The Norfolk, Oxford Tavern and their imitators already do closer to my inner-west sanctuary. If I lived in Crows Nest, though, I'd be hitting The Hayberry for cans most afternoons. Cans and that meat-on-meat burger. Perhaps with an extra patty for a real wild ride. Phwoarr. Stop it, you filthy boy.

Go for… a whisky and waffle fries.

Stay for… another round of tinnies with mates.

Drink … a barrel-aged Manhattan.

And ... Thursday night is $1 wings night.