Since opening on January 27 (Chinese New Year's Eve), Redfern's new dumpling bar Happy D's has been easily recognisable from a distance, given the lengthy queues outside.
"It's been manic," says Andrew Watts, who co-owns Happy D's with his mum, Debra. After running successful catering business Yum Cha for years, she was ready to set up shop. Meanwhile, Andrew had gained his fair share of hospitality experience, including managing The Old Fitz for 18 months.
"We wanted to keep things simple," Watts says. On the Happy D's menu, you'll find just eight, straightforward steamed options, including mushroom, chicken, pork soup and barbecue pork buns, plus a weekly special. This week, it's prawn and snow peas.
To match is a food-focused drinks list. The wine selection features several sakes from Japan, as well as a bunch of Australian 'light reds' and 'mainly dry whites'. Among the beers, there's Asahi on tap, Young Henrys cider, Little Smith's Golden Child from Melbourne and some unusual Japanese craft beers. If a cocktail's more your thing, order a classic or a Happy D's signature creation — a jalapeño-infused twist on the margarita and a new version of the old-fashioned, sweetened with a ginger-honey concoction instead of sugar syrup.
"We want people to feel comfortable, eating and drinking however they like," Watts says. "You can come in for a quick bite or stay as long as you like, ordering as you go."
Happy D's design follows suit. Four metres by 20 metres, the space is a narrow oblong. On one side, there's an electric red bar dotted with LEDs and, on the other, a six-metre long golden curtain. The pièce de résistance, however, is a 12-metre long, 15-centimetre wide faux fish tank. There's no water and the 'fish' are all attached to fishing lines. "We're encouraging locals to bring in objects to add to the tank," Watts says.
On weekends, between 12pm and 4pm, Happy D's runs a 'Dumps 'n' Booze' special — $30 buys you four dishes (that's 14 dumplings) and a drink. On Saturday nights, look out for DJs. The rest of the time, the soundtrack is all soul and disco.
Images: Bodhi Liggett.