This restaurant does not have signage. What it has is ex-Tetsuya’s head chef Luke Powell and an entrance deliberately made to look like shit.
And nowhere else in Sydney can a restaurant get away with this kind of grunge except in grungeville – where graffiti, pink hair, green hair, gothic black eyes, nose ring, eye-lid safety pin, nipple ring, tongue stud, silver bolt buttons, dragon tattoos, smelly black boots, cheap leather and armpit hair sticking out of sweaty singlets reign as common as its filthy and disease-infested gutter rodents.
Welcome to Sydney’s Newtown.
Once inside, the place is dark and the music is loud. VERY. LOUD. Being here late Saturday afternoon means we have avoided the queues this place is infamous for, especially during weekends. The wall menu says this place only serves burgers and fried chicken though there’s an obligatory mushroom burger to appease vegetarians.
“That would be fifty two dollars please” the pretty girl behind the bar tells me after I place my order.
“That’s a rip-off for three items of food and drink!” I quietly think to myself. “Can I have a receipt please?” I ask her.
She fiddles with her electronic cash register for a long minute and says, “Sorry sir, it’s actually only forty seven dollars. My maths is not as good as I thought” she says, returning five dollars change to me.
“Your math is pretty good. You’re just Tricky Vicky, aren’t you?” I can’t help thinking to myself as I take my change from her.
The restaurant has a dark mezzanine floor where one can just hang out for drinks and listen to mindless loud music on a Saturday night.
If that’s not your glass of beer, move on because it certainly is for many who frequent this area.
Mysaucepan‘s blood orange & Campari spritz is refreshing since it’s difficult to go wrong when citrus flavours are combined with the bitter-sweetness of Campari.
Salt and hot sauce come in used miniature Jack Daniel’s whisky bottles with grungy old stickers.
These bottles don’t have caps either so I am presuming your palm is the best holder for a dose of salt before it goes into your food.
I am no basketball fan but presumably Larry Bird has some kind of connection with the American basketball legend. At Mary’s, it is two fried chickens for $55 and perhaps that’s what big Larry eats after a big game.
Offered only once a day, a Thunderbird is three whole deep-fried chickens stuff with cheese burgers. It’s American food after all, and is there any wonder why they are among the most obese people on earth?
Our half bird is four pieces of chook ~ drumstick, wing, breast and thigh served on grease-proof paper in a small plastic basket.
Mysaucepan douses some hot sauce on her chicken wing as recommended by the waiter.
Mary’s version of this bird is deep-fried to a much darker brown than the average fried chicken.
Mary’s half bird is very crisp and crumbly with a hint of spice while the meat is tender and succulent.
However, I find takeaway KFC crispier when given 20 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius. Better still, re-heating renders a good amount of fat too. Taste wise, I prefer the 11 secret herbs and spices of Colonel Sanders. Price wise at $3 for a piece of KFC, Mary’s is 50% more expensive.
Apart from not having a signage for the restaurant, there are also no plates. This fried chicken is piping hot so in spite of us sharing our food, a piece of serviette becomes my makeshift plate.
It’s mid afternoon and for some reason, there are more people on the mezzanine floor compared to where we are and that suits us perfectly.
A Mary’s burger is wrapped in grease-proof paper and arrives with shoe string chips.
“I’ve read this burger is rated to be one of the best in Sydney” I tell Mysaucepan.
“Well, we shall soon find out won’t we” she says.
Underneath the soft, sweet bun, there’s a slice of tomato, lettuce and melted cheese over a beef patty that is apparently a precise measure of two parts chuck to one part each of rump and brisket.
For an additional $4, you can opt for trashcan bacon, a name assigned to pork belly cured in a ‘clean and unused’ trashcan.
Mary’s burger is very tasty and the fries are fresh and crisp but at $14, that Maccas cheeseburger at half the price with chips and drink is getting tastier by the minute. Also, we both felt extremely thirsty about an hour after our meal. I suspect the beef patty contains added MSG though I don’t think this taste enhancer as necessarily bad if used cleverly and responsibly.
Our Verdict on Mary’s
Our meal is fast food and we paid $32 for four pieces of fried chicken and a small burger with chips. Service is at best indifferent in a dark, dingy dungeon with music that assumes you are deaf. The portions are small and plates are not offered to gain notoriety. Personally, the burger is good though overrated by a litany of social media hype, word of mouth and junk food junkies diving into popular opinion.
I presume the absence of signage is perhaps an arrogant strategy to fuel a talking point. It seems to have worked judging by the amount of media coverage. For me, I don’t need Mary’s signage to find this restaurant again not because I now know where it is.
The next time I think about Mary’s, I’d rather be looking for the bright red signage of an old man with a white beard and black rimmed glasses. Or a pair of golden arches.
So dear readers, would you check out Mary’s fried chicken and burgers?
6 Mary street, Newtown
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 4995 9550
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 4pm to midnight, Saturday 12pm to midnight, Sunday 12pm to 10pm.