Last night I had one of those serendipitous dining moments where you are not sure what to expect, you go into a new suburb, walk into the venue, and are pleasantly surprised by what you find. In this case it was an old pub called The Welcome Hotel in the inner-west suburb of Rozelle, near Balmain, in Sydney.
Established in 1877, The Welcome Hotel is in a quiet part of the neighbourhood, on the corner at the bottom of a hill. As you arrive, it’s quite dark, but there is a warm glow coming from within, and the slight buzz of people eating and drinking – the sound of a community enjoying themselves. As you walk in, it felt like that scene in The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandald first walks into Bilbo’s Hobbit house – warm, cozy and inviting.
The atmosphere in the immediate bar area reminded me of Sydney’s Zeitgeist cafe (Tropicana) because of the eclectic mix of people, both young and old – a real sense of community. Something you’d be unlikely to see in one of the trendy Paddington pubs on a Saturday night (except perhaps The Bellevue Hotel in Hargrave St – do they still do the $10 Bangers and Mash there? Probably, but likely to be $20+ now 🙂
Through to the back of the pub is the dining room – a more formal indoor area (complete with white tablecloths – impressive) and the informal courtyard dining area (where I was) – perfect for larger groups as they have space for a very long communal table which could accomodate 30 people easily. Now, about the food. It was of a very high standard – my friends, who are regulars here, really rated it, and they were right. The food is described on their website as “contemporary European with a distrinct Irish influence” and I would go on to describe it as “typical Mod-Oz” cuisine – I note the website has a detailed menu online so go and check it out. The presentation was excellent too, with attentive service from the friendly staff. Actually I arrived late in the evening and enjoyed dessert (a mixture of sorbet and gelato with fresh strawberries – delicious) followed by an espresso – fresh and hot. Good quality here. The cheese plate, I observed to be well presented with fruit, lavosh-style biscuit bread and a generous serving of brie. I note also from their website that the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2009 says “This is pub dining as it should be” – I have to agree.
I look forward to dining here and trying more dishes – I would definitely recommend the Welcome Hotel for a great night out.