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Welcome to Arcadia Liquors – the newest addition to the burgeoning small bar scene of Redfern. Straight off the bat, Arcadia wins the award for most deceptively addressed and most deceptively signed. I’m not even sure that the A4 piece of paper on the door – the only indicator that you’re at the right place – is in bold font. As for the address, 7 Cope St, well, let’s just say that Cope St seems to exist in the same way as a pink yo-yoing badger with fake nails exists in my bedroom.
The real charm of Arcadia is its bizarre ability to create a bar where gruff meets kitsch. There’s some real rough and edgy elements to the place, like the exposed brick walls, old wooden furniture, crackly vinyls, real candles and bartenders’ beards. The beards really are something to be admired. But then there’s the kitsch. I know there’s already a Grandma’s bar in Sydney, but if my Grandma was to open a bar, this is what it would look like. It looks as if, in lieu of an interior designer, the guys at Arcadia just raided their grandparents homes, taking all their ornaments that wouldn’t sell at a garage sale. I’m talking Opera Houses, rabbits, weird lamps, vases, the lot. The nuts on the menu are even served in those brown wooden bowls. Not that this is a problem. It all fits really well in the Redfern setting – low key cobbled together in a charming if slightly haphazard way.
Then there’s the back patio. This mad oasis of overgrown ferns and leafiness is a treat. It’s almost enough to inspire attendees to dress in nothing but khaki and talk about wildlife in a quiet yet poignant voice a la David Attenborough.
As for the drinks, there’s a decent but not amazing range of wines on the menu. The gluhwein boiling away on the bar counter is nice and not too sweet, and particularly appealing when the day’s weather has decided it doesn’t like you very much. As for cocktails, if you like whiskey or gin you’re in luck, and while the bartenders are willing to make you something different, before you order anything fancy it might be worth stopping and having a look at their beards. The real highlight for us though was the Cider. Some vaguely Spanish sounding Cider that we hadn’t encountered before and, sorry excuse me while I wipe the drool off my face. Speaking of drool, for four or five dollars are a range of cheese + tomato + meat toasties, or some spiced nuts. Nom nom.
What really struck me about Arcadia though was the crowd it draws. It probably has the most diverse clientele out of any small bar in Sydney. Businessmen hanging out next to uni students doing their readings, lesbian couples snuggling next to white haired gentlemen talking the old days. The bartenders encourage this vibe with a laid back and friendly but not overbearingly charismatic style, mostly leaving everyone up to their own device.
Look, Arcadia may not be the place to go out of your way to visit, but if you’re in the area I recommend checking it out. It feels like your local the moment you step in the door, and if you’re looking for somewhere to hang out without having to fight the usual Sydney crowding, or overhear hipsters talking loudly about the latest indie Canadian folk group they’ve been listening to, then this is the place.
7 Cope St, Redfern