The first giveaway should have been the fact that we walked in on a Saturday lunch without a reservation and still got a table. The second clue was all the particularly well dressed people walking through the restaurant and then disappearing upstairs.
I figured it out soon enough.
Still, Est. and Establishment are run by the same group (Merivale, who are also responsible for Mr Wong and Hemmesphere), and although the food is simpler and the prices cheaper, it is still good.
Let's get this straight: Establishment Bar is the big front space with the 40 foot marble bar. Est. is the high end, multi-hatted restaurant upstairs. And The Garden is the casual dining bistro between the other two.
The Garden is one of the more unusual rooms you will find. A cavernous space, with a glass roof, it feels like you are in the middle of an ancient Egyptian dig due to the enormous columns dotting the room, and the crumbling, half ruined walls, hanging greenery, made complete with modern glass. Even the light shades look like bird cages. Apparently, it's the city's only true atrium.
The rambling green space of the back room contrasts heavily with the very glitzy and polished front bar, a huge space in itself with a massive marble bar and constantly changing coloured lights. It might work well at night, but during the day it feels like being a Real Housewives episode.
There is no table service as such, instead your order and pay at the front bar and then take your seat. The bonus of this of course, is that you get you take your drink with you immediately.
The menu is quite small, but with a lot of good pubby options such as fish and chips $22, it's fancier big sister salmon and crushed potatoes $25, Cajun crumbed chicken burger $18 and the establishment burger $19. Nothing too challenging, but plenty to please. It's a smallish menu, a total of 22 items across starters, mains, sides and desserts, but it certainly covers most bases.
Of course it turns out that the menu we were looking at is called 'the Classic' menu, and there is actually another full 'Thai' menu as well, although I saw no evidence of it on the day. No matter, pub grub is good food.
Unable to make up our minds, we decided to split two dishes so we could eat more. Turns out the generous serving size meant we couldn't finish either.
The chicken schnitzel with red cabbage coleslaw and gravy was both huge ($20) and tasty. There was nothing cheffy or pretentious about it, sitting on its bed of chips, the schnitzel was moist and tasted particularly good with the coleslaw slathered on top.
Berts Pie ($18), a beef and red wine pie was also a winner, with a rich filling and lovely flaky pastry. It came with a pile of mashed potato (slightly dry), peas and gravy.
The Garden is open daily for breakfast (except Saturdays for some reason), for lunch during the week, and dinner every night except Sundays. For breakfast you have the choice of continental buffet or al a carte.
So unlike Est. upstairs, which has three hats, Establishment is basically a pub with pies and schnitzel and burgers. But it's a good pub because it doesn't feel claustrophobic and dank like many small Sydney pubs do. Instead you get to eat your chips in a Grecian paradise, complete with fountain and hanging plants.