A three cheese dish of stracciatella, buffalo ricotta and parmesan with fennel, with walnut pangrattato and pickled grapes at Bart Jr.
Credit: Shot on iPhone

All talk of Bart Jr. must, of necessity, be preceded with an understanding of who Bart senior was.

Picture if you will a marmalade tomcat, run of the mill in every conceivable way except that this cat is an exceptionally virile one – one with “big fucking balls” and a predilection for furthering his lineage. As much a fixture on the streets of Redfern as near comatose university students disembarking from the nearby station – I beg you, look up from your phone when you’re walking – Bart senior garnered quite the reputation for impregnating the suburb’s feline population, so much so that it’s said that a second generation of ginger-hued cats fathered exclusively by Bart now roam its streets in his place.

While there may be a fair few Bart juniors running around Redfern, there’s only one worth becoming intimately acquainted with. Now in its third week, Bart Jr. (the bar) is the latest addition to a neighbourhood that already boasts some very worthwhile watering holes. Few, however, could lay claim to the kind of credentials Bart Jr. has inherited though. According to one bartender, a recent visitor came in and professed to know the original Bart; the occasion was likened to a meeting with someone who had once met the Queen. That’s how great Bart senior’s legacy is, and Bart Jr. more than lives up to the challenge.

“We don’t do coffee”, reads a letter board adjacent to the bar that’s immediately spotted on entry. It’s an apt disclaimer for an interior that, by day, could very easily be mistaken for one of the neighbourhood’s airy espresso outlets with its ample blonde wood, exposed lightbulbs and walls and liberal use of orchids. A former solicitors office in a heritage listed building, the interiors have been completely gutted and what was once a predictably drab corner office has been transformed into an impossibly bright, open space that carves out enough room for communal tables catering to large groups and intimate nooks perfect for quiet couplings alike.

The latter configuration is the perfect size to sample a menu of substantial and quite reasonably priced share plates. A dish of sheep’s milk haloumi, burnt honey, rosemary, currants, verjuice and toasted hazelnuts appears as though it’s very popular with neighbouring groups; likewise, an equal parts bitter and sweet plate of raw snapper, pickled daikon, pink lady apple and crème fraîche served with puffed wild rice, dill and a generous dressing of parsley oil. A bowl of shredded stracciatella (the stringy featherweight cheese, not to be mistaken for stracciatella the ice cream or stracciatella the soup), beautifully caramelised chunks of fennel, parmesan, crunchy walnut pangrattato and sweetly pickled red grapes is another clear winner.

A wine list, comprised of a great deal many interesting Australian producers, is as considered and accessible as it is (very) agreeable: half a dozen red and white wines are interspersed with two rosés, an orange and two sparkling options, with nothing in excess of $14 for a glass and some fantastic natural wines on offer. I could happily subsist on the ‘Wine of the Week’ – a golden-hued Sigurd drop made with a blend of Riesling, Garganega, Gewurtraminer and Viognier – until I looked like something Bart himself dragged in before swiftly kicking to the curb. Both menus – there are also half a dozen cocktails and even more local beer options – are slated to change as regularly as Bart’s bedfellows (which is to say, every three weeks).

“We ask that you please respect our lovely neighbours by leaving quietly and swiftly like a cat in the night”, reads another sign that bids you adieu on your way out the door and onto the street. Leave quietly? Naturally, Bart Jr. promises to stay open until late from Wednesday to Saturday, closing at sundown the day after.

Return with bells on? Absolutely.

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Bart Jr.