For the past 30 years, the Terminus Hotel, a 177-year-old pub in Pyrmont, has been an enigma to passersby, its facade overgrown with vines, its windows boarded up and its doors bolted. Yet, back in the 1840s, it was one of the city's most boisterous drinking spots. Situated at the very end of the tram line (hence the name), the pub was a favourite stop for workers keen for a beer — or several — after a hard day's yakka.
In 2016, business partners David Mathlin and Binu Katari decided to bring the old girl back to life. Downstairs, drop an elbow on the marble-topped Tram Bar and order a craft beer, such as a signature Terminus Lager or a French sparkling wine. Alternatively, head into the cosy courtyard. Either way, you'll be able to watch the open glass-walled kitchen in full flight.
Upstairs, there's a classy cocktail bar named after Vera Dempsey, a tough, buxom woman who ran the Terminus in the 1930s. The light-filled space spills out onto a roomy, sun-dappled terrace, with a retractable rooftop, for when those all-too-familiar Sydney downpours suddenly hit. And, should you just so happen to find yourself partying like it's the 1840s, you can stay the night in one of the Terminus's cute boutique budget rooms, bookable via Airbnb.
Heading up the kitchen is Turkish-born chef Bektas Mustafa Ozcan, who's worked at Anason, Chiswick and Jamie's Italian. His menu features both fancied-up Aussie pub classics and moreish Mediterranean share plates.
There are three ways to eat at the Terminus. If you're peckish, go for a bar snack, such as a rolled cigar 'borek' (pastry filled with mushroom and three cheeses) or grilled sumac-cured calamari with chickpeas and sorrel. If you're starving — but don't want to share — choose a poshed-up pub classic, like fried flathead with chips and aioli or the mighty Terminus burger. And, if you're ready to settle in with some friends, order share plates. The slow-roasted, oyster-cut lamb shoulder with smoky eggplant caviar and pickles is hard to go past.
Meanwhile, the cocktail list is made up of creative takes on classics. The Terminus Sour, for example, is Chivas 12 Whisky and Pernod Absinthe, shaken with fresh lemon juice and house-made thyme syrup, then strained over ice. Then there's the Blood Orange Margarita: Altos Plata tequila, Solerno Blood orange liqueur and Campari shaken with fresh lime juice and a dash of agave syrup, then strained. You're welcome to drink your favourite cocktail wherever you like, but, if you're looking for the best spot to linger and chat, climb up the staircase to Vera's.
Images: Kitti Smallbone