I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli movies. The details in the watercolour backgrounds behind the animated characters, the amazing soundtracks crafted by the artist Joe Hisaishi, the utter nonsensical, whimsical plots of some of the movie plot lines and a certain quirkiness to many of the characters that you can’t find in those from Disney or Pixar. I was excited when I heard that Dendy Cinemas would be showcasing Ghibli movies for a few weeks in October, and even more so when my friend Shanon (also a big Ghibli fan) bought us tickets for a session to see Princess Kaguya at the Newtown Dendy one weekday evening. We had time for a quick bite before the movie, and Shanon nonchalantly suggested Mary’s, as it was a mere stone’s throw away from the cinema.
If you’re a food blogger reading this, you don’t need to read this post, go away. It probably doesn’t say anything more than what you already know! But if you’re a member of the general public and either haven’t heard of Mary’s, or have heard a whisper of the name on the wind, by all means full speed ahead.
Dear Mary doesn’t have a squeaky clean past. You know there’s something about her… 😉 Mary’s has been an STI clinic, Masonic hall, Greek club, pool hall, and is now an incredibly hipster and grungy bar. Grungy is almost an understatement, but I knew I had been in worse establishments as I weaved my way through the bottom floor of dark wooden furniture and looked around to see lightshades made from Jack Daniels bottles and enormous chalkboards on the walls detailing the beer and wine lists, and – of course – the menu.
The menu is short. Burgers or fried chicken. I find it quite funny how we claim such different foods all “hipster” – cronuts injected with molten chocolate to smoothie breakfast bowls overflowing with chia seeds, pulled pork burgers to quinoa fritters with gin and tonic cured salmon with Sriracha sauce and labne and dukkah.
You can’t ever say that hipsters don’t have a varied diet…
The top floor, being the loft, is where you go if you want table service. With daylight saving in play, there was still a nice amount of natural light streaming through for good photos of the food when it arrived a little later. I had heard that Mary’s was great for their bottled craft beers and ciders, but thirsty as I was my companion wasn’t drinking (motorbike rider) so neither did I.
Okay, so I had already looked at blogs about this place for two days before this evening so I knew immediately what I wanted. A cheeseburger with the “trashcan bacon”, and I was interested in sharing either half a fried chicken or the mash and gravy. Shanon suggested skipping the chicken as he found it quite dry the last time he was here, so we agreed to share the Mash and Gravy ($5).
In case you’re wondering what the Larry Bird is, it’s two chickens broken down and deep fried. They also do a Thunderbird once a day, being three chickens deep fried whole, stuffed with cheeseburgers and served on a bed of mash and gravy. I think my arteries hardened just writing that out.
Back before my mid-teens, I remember whenever I had a cold or flu that my folks or sister would go to KFC and get me potato and gravy. Everyone knows how miserable having a cold or flu is, and for someone who has an incredibly acute sense of smell, not being able to smell and taste what I eat is pretty miserable. I saw that lumpy mash and very salty, savoury gravy as an absolute Godsend. Bless.
I’m glad to say though, that Mary’s mash and gravy pure blew that out of the water. The mash would be better described as “puree” from how gorgeously silky and buttery it was; sliding across your tongue with no effort. It was so fine that the texture was like the boiled potatoes had been mashed through a drum sieve. The accompanying gravy was tangy, savoury and perfectly seasoned. It was divine for dipping the slightly bland fries into, although a little awkward to eat with a spoon due to the greaseproof paper in the basket. Using paper-lined baskets everywhere eliminates the need for repetitive washing up; the most loathed task in commercial (and residential) kitchens everywhere.
I basked in the beauty of my Cheeseburger with trashcan bacon ($18) when it arrived. Okay, $18 is a hefty price to pay for the size of this burger, regardless of whether or not it comes with fries, so with everyone’s rave reviews I was expecting something pretty epic. You would know by now that the kitchen team here is headed by guys that are ex-Tetsuya’s, ex-Bodega and ex-Porteno‘s, that the patty is apparently made from a magic formula of two parts chuck to one part each of rump and brisket (maximum softness with all the flavour), and that the bacon is smoked in an (unused) trash can, hence the name.
The bun is lightly toasted and so soft and squishy between your hands when you lift it up. This is no tall, glazed brioche or crusty white sesame bun. Biting into it is as effortless as a hot knife passing through butter. The bread is a little on the sweet side and it takes me back to rumours I’ve read that the buns are sourced from BreadTop – and there is most certainly an almost Asian-bakery essence to it.
The patty. Oh, the patty. Zero hint of gristle or anything strangely chewy. Pure charred beef mince goodness. Cheese was a bit nondescript but had oozingly melted onto the patty like a Chernobyl sauce. And that bacon. 100% perfectly smoked. Subtle, but definitely there. Crispy around the edges. The only chewing I did for that burger was through the bacon to keep it in place so that I didn’t pull the whole piece out in my first bite. My burger was gone out of my fingers and down into my stomach faster than I could keep up with it.
For a millisecond, I wanted a second burger *guilty face*.
Shanon had gone for the Mary’s Burger ($14), which I suppose you could call slightly healthier due to the addition of leafy lettuce and a single slice of tomato.
My opinion is that Mary’s is pricey for what it is, but it’s well-worth a visit now and again. Newtown is not a regular haunt for me, but after showing the photo of my cheeseburger to a few friends, they have demanded that I take them there. So I guess I’ll just have to have another cheeseburger. I can hear the double meat and cheese calling my name…
6 Mary Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 4995 9550