Why is it that cocktails are considered such a feminine drink? Even though Hemingway would happily sip on one in between covering boxing matches, bullfighting and going on safari (ok, maybe he was overcompensating) they’re still considered feminine in Australia – which might explain why the Exchange Hotel has the slogan “it’s a girl thing!” while advertising its cocktails.
It might also explain the cocktail list, which includes flavoured martinis and leans toward the sweet and fruity end of the cocktail spectrum. There’s also a separate page dedicated purely to Bloody Marys, with combinations that include mustard (which might actually work – I once had a Bloody Mary with wasabi in Melbourne that was fantastic) and tequila. Since tequila causes most of my hangovers, however, I’m not sure it’s wise to have it in a hangover cure (in fact, after last week’s horrific tequila-induced hangover I’m not sure it’s wise to drink tequila full stop – but then, that’s another story altogether).
Since I’m at the Exchange with a girl I’m trying to impress I decide to steer clear of girly cocktails and stick to beer. We start off on the ground floor, which feels like a good old Balmain pub complete with footy memorabilia and a TV, and there are two side rooms with pool tables.
For our second drink we head upstairs to the balcony bar, which looks considerably different than the last time I was here, when it had a jungle theme complete with leopard print and predatory cougars (although, considering Balmain’s footy team, maybe I should say tigers). Now, however, it has a more elegant and stylish décor, complete with mood lighting, ottomans, red drapes and chandeliers, while dance music plays. The balcony, however, is the main attraction, filled with tables, lounges and a view of the city at one end.
The following week I check out the Exchange’s web site and am intrigued by its claim that the downstairs bar has the best fish and chips in Balmain for $10 – so I decide to pop in and check it out. The $10 fish and chips aren’t on the menu when I arrive, however, so I instead opt for the $14.50 fish and chips that I can have upstairs on the balcony, with a manly Becks to wash it down (I was drinking Carlton the week prior, thinking it might make me seem true blue to my date. I don’t think it worked).
The fish and chips are certainly better than average, although I’d have preferred a whole battered fillet rather than the three large batons that conjure horrible memories of fish nuggets for me. The lime-infused tartar sauce, however, is spot on (and I usually hate tartar sauce).
Batons aside, I’d be happy going back here to eat again, especially on the balcony. The service is friendly, the view’s decent and who knows – maybe next time I’ll even order a Bloody Mary with mustard to show some true machismo.
Exchange Hotel, corner Beattie & Mullens Street, Balmain. Phone 8755 2555 or see the Exchange Hotel website
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Exchange Hotel?