This old Balmain pub now marches to the beat of an Irish drum
Anyone around Balmain in the ’80s and ’90s would remember the Cat and Fiddle as a hard-worn, divey little rock pub with a dark, sticky band room and space for community theatre.
It’s a very different beast now. The blackout drapes have been pulled down and sunlight streams in through the open windows of what was once the band room. The whole place got an Irish makeover in 2013, which means there’s Magners cider and Guinness on tap, in addition to Coopers Green, Peroni, and James Squire 50 Lashes pale if you’re not here to experiment with your beer. They’ve also chucked Brooklyn lager on tap for lovers of American brews.
Maybe whisky is more your style. If so, you're in luck:behind the red tiled bar there are many upstanding members of the Scotch family, like Oban, Dalwhinnie, and Taslisker. But when in an Irish pub we make like Jimmy McNulty and put Jameson in our glass.
When it comes to boozing snacks, forget all about those dusty packets of salted nuts and order a bowl of hot chips with curry sauce and cheese. The gently spiced sauce is more savoury and interesting as a chip dressing than plain gravy and they don’t hold back on the grated cheese.
If you’re sick of the pub gulls cadging your chips, order the smoked cod and leek pie. Inside the golden pastry pocket the salty, creamy sauce is rich with smoke and packed with tender white fish and ribbons of soft leek. It comes with a side salad of cos, fennel, walnuts and apple, and since neither salad nor pie are sharing foods you can hoover your meal unmolested.
Sometimes gussying up simple homestead fare works a treat but the stacks of cider-poached corned beef with fried colcannon, kale, green beans, pea puree and a swirl of onion pickle is both under seasoned and overdone. Next time we’ll opt for classics like the cottage pie.
We like the seats by the open windows looking out onto Darling Street, but there’s also an airy, terrarium-inspired dining room where the roof is basically one big skylight and plant life hangs from grills dangling overhead. Just in case you thought some fusty old publican was in charge, the playlist forgoes Chisel for the likes of Chvrches, Chet Faker and the Temper Trap to remind you there’s a new sheriff in town – one who listens to Triple J.
The old Cat and Fiddle will live on in pub rock history as an early adopter of the Whitlams and the Waifs, but it's now a much nicer pub to visit on the regular. They do good counter meals, embrace fresh air and have a welcoming attitude. It’s not very rock’n’roll, but we like it.
|Venue name:||The Cat and Fiddle||Contact:|
456 Darling St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 11am-midnight; Sun noon-10pm|