At night, this place is dark, inconspicuous and definitely not the easiest spot to find. Even if you knew that you are at the exact location, you would still do a double take and hesitant to step right in. Not to mention, you will also first need to get past the big bouncer standing right outside the entrance too. But once you pick up the courage and step right into the lair, you will be rewarded with these utterly delicious golden fried chicken nuggets, lots of it.
Where are we? At Mary’s of course.
As mentioned, this place is not easy to find if you don’t live in this part of town. It is tucked in a side street off the main King Street drag in Newtown, look for the NAB Bank at the corner and make a right turn into the narrow dark lane. The entrance is well lit in fluorescent blue and make sure to say hi to the security guard as you walk in.
Mary’s sits in a 100-year-old building which was once a sexual health clinic, a pool hall and a Greek men’s club. Coincidence or not, they all have to do with sexy legs and thighs.
It is dark, loud and grungy inside; dimly lit by lamps made from alcohol bottles hanging down from the roof, distressed brick wall at one end and funky wall mural on the other. The high-ceiling hall splits into two levels; bar on the ground floor and a table service dining area on the mezzanine level. Quiffs, beards and black nail polish seems to be the common fashion sense amongst the diners and waitstaffs – I definitely suffering “manbeard” envy at this joint.
“In Marco We Trust…”
This hip bar is headed by Jake Smyth (ex-Bodega) and Kenny Graham (ex-Gardel’s Bar at Porteno) with ex-head chef at Tetsuya’s Luke Powell runs the kitchen.
A portrait of young Marco Pierre White is framed on the wall behind the bar, the idol for many chefs is overlooking the floor, as if you can almost hear him shouting “Where’s my fried chicken? Where’s my fried chicken? Where’s my fried chicken?” repetitively through the wall.
This place gets real busy after work hours; I’ve been here twice and both times were heaving with people and for good reason. We are encouraged to enjoy a few craft beer on taps downstairs at the bar while still waiting for the remaining peeps of our crew to arrive before the waitstaff willing to sit us down at a table upstairs. But we actually much prefer to hang out at the no-frills self-serve bar downstairs.
You will find a huge black chalkboard menu on the wall with an extensive range of wines on offer; and the food menu itself is tiny – fried chicken and burgers are all you will get.
A whole jointed chicken is now an inviting mound of battered, deep-fried chicken pieces. Done in American southern-style, there are definitely more than eleven secret herbs and spices rubbed on that chicken, and under the rubble of crusted armour is tender, juicy meat with a subtle tanginess from the buttermilk marination. You are welcomed to give the chicken a few splodges of the hot sauce in repurposed Jack Daniel’s mini bottles to give it a fiery kick.
During our second visit, we ordered a Larry Bird ($50) of two chickens to feed five mouths, we polished them all with no trouble.
Time Out claimed the burgers here are the best hamburger in town, I have to disagree. The burgers come rather squashed a little in the wrappers, served in a plastic wicker basket with a side of golden fries. The cheeseburger is a simple construction of soft beef pattie, melted cheese, a light squeeze of ketchup, mustard, pickles, onion, all layered in a fluffy bun. It is a good burger but I simply don’t get that guilty gratification after eating it.
The Mary’s Burger is pretty much a cheese burger with the extra greens of lettuce and tomato. We pimp it up with extra trashcan bacon, two short strips of bacon are extra crispy on edges and not over smoked inside an unused trashcan of course.
This puddle of yellow goo is a revelation. We are blown away by their mash and gravy, the silky smooth potato mash is soft, creamy and not starchy, smothered in a thick gravy that you can taste the real deal and not from a can. I would hate to think how much butter they used in that mash. No cutlery needed, we happily dunk our fries into the gravy and mop up a big dollop of mash with fried chicken pieces, it is the only way and is the best way.
The trashcan bacon meant to be an add-on for the burger, but if you ask nicely, they might let you order it as a side with the fried chicken. Why? Because we can.
6 Mary Street,
Monday to Friday 4pm – midnight
Saturday 12pm – midnight
Sunday 12pm – 10pm