One of the first pubs to be redeveloped in what is now a rash of makeovers sweeping inner city drinking spots, the Beresford Hotel on Bourke Street has had the deluxe treatment. Formerly a rather seedy all-comers watering hole, the pub is now a super swish Surry Hills venue.
Since being taken over by Merivale, the Beresford has been glammed up to within an inch of its life, but still gives a nod to its heritage. A large circular bar dominates the front room and the retro tiled walls are very pleasant. There are bar stools, high tables and chairs and comfy looking couches to spread out on. Out the back, another pretty room serves as the main eating area and is all low light, designer furniture and pot plants.
The best aspect of the Beresford though is the beer garden. It's a whopping outdoor area and has nice touches such as Chinese lanterns hanging from strings and several rather spectacular maple trees. The space is brilliant and is a great place for a drink on a balmy summer's evening.
At the bar, the drinks selection is very comprehensive, although for me, French beer on tap is no more appealing than French beer in a bottle. The wine and cocktail lists are both extensive, with a staggering number of wines by the bottle available. Service can be a problem and on a recent visit I had to wait an astonishingly long time to be served. On a repeat visit this had improved, although waiting times can still be excruciatingly long when the place is busy.
The food side of the Beresford seems to draw many people, with large groups holding sway over the big communal tables in the back room. Marketing itself as a trattoria, Italian's the focus and pizza and pasta feature heavily. The food is so-so, but nothing you wouldn't find elsewhere. Whatever the quality, it doesn't seem to influence the masses, who flood into the bistro area.
Another noteworthy aspect of the Beresford is the recently opened upstairs live music venue, imaginatively called Beresford Upstairs. In today's atmosphere, when pokies are considered entertainment and live music venues shut their doors without warning, this new addition to Sydney's music scene is very welcome. If Merivale wants to spend the money they collect from the masses that engulf the Ivy on a Saturday night, then good luck to them – live music fans get so little these days. To see who's playing at the Beresford, click here.
Overall, the Beresford isn't quite certain what it is. The place sure is pretty, but tries just that little bit too hard. It feels a bit like a pub that's trying to be a classic old pub, but it lacks the warmth and friendliness of a good local. The live music side and the fantastic beer garden make up for all of its pretensions though, and for that at least, it's worth putting on your radar.