The hunt for a good pub feed in the heart of Sydney’s CBD used to be a fruitless exercise. But that’s not the case anymore. Venues everywhere are upping their food game to cater to demand. And Customs House Bar has officially joined the party.
Circular Quay has – for a long time – been a place we’d avoid if we were looking for something to eat. The strange little shops by the wharves selling suspect pies, the expensive restaurants along the walk to the Opera House, the over-rated places around the Overseas Passenger Terminal… no thanks.
But Customs House Bar, tucked a little way back from the Quay, isn’t like that at all.
Macquarie Place – my favourite little lunchtime park whenever I’m working in the city – overlooks this 168-year-old venue. It’s a bit of an oasis of tranquility amongst the rush and bustle of the city.
Executive chef, Hemant Dadlani, has done a complete re-write of the menu at Customs House Bar. Offerings are much more gastro-pub style than before.
They’ve also changed the outdoor seating arrangements, which makes staying there for longer than a quick schooner much more enticing.
We were trying the new look to this, one of Sydney’s oldest venues, with our most excellent mate Steph from LipstickAndCake.com. Once the three of us get chatting (and eating), it’s hard to stop us, so it’s good the seating was comfortable!
Thanks to some horrendous mid-week traffic, Steph was running quite late, so we were all starving by the time we ordered.
The menu’s divided into four sections: Foodies, Pub Grub, Local Market and Shares – all under the banner of ‘Discover New Customs’, which I thought was quite clever.
We got stuck into the pulled pork steamed buns, which looked more like bao, from the Foodies section, the braised galangal beef short ribs, (super tender and sticky) and some delicious parmesan fries from the Shares section.
From the Pub Grub section, we also had the ‘Carnivore’ pizza, which was pretty good, and their impressive signature dish, the Tajima wagyu burger. Tajima refers to the small islands off the west coast of Japan, where they farm special breeds of cattle for its meat.
Yes, the food was great – as was the service, and the pricing was very fair too. If we were to question one part of the meal, it would be the salad that came with the ribs: there were whole turnips in it. I haven’t seen that done before.
The other major change to Customs House Bar is their beer and cocktail menu. I got chatting to the bar manager, who explained how all the new beers that were coming through the taps there now.
They’ve got a very clever beer map inside to help punters choose their tipple. On top of the regular mainstream lagers, CHB also has some very small batch beers pretty much exclusive to the venue coming.
As for cocktails, I think Steph’s frozen rum margarita was favourite of the day.
This is a great venue for a mid-week meal. It’s perfect for a post-work feed with friends or even a relaxed date night option.
The outdoor seating is going to be crucial this summer. It’ll be the perfect place to enjoy the warm evenings. It looks like they could still do more to the inside though, which is a bit gloomy and soulless – a real contrast to the rest of the place.
Customs House Bar
Open: Mon-Fri 11am till late. Food service is 12pm – 9pm.
Macquarie Place Park
Corner of Bridge Street and Loftus Street
Where’s your favourite inner-city place to eat? Go and check out CHB and let us know what you think!