Whilst the Tea Gardens Hotel is as dingy as ever, upstairs has been given a makeover by Daniel Danil, owner of the celeb hot-spot Sienna Marina in Woolloomooloo. You could say upstairs/downstairs is as different as day and night. The upstairs menu is taken straight from Sienna – modern Italian/European pub grub. Even on a cold night, the courtyard is welcoming with powerful heating, a mosaic water feature and jugs of Pure Blonde ($10). We snack on Mediterranean Dips ($15) (baba ganoush, hummus and feta/olive) with stacks of thin pizza bread. Pizzas seem to be flying around the room, so we opt for the King Prawn ($18/small) with its army of prawns and subtle anchovy pieces. They’re out of octopus, so the chef whips up some Salt & Pepper Calamari ($16), pretty much your pub staple and luckily, they get it right – it’s tender and more-ish. Trivia is blaring inside – in the days of smart phones I don’t know why anyone bothers. Danil has a better idea – Lambada dancing on the deck: “we’ll have a Latin dancer to teach you the moves.” You might want to lay off the Eye Fillet ($31/250g) with mash and red wine jus though, it’s heavy enough to comatose even the keenest of dancers.
Balcone at The Junction
2-4 Bronte Road, Bondi Junction
Ph: (02) 9389 7077 www.balconeatthejunction.com.au
Pub Bistro $-$$