Love her or hate her, Sydney has some indubitably small-town charm if you know where to look. But, as any local will tell you, the cobble-stoned streets which mark her most nascent years at the heart of the harbour are a place generally best left to the visitors.
The Rocks is one of those areas Sydneysiders seldom brave lest they be trampled by a herd of octogenarian tourists clamouring off whichever floating version of Erina Fair is currently docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. And when you consider the drunkards pouring out of The Argyle late at night, and the year ten formal outfits of its Saturday night denizens, The Rocks just, up until now hasn’t offered anything that appealing.
Thanks to the Sydney hospitality moguls behind SoCal, The Butler and The Botanist, however, there’s one place that offers an appropriate slice of antipodean charm that warrants a visit next time you find yourself at the beginnings of Old Sydney Town.
Endeavour Taprooms, a joint, erm, endeavour, between Applejack Hospitality (also of Bopp & Tone, June’s Shoppe and Della Hyde notoriety) and Endeavour Beer Co, sits on the corner of Harrington and Argyle Streets, in a building not dissimilar to a rabbit warren in its pokey, colonial way, much like the rest of the buildings in the area. A collection of small dining areas have been cleverly designed to maximise the use of natural light during the day while creating a darker, broodier feel in the evening.
One trait painfully endemic to The Rocks’ many hospitality offerings is, very often, the amateur service. Tourists traps which thrive on the comings and goings of backpacker staff to carry trays of $36 fish and chips don’t invest much in building a warm repartee with their guests. Endeavour Tap Rooms has noticeably (and thankfully) sought to rectify this. Upon walking in, smiles abound and within one minute I’m at a table, within two I’m being explained the drinks menu and within three I have a delicious dark ale.
And the drink selection is no afterthought, either. Obviously, beer here is the done thing (they brew on site), but it’s not as simple as the Endeavour Range that we’ve all seen in bottle-os. What’s served on site is brewed right there, so it’s as fresh as you’ll get. They also have a couple of taps with releases you won’t find elsewhere, and a rotating guest tap to showcase friends’ brews.
A short and snappy wine list filled with Australian favourites does the job, and a healthy selection of Australian spirits also provides a nice touch and a reminder that this is a bar that celebrates what Australia has to offer in terms of produce, rather than ram it down the throats of temporary visitors.
Food sets the tone for the venue: it’s not a formal restaurant affair, but it’s also not a pub. All-Australian ingredients shine through the shared dishes which comprise small bites up to heavier smoked meat dishes (definitely in line with a culinary zeitgeist, but also delicious; this is some of the best smoked meat I’ve tried in Sydney, the Ranger’s Valley grain-fed Black Angus beef brisket and the Borrowdale pulled pork shoulder are particularly memorable.)
Chargrilled flatbread makes for good sharing fodder to soak up the first round and the standard offering of burgers as drinking fare is more than enough, though if you’re coming to eat, you will want to get something from the smoker, it’s the venue’s strongest hand and a great way to spend an afternoon sipping something frothy and waddling out feeling satiated.
The Rocks may be an afterthought for the many who live in Sydney, but with venues like this removing the cringey tourist trap experience from dining in the area, and adding something friendly, genuine and intrinsically Australian, the little back lanes and streets lined with souvenir stores may be changing, and they may have more to offer locals than meets the eye.
You should really endeavour to check it out.
Endeavour Tap Rooms is located at 39/43 Argyle St, The Rocks NSW 2000