234 Palmer St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 11am-midnight; Sun 11am-10pm|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Outdoor seating, Accepts bookings, Late night|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||(02) 9331 5457|
Once upon a very violent time, when razors in Darlinghurst were wielded not so much for sharp haircuts as sharp throat cuts, there was a pub called the Tradesmen's Arms.
True to name, it was a pub where tradies had to literally arm themselves with razor blades to protect themselves from the gangs that frequented "the Bloodhouse" (it was a favourite of infamous crime boss-lady Tilly Devine).
The story goes that the pub also used to keep the floor sprinkled with sawdust so after a good, wet bloody fight, bar staff could simply sweep out the shavings. Anyway, the sawdust has been replaced with parquetry and poured concrete, and for reasons I can't fathom, the East Village has changed its name.
And while the place still operates within the bones of a pub, it's definitely skewed more towards "bar that pours beer" than "pub that pours the odd glass of wine".
The whole place (wander upstairs for the Athletic Club – a full-service sports bar – or do as we do and take your drinking street level) is managed by bartending heavyweight Lee Potter Cavanagh, last seen working out of Akiba in Canberra.
Downstairs, the bar features a tight wine list with a slightly natural bent. A large board lit with incandescent bulbs lists the wines they're pouring right now – there's only two available at any one time, and when they're drunk, the lights move down the board, lighting up the next that are available.
On the beer front, there's a decent selection of crafts and heavy-hitters such as James Squire. I spy a couple of bottles of single estate mescal, too, if you want to get a little flashy.
In the kitchen, chef Tom Kime is back on the pans after closing up Ceru this year. It's a menu of amped-up mod-pub staples – blackened corn on the cob with chipotle sauce (juicy, chipotle dusty), pork ribs (strangely dry and sticky at the same time, which is interesting) and half a roast chook on a bed of rough-hewn corn puree, bits of roast corn and heirloom cherry tomatoes.
The real winner today, though, is the one thing on paper you probably won't want to order. And that, my friends, is the chicken caesar croquettes. Nothing – nothing – about this seems like a good idea to me. Which is why I order them (hey – no risk, no reward, right?)
Here, the little torpedos are filled with hunks of chicken, deep-fried and served sitting in a baby cos leaf with a crest of parmesan and a thin sheet of cured pork. It's like a chicken kiev and a potato gem had a salad-flavoured love child.
Pro Tip: Bags one of the outdoor seats on Liverpool Street and ring in summer properly.
Go-to Dish: It's all about those croquettes, but we're keen to go back for the burger, too.