La Boheme is housed in the old Man's Institute. Apparently these were a 19th Century phenomenon, and functioned as education and training centers for working class men. They basically encouraged working class men to improve themselves.
Now Bohemia, the crossroads of Central Europe, was a haven for poets, artists and writers, so you’ll understand if there’s a bit of artistic license with the dishes they present at La Boheme.
By not being ‘purists’ they do ensure that anyone – including vegetarians and those who prefer lighter choices – can dine in a gorgeous setting, complete with an internal (smoker friendly) courtyard.
The building is truly grand - and the perfect place for clinking steins of European beers (of which they have many) or if you prefer, a few Australian beers.There are even some ridiculously alcoholic beers including Rochefort 10 ($14.50) weighing in at 11.3%.
I actually (for the first time) found a beer I loved enough to want to purchase (so if you see it sold in any bottle shop, do let me know). It was called Floris Framboise ($7.90) and it was like a cross between a raspberry champagne and beer, with quite a light level of alcohol - 3.5%.
My dining companion chose the Kwak ($9.90) which was first created in 1791, and served in a beaker like glass held in a wooden stand. It's a first beer of the night as it's 8% alcohol and the glass doesn't stand without being placed properly in the stand - not one for when you're drunk.
These beers went particularly well with the bar snack Skvarky ($7.90) which is duck skin crackling made into a pate like dish which you smear on bread rolls. By the way, you can also order the ultimate Bohemian drinks – Absinthe ($7.90) and Babicka ($7.90), the original Wormwood Vodka.
We began our meal with Belgian Beer Mussels ($10.90) served in the shell with shallot and brioche crumbs which were pleasantly creamy, though it did overwhelm the taste of the mussels themselves a little.
We also tried the Sliced Smoked Beef with Budapest Cream ($11.90) - and if you guessed it was a paprika based sauce, you'd be right on the money.
For mains, if you're really, really hungry try the Traditional Bavarian Feast Platter ($25.90) – it was a virtual mountain of meats including great roast duck, an impressive chicken schnitzel and smoky ribs.
It was accompanied by two types of excellent dumplings ($2.00 / 2 pieces if you need extra). I loved them both, but if I had to choose favourites, it would be the potato over the bread (but it was a close competition).
We also were impressed by the Grilled Pork Knuckle ($21.50) which was very substantial and spectacular – served as it was impaled by a knife on a wooden board with accompanying pickles, mustard and a great beetroot/horseradish dip.
Your hard earned dollar buys a lot here, in terms of both food and alcohol; and the staff enhance the experience by being warm, knowledgeable and friendly.
9/332 Darling Street, Balmain (rear Man’s Institute Arcade)
Ph: (02) 9810 0829