A few years back when Sydney wanted to emulate Melbourne’s small bar scene, many people shared a vision of new places to quietly share a drink with friends, try some well presented food or even read a book over a glass of wine. It would seem Mary’s has decided to ignore each of those ideas and do the Sydney version of it. This small bar lurking down a backstreet off Newtown’s main drag is loud, crowded and serves food that looks and taste like those found at many fastfood chains, while charging a premium for the pleasure. It’s not just the crowd that makes this place so noisy, it’s the music cranked up to high levels that leave you shouting at those next to you. This idea seems to be a very uniquely Sydney concept: there is no real place to dance or a band playing yet the music is at levels you’d expect in a nightclub or live gig. Naturally the crowd tries to complete with the music and both noises are bounced around by the hard brick surfaces and stoop ceiling.
Mary’s is also dark, not dim, but dark: a place to be seen without people being able see you. For all this, you get a drinks menu that is acceptable and not overpriced. It’s has Young Henry’s on tap – a small bar stalwart brewed just up the road that is joined by a selection of others on tap. Also on offer are a limited range of cocktails and a decent wine list.
The food menu is somewhat of a mystery with an emphasis on burgers and fried chicken: the Newtown area is littered with places to grab junk food, even upmarket versions, and the kitchen pedigree of Mary’s goes back to Tetsuyas. So this approach is somewhere between perplexing and disappointing. For $14 you get a small burger that resembles a Hungry Jack’s Whopper junior. Like their takeaway equivalents, the buns are sweet and the patties are fairly greasy. For presentation, the small burger arrives wrapped in paper buried by chips in a basket. Extras like bacon will pile on another $4 for a total of $18. Apart from the burgers (there is a vegetarian mushroom option for $12), the other main choice is fried chicken and chips ($16-$28). There are no salad options but $5 will get you mash potato and gravy.
To find Mary’s, head down Mary Street from King Street Newtown (the NAB is on the corner). It’s about 50m on the left with no sign, inside a white building just past the Kelly’s Court/Bistro signage. Expect a line outside.
In brief: Mary'sIdeal for: Catch-ups with larger groups of friends Date tip: Due to the noise, darkness and limited food options, this is not a place to consider for a date. Gripes: Excessively loud music, limited fastfood menu at premium prices, lines outside when the place is not at capacity Rating: 5/10
Last updated: November 2016
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