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The George

Bars, Pubs Waterloo
3 out of 5 stars
 (Photograph: Katje Ford)
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Photograph: Katje Ford

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A reworked South Sydney local puts better booze in your glass but leaves pretension at the door

It’s important to read the terrain when you decide to take over an old Sydney pub. A high glamour makeover might be well and good in the more rarified air of Newport and Woollahra, but South Sydney demands a very different approach. Happily, the new owners of the George in Waterloo are fully cognizant of the fact that this is not the place for glossy boozing.

In fact, not much has changed at all in the public bar. The bar stools are still squashy, the pool table is ready and waiting, and the playlist is switching between some vintage bossa nova-inspired tunes and indie rock. So far, so comforting and familiar. But it’s worth giving this hard-working haunt a closer inspection, because these are not the drinks you’re used to.

You’ve still got pale ale and cider on tap, but instead of the global conglomerates, they’re from Hawke’s Brewing, Young Henrys and Grifter. In the wine fridge things get even more intriguing. The laminated A4 menu does little to hint that this is no run-of-the-mill house vino list. You need name recognition to spot that Kindeli is one of the exciting new-wave winemakers using organic grapes, natural methods and embracing a whole lot of funky skin contact. If you’re at sea, just ask the staff; they’re here to guide you to the blood orange rosé with lots of skinsy grip, made with Heathcote grenache and viognier. Of course, if you really want to nerd out about natural wines, step through into the bottle shop that has replaced the pokies room.

It’s a dangerous place for your wallet and promises very good things for your palate, because Joel Amos from online wine retailer DRNKS is one of the four owners of the George (along with Toby Wilson, Jaime Wirth and Mike Delany) and he has set up his first bricks-and-mortar wine shop in-house. This is where to go if you want to deep dive on terroir and debate smashability vs complexity in your wine.

The drinks program is undeniably the shiny diamond at the heart of this unpretentious pub, but if you need a foil for all the quality plonk, they’re doing something a bit different in the kitchen too. You might recall Toby Wilson’s tacos from his short-lived stint at the Dixon Street Food Court with Ghostboy Cantina. His riff on Mexican then found a permanent home at Bad Hombres, which quickly adopted a vegan focus into the bargain. Taco King is his third Mexican kitchen, only this time meat is very much on the menu, with heavily seasoned al pastor pork (cooked like rotisserie kebabs, with fresh pineapple on top), fried fish fillets and barbecued lamb layered on top of thick blue corn tacos. There is a vego option with a very soft and slightly bitter mix of kale and spinach, but if you’re going green, the higher grade goes to the edamame tostada, which nails fresh, crunchy and fun with whole soybeans, fresh white cheese and gently pickled onions. Or just skip straight to the best bit – a plate of little chipolata-sized churros with dulce de leche.

It must be tempting to see a pub as a blank slate for grand designs, but location and history matters, so in this instance the smart players kept the existing good and then optimised. It’s still a welcoming corner boozer with a meat raffle on Fridays, but without being showy about it, they’ve upgraded what’s inside your glass to be a good time, every time.

Details

Address: 760 Elizabeth St
Waterloo
Sydney
2017
Contact:
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 11am-midnight; Fri, Sat 11am-3am; Sun 11am-10pm

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