American cuisine has become common place in Sydney, to the point it’s impossible to escape. Most bars now offer a menu inspired by the best and worst of American cuisine. Whether it’s Miss Peaches’ New Orleans themed menu or the mix of dishes that places like Dove and Olive or the Norfolk offer, there is now a place where you can get your hands on just about anything you’ll find in US cuisine.
Sometimes it’s done well, and comes as close to “authentic” as you’ll find. Other times you have to wonder whether the head chef, or indeed anyone who is involved in the restaurant’s menu, has ever been to America – let alone eaten the authentic version of what they’re serving. So which side of the coin does Surly’s – one of Sydney’s latest and most talked about American inspired bars – sit on? I went along earlier this month to find out.
Located right off the busy stretch of Crown Street in Surry Hills and just a short stroll from Taylor’s Square, the experience of Surly’s begins the minute you walk in the door. A bright red neon sign illuminates their logo in the window; the remark of “Sorry We’re Open” sits comfortably underneath. Hanging over the door, you’re promised your experience by two words: BBQ and Beer. Dimly lit, the room feels straight out of New York. Though booths and tables fill the room – with part of the room sitting at an elevation – it’s hard not to be drawn to sit at the bar. The stools seem ripped from another venue, though seat you comfortably. Coat/bag hooks sit underneath you, while the wall behind the bar is layered with logos of American beer, and the spirits selection proves extensive. The Baseball World Series was playing on screen and they’re one of Sydney’s few bars that has Blue Moon on tap – and of course they supply the slice of orange.
Their cocktail menu ($17.50) is topped by margaritas and whiskey mojitos – and they’re both excellent – not always a given in Sydney, especially with the former drink choice. Meanwhile, it seemed that all the bar staff were either American or had lived over there. To say the venue ticks all the boxes in terms of atmosphere is an understatement. You could have told me we were in the States and I would have happily believed you. There’s no trying too hard, there’s no desperation for emulation. They simply got it right.
And I’m delighted to confirm that you can say the same for the food, under the direction of a chef who hails from Florida. To put it mildly, the guy knows what he’s doing and Surly’s offers the best American style BBQ plates I’ve ever had outside of the US itself. We headed in on a Wednesday night, where they are currently offering half price on their BBQ plates (Normal prices range from $16 to $28), which are served with your selection of meat, two sides and some corn bread.
Before we got to the mains though, we had to try the starters. The Buffalo Hot Wings ($13) are a must. Impressive in terms of size and perfect in their flavour, they’re honestly worth the trip in themselves. Some ranch dipping sauce, carrots and celery are included as is tradition – or you can have the Bleu Cheese dip instead. And those not a fan of spice can opt for the House BBQ wings instead. The Chili Con Queso Dip – a mix of chili and cheese, served with tortilla chips, is a bit overpriced at $15 (maybe they should do a “small” and a “large”?), but is delicious. Perfect to share with friends over a few beers. And don’t forget those hot wings!
But it’s all about the BBQ here – and boy do they get it right. Let’s start with the Brisket – perfectly cooked and served with onions and pickles. It’s what you’d get in any BBQ joint in the US South – and it’s these little things that make the Surly’s experience so authentic. All it’s missing is the big piece of American White Bread – though I don’t think that will be missed by many. You may spot in the green beans too that this is not your typical Veggie friendly side. Like what you’d get over on the other side of the world, the beans have a good bit of spice and brisket mixed in.
When we talk about the Pork Spare Ribs, perfectly marinated and smoked, they come pretty close to some of the best I’ve ever had – which was over in Tennessee, a state that prides itself on its BBQ. Their approach to cooking the ribs – which sees the flavour smoked into the meat rather than drizzled on top of it later – is on par with what you’ll have over there. The slaw is perfect, and though the Mac n’ Cheese isn’t the best I’ve ever had, it’s a must have side all the same. And the corn bread, though small in size, is backed with flavour. The dish just wouldn’t be complete without it.
And, to keep everyone in the room happy, there are plenty of BBQ and hot sauces available – and you can’t have a plate of meat without that. The only downside is that we didn’t save any room for fried chicken. But there’s always next time. And believe you me, I’ll be back.
Surly’s is without question the most authentic American BBQ joint in Sydney. From the atmosphere of the room to the flavour and soul of the food, the team here have gotten everything right. And as a huge fan of the cuisine, this is welcome news indeed.
Surly’s half price BBQ deal is available on Wednesdays only. All prices and information was correct at the time of printing. For more details and the latest menu and price information head to the website listed below.
Address: 182 Campbell St, Surry Hills
Contact: (02) 9331 3705