Update: sadly, Mary’s Kebabs is no longer running at Cliff Dive – but will be popping up at other events and venues. Follow ’em on Instagram to see where they’ll be next. You can still get your Mary’s fix in Newtown and the Sydney CBD, though!
Mary’s is a repeat offender at making the city more awesome – and its new kebab stand at Darlinghurst’s Cliff Dive is further proof of this. The team behind Sydney’s best burgers (Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham) has taken the late-night food of last resort and turned it into something that’s chart-jumped into being your first choice (instead of being something you eat by default because the hour is seedy, there’s nothing else open and the right amount of booze has convinced you it’s a great, regret-free idea).
Mary’s Kebabs is tucked into a corner of Cliff Dive, with a small seating area inside the basement tiki bar. You’ll spot Kenny working the floor and Jake behind the counter, and the menu is as compact as the kitchen they have to contend with. There are currently four picks to choose from, including the smoked chicken with pickles and garlic sauce ($12), which is a descendent of the great kebab that Mary’s served at the Newtown Good Food Fair last year. Here, you can protein-load even further, and have extra chopped liver and grilled heart ($4) wedged into your chicken wrap. There’s also the Devil Pork ($10), with its satanic levels of chilli. Made from a Sri Lankan dry curry, it has red-alert amounts of spice – Will could basically feel the sirens go off on his head when his mouth even made slight contact with the kebab. (Despite the chilli intensity, this did not stop him smashing the whole thing, as it was flat-out delicious.) There’s also sorrel yogurt, mango pickle and shredded greens to help temper the slash-and-burn effect.
The Vegetarian option ($9) is anything but an afterthought – it is freakin’ excellent. There’s so much flavour slammed into this tight wrap that the ingredients nearly spill out of the flatbread. There’s the caramelly-sweet wallop of oven-roasted pumpkin, the addictive crunch of deep-fried chickpeas, an ultra-savoury hit of haloumi, punchy garlic sauce, loose kernels of corn and shreds of lettuce. It’s so good that two non-vegos tell me it’s their fave thing on the menu (in fact, one person in the pro-pumpkin kebab camp is TwoThousand editor Levins and given how much he knows about food, this is pretty much a gold-plated endorsement). Kenny says he tells dudes how awesome the vego option is, and they ignore him and order the chicken instead. (In defence of this, though, Will can vouch for how A-grade the chicken and pickle kebab is.) Some of the word-of-mouth about the pumpkin wrap must be infiltrating through – as we leave, Jake is prepping another serve of the pumpkin and corn – but this one has been stuffed with extra chopped hearts, by special request. (Jake says it’s like how at Mary’s, people will order the ‘Shroom Burger, but add extra bacon.)
The only flavour we didn’t get to try is the kebab with 12-hour cooked lamb, XO, white bean sauce and pickles ($12). One for next visit – or the next round of cocktails.
If there’s any downside to Mary’s Kebabs, it’s that it’s only open from 6pm ’til late, Thursday to Saturday. But given the other patches of Sydney that Mary’s has conquered, it’s obvious how to spend the other days of the week.
Mary’s Kebabs at Cliff Dive, 16-18 Oxford Square, Darlinghurst NSW. Follow Mary’s Kebabs on Instagram.