The stomping singalongs, Guinness stews and rowdy, fiddle-fuelled shindiggery of Paddington's long-serving Irish pub, Durty Nelly's, have seen their last day. There's a brand new pub in the Intersection, sitting where the songs of the Irish were once sung, and making its presence felt in Paddo's pretty streets. Meet The Village Inn, owned by Leeroy Petersen (owner of The Print Room upstairs, brother of Brody, owner of Surly's, Riley Street Garage, The Stuffed Beaver). It's a sharp new spot that's giving pub renovations hope, and it's already pretty packed.
With the reopening of the Hotel Palisade, the revamp of the Bellevue Hotel and the recent Vic on the Park-steered reno of The Lord Gladstone, the debate over great and terrible pub renovations is rife in Sydney at present. The Village Inn is the latest of this trend, and they've quite honestly nailed it. With the help of designers Alexander & Co. (Surly's, The Morrison, Daniel San and The Print Room), the space is a quirky jumble of taxidermy, exposed brickwork, leather banquettes, a hand-wrought communal bar and blonde wood tables. The designers have worked within the bones of the 1840s-built pub, swept away any possible remnants of ol' Durty Nelly's, and forged a brand new, genuinely friendly personality in the space.
Pub nosh at The Village Inn is a well-thought-out affair, from the usual Scottish tavern-inspired suspects to Actually Interesting Salads. One of the most effective crowdpleasers, The Glenmore ($23) sees a stout-braised lamb shank with white truffle and chive mash, the tender meat falling right off the bone. Thumbs way up for the spring salad ($16), an artful little dish of roast pumpkin, peptic seeds, toasted walnuts and blue cheese croutons, alongside the Rowe salad ($16), a hearty but colourful concoction of winter baby beets, watercress, cashews and chive balsamic dressing. For something a little lighter, the kitchen has developed the 'Mid-Priced Affair' menu, with The Nordic ($17), a little plate of smoked salmon and a teeny tiny dill, pickle and smoked baby potato salad. The Heritage ($17) is full of flavour, with heirloom tomatoes, basil and burratta (but we honestly could have done with a little more burratta for 17 beans).
No pub renovation is complete without a novelty food hybrid to get writers sucked in. But the Inn hasn't gone completely OTT, going with a safe mix: 'burwiches' (burgers crossed with sandwiches, so a pretty straightforward concoction). But these aren't your regular tired pub 'wiches, with a steeper price tag but worth every penny. The Big Bad Wolf ($19) is a pork lovers' delight, with three serves of piggery (smoked ham, pork belly and bacon) on one milk bun with a fried egg and gruyere. For the non-carnivores there's The Forbes ($17), a messy, messy creamy egg and chive salad with pickles on a toasted panini. All come served with a generous helping of hand cut chips, but you'll be hard pressed to finish them.
While we'll (sorta) pine for the pints of Kilkenny and the knee-slapping live Irish music of Durty Nelly's, we're pretty happy the quirky little pub on the corner has found itself in safe hands. A solid addition to the Paddo pub scene and a prime example of a great pub reno. We'll be back.