Dry Dock Public House + Dining Room

Rebecca Varidel
12th Mar 2024

The refurbishment of the Dry Dock Hotel in Balmain brings the 167 year old pub in the once working class suburb up to date with the changing drinking and eating habits of a more sophisticated Sydney.

Entering via the front bar, the smallest of the three distinct areas, the Dry Dock Public House and Dining Room meditates into luxurious mellow. The bar offers many choices beyond the limited spirits once offered in a traditional pub. I chose The Botanist from a long list of gin as my G&T and I hug the bar waiting for my friend, a local. She is excited, for this new venue of her neighbourhood, and after we catch up on our news we move to the spacious dining room at the back. Somehow, without a booking, we snag the last table. The popular new space is daytime bright from overhead skylights, and noisy with excited chatter echoed by the attractive hard tiled floor.

The dinner menu offers loads of untroubled and easy going choices. Ben Sitton most recently from Merivale's Felix heads the efficient open kitchen who send out reliably consistent food during a very busy dinner service. It's a pleasure to watch the equable head chef in the open kitchen. And his experience of more than 20 years, predominantly from two kitchens - Merivale's Uccello and Rockpool Bar and Grill - shows. Modern pub food is hoisted to a little bit fancy while retaining its appropriateness to its hotel origins. Think seafood and steak. Some pasta. Add a Josper charcoal oven and grill. Meander from oysters, prawn cocktail and Caesar salad to Charred Ocouto peppers with sherry vinegar glaze, NZ Snapper fillet, Rare breed Black Berkshire crumbed pork cutlet, Jasper roasted peach salad, and Grilled leeks.

Almost predictably, there's a Hiramasa Kingfish Crud0 ($30) although it is a very good thick cut version dressed in EVOO, fermented cucumber, green chilli, radish, lemon pickle, and chives. Similarly Duck liver parfait ($23) is well crafted, served with nicely warm toasted brioche, and given a kick with burnt grapes. I'll go back for Charcuterie ($29) Duck rillettes, saucisson, San Daniele, pickles and charred bread. Salt cod croquettes ($13) were inoffensive and slipped down a little too easily with good tarragon mayonnaise. The dessert menu offered classy surprises too, including Raspberry Souffle ($20) served with pistachio ice cream. It's a very good menu, and plating is paired back and clean.

Glancing at the quieter lounge, that seems it would also be a lovely place to meet. There's a smaller and just as appropriate modern bar menu for that area,

Humming on a packed to the rafters night, service didn't miss a beat. Attentive with a side of humour (yet without over stepping the mark) it showed the 'H' in hospitality with a capital.

The now well-heeled and gentrified Balmain has greeted a much needed renovation. Situated away from the main street, the Dry Dock is situated in a lovely neighbourhood location that would also warrant an out of area visit. With lots more on the menu yet to explore, I'll be back.