The people of Summer Hill have got to be feeling pretty smug right about now, because although it took some time, the small bars have arrived. We imagine the early adopters of this sweet, leafy corner of the Inner West were already feeling on point when Temperance Society (a little terrace wine bar) opened up on the main drag, and now Vernon’s Bar has joined the after-hours party and they're punching well above their weight on the bar snacks front.
Locals have been heading to the top floor bar above One Penny Red – a casual diner set up in a beautiful old post office – for some time now for cocktails and chill, but thanks to a dark, moody makeover and a name of its own, Vernon’s Bar is now a destination unto itself. Head here for a glass of the fruity, juicy Domaine Naturaliste Western Australian malbec and a plate of chicken wings, crumbed and deep-fried to a dark crisp, with a sweet and spicy Thai-style sauce on the side for dinner.
While you’re on a classic hits tour of Sydney bar snacks order the chicken liver parfait. The perfect, silky slice of pate shares board space with slivers of poached quince, a bitey pecorino, bresaola and a mess of sweet and sour house pickled baby carrots, onion, fennel and cauliflower. You’ll want to order more bread or seriously ramp up your parfait ration per bite and then apply a liberal pour of the Montevecchio Bianco fiano, which cuts through all the richness like a knife and leaves your palate feeling clean, dry and ready for round two.
Yes, these are common bar snack items in Sydney, but here’s the rub – they’re coming out of a kitchen headed up by RJ Lines who was previously behind the Neutral Bay Diner – that's why they’re getting top marks in the rich, salty and delicious categories.
We’re both hands in for their collection of natural wines and special pours from the cellar, but Vernon’s Bar also does good work with a cocktail shaker. For something herbal and fresh they’re making a Vodka Gimlet with fresh basil and elderflower, but our heart belongs to the Genever Crusta that spices up gin and orange liqueur with star anise. It tastes just like the holiday you can’t afford right now because you keep buying cocktails.
Sometimes you move to an area with a firmly established food and drink scene, like Newtown’s mix of cheap Thai and great bars, or the Italian drinking and dining hot spots you’ll find across Darlinghurst. Summer Hill on the other hand is a high street in progress, but if the current trend for tops little neighbourhood haunts like Vernon’s Bar continues, we may just start scouting the local real estate before everyone catches on.