There are pubs, and those are fine – the locals built for cheap beer, sport on the flatscreens, decent schnitzels, stained carpet and colour-dyed tip jars. The ones where you drop in on a Tuesday night for a $10 steak with your mates and buy into the meat raffle not because it’s anywhere special, but because it’s not bad, and you can walk home. Public House Petersham? It’s a public house. It says so in the name, then backs it up with the kind of spirit that draws in not only locals but people who’ll cross town to get here.
The most appealing part is that this place is not doing anything your local isn’t, it’s just doing it better. Want craft beer? It’s on tap. But wait, is that Marrickville's Batch Brewing Company setting up with a nano-brewery in the carpark? Want to bring [insert dog name here]? Go for it, and let him jump onto the seats while you’re at it – PHP takes being dog friendly (and cat friendly, for that matter) seriously. Want to soak up the sun in the summer? Do it in the sprawling courtