REVIEW: There’s something special about a working class, traditional style Australian pub – especially in Sydney. Sadly though, they’re vanishing as quickly as the characters who frequent them.
Today’s weekend pub lunch took us to the Dunkirk Hotel, or ‘The Kirk’ as it’s affectionately known by its “call-a-spade-a-spade” regulars. It contrasted considerably from the polished, modern interior of our last pub lunch at the Tilbury in Woolloomooloo, where we mixed with the gentrified crowd, sipping chardees and craft beers. Not to say I didn’t enjoy our experience at the Tilbury. I did. It’s just a different style of pub, catering towards a different pub-goer. That’s the beauty of Australian pubs, there’s one to suit all tastes if you look hard enough.
The Kirk is a Pyrmont landmark, having traded from its corner site for over a century.
The hotel was established in 1895 as the Butcher’s Arms by William John Armstrong and renamed in the 1940s to commemorate The Battle of Dunkirk.
The menu is your basic pub fare, and is reasonably priced.
I had the Angus beef and bacon burger, with Swiss cheese for $15, while Ray had the seafood basket, with a generous serve of beer battered cod, crab claws, tempura prawns and calamari rings, served with chips and tartare sauce for $18.
The food was satisfying and enjoyable, as was my Reschs draught.
Sunday afternoon at The Kirk is everything I expect from a working class Sydney pub. Cricket broadcasting from a few large wall mounted televisions, a few older gentlemen enjoying the Sunday roast special, while those who prefer their own company, study the newspaper, or stair from the large windows out onto the busy intersection of Harris Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road.
We initially intended to lunch at the Quarryman’s Arms Hotel, on the opposite corner, but while deciding on their limited (and a little pricey) menu over a beer, I spotted The Kirk through the window. It looked much busier, and attractive.
Leaving my schooner on the table, I made a discrete exit to check out the Kirk’s fare, returning to the Quarryman’s Arms with the good news: “The menu’s much better across the road; finish your drink and we’ll change pubs.”
Before leaving the Quarryman’s Arms, I must comment on the renovated public bar. I was unimpressed. The interior ‘bathroom’ tiles have been completely stripped from the walls, as has the bar been replaced with a modern, out of character, counter.
As has been done with other renovated Sydney pubs of that vintage, some of the tiles, and a lot more of the original fittings should have been retained to remind patrons of its rich history. Although some original fittings have been retained, they are scarce. The bar room has been gutted of character, and lacked atmosphere.
In saying that though, the exterior of the Quarrymen’s Arms Hotel is fantastic, and features most of its 1940s features, including frosted bar windows, tiles, and a few recreated brewery posters.
Across the road we go to the Kirk. This is more to my liking. My type of pub.
A dog in the bar, a few older blokes sharing a yarn over a beer, while others had their eyes glued firmly on the television screen, watching the Kiwis and Aussies playing cricket, was the greeting as we walked into The Kirk.
Friendly Irish lass served me my beer, recommending the roast of the day.
Like the Quarryman’s Arms opposite, The Kirk had lost its interior ‘bathroom’ tiles too, but the customers and atmosphere seemed to compensate for the lack of original fittings. I enjoyed our visit to The Kirk; A three out of five schooner glass rating from Time Gents.