If Hemingway opened a bar it might look like this.
That said, god knows what Hemingway, whose portrait hangs next to a map of Sydney’s western suburbs, knew about hospitality.
But there’s every chance he’d enjoy Dry Land, which has eschewed stainless steel swathes and considered kitsch for an interior that seems very much to the taste of its creators.
A warmly lit, introspective space, one might sit as easily and comfortably in silence as in conversation, or in the case of one couple, very much conjoined.
An old man and the sea vibe lingers in the deep blue walls that are lit by a series of orb-like naval light fixtures.
The aluminium floor-to-ceiling window frames are clearly a vestige from the former occupants and this reticence to put a definitive Dry Land branding upon every fitting contributes to its casual atmosphere.
The nonchalance carries over, unaffectedly, to the bar staff, one of whom would seem every bit a character of Mark Twain with his sack-like trousers and checkered tea towel were he not so attentive to our drink levels.
Our crowd could be split into three groups – lovers, who co-opt the two booths; tables of friends; and Dan, who would sell his cat for the Dry Land Sazerac.
I order the Side Car (cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice), which is classically (and well) made and served with a sugar rim. Meanwhile, Dan claims his Sazerac (rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar and absinthe) is one of the best he’s ever had [note from Dan: turns out they made it with Jim Beam rye, which surprised me since the Sazerac was so smooth – I would have sworn they’d have used a higher shelf rye]. Cocktails are all $16 which would be a fair ask for a far less expertly executed tipple than ours.
Nibbles are stored in large jars on the counter, as if ready for a long sea voyage, and so we get a serve of the scratchings ($5.50) and mixed olives ($4.50) both of which are so salty (in a good way!) they could easily induce another round of cocktails. As if we need the excuse.
The music is a touch too voluble which might be why Dan and I lapse into mutual observation, and I find myself in a voyeuristic, triangulated relationship with the booth couple, while Dan spies a lower back worthy of Man Ray.
In fact, Dan has the look of a man who’s just got the catch of a lifetime (the analogy ends here I promise!) and says he wants to move to Redfern so he can drink here more often. Then again, Dry Land is definitely a second home you wouldn’t be ashamed to call your own.
Dry Land. 92 Redfern St, Redfern. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm-12am.
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Dry Land?