Opened in 1857, The Dry Dock is one of the oldest licensed hotels in Balmain. For around 100 years, it was a favoured drinking spot of workers from nearby Mort’s Dock, who would crowd in for a brew after a long day labouring in the shipyard. Now, after a two year-long reno, Peninsula Hospitality is reinvigorating the watering hole – with a fresh fit-out, a kitchen overseen by a celebrated chef, and a cracking wine and cocktail list.
“We’ve always loved Balmain,” co-owner James Ingram (ex-Merivale, Solotel), who helms the group with passionate Balmain local Mike Everett, tells Broadsheet. “There are 21 pubs [in the neighbourhood], which makes it unique.”
The duo was drawn to the pub’s position – opposite the Balmain ferry wharf and Mort Bay Park, where the dock used to be – and its “great layout”. The public bar, set to be the more casual, friendly spot, leads through to a lounge bar and then a 100-seat à la carte restaurant.
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The bar’s going to be a relaxed, 120-person space with an open fireplace, spacious booths and a “lounge-y feel”. Meanwhile, chef Ben Sitton (ex-Rockpool, Uccello, Felix) will look after the dining room.
“We want to create a great bistro – the kind you’d find in London or New York – serving modern European classics, especially those of French provenance,” says Ingram. “The focus will be on fantastic produce, cooked simply, with great technique.”
The team has revamped the kitchen with a charcoal grill and oven, plus a rotisserie. You’ll find a match for each of Sitton’s dishes on the wine list, which will bring together drops from all over the world. The cocktail list will focus on classics.
While The Dry Dock will benefit from Sitton and Ingram’s experience in high-end restaurants, it will very much remain a casual, affordable, “homely” affair.
“We’re hoping to set up the pub for the next 50 to 100 years,” says Ingram. “But we also want to be part of the community. Everyone will feel welcome, as at a classic pub.”