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Considering a move to Balmain? This ace neighbourhood bar should help sweeten the deal
It takes serious bar chops to wrest people from the beer gardens of this pub-loving suburb and into a casual nightspot featuring great wine, but Wilhelmina’s has its bar game on lock.
It’s a bar in two parts, with two high-ceiling rooms split across the street-front shops that straddle the entrance to the beautiful Victorian building that began its life as the home of the Working Men’s Institute – a vestige of Balmain’s proud working class roots.
Although Wilhelmina’s might not be somewhere you’d post up in your concrete-dusted steel caps, it’s a bloody great spot to knock back a cocktail, even if you didn’t earn that thirst unloading cargo down at the wharves.
Does your wine knowledge boil down to ‘ones I know and like, and everything else’? The jovial chaps behind the bar are more than happy to suss out something to suit you. Our glass of the restrained, minerally Screaming Betty Vermentino from the small batch Delinquente Wine Co is a perfect match.
Both the craft beers and snazzy wines hover around the $10-$12 mark, and cocktails start at $17, but they’re mixing the good stuff here. A Negroni that’s done time inside a sweet little barrel on the counter receives an oaky element to the bittersweet mix of vermouth, Campari and gin for its troubles.
If you need a primer the menu does a swift sprint from salty snacks like croquettes and cured meats all the way to a whole fish, spatchcock and Wagyu at the meatier end. They also keep it real for vegos. Forget those tired pumpkin salads – here you'll be dining on Borlotti beans, goats cheese, blood orange and hazelnut; or perhaps some okra with spiced potato, preserved lemon and yoghurt.
You might not be overly peckish, but for a cherry on top of your evening order a glass of the gloriously nutty, oaky Amontillado sherry by Lustau and a yoghurt parfait. A light, zesty bar of yoghurt semi-freddo comes with macerated strawberries, toasted macadamia nuts and a crisp shard made from white chocolate and crushed nuts that melts on your tongue. If you’re just after a nightcap the single malt collection here is a compact beauty.
In an area that has yet to go all-in on small bars, Wilhelmina’s has struck the right chord with drinks and snacks worth heading out for, and a relaxed vibe that doesn’t demand your Sunday best. You’ve got yourself a keeper there, Balmain.