Category Archives: Balmain

The hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar-Party-supporting… the launch of The Workers

Entering The Workers is something akin to approaching a secret Masonic Temple. You pass under a nondescript doorway flanked by wrought iron lamps and travel up a narrow timber staircase that opens out into a large hall. Dark timber beams run overhead and exposed brick walls are plastered with graffitied political slogans and artfully crumbling concrete. Giant pictures of Labour party greats smile down on patrons and give the impression that the building Australian workers come “home” to has been loved by generations of locals. And, of course, it has.

Everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside

The Darling Street home of The Workers was a trades and labour hall in the 1890s and is steeped in Labour Party history. Conscious of its place in the narrative of the hard-working, straight-talking, blue collar Party, everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside. The menu cries, “Viva La Tacos!” and guarantees the bartenders will “whet your whistle.” Indeed, The Workers satisfies at both the bar and in the Canteen, aka the kitchen.

Guests sampled prawn tacos – along with a selection of Mexican bar food

Following a stellar opening by former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who was as irreverent and down-to-earth as an old school politician should be, we sampled a variety of sliders, including Alaskan crab cakes with yellow pepper, preserved lemon and caper mayo, crispy buttermilk fried chicken wings and the show-stopping “mini mac” which is just like its big brother, only cooler. All the food has a definite Mexican twist, with enough spice to keep things interesting but not enough to see you grab your glass. You’ll be keen to reach for a drink for other reasons though; The Workers’ quality wines hail from Australia, France and Italy and the bartenders mix up drinks inspired by such diverse pop culture icons as Rudolph Valentino, Carrie Bradshaw, The Bronx (the Zoo, not the Borough). Like any working man’s watering hole, beer is on the menu in a big way, and patrons will find a vast array of local and international labels bottled and on tap.

A DJ mixes trendy house tunes behind the bar and patrons can sit at communal tables down the centre of the room or in the cosier booths that run around the perimeter. Opening night saw The Whitlams’ Tim Freedman woo the crowd and The Workers promises regular live gigs to keep the plebs entertained. Venturing through a wall of foliage takes you to a funky astro-turfed open air balcony, strung with coloured lights and candy-coloured garden furniture. For patrons looking for a quieter, more intimate place to chill out, a series of “private” rooms are fitted out in a style reminiscent of an office of a ‘60s Prime Minister, all tartan carpet and distressed leather armchairs.

Down the trendy, restaurant- laden of Balmain, it’s refreshing to find a bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re a local, we can see The Workers becoming your regular watering hole. Hell, even if you’re not, you’re guaranteed to feel right at home.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about The Workers here

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Balmain’s new darling, Corner Bar

What used to be a chicken shop is now the intimate and atmospheric Corner Bar. Trendy brunch café by day and community drinking den by night, Corner Bar is the masterwork of two young Brisbane brothers – Ryan and Daniel Singer (of Two Brothers Hospitality)— and local Balmain boy, Lindsay Egan.

Corner Bar embraces a quirky, community-focused vibe. Water arrives in old rum bottles, an old tram scroll lines the roof, a silent film plays on the brick wall behind the bar and a sortie of pop-funk music hum overhead. There is a bar to one side that transitions into a lilliputian kitchen, its exterior flanked by original timber planks from the old Double Bay jetty. Across from the bar, diners can sit on tall red and silver stools at the window bench and embrace the Darling Street fishbowl effect.

Corner Bar embraces a quirky, community-focused vibe

The boys are not fond of fine dining, and accordingly, the menu is a reflection of their culinary tastes, spanning from street sambos and pizza slabs to tapa bites and a hearty antipasti share board. We begin with the antipasti of chilli salami, pan fried chorizo, warm haloumi, mixed olives, arancini, hummus, aioli and toasted bread. The chorizo is juicy and drizzled with melted cheese and the arancini are refreshingly light and herby.

A large vat of wine sits impressively on the bar counter, which reads ‘Blind Corner Winery, Margret River’. Made by vintner Ben Gould (recently named one of Gourmet Travellers 10 most exciting new producers), this biodynamic Shiraz is made via traditional hand (and foot) techniques with the aim of best reflecting the vine and soil origins in the wine. It’s definitely a winner. But a glass of 2011 Uco Valley Malbec from Mendoza steals my heart and the Eldferflower Martini gets a big thumbs up.

For a largely boyish menu, it is interesting that about 70% of the clientele are women. Looking around, the narrow passage is bursting with groups of girls chatting away and the bar is “couple’s territory”. Lindsay informs us the crowd ascends towards the weekend, especially on Sundays when a DJ is set up behind the coffee counter and the bar transforms into street party mode.

With its reliable, good-natured staff and friendly atmosphere, it seems Corner Bar is solidifying its place as a cool community hang out, and with a chalkboard inside the lavatory that reads “this is the bathroom chalkboard, now get back out there and have fun”, it’s easy to see why.

Sami-Jo Adelman

Read more about Corner Bar here

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