Leichhardt's quiet Norton Street is now home to a small bar and restaurant heroing Aussie ingredients thanks to The Little Guy owner Dynn Smulewicz and its longtime bartender Daniel McBride. They've joined forces to bring a much needed new player to the suburb. And, after opening its doors in January, Golden Gully is already looking to be a hit with locals.
"The demographics have changed pretty rapidly over the last few years [in Leichhardt]," says McBride. "There are a lot of young people — including our friends — in the area, so we feel a neighbourhood small bar has its place now."
At first glance, the bar has bit of a Little Guy vibe — the two-storey terrace is squeezed into a commercial strip, the narrow ground level has a long bar to one side and the large bi-fold window overlooking the street is lined with stools. But, as McBride assured us, the Gully is no Little Guy 2.0.
"The Gully is really 'Australiana' with a focus on all-Aussie products and a full service vegetarian kitchen upstairs," says McBride.
The two-storey, 100-seat venue is decked out with tropical green walls and brass accents throughout. Downstairs, you'll find a sleek timber bar and aged leather-backed booths, while the upstairs restaurant is clean and simple, with a pitched roof and exposed beams.
The bar runs on a 'something for everyone' mentality, and the team takes this mantra seriously with a rather extensive drinks list to choose from. "We don't want to alienate anyone and we're trying to communicate that through all of the menus," says McBride. "We had to have a big Aussie shiraz for mum, for example."
Apart from shiraz, the bar also pours more than a few drops for natural wine lovers, including a few pét-nat and biodynamic numbers. Regions span Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, Orange, Yarra Valley, Margaret River and Tumbarumba, to name just a few.
There's also a long list of Australian-made gins, vodkas and whiskies, and a seven-strong cocktail list using those same Aussie spirits. On it, you'll find the Norton St Sour ($19) — made with Sydney's Mobius Distilling Company vodka, Adelaide Hills' Italian bitters, lemon and aquafaba — and the Aussie Negroni ($19), a concoction of Poor Toms Gin, sweet vermouth and Applewood Okar (a South Australian take on Italian amaro).
The Gully is also just as much a restaurant as it is a bar. In the kitchen is Emma Evans, who hails from Woolloomooloo's plant-based eatery Alibi. She's creating an elevated vegetarian menu and is "a real boss lady", according to McBride.
"Dynn and I are both vegetarian and we hate when people forsake flavour in vegetarian or vegan food," says McBride. "Emma is really good at playing with flavours and creating food that you wouldn't even notice is vego."
Evans is turning out European share plates using all-Australian ingredients. Favourite menu items include the almond-based ricotta gnocchi with crispy oyster mushrooms and wattleseed in a wild mushroom broth ($24); tea and pepperberry-smoked potatoes with chives and parsley aioli ($11); and roasted pumpkin wedges, dusted with a native dukkah spice mixture and doused in herb cucumber yoghurt ($19).
"Australia is very internationally inspired, and now you can get European-style wines and American-style gin and whisky, but all produced in Australia," says McBride. "The same goes for produce. If you want a burrata on the menu, it doesn't make sense to import it from Italy when there's a Marrickville factory that makes it."
And they do have that burrata ($17) on the menu, too, topped with balsamic, a side of sliced figs and served with sourdough.
"We tried to make the venue be as comfortable as possible, so people can get stuck in — we're not trying to just turn over tables," says McBride. "You can eat at the bar or go upstairs and smash a bottle of wine without getting any food. There are no set rules."
Images: Trent van der Jagt.
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