Atop Millers Point, high above the harbour like something out of a Tourism Australia ad, the old Palisade Hotel has sat forlorn for the past seven years. But now new owners have taken charge. They've renovated and reopened the ground-floor public bar. And they're just getting started.

The Palisade dates back to 1915. It was the last place diggers could sink a few before they boarded boats bound for war, and it was used to lodge workers constructing the Harbour Bridge. For many decades the pub was a lounge room for longshoreman. “It's been a joy bringing the building back to life,” says manager Greg Walker. There's just so much history in the walls.”

Sibella Court oversaw the redesign of the public bar. The handsome green wall tiles remain, as does the original front window with its big, postcard-perfect view of the bridge. The pokies have been ripped out, leaving a pleasant backroom perfect for languid weekend afternoons. There's playfulness, such as in the old tools serving as beer taps, and practicality, as in the sturdy new timber and steel bar.

Mikey Enright (from the Barber Shop) was brought in to craft the drinks menu, and he's drawn a cocktail list big on classics – Martinis, Gimlets, Old Fashioneds – as well as fancier numbers such as the Heartbreak Hotel (whisky, cognac, rockmelon and fennel-seed honey).

Chef Dave O'Brien has created a concise menu free of generic pub-grub stodginess. There are hearty dishes, such as chicken and tarragon pie; roasted salmon fillet; and Moroccan-style lamb shanks. But there are also lighter options, such as smoked ham and mozzarella sandwiches; soups; and salads. For after, there's toffee cheesecake.

The upper levels of the Hotel Palisade are currently being renovated – the plan is for nine large hotel rooms, each with its own theme. The penthouse and rooftop terrace is also being transformed into a cocktail bar, slated to open in late September. And with the space featuring wrap-around, oh-so-close views of the deep blue of the harbour, it will be worth keeping an eye out for.

Hotel Palisade
35 Bettington Street, Millers Point

Daily 12pm–midnight