Almost overnight, it seems, Redfern has become a fast-casual capital of Sydney dining. Whereas there used to be a couple of worthy spots to chow down, there’s now a solid handful and then some. From ramen to dumplings to shareable snacks, natural wines and seasonal cocktails, the 2016 postcode has got it going on. These are the the chart-toppers.
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Redfern restaurants for your hit list
The queue starts forming well before the doors swing open, and once that steaming hot bowl of noodles and tonkotsu broth arrives in front of you, you'll understand why. Owners Katie Shortland and Scott Gault spent serious time in Japan, pursuing the perfect ramen recipe, and if the endless crowds here are anything to go by, it looks like they found it. Prefer to keep it plant-based? They've got a knockout vegan version, too.
This little neighbourhood wine and cocktail bar took home the Time Out award for Best Bar Food in 2018, which means that you most definitely can (and probably should) pop in with the intention to eat. Share plates here run the gamut from anchovy toast to polenta with ragù, and the halloumi with burnt honey is a real home run.
Come here for a little slice of Japanese culture: hardcore devotion to nailing one thing, monastic attention to detail and all the beauty that comes along with it. Here, that thing is rice bowls, four of them to be exact. They're all quite pretty, layered, complex, textural and technique-driven, and the range of teas served alongside makes them even better. Just so darn lovely.
There aren't too many places you can go in this city to get your hands on a breakfast dhal, then slide right into a cocktail-fuelled long lunch with an all-day menu that takes cues from Central and South America (and then even stay for dinner a few nights of the week). In fact, Southside Charmers might be the only one, and Redfern is lucky to have it.
Top chef and cookbook author Michael Rantissi brings the flavours of the Mediterranean and Middle East to Kepos Street at this neighbourhood institution that’s cultivated a fiercely loyal clientele over the years. Breakfast regulars come for some of the best baked eggs in town, but when night falls it’s all about falafel, hummus and ocean trout moussaka.
This is the third venue from David Jank and Brett Pritchard – the brains behind Redfern Continental across the road, and Arcadia Liquors around the corner – and it's safe to say it brings the best of both worlds to life. The retro dinner party vibe is in full swing, but the eating and drinking are very much in the here and now: natural wines, en-pointe cocktails, and flavour-packed share plates with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean accents.
The follow-up to the beloved small bar Arcadia Liquors is a little 50-seat European eatery just around the corner. You'll find the kitchen firing on all pistons from morning to night, pumping out simple pastas, classic schnitzels and timeless classics like fried calamari and eggplant parmigiana. And they boast an easy-drinking wine list, which makes this a top candidate for an easy midweek meal.
Argue all you want, but there's no question that dumplings are the best food to share. Those hot little parcels of joy come individually wrapped for optimum snacking efficiency, and they shine brightest when paired with an ice-cold beer or a couple of glasses of wine. The one thing Redfern was missing since the legendary cheap Chinese eatery Wah Fung closed was a dumpling bar – and now it has one.