Following the refurbishment of the Balmain Hotel, which now sports an ultra-fun, South Pacific-style beer garden, the folks from the Balmain Pub Group (who also own the Riverview Hotel in Birchgrove) is at it again. This time it's Erskineville's old Kurrajong Hotel, which has been renovated and renamed Swanson Hotel.
At street level, cane lounges sit near the entrance, high tables and stools line walls dotted with bird illustrations and a row of leather booths hide off to the side. The rectangular bar is a handsome affair, all dull grey tiles bordered by dark wood trim. There's also the odd palm frond, a crackling fireplace and a zebra head mounted on a wall. The missteps include the huge television above the fireplace and the screens inlaid above the bar – their flickering proves entirely distracting. The TAB and pokies are, mercifully, tucked out of sight.
At the bar you'll find White Rabbit, James Squire and Young Henry's Newtowner on tap, as well as a wine list featuring plenty of New Zealand whites and South Australian reds. The bar menu offers fancy takes on pub fare and gives you a hint as to what's going on upstairs. Tuck into White Rabbit beer-battered fish or wagyu beef and ale pie with garlic mash.
Upstairs, the Swanson really hits its stride. There's a marble bar, solid black tables and chairs and a splash of colour courtesy of some elegant floral wallpaper. The kitchen is headed up by chef Brad Sloane from the Riverview and he's created an impressive menu. Entrees include pork terrine with piccalilli and sourdough, and kingfish carpaccio with Jerusalem artichoke, fennel and grapefruit. For mains, try chargrilled spatchcock, black angus scotch fillet or poached salmon. If you've got room, and you probably won't, finish with a chocolate and strawberry salted peanut sundae smash.
106–108 Swanson Street, Erskineville
(02) 9519 3609
Mon to Sat 11am–midnight