Locals knew it as The Kurrajong, but now the old pub has gracefully emerged as The Swanson Hotel after being taken over by the Balmain Pub Group. With a stable of successful gastropubs such as The Riverview Hotel and The Balmain Hotel under its belt, the group's transformation of The Swanson Hotel was always due to make an impression in Sydney's up and coming inner-city suburb of Erskineville.
However, in retaining its original facade the street level view of The Swanson disguises the refurbishment of both levels, which includes casual style booth seating in the ground floor public bar where delicious bar fare such as Wagyu Beef & Ale Pie and White Rabbit Beer Battered Fish is complemented by a focus on craft beers, including Young Henrys.
Even less apparent is what lies upstairs. A shabby retro looking sign at the top of the staircase from the public bar indicates a cocktail bar and dining but it's not until you reach the top and round the corner that you realise, with some relief, that the restaurant is more like you hoped for and less what you imagined it might be!
The restaurant, styled in a contemporary mix of dark woods and navy hues, seats 80 people and includes a private dining room where the feature wall is covered with striking Timorous Beasties wallpaper. Heading up the restaurant team is former AHA chef of the year Brad Sloane who has created a menu that showcases simple, clean dishes with a gastro pub influence.
At the other end of the room lies the cocktail bar with a handcrafted marble-topped cocktail bar and views over leafy Harry Noble Park.
The Swanson's popularity has been immense since its reopening in June and the upper level has been hired out for a number of corporate and private events. So far it is still to be booked for a wedding reception but we think it's just a matter of time. In our opinion the restaurant is perfect for a relaxed, light-filled, lunchtime reception of long, shared tables and clinking glasses, while the cocktail bar is perfect for an evening engagement party of around 70 guests. And we should know because we had our engagement party there!