The Forresters is the latest corner pub to be taken over by the guys behind the Abercrombie, Norfolk, Flinders and Carrington – and if you’ve been to any of these pubs, you’ll largely know what to expect.
The front bar reminds me of the Abercrombie only with an older crowd, right down to the wire cage above the bar counter that holds liquor bottles. The list of easy-to-drink cocktails for those who don’t take their liquor too seriously (ie no hard classics such as martinis, sazeracs and negronis) reminds me of the Norfolk; and the retro European-style decor (although one room looks more like an American diner) and proliferation of tables (this is more of a pub for groups who want to eat) isn’t a world away from the Carrington. Sure, the kitsch is different and more restrained, such as the miniature statues of women’s heads perched above the tiled cocktail bar out the back, but … well, these revamped hipster corner pubs are beginning to feel like a franchise chain to me. I’m not knocking it – I reviewed all their previous ventures pretty highly – but the novelty is wearing off. Or maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy. In fact, I’m beginning to miss the old corner pubs, even if they weren’t as successful.
I come here on a Saturday night with my gay wingman and the place is packed. I order the Deluded Captain ($16), made with Montenegro, Sailor Jerry rum, lime and ginger while the GW gets the Smoking Rig ($16), made with Jameson whiskey, Amaro Ramazzotti, lemon and ginger beer.
I like the Deluded Captain – it’s not the type of cocktail I normally drink, but it’s well made and alcoholic with a refreshing tang, although the GW isn’t as impressed with his Smoking Rig. Then again, he’s the one person I know who’s grumpier than me. Furthermore, the bar staff are friendly and professional.
The days of $5 steaks at Forresters have well and truly gone, with an upmarket US-influenced menu that has calzones, subs, Reuben sandwiches, mac and cheese pasta (for $18!) and a different animal every night on the rotisserie (from lamb on Monday and chicken on Tuesday to pig on Sunday).
There’s a lot to like about this bar, from the music (when I’m here it veers from 60s to Caribbean) and the outside balcony with red leatherette sofas, and I’ve heard the food is good – but The Forresters just doesn’t do it for either me or the GW. Judging by the large crowd here, however, it seems many would disagree with us.
Forresters Hotel, 336 Riley Street, corner of Foveaux and Riley Streets, Surry Hills. Open every day, see The Forresters website.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Forresters?