94 Beattie St (Corner of Beattie & Mullins St),
Balmain, Sydney, 2041
Balmain’s renowned pub, The Exchange, has re-opened its doors—and we are welcoming it back with open arms.
A short drive and bus ride from Sydney’s CBD, The Exchange is a convenient retreat from the city bustle. And as it had been closed and abandoned for the past year, you’d expect one paying a visit, to arrive with a natural expectation of newness.
But some things don’t change, and rightfully so. Preserving the integrity of the pub’s past, the grey Victorian-esque exterior is an aesthetic nod to the 1800s. And looking at the surrounds of modern residential dwellings, the pub instantly poses as a charming contrast.
Walk in through the doors to a small room, but don’t let the size be an indicator of quality. The pub houses a cosiness that’ll make you feel like you’re walking into a friends gathering. Its mellow lighting, tufted leather couches and wooden stools and tables, creates a desire for endless intimate chatter, satisfying bites and refreshing drinks. The seating options surround the bar, situated in the centre of the room—a pleasing spatial balance that invites visitors from all corners to watch the magic happen before tasting it for themselves.
The beverages menu offers spirits, wines that champion Australia’s esteemed wine regions, and cocktails crafted from seasonal ingredients. We settled for the Mojito ($16), one sip of which tempted us to go back for seconds. The mint, lemonade and rum, was the perfect mix of bitterness and sourness that cooled and cleared our palette for something hearty.
For starters, we had chicken wings—and they were a simple reaffirmation of Hunter and Bligh’s soft (and guilty) spot for hot food. The Smokey BBQ ($9 – $20) option was a tender mouthful that not only lived up to its name, but came with a surprising hit of spice. Chicken wings also come in two other flavours—Buffalo and Garlic Parmesan—and in groups of six, twelve or twenty. So everybody can dig in.
The Exchange’s love for chicken, a clearly ours too, didn’t stop there. A standout from their pizza menu, was the Raging Rooster ($16). Thin slices of roast chicken, marinated capsicum, onion and stringy cheese (which is a must in our books), all on a crusty base burned to the perfect level of bitterness—a recipe for success. And the price surprisingly makes it the most expensive pizza option, and perhaps now, makes The Exchange your next favourite pizza place.
We recommend visitors to end their dining experience on a sweet note with the Donut Fries ($8). They may sound savoury, and they did indeed look that way—but in a trick of senses, they were thin cuts of deep fried dough drizzled with Nutella. A lighter take on the traditional churros that won’t leave you in a food coma.
What’s better than great food? Great food with great service. We cannot end a review without giving a nod to The Exchange’s servers, whose efficiency and geniality gave a jolt of energy that was lacking at the end of a long day. And you know it’s true hospitality, when one waiter rushed over a second (literally) after we accidentally dropped a fork on the floor.