WARNING: The post has no photos, so feel free to change channels now.
We all know that people visit food blogs for the pictures, not the writing, much like how no one reads Playboy magazine for the insightful articles. So I’m reluctant to do a post without photos because I know it may be ignored, or worse, someone will come up to me in person and say “You latest post was crap. Like it really, really sucked” (You know who you are).
But it’s so rare that I eat somewhere actually interesting that hasn’t already been blogged/Instagrammed to death, I really wanted to at least give a short write-up on Queenies.
I was looking for a casual but fun place to have dinner with a group of friends and after calling every hipster pub in Surry Hills (none took bookings), I came across Queenies and was sold by the promise of Jamaican food and a menu with the word “jerk” in it a lot.
Jerk is a Jamaican spice rub that consists mainly of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. It’s been showing up on more commonly on menus recently, I suspect as a result of the massive “American Diner” food trend that’s happening, but I never knew precisely what it was. Now, thanks to the internet, I do – hurray!
Queenies is upstairs from The Forresters, one of the many establishments owned by the Drink and Dine Group – which seems to be to Surry Hills what Merivale is to the CBD – taking ordinary pubs and bars and transforming them into hipster wonderlands where men with enviable beards like to hang out. There was one guy whose beard was so glorious our whole table couldn’t stop staring at it. He was like a young Santa Claus.
You have to squeeze your way through the noisy crowd at The Forresters to get to Queenies, which is only slightly less chaotic with both dinner and bar seating and reggae music blasting from the speakers. It’s dingy and dark (hence lack of photos) and decorated as though someone bought all the search results for “Jamaican stuff” on eBay and stuck it all over the walls – bright plastic flowers, pineapple lights, the flags of the Caribbean and pictures of Bob Marley. It’s fun and a bit crazy, I kind of loved it.
There’s a small bar where you order both drinks and food, manned by two dudes who are in no hurry at all to take your order. I was standing there for so long, trying really hard to not do the annoying passive-aggressive customer “Uh, hi, is it okay if I like ORDER SOME FOOD?” and wanted to believe that these guys had a really good reason for not serving me even though they weren’t serving other people, making cocktails or doing ANYTHING. I’m at Jamaican restaurant, trying to be a bit chill and relaxed for once. Finally, he asks me “Did you want to order something?” and to which I replied with a severe “YES.”
We ordered the chicken wings ($14) and Calypso coffee ribs ($15) to start. The chicken wings come out as round, luscious lollipops and were saucy and delicious. The ribs, on the other hand, were TINY. Tasty, but so small that the plate looked like somebody else’s leftovers.
The boys wanted beer, and almost went for something boring like Hahn Super Dry when I reminded them that we were at a JAMAICAN bar and that they were not allowed to get a beer that was not JAMAICAN. We initially chose Desperados for the name, but they had run out, which turned out for the better because it’s not even Jamaican! The bartenders recommended Red Stripe and the boys rated it as one of the best beers they’d tried. It comes in the cutest little brown stubbie with a white label and red stripe, which makes one look very fashionable drinking it.
My Jerk Pork Burger ($18) was a surprise, not the sloppy, marinated pulled pork I expected, but crumbed and fried pork with pineapple salsa and slaw between two crisp, slightly sweet brioche buns. Couldn’t taste the Jerk, but at the time I didn’t know what Jerk was. It came with sweet potato fries – which people seem to get quite excited about but I have to say, I’m not a fan. This might sound mental, but sweet potato fries just taste too healthy! Fries shouldn’t taste healthy – fries should taste so guilty that you forget that potatoes are even a vegetable. Luckily I as able to smother the healthy taste with the spiced mayo.
My friends ordered the kingfish with escovitch bell peppers ($22) and Pickapeppa steak with onion rings and salsa hooch ($24). What the heck is salsa hooch? Must be a Queenies invention because according to Google, it doesn’t exist. The fish and steak were served quite fancy, but the boys didn’t seem too impressed with the portion size.
And then we all came down with a bad case of food envy when the BBQ Jerk Chicken was served. For $18, it’s a big half-chicken, charred and covered in sweet, spicy jerk marinade. The Jamaicans may have just the surpassed the Portuguese in the BBQ chicken stakes – this was so good!! I would go back just for this! So I can order it for myself and not have to beg my co-diner to donate me a drumstick!
There are plenty of other things left to try – a tropical cocktail menu, desserts that feature banana and coconut and “bammies” (Jamaican flat bread) with various topping, but Queenies is totally worth visiting just for Red Stripe and Jerk Chicken alone. Beer & Chicken with a few good friends – that’s pretty much a perfect night out I think.
And now, here’s something to get you in the mood…
Corner Foveaux and Riley St
Surry Hills, NSW