Scott Wallace
7th Jun 2015

Surly's, nestled away just off Crown Street in Darlinghurst, is functionally a sports bar. When we went to check it out, several big, flat TV screens were broadcasting a basketball game. They didn’t quite mesh, though, with its heavily wooded, rather-rustic jumble of Americana and Australiana, as well as the unrefined but nonetheless delicious menu.

The menu is largely standard bar food, including wings served with carrot and celery sticks and blue cheese or ranch dressing, nachos, deep-fried battered onion and a selection of burgers and sandwiches. What sets Surly's apart though is the distinctly American twist to the menu.

The focus seems to be on their American Barbeque Plates (actually served in baskets, but who cares), which like the rest of the menu are very reasonably priced. They come with a hefty portion of meat, as well as a choice of two sides (the choices being mac ‘n’ cheese, coleslaw, BBQ beans, green beans, potato salad and fries) and some “homemade” cornbread.

The cornbread isn’t that spectacular – though there is a certain novelty to eating cornbread, which you don’t come by that often – but the rest of the barbeque plates are pretty spectacular. Surly's treats meat with a respect that you wouldn’t see at just any bar or pub.

The menu actually reads “If your chicken appears pink in the middle, it’s supposed to. It’s just the meat’s reaction with the smoke. So calm down for chrissakes.” And indeed, the sizeable chicken Maryland was a beautiful pink colour, and extremely tender and juicy.

We also sampled the beef brisket, which fell apart at a touch and was served with raw onions and pickles, which made for an extremely tantalising mouthful. The sides for the barbeque plates were no afterthought either – the coleslaw was crunchy and flavoursome, the mac ‘n’ cheese extremely rich and a little bit spicy and the BBQ beans wonderfully sweet.

The bar has an OK selection of beers and a pretty respectable selection of wines, as well as a decent-sized (and very reasonably-priced) cocktail menu that puts a personalised twist on some old favourites.

Surly's stands out from other like-minded establishments because it’s got a cheerful atmosphere and it’s a little bit playful. There are even some old arcade machines in the upstairs bar, though we didn’t spy anyone using them. The service was quick and friendly, which was especially nice given that the place was packed even before dinner time.

It’s hard to find a place where the food is this good and for such a great price. Dishes start at around $12 and don’t really get much more expensive than that until you start ordering ribs or enough fried chicken to share.

And sharing is definitely what Surly's is perfect for. The atmosphere is communal and convivial, but also cosy enough and quiet enough to enjoy a meal and few drinks without feeling pestered. Definitely a must for anyone who’s after simple but flavoursome home-style cooking in a comfortable environment.

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182 Campbell Street
+02 93313705

Tues – Sat midday – midnight

Sun midday – 10pm