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George Hotel Waterloo

This neighbourhood pub has reopened as a taqueria and natural wine bar.
By Marissa Ciampi and Samantha Teague
April 05, 2019
By Marissa Ciampi and Samantha Teague
April 05, 2019

Head to mainstay Waterloo pub The George and you'll find that things are a little different. Well, you might not notice at first. There are still locals sitting around the bar in high-vis vests knocking back pints of Resch's and VB. The courtyard is still filled with cacti. And there's still a well worn pool table.

But, sitting next to VB longnecks ($15) in the fridge, you'll see bottles of skin-contact wines and pét-nats, and beers from local breweries Young Henrys and Grifter are also available on tap. The cacti in the courtyard have been joined by a glowing al pastor fountain, and a pond filled with eels, and the adjoining kitchen is turning out tacos and tostadas instead of American-style barbecue. And where the pool table once sat — it's been moved to the front bar — is a fully stocked wine shop courtesy of natural wine retailer Drnks.

The new-look George successfully combines the old and the new — joining the rapid gentrification of the surrounding suburbs — and it's all thanks to its new owners, who aren't new to epic revamps. Co-owners James Wirth and Michael Delany previously bought and made over The Norfolk, The Flinders, The Carrington and The Oxford Tavern, before selling them all in 2016. Most recently, they overhauled the The Duke on Enmore Road.

To keep some of the pub's history in-tact, the team focused on reupholstering and repurposing the pub's original features — including vintage wood panelling found in the basement, which now adorns the walls. For this venue, Wirth and Delany got chef Toby Wilson (Bad Hombres, Ghostboy Cantina) and Drnks founder Joel Amos on board as co-owners, too. Amos heads up the aforementioned bottle shop — which is stocked with everything from a salty white peach beer from NZ's Garage Project to coveted magnums of wine by Gabrio Bini — and the pub's fun and funky drinks list.

For food, Wilson has created a new concept, Taco King. At the centre of the food offering is the al pastor — an actual al pastor, not a fountain — a Mexican specialty that's based on the Lebanese immigrant version of shawarma spit-grilled meat. The pork coming off the al pastor is served atop tortillas — painstakingly hand-pressed one by one — with onion and salsa. Other specialties include spicy kingfish ceviche tostada ($7.5), quesadillas with chorizo ($9) and thick churros ($8) served with dulce de leche. We're hoping to see eel tacos pop up on the menu sometime soon, too.

To go with the food, is a cocktail list with a distinctly South American edge. There's the Mexican French Martini ($18) made with tequila, the Brazilian-style caipirinha ($16) and the michelada ($14)made with Mexican beer, clamato (clam and tomato) juice and lime. While not strictly South American, you'll find Reverse Cowboys ($7 each) on the menu, too — shots of Baileys and Agavero tequila served in mini glass cowboy boots.

We think it might just become your new favourite watering hole.

Images: Kimberley Low.

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