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648 Bourke St (corner Cleveland St), Surry Hills
Block-by-block small bars are spreading across Surry Hills. For a while Mr Fox occupied the south-eastern fringe, a position usurped by Vasco in late 2012. Black Penny steps one block further away from Crown Street to occupy a corner position on Bourke and Cleveland Streets (opposite Bar Cleveland). The bar is compact but thanks to windows running down both sides of its street frontage, the place has an open feel. The outside table seating proves a little challenging at peak hour, but are likely to be prime positions late in the evenings, particularly on warm nights and for those wanting to smoke.
Inside, Black Penny has been fitted out to make the most of a compact space, with various seated options from street-side windows to high tables that can accommodate groups of six. A large cartoon mural of famous icons dominates the full length of one wall and, together with low-slung warm lighting, it adds to a vibrant feel. However, the large hard surfaces can cause sound to bounce around, so it gets a little noisy even when there are just 20 or so people in the place. For a little relief, head out to the gallery room out back where local artists are exhibited.
Heading up to bar, at first glance it may not seem like there is a huge amount on offer. Don’t expect the showy banks of bottles seen at places like Baxter Inn or Eau de Vie. Here quality rules over quantity. The drinks have a mature, grown up flavour and usurp sugar for fine ingredients. Choose from the detailed cocktail list and experience some novel takes on some classics. The prices are reasonable, starting at $15, which is a lot cheaper than many small bars charging $18-$20 for similar offerings.
Tap beers are on hand and they’re Sydney locals: featuring Young Henrys and Balmain Pale Ale ($8.50). These are complimented by bottled beers starting at $6.50 for a Coopers Pale Ale. Similarly, wines by the glass are highlighted by the inexpensive through to the higher end ($7-$12 a glass).
If you’re hungry, Cleveland Street boasts a lot of cheap options for a quick fix, but the food at Black Penny is worth investigating, especially as most selections are priced at $10-13. Try the kangaroo skewers ($13), Surry Fried Chicken ($11), meat balls ($11) or zucchini flowers ($11). Black Penny also does a lunch special where $10 gets a share plate Mondays to Fridays.
In brief: Black Penny
Best things: A cocktail list designed for grown-ups
Don't miss: The seven deadly sins, but maybe not all seven on the same night
Ideal for: Small groups, dates, catch-ups with friends, after work drinks
Date tip: Couch down the back on the left, or the window bench seats that run down the Cleveland Street side.
Gripe: Can be a bit quite noisy when the bar is only half full. Some cocktails are overloaded with ice, making it hard to get to all the ingredients.
Last updated: June 2014
You are here: Black Penny, Surry Hills (Redfern) review and address. A small bar on the corner Cleveland and Bourke St with a relaxed, open interior (opened Febraury 2013)