First time publican David King has resurrected Balmain’s historic Exchange Hotel.
The pub originally opened in 1885 but in recent times has served as office space, a design studio and a cheese and wine bar.
The rookie pub owner did his homework and find out just what the locals were looking for before re-opening.
“They said they just want the basics: decent pub food, nothing extravagant, a good range of beers on tap, a good Australian wine list, classic cocktails made well, friendly service and somewhere that is pet-friendly,” he says.
And that’s exactly what he delivered.
Aside from a new lick of paint, the pub’s interior retains its original form and the no-fuss food menu includes a schnitty served with slaw and aioli, fried chicken wings with a choice of sauces, a range of basic oven-baked pizzas, and cheese and charcuterie boards.
ICONIC OUTBACK PUB ON THE MARKET
One of Australia’s most iconic pubs, the Birdsville Hotel, is up for sale – and entrepreneur Dick Smith is considering putting in an offer.
The sandstone pub was built in 1885 (the same year as The Exchange Hotel in Balmain) and sits on the edge of the Simpson Desert, 1600 kilometres west of Brisbane. It is legendary as a symbol of the outback and is a focal point of one of the country’s most celebrated race meets every year, the Birdsville Races.
Dick Smith famously owned the hotel for one day in 1979 when his offer of $62,000 to buy it was accepted, only for the building to burn down the next day. He then rescinded the contract.
He said “I love the pub, even though I don’t drink, but it’s a wonderful place and I love Birdsville,”
Smith said he’d be talking to his friend Singo [businessman John Singleton] who does know a thing or two about pubs and, although it’ll depend on the price, he’d love to buy it.
Smith went on to say, “It would be such a disappointment if it didn’t sell to an Australian. It doesn’t bear thinking about if it was bought from China.”
The current owners are organic cattle farmer and OBE Organic owner David Brook, and his friend Kim Fort. Mr Brook’s grandmother bought the hotel in 1920, and kept ownership until the 1940s. Mr Brook, now 70, bought it back in 1979 after the fire.
“So selling it does pull at the heartstrings, yes,” he said. “It’s been part of my family for a very long time now.
The Birdsville Hotel is now an award-winning outback tourism destination and has won Tourism and Events Queensland best outback pub title for three consecutive years. During the school holidays, it attracts thousands of visitors, peaking with around 9000 people who attend the annual Big Red Bash Music Festival – this year headlined by Jimmy Barnes – and the Birdsville Races in September.