Balmain has long been a favourite destination for boozy pub-crawls. While the old West End Hotel used to just make up the numbers, these days the venue – now known as The Balmain Hotel – is the kind you’ll want to settle in at.
The new owners (the folks behind Birchgrove's Riverview Hotel) have spent the past four months renovating the joint. The public bar now sports lovely wooden floorboards and a pretty tiled bar. What was once the ladies' parlour now resembles the lobby of a South Pacific hotel, with its wicker lounges sitting alongside a palm-frond mural. Out back, you'll find Balmain's biggest and cheeriest beer garden. Pastel coloured walls surround the tiered courtyard, a shady tiki hut sits up the back, and groovy wrought-iron tables and chairs are strewn all about, looked down upon by a lone palm tree.
At the bar, there's White Rabbit, Coopers, plus all the standards on tap. The wine list will please the value-conscious and has plenty of very drinkable South Australian reds and New Zealand whites. The cocktail list has been redrawn as well and now offers punchy, fruity numbers.
The food menu features a large range of dishes, from healthy salads, such as the superfood salad, with quinoa, lentils and kale, to burgers, including a soft shell crab one, as well as meat and seafood. Among the favourites are a southern chicken schnitzel and a beef cheek, ale, and bacon pie. As for desserts, expect churros served with dipping chocolate sauce, and salted caramel sliders.
Picking a pub in Balmain was once a chore, but no longer. With its vibrant new decor, crazy-good grub and beautiful beer garden, the choice of where to drink in Balmain just got a whole lot simpler.
The Balmain Hotel
74 Mullens Street, Balmain
(02) 9810 7560
Mon to Sat noon–midnight