There's a new kid on the block in the 'Fern. And it is one pretty cool kid. You know the type, the mysterious exchange student who hails from Germany but is rumoured to have a little bit of French in her. Or was it Swiss? Or Italian? Yeah anyway: her. That's pretty much Redfern Continental — the brand new, day-to-night European diner. Birthed by the guys who brought you Arcadia Liquors (just across the road on Regent), Redfern Continental really is a little bit of everything: the perfect neighbour in a suburb fast becoming an eclectic hub of food and drink in Sydney.
Opening night saw the sweet dining space completely full up, so we first mosey out the back for a drink in what has been dubbed 'Günthers Dining Room' — a bar boasting a 1980s Eastern Germany feel, an extensive cocktail menu and the beginnings of a shrine to David Hasselhoff, said to be a work in progress.
Cosy up in one of the booths or sit at the bar and lap up something off the four-page cocktail menu, largely tequila- and gin-based. While the Herbivore (Tanqueray, basil, grapefruit and sugar, $15) is a little underwhelming, lacking anything but a massive whiff of basil, the Whiskey Sour ($16) packs a punch. We didn't hassle with 'The Hoff' cocktail.
Snacks are on offer at the GDR as well. The house olives are deliciously infused with garlic and chilli ($6), but it's agreed that the mussels escabeche ($12) are probably some of the best things we've ever put in our mouths. There's a more fully stocked wine bar available here too, reflecting both old and new from Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Head back out front and the atmosphere is electric. It's a more relaxed vibe here, despite the impressive menu. We feel somewhat safe opting for Italian flavours. And then we try the food. Kate 'Pockets' Cooper — formerly of Almond Bar and Freda's — is in charge of the kitchen, and her food is very good. The pappardelle with slow braised lamb is smooth as hell and the spaghetti vongole (clams and chilli) is simple, fresh and absolutely packed with flavour. Front of house staff seem effortlessly friendly too, making us feel at home and explaining dishes and matching wines with impressive enthusiasm, given the affordability of the menu (both of these dishes were only $23).
Perhaps initially at risk of getting lost in among the thriving, pizza-serving small bar scene of Redfern, it feels instead as though Brett Pritchard and Dave Jank have gotten this very right. There is nothing quite like Redfern Continental in this area. And it's bound to stick around for a long time.