Crafty Crawls: Darling Harbour & The Rocks

February 3, 2023, by Benedict "Benny" Kennedy-Cox

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Crafty Crawls: Darling Harbour & The Rocks

Whether you’re visiting Sydney or partaking in the rent-gouging search for a parking spot that constitutes being a Sydneysider, it is my view that the city is best enjoyed by the water, preferably with a beer in hand. And that's precisely what much of this guide to some of the city's craftier spots does.

It's a Crafty Crawl that takes you through two sea girt pockets of Sydney, reflecting the balance of old and new that make the harbour city so diverse. You’ll start near the modern Darling Harbour – a controversial yet kind of nostalgic area of Sydney, you’ll then sip your way around the harbour (dodging Barangaroo if you can) before skipping through the historic Rocks precinct and emerging into the timeless beauty of Circular Quay.

Some of these venues are as old as an Aussie venue can get, with an enduring charm that ages like a fine barley wine. Others are a celebration of the new: they want to wow you and send you on your way with a good taste in your mouth. The odd venue on this list even unites classic and modern because, as a wise young girl in an advert once said: "Why not have both?"


You can find every venue in this article alongside well over a thousand breweries and good beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app.


Stop 1: Quarryman’s Hotel

 

Whistles don’t get wet at the century-old Quarryman’s hotel; they get absolutely saturated. 

This historic pub has been a champion of Australian craft beer since it first started making serious inroads across the city, as evidenced by a telegraph pole's worth of limited tap art displayed on the walls and beams. Remember all that stuff before about old and new colliding? Well, it happens here and it happens well. 

At any given time there are 24 beers on tap from NSW-based brewers such as One Drop, Hope Estate, Akasha, Mountain Culture and so much more. If you’re looking to bulk up your Untappd check-ins you came to the right place – the knowledgeable staff are likely doing the same. Select beers are also $6 during happy hour, which at time of publication runs from 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Thursday.

In warmer weather, I recommend enjoying a sour in their beer garden or on their plush leather seats in the main bar where the windows are open wide and there is always some sport on the screens. There’s also a rooftop bar where you might like to go on a date, but there the beer selection is entirely mainstream. There’s a simple but tempting pub grub menu with daily specials (except Fridays) and housemade pork cracklings for a salty side. 

You could do a whole Crafty Crawl via the Quarryman’s taps; in fact, perhaps you could even make this your end destination and do the whole thing backwards. But, for now, sink a couple of dazzling one-off middies then pop those walking shoes on.

You'll find Quarryman's at 214-216 Harris Street, Pyrmont.


Stop 2: Batch Darling Square

 

While we weren’t paying attention, the world kind of got obsessed with packing specialty eateries tightly together. So, to prove it was a genuine world city, Sydney established a couple of examples of their own, one of them being Darling Square where you’ll find Batch Darling Square.

Nestled inside the ground floor amongst a huddle of other retailers, you'll find a cute little bar featuring the rogue gallery that is Batch’s core range and seasonal releases. If you’re lucky, you’ll score a seat at the bar – so small there is usually one person working it – otherwise take a seat at the tall tables beneath a galaxy of optic fibre lighting. Enjoy a pint or half-pint here, or grab some takeaway or a growler refill (if you don’t mind lugging it around for the rest of the crawl, of course).

So what does Batch Darling Square offer that the Marrickville HQ or Small Batch doesn’t? Aside from a few guest taps (Hawkers when I visited) there's an unreal range of food nearby from other vendors. Pair the WCIPA with a gluttonous egg sandwich from Toastie Smith or savour a Japanese-style Basque cheesecake from 15 Centimetres alongside a banana split stout.

Batch's Darling Square taproom is at 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket. You can read about how it came to be here.


Stop 3: Henley’s Bar & Kitchen

 

This next walk will take you along the east bank of Darling Harbour, an absolute joy on a sunny day. Watching the revolving centre of the heritage Pyrmont Bridge can make you feel a bit like a tourist even if you've done it countless times before, at least until you stroll a little further and see all the actual tourists lining up for Madame Tussauds. Before you hit the skippable corporate mess that is Barangaroo, stop at Henley’s Bar & Kitchen.

The flowery and 'grammable front courtyard is nearly always booked up but the modern leafy interior still gets a lot of sun through the big glass doors and windows. Aside from a cocktail and wine selection that will cater to any loyal beer-free companion you’ve dragged along, craftier drinkers can pick from taps where there's a few indies among big brewery craft brands or enjoy a refreshing can selection from locals such as Wayward, Young Henrys and Willie the Boatman. 

However, I'd argue the real treasures lie behind the bar, with a whole fridge dedicated to imported Belgian treats. With classics such as Duvel, Delirium, Westmalle, La Chouffe and more hiding back there, these potent offerings make a good argument for visiting Henley’s on a chilly day. 

