The best new addition to Leichhardt in 2016 wasn’t a new restaurant, rather it was the wide balcony gifted to local area stalwart – The Royal Leichhardt. Actually it’s more restoration than new addition – the 1886 hotel was built with a balcony that was removed in the mid to late 1920s.
Only once comfortably ensconced at an alfresco table can you begin to appreciate the views this new outdoor space affords – both up Norton Street, taking in the heritage facades, and across to the city. The afternoon sun even gives the uglier red brick neighbour a pleasing, golden glow, as rainbow lorikeets come screeching in to roost in the neighbouring tree. We take it all in over Sandía Rosa ($40) – a generously proportioned, old-fashioned punch bowl of Bombay gin, watermelon liqueur, rosé and Prosecco, with bobbing spheres of pink watermelon and floating edible flowers.
When you’re ready to eat, you’ll find The Royal Botanical menu walks the line between interesting, modern dishes without forgetting that it’s a pub. Start with a well-presented Beef Carpaccio ($16) dotted with shaved Pecorino, vividly green edamame, crisp eschalots and a scattering of baby herbs.
The standard pub steak here is a pretty fancy 280g Cape Grim Grass Fed Sirloin ($34) from North West Tasmania. Their hormone, antibiotic and genetically modified organism-free, British breed (Angus and Hereford) beef is cooked to order, and presented under a fat pat of horseradish butter, against mash and a nicely dressed salad. It was a flavoursome steak, but wanted for a little bit more time resting.
Ever the traditionalist, my Mother-In-Law selected Beer Battered Flathead ($24) from the short menu of traditional pub favourites. She was kept happy with a generous amount of lightly battered flathead fillets, piled atop of good pub chips, with salad and a pot of tartare.
Craving something lowbrow after the excesses of the season, I just wanted a decent burger. The Royal Burger ($22) delivered without resorting to ridiculous excess, combining a wagyu beef patty, bread & butter pickle, oozing American cheese, bacon, onions, lettuce, tomato and the pub’s own special sauce, on a super soft bun.
Along with the balcony and beautiful new interiors, The Royal Leichhardt has also installed a fancy Enomatic wine system. For the uninitiated, this means you can try high value bottles of wine by the glass, because the system ensures the remaining wine doesn’t spoil, by pumping out the air and replacing it with argon gas. So I took my burger with a glass of Penfolds RWT Shiraz ($40/150ml) and luxuriated in the jammy yet silky Barossa Shiraz - another example of this venue straddling the line between local pub and something finer.
The Royal Botanical
Upstairs, 156 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9569 2638