There's no denying the CBD's drinking and dining scene has upped its game in recent times, and the Bristol Arms — formerly known as the Retro Hotel — is another example of Sydney's transformation skillz. Gutted, metaphorically gilded and reopened in November by Riversdale Group, the Bristol is big, bright and sporting some fairly fabulous city skyline and water views up top.
It's also owned by clever people. After all, the men behind the purchase obviously clocked on that with all the new, trendy and often jam-packed venues on offer, suit-wearing city-slickers, thirsty tourists and alike need somewhere spacious, cool (in both senses) and, at the end of the day, a pub, not a (ahem) wanky bar.
The Bristol has encapsulated this nicely, with the revamped original pub on the ground floor, the Bristol Kitchen downstairs serving a range of British, gastro-pub-inspired dishes and a roof area with not one but two large roof terraces. Which, accompanied with colourful cane and white decor, is, if anything, fairly awesome for those post-work summer bevvies.
Speaking of, all the bars are well stocked, offering all your usual faves, and by the looks of some fervently-sipping customers, a tasty cocktail menu. We, however, were pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of Yamazaki Japanese whisky winking at us from the top shelf so opted to sip on that instead.
The menu is packed with options from small bites to sandwiches (called 'sarnies' — cute) and large meals like the rib eye steak with a shower of mini, spiced onion rings, chips (good chips) and salad ($22). There's a specials menu, too, but in all honesty, they should just stick to the classics. There's no need to be fancy here.
Overall, the new and improved Bristol Arms is infinitely better than its previous incarnation, and the fact that it's so close to Darling Harbour is ideal for all the busy work peeps in need of a fun place to hang out after a not-so-fun day at work. Good food, good atmosphere and good location — you can't really go wrong.
Images: Trent van der Jagt.