Presenting Wilhelmina's Liquid + Larder: Starring the food talents of recent MasterChef finalist Jamie Fleming, it’s the third instalment from James Bradey and Warren Burns, the producers who brought you cosmopolitan kitsch at Grandma's Bar and Irish folk fun at The Wild Rover. At Wilhelmina's, there’s no theme or gimmick to get you in the door; it’s just local, fresh, seasonal and sensational.
Located on Balmain’s Darling Street, Wilhelmina’s celebrates the local community through food, drink and design. Recycled materials from the timber yard make up the back bar and walls, local pottery hangs from the ceiling, and then there’s the vibrant mural by local artist Anya Brock.
While bar menus are typically crowd-pleasing and cholesterol-inducing, Wilhelmina’s opts for fresh and thoughtful selections that change with the daily market offerings. Today, there’s a plate of kingfish ceviche ($14), where twirls of raw kingfish sit with piles of crumbed pistachio and pickled cucumber, garnished with translucent slivers of radish. There’s little resemblance to the traditional Peruvian version — will these fusion flavours spell disaster for Jamie? The music is tense and we cut to an ad break where George Calombaris spruiks Swisse Vitamins. Fortunately, the flavours are inventive, intelligent and it “packs a punch”. Jamie is safe for this round. Cue uplifting music.
So there's that. But for a more substantial evening meal, the Newcastle pippies ($23) are a mariner’s paradise. These butterflied beauties swim in a buttery white wine broth, served with a great hunk of sourdough sourced from Sydney's Bread and Butter project. If it's a beer-friendly bar snack you need, don't go past the Berkshire pork cheek croquettes ($8) or a cup of Wilhelmina’s spiced nuts ($5).
If you’re sceptical about beetroot’s place on a dessert menu, you’ll be left red-faced after trying the delicious lemon posset ($9.50). It balances with precision a tangy lemon curd with a sweet beetroot gel and it’s finished off with an almond crumb topping for textual crunch.
Wilhelmina’s doesn't drop the ball in the drinks department either. There’s an extensive list of local boutique wines, craft beers and inventive cocktails to ponder over. The Thyme Me Up cocktail ($16) mixes rum, banana, apple and thyme into a marvellously herbaceous creation.
As this episode draws to a close, it’s time to hold up our scorecards. Wilhelmina's is a winner, and what's more, Balmain’s masterful new bar is sure to score high ratings with the locals.