Rosie Campbell’s Jerk Diner & Rum Bar in Surry Hills is the new venture from the folks behind the Soda Factory and although it has a similar laidback attitude and quirky feel, this is more of a proper bar/eatery than a party space.
Not to say that this place is in any way stuffy or sedate. The funky Caribbean themed music (Pato Banton made me lament the lack of a dance floor!) greets you on the way in along with very friendly staff and the décor is a classy take on a beach shack theme with hand painted driftwood signs, low lights and candles. The venue, on the corner of Crown and Campbell Streets, is relatively small and the diner-style booths that line the walls add to the cosy feel.
Even with the wind and rain lashing the windows it wasn’t hard to succumb to the tropical vibe, with the food and drink, much like the interior, infused with a little East Coast, USA influence. Our thawing out was helped along in no small way by the cocktails on the list from award winner Mikey Enright. We chose a coconut espresso Martini and a Rosie’s Coco Colada – the house’s take on a piña colada. Oh. My. Gosh. Why have I not come across a coconut espresso Martini before? It works brilliantly; taking the bitter edge off the espresso but without the cloying sweetness of vanilla. The Coco Colada was absolutely delicious too and treated seriously. This is not the sickly gloop you can sometimes get but a much more sophisticated frozen drink
The food also impressed, served as it all was on tin bake ware and simple bowls: our starter of Rudie’s Crispy Squid with Rosie’s jerk mayonnaise & lime ($16) were satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and tender within but, for me, the house-made Jerk Pork Dumplings ($16) had them beat. The accompanying Rosie’s jerk sauce, chinkiang vinegar & crispy shallots were an intriguingly more-ish blend of Asian and Caribbean flavours: the meat was tender and the tangy sauce balanced the richness.
For an entrée we simply had to try the Grilled Jerk chicken ($18) using Rosie’s home-made signature jerk marinade created by Head Chef, Adrian Poon. As a West Londoner brought up amid Afro-Caribbean culture, I was keen to see if it matched the jerk of my Notting Hill Carnival experiences. The meat was very tender, moist and beautifully flavoured. Definitely classier than the rough oil-drum BBQ-ed fare I remember but with considerably less heat too.
But the absolute star of the evening was the Red Stripe beer braised oxtail ($17). It may not have looked look very pretty but it was an incredibly rich, warming dish with spicy hints of, I think, anise and cinnamon, plus a bit of a kick. It was perfect comfort food for a cold evening and the BF and I agreed it was utterly delicious. It is honestly now one of my favourite dishes in Sydney.
Both entrées were accompanied by coconut rice ‘n’ peas (actually beans) and home-made ‘sunshine slaw’. The gentle blandness of the rice perfectly absorbed the rich meat sauce flavours and the simple blend of grated carrot and cabbage was just the thing to freshen up the deep flavours.
The portions were very generous (they do state most of the dishes are for sharing) and we had absolutely no room for dessert so have promised to return to try the delicious looking warm Caramel Rum Cake ($14) with coconut ice cream, rum caramel & whipped cream. Swoon!
Rosie Campbell’s is perfect for a relaxed lunch or dinner date as the low light is subtly romantic but the vibrant, authentic buzz makes it a fun rather than an intense experience a deux. Just make sure you get a table round the side as they central tables are lit overhead and you do slightly feel on show. The cocktail bar also makes it a great choice for a gang of mates to cosy up in a booth and make their way through the list. And if you get the late night munchies for something substantial after an evening out drinking, then take advantage of the special Late Night Menu. Rosie Campbell’s Jerk Diner & Rum Bar is a different and very welcome addition to the Surry Hills eatery crowd and I recommend you check it out as soon as you can.
Rosie Campbell’s is open Monday-Thursday, 5pm until late and Friday-Sunday from 11am until late with Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and Late night menus available… and anything in between.
320 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Monday – Thursday 5pm – late
Friday – Sunday 11am – 12am