Rosie Campbell’s serves up sugar, spice and all things nice.
There are certain streets in Sydney which carry a distinct identity. Crown Street, running through almost four adjoining suburbs is one of them. At the Woolloomooloo end are leafy terraces and old-world apartment blocks. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall cafés, a quirky barbers shop, a man walking his tea cup chihuahua. Walk further towards the CBD end of the street and the landscape starts to change. It’s noisier. Grungy bars sit alongside drag costume stores and buzzing restaurants. Situated in the heart of this vibrant stretch of road in Surry Hills is Rosie Campbell’s.
Having first opened it’s doors in 2015, chances are you’ve walked past this jerk diner and rum bar before. You’ve heard those alluring live reggae acoustics trickle out the front entrance on a Wednesday night. Or you’ve caught a glimpse of the 100+rum bottles glistening behind the main bar and the interior’s vibrant colour composition. A splash of yellow here, some bold zebra stripes there. Retro posters on one side, quirky voodoo dolls at the other end. If you haven’t paid a visit, it’s time to walk inside. There’s a new menu and damn, it’s good.
You’ve read correctly, Rosie Campbell’s stocks over one hundred unique bottles of rum. They come from every which way, including Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Barbados (deep breath), Venezuela, Guyana, Guatemala, Haiti and Dominican Republic. That’s just the half of it.
Rum cocktails are hence what you’ll get. If you’re like me and my date, it’s hard to bypass a classic rum daiquiri, made with Pampero Blanco rum, lime and a simple sugar syrup ($18). The Kingston Sour, made with Appleton VX Rum, Illegal Mezcal, toasted caraway seeds, pimento syrup and lemon ($18) does however have a strong allure. As does the Espresso Coco Martini, a combination of Pampero Dark Rum, Kahlua, Jamaica Blue Mountain’s Espresso and burnt coconut syrup ($18).
Behind the new food menu is a brand new chef, May. With Jamaican heritage, she comes with a strong understanding of local flavours. Separating her cooking style from ‘traditionally’ Jamaican cuisine however is her passion for health. It yields a fresh and somewhat lighter version of the heavier Jamaican classics.
This is seen in sharing plates such as Toot’s Fish Tacos. Nestled on a soft tortilla are equal portions of baja fish and pickled red cabbage. Drizzled over the top is a guava lime dressing and parsley ($16). For the full experience, wrap up your little taco and go in for a big bite. Let the juices run down your hands, there’s no shame here. After all, is there any other way to eat tacos?
Watermelon and halloumi go together like fish and chips. It’s something about the sweet juiciness of the melon contrasted against the salty, squeaky cheese. In this knowledge you’ll quickly gravitate towards The Watermelon Man, a marriage of fresh watermelon, charred sweet peppers and grilled halloumi ($16). Although the peppers come as a slightly left-of-centre addition, it’s slightly smoky, slightly sweet flavour is welcomed.
Rosie Campbell’s wouldn’t live up to it’s jerk diner reputation without plenty of the distinctly Jamaican spice on the menu. Thankfully, it’s everywhere – from their jerk wings to their slow cooked jerk pork shoulder and jerk chicken sliders. For the ultimate jerk experience, opt for Rosie’s Jerk Chicken, served with coconut rice’ n ‘peas ($22). The thighs, juicy and dripping in sauce, will quickly have you floating on a Cuban cloud. Use the rice to mop up all those delectable sauces on your plate.
For a colour and flavour rich dish, we recommend the Bless Up Salad Bowl ($17). In a big bowl lies chargrilled sweet capsicum, zucchini, corn, barley and kale guava lime dressing. This dish is testament to the fact that you can make friends with salad. You can’t help but go in for spoonful after spoonful – the chewy, roasted kernels working well with the smoky capsicum and nutty notes of the barley.
We wouldn’t want you to think however that the whole menu is one big health kick. Taking you back to your guilty childhood pleasures is the Ja Mac n Cheese. It’s decadent and oh-so-rich, made with a three cheese cream sauce and herb butter crumble ($9).
Be sure to leave room for dessert, especially with items like Rosie’s Coco Cozy’s on the menu ($14). These spiced coconut macaroons are made with a buttery short crust pastry, causing them to melt in the mouth. Served with vanilla custard, you’ll at least know what heaven tastes like.
Rosie Campbell’s is one of those restaurants that works well for so many reasons. Crossing the restaurant’s threshold, you can’t help but slide into Island time. Maybe it’s something to do with the drinks served in coconuts, or the calmly confident waitstaff. Maybe it’s the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ posters or the reggae beats playing in the background. Whatever it is, put Rosie Campbell’s on your list of restaurants to visit.
320 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Open 12pm-late everyday
02 9356 4635