It's been a long flirtation, but Morgan McGlone, globetrotting networker par excellence and the man behind Belle's Hot Chicken, has consummated his relationship with the kitchen at Sydney's Harpoon Harry. He's formalised the relationship at any rate, moving from consultant to putting his name to the public bar menu, which as of this week has ditched the semi-Mexican vibe for something more in line with what McGlone worked with at the Nashville branch of Husk, a restaurant fêted for its interpretation of Low-country cooking
The flavour-dial is set to stun with the signature devilled eggs, the yolk mixture primed with smoked trout and topped to pop with beads of roe. "Gas-station" boiled peanuts are satisfyingly murky, cooked in their shells with pork bones. Johnny cakes - pikelet-sized pancakes of cornmeal - are served with a thick, tasty sludge of pimento cheese, an American trash classic (the "caviar of the South", as some authorities have it) that might work even more nicely with a Jatz or two.
There's nice detail in clams casino, here done as surf clams served on the half-shell, tender and flavoursome under their crunchy crumb, brightened by a squeeze from a muslin-wrapped lemon. (And who doesn't love a muslin-wrapped lemon?)
Density could be said to be the theme of the "FGT", meanwhile: thick, very firm slices of green tomato, breaded and fried and served with gratuitous grilled okra and a (yes) dense hummus made with black-eyed peas. The "BE peas" (initialisms appear on the menu more frequently than is entirely ideal) also appear smoked in a light, attractive salad of farro, mushrooms and green sauce. We're trying to pretend the "herbed shoetrings" on the sides list are a misprint - herb with chips: just say no - but there's gooey, cheesy pleasure in the sweetcorn casserole.
This is still very much a pub (albeit one decorated in rare style by South Australian designer James Brown, gleefully mining a rich vein of Tijuana-cathouse-on-mescaline inspiration), so you order at the bar, and the cutlery and things are in tins on the tables. On the plus side, drinks: they sell them. Beers are mostly James Squire on tap, but there's also a tempting brown-spirit collection (applejack! Campfire whiskey!) and moonshine from Melbourne, plus a by-the-glass offer that reflects McGlone's passion for small, interesting, artisanal wineries, be they from Long Island or Murrumbateman.
The fancier upstairs bit opens at the end of the month, but if you like your good times smoky and boozy with just the right amount of sass, you're going to get plenty of mileage out of this one. Harpoons at the ready.
Harpoon Harry, 40-44 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 8262 8800, hotelharry.com.au/bar