The food menu is contemporary and upmarket, with the kingfish tostadas a highlight for me. Do a little fueling up: this next walk is taking us into The Rocks.

Henley's Bar & Kitchen is at 9 Lime Street, Sydney.


Stop 4: The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

 

While doing this crawl I took notes at all the venues: what’s on tap, what’s in tins, what’s to eat, and what’s there to look at. All except the Lord Nelson. I’d say I know this place like the back of my hand but I’ve never really spent constant Sundays drinking pints on the back of my hand. If I had an hour left to live, I’d spend 30 minutes at the Lord Nelson (the other 30 being the time needed to get there from my place).

Wander up through The Rocks, imagining what the residents of the adorable heritage cottages do for a living, and you’ll find the Lord Nelson Hotel. Wooden barrels and naval flags hang from the ceiling, black and white photographs adorn the walls of sandstone brick that still bare rough hews of convict labour. The Lord Nelson Hotel is old. So old it claims to be Australia’s oldest continually-licensed pub.

It's one of the country's microbrewery pioneers too; they've been brewing beer on-site so long, the first pours predate the term "craft beer". And in that time they have more or less perfected the pub experience. 

Aside from a tasting paddle, pints and half pints are the go here (seriously, they have it out for schooners). The only beers on tap are their own and you can’t really go wrong. I recommend a pint of the earthy Victory Bitter, alongside a pork pie, unpretentiously chopped and served at the bar. There’s an upstairs restaurant with upscale seafood mains and a bar menu which features a life-changing surf and turf pie.

See you at the bar when my time comes.

Head back in time at 19 Kent Street, The Rocks. You can explore the pub's incredible history here.


Stop 5: Endeavour Tap Rooms

 

On a Sunday, you might make your way to this next stop through the Rocks Markets: two lanes of stalls selling Aussie produce, wears and nostalgia. Whenever you head along, you'll also notice how all the pubs in this precinct are historic pubs, with live bands cranking out pub rock or Irish folk depending on the venue. 

A little further along the way you’ll make it to Endeavour Tap Rooms, a corner bar with stained glass, the sort of hodgepodge of indoor and outdoor spaces so common in this area, and their own original beer menu. There are five core range beers on tap: an amber ale, a lager, two pale ales and a lower ABV offering dubbed The Cleanser. If you’re so inclined, there’s also always "Something Dark" and "Something Hazy" that changes with the seasons. 

The staff play an important role when it comes to the last two taps, which always feature a staff-picked guest brew and a seasonal drop developed by the team. Pick and choose a tasting paddle of four for $19 alongside smoked kangaroo and pork sausage, potato scallops or some area-appropriate Sydney Rock Oysters. 

Once you’re thoroughly quenched, stroll down for a look at Circular Quay before heading back into The Rocks and your final destination.

The Tap Rooms are at 39/43 Argyle Street, The Rocks. 


Stop 6: Harts Pub

 

Finding Harts Pub is part of the fun, especially when it’s at the end of your pub crawl. You might have to go up some stairs, down a steep path or spin around in a circle with Maps open on your phone. It will all be worth it soon.

On the corner of Essex and Gloucester Streets, the heritage-listed Harts Pub stands out with crenellated parapets that will make you feel like you’re drinking in a castle. The hotel and pub was built from 1890 to 1899, starting Sydney’s love affair with infrastructure projects that take way too long to complete. The inside is stripped-back and relaxed, a far cry from imposing modern bars where every corner is trying to grab your attention. The focus here is on the beer.

Since 2009, Harts has been a champion of Australian craft beer, featuring 12 rotating taps of indie offerings plus a fridge full of tinnies. Among them, you'll typically find five from the irreverent Pickled Monkey Brewing Co – exclusive to Harts – which on my visit included their pale ale, XPA, IPA and a lager featuring Galaxy and Ella hops.

There’s a food menu with modern share plates, classic mains such as fish and chips, salads and a whole selection of burgers that includes a five patty Monster Burger Challenge (reservation required) that you might be able to complete if you skipped food at everywhere else on the crawl (which you shouldn’t).

Harts Pub is at Essex St & Gloucester Street, The Rocks.


Other Options

  • Harajuku Gyoza Beer Stadium – Between stops one and two, this family-friendly Japanese eatery serves Yoyogi craft beers and ciders made with imported ingredients. 
  • The Sporting Globe – Between stops three and four, The Sporting Globe's joint venture with Asahi-owned 4 Pines is a brewpub packed with TV screens showing US sport, dudes talking about Thailand, and heaps of 4 Pines beers, including their limited Keller Door releases.
  • The Australian Heritage Hotel – one of the first Sydney pubs to start showcasing craft beers and home to one of the country's longest-running beer festivals, taking over the streets around the pub.

Find all of the above venues and hundreds more breweries and beer venues in the free Crafty Pint app, designed to help you find your nearest good beer, wherever you are in Australia.
Photos at top of article and at Quarryman's by Katie Morfoot.

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