When we first arrived at The Swanson Hotel, I almost had to double check we were in the right place. The funky wallpaper, animal print stools and mounted zebra head on the wall was highly contrasting to the red-brick exterior and terraced houses that we’d left outside. Having passed the pub a few times on my way to Erskineville high-street in the past few months, I’d just assumed it was a standard hotel and hadn’t paid it too much attention. Obviously, my assumptions were wrong.
Formerly the Kurrajong Hotel, the spot had been a popular drinking hole amongst locals and was not much more than somewhere to grab a pint, play the pokies and watch the Rabbitoh’s game. Oh, how the times have changed. The Balmain Pub Group saw the establishments potential and, after the success of their refurbishment of The Balmain Hotel, decided to give the pub the same treatment. A new name, full renovation and zebra head later and The Swanson Hotel was born.
Now not everyone is a huge fan of the growing gentrification of Sydney’s pubs. It prices locals out and can ruin the character and heritage of some of the cities greatest hotels. Luckily, I think they’ve struck a pretty good balance at The Swanson. The original tiles are still underfoot, there’s still sports playing all-day everyday on their screens, you can grab a VB as well as a craft beer and in the window, there’s still a Rabbitoh’s sign. Sometimes this hybrid feels a little bit off but on the whole, it’s pretty pleasing to all. While we enjoyed our lunch we saw families, trendy couples, a group of girls and some Erskineville locals drinking alongside each other.
In addition to pretty decently stocked at the bar (you’ll find Young Henry’s, White Rabbit and a varied wine list on offer), they’ll also upped their food game. After the renovation, chef Brad Stone came on board to craft a menu for the pub and they’ve been experimenting ever since. More recently they’ve been focusing more on pub grub – burgers, pizzas, steaks – but there’s also tapas and a cheeky dessert or two if that’s your thing. We decided to try both and ordered the Polenta Crusted Fish Burger, the Pie of the Day and some Sweetcorn Fritters w Guacamole, Chipotle & Sour Cream.
The burger was a good twist on a pub classic with plenty of chips and sauce to spice things up. However, it also wasn’t trying too hard to be something it wasn’t. It was a solid burger with good bun to meat to salad ratio with a generous servings of chips on the side.
The Sweetcorn Fritters were also something a little bit different but not so fancy and over the top that it felt like it didn’t belong on the menu. Flavours were good and they were a decent enough size to share. I wasn’t totally won over by the sauces on the side; they didn’t quite match up with the fritters, but all in all, another great option.
The pie was by far our favourite. Made on site, the crust was perfectly flaky and solid at the same time and the large chunks of meat inside made me think of pies back in the UK. It also wasn’t swimming with gravy or loaded up with too many potatoes and veggies which can be the downfall of many a pie. Another piece of broccoli or two would’ve been great but it’s not enough to dissuade me from ordering again when I return.
Although we had a good sample of the downstairs menu, The Swanson has even more to offer. The upstairs has been converted into a cocktail bar and dining area with plenty of seating, another bar and great views of the park opposite the pub. It’s certainly on my list of places to try in the future.
The Swanson Hotel
Address: 106-108 Swanson St, Erskineville
Contact: (02) 9519 3609
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-12pm; Sun 11am-10pm