Looking for The Cliff Dive can be a bit of a challenge. My mate and I had probably circled the area four times in confusion, our eyes flickering from our phones to the numbers on shopfronts, lingering outside Pearson’s Florist on Oxford Street before I noticed the giant pineapple painted onto a tall set of doors and remembered it from the press release I had received a couple of weeks ago with the boys from Mary’s posing outside the front of The Cliff Dive. The press release had some pretty epic news: the boys from Mary’s were setting up shop in The Cliff Dive and expanding their repertoire into kebabs. Not your usual chicken or beef or falafel, but more left of centre: lamb and XO, or pumpkin and corn for the vegetarians. I had called upon the boy who had been present for the popping of my Mary’s Burgers cherry, and we were both equally keen to rate this new venture.
Traipse on down the stairs and The Cliff Dive is decked out in tropical island tiki fashion – wooden benches and tables, palm trees, kaleidoscope-coloured lights and face masks hung up on the walls. I half-anticipated the bar guys to be wearing Hawaiian shirts too. It was early on a Friday night and the place was still quiet, with some 90s RnB churning out over the speakers.
Kebabs are set up shop beside the main bar and are cash only. There is a selection of four:
Neither of us are vegetarian, so we decide not to waste precious stomach-space on the Pumpkin and Corn. Confident that we could demolish three kebabs between the two of us, we order one each of the others and the kebabs come out to us in record time.
We had ordered the Chicken and Pickles with the additions of chopped liver and grilled heart. While I do like the earthy flavour offal can lend to a dish, there seemed to be more heart than liver and the grilled texture of the muscle made it quite chewy. The chicken kebab also lacked sauce and seemed a little dry for me – it really needed some more dirty garlic sauce!
The Lamb and XO had been cooked down beautifully, the slow-cooked lamb melting in the mouth with a few flavour-packed gelatinous pockets. My mate found it a bit on the “lamby” side, and I acknowledged that I wasn’t getting too much of a hit from the XO sauce; it was a little too subtle for my tastes.
Probably my favourite was the Devil Pork. I hadn’t been expecting too much as you never see a pork kebab anywhere for obvious reasons, and it was also priced as the cheapest of the meat kebabs. I was pleasantly surprised however; soft, juicy pulled pork, crunchy roasted chickpeas and a hella-punch of heat that crept up on you. It was a welcoming, slow burn – more on the peppercorn side than chilli – that had me reaching for my tissues and gulping down my gin and tonic.
Overall, the bar has a fun vibe and I wouldn’t mind having a Saturday night boogie there, but I’m not entirely sure why Mary’s chose to set up shop in the place. I did notice a few people coming in just for a kebab dinner before heading off. My mate and I felt like Mary’s were trying possibly a little too hard in trying for a different take on a Sydney street food favourite, but when I’m next in the area I may go for another round of that Devil Pork.
The Cliff Dive
16-18 Oxford Square
Darlinghurst NSW 2010