Jake from Mary’s Favourite Sydney Eats


Words by Jake Smyth

Buried deep within every true blue, red-blooded Aussie is the desire to run the fuck away from this glorious island.

Gap years, honeymoons, babymoons, re-find-yourself-divorce-escapes, retirement cruises—our escapism is unadulterated and it lives close to the bone of every one of us. Now COVID has proper fucked us, we find ourselves having to lift our eyes off the horizon and away from our phones and discover our own backyard. I resist the urge to stick a ‘RE’ at the start of that ‘discover,’ because frankly, most of us know fuck all about Sydney or the country within which it rests. Below is a snapshot of our town, with a close eye on my backyard, the inner city.

Familiar, new, heritage and renewed, there is a little blend of the old and new here. The common thread being places that have thrilled me with their ceaseless innovation and their plain jane commitment to the city we call home.

 

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The Warrenview Hotel, Enmore

Resting atop the Golden Mile of Enmore, this pre-war beauty is the beloved and only child of publicans Theo and Tanya. While the front bar screams ‘nothing to see here’, a quick scramble towards the rear reveals not a horror-inducing room full of pensioners and pokies, but rather the best beer garden in the inner west. I know, I know: ‘What about this place and that place?’ Well, those places are not quiet, clean, and manned by Theo and Tanya. The food is better than any pub within a drunken walk, and the tree that erupts through the pavers and rests above us like a quiet crucified Jesus is worth a drunken walk from anywhere in the city (or closest train station).

2 Stanmore Rd, Enmore

 

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LP’s Quality Meats, Chippendale

After four years of tarting up the best meats with smoke, Luke Powell shut the doors on his hallowed Meat Palace. In its place, he has created one of the great delights of our city. Full-time meatworks throughout the week, LP is churning out some of the best cured and fresh meat products in the country. But its weekend warrior alter ego is what is whirring my gears. Open Saturday and Sunday lunch only, it’s an opportunity to sit, eat and smile as Mr Powell slaps out some of the tastiest, laid-back and unpretentious food in the wider inner-city. House-made cold cuts, pickles, grilled sweetbreads or smoked mackerel are paired against a cracking wine and drinks list. I’m not sure if it’s the bravado or the restaurant I love most… Fuck it, it’s both. Thanks LP.

16/12 Chippen St, Chippendale

 

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RaRa Ramen, Redfern

Alright, I’ll say it. I’d never had a ramen in Sydney that made my toes curl, until I sat and slurped out a bowl at RaRa. There is good ramen in Sydney, in fact, there is GREAT ramen in Sydney, but when you compare the many shades of ramen to the monochrome representation that is on offer in our Emerald City, it’s likely to make you run screaming into your local Flight Centre with a ‘TOKYO OR BUST’ sign swinging from your neck. RaRa’s homemade noodles—when drowned in under a puddle of Tori Paitan (chicken) broth—is truly a thing of wonder. Missing the Land of the Rising Sun? Get your ass down here for a proper hot slurp of fatty and creamy love.

66b Regent St, Redfern

 

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Lucio’s, Paddington

If the walls could talk, you would run screaming from Mary’s. If you were sitting at Lucio Galletto’s eponymous ristorante in the dappled light on a Friday afternoon, the whispers may encourage you to sit, eat well, drink better and seriously consider a foray into the finer arts. Lucio’s is not so much a stalwart of the Sydney dining scene, as it is a kind and generous Godfather. Its history is our own, and can be traced via its menu along with its fabulously art-laden walls. Alongside the very best of our farmers and markets, sits delicious and non-ironic throwbacks to menus of old, who shamelessly hold court with the more modern techniques that are also on show. While now under the guiding hand of the patron’s daughter, Michaela, Don Lucio is still a present feature, welcoming every guest with the warmth that evades every newly opened venue in our city limits. Lucio and Lucio’s are the rarest of birds and while not perched on the shores of the Cinque Terre, it’s a slice of Sydney that reminds us that we don’t need a passport to eat like we are on holiday.

47 Windsor Street, Paddington

 

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Cantina OK! Sydney CBD

‘The best bar in Sydney,’ or so everyone says. As an avowed hater of all things popular and general consensus, I wanted Cantina OK! to be just that: Ok. But the fucking geniuses behind this tiny cantina don’t know a thing about Ok. They know a lot about genuine, and a great deal about taste. Generosity is pretty high on their ability scale, as is balance and kindness. Space is limited, but their constant creative imaginings have turned a big fat Ok into a bigger, fatter OK! Come for the mezcal, stay for the dreams of a Sydney that rejects playing the hospo handbook. I love Cantina OK! so much I want to rip it off. But if I’m being honest—it’s way out of my league. Straight up brilliance.

Council Place, Sydney CBD

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