Head down any one of Balmain's winding backstreets and you're sure to stumble across one of the many local pubs that the area is famous for.
One of these historic pubs is the Welcome Hotel which was founded in 1878 and still retains a local charm, with the benefits of a recent make-over and the brilliant introduction of head chef Daniel Mulligan (previously head chef at Pilu at Freshwater).
|Entrance to the Welcome Hotel, Evans Street, Balmain|
Chef Mulligan brings a Sardinian inspired menu to the backstreets of Balmain. At a glance the new menu of regional Italian fare looked to be an exciting journey into one of my favourite cuisines. Accompanying the new menu is an impressive list of Italian and NSW wines with an equally impressive array of local craft beers for the beer lovers.
|Freshly shucked Pambula oysters with shallot jelly|
Adorned with delicate cubes of slightly zingy white balsamic vinegar and shallot jelly, they were fresh and creamy, making them a delight to eat with or without the jelly.
|Marinated W.A sardines with charred foccacia|
To keep on theme our next dish was a row of thinly sliced and marinated sardines hiding under an eye catching bed of refreshing herbs and flowers. The oily goodness of the sardines and the refreshing salad of fennel, parsley, capers and flora were accompanied by some charred focaccia slices which provided the perfect vessel for consumption.
|Queensland spanner crab, fregola, almond and marjoram|
This dish basically had the whole table silently enjoying the slightly chewy consistency of the pasta which was infused with the creamy flavour of sweet spanner crab and marjoram, with an added nuttiness from a smattering of almond flakes. I could have had two of these if only it wouldn't have called for a double dose of antihistamine.
|Huon salmon, slow cooked peppers and vongole|
The salmon combined with the sweet peppers made this one of my favourite dishes of the night, with the clams being a potentially unnecessary addition to the already wonderful flavours.
|Mutton, baby artichokes, broad bean and olive caramel|
|Eton mess, strawberries and pistachio|
Throughout the night we were plied with many a fine wine from various regions of NSW and Italy that were matched exceptionally well to each course by passionate owner Liam O'Keefe. This passion obviously extends across the whole offering at the Welcome Hotel, particularly within the casual elegance of the Ajó dining room - making it an enviable place to call your local.
Food, Booze & Shoes dined at Ajó as a guest, with thanks to The Cru Media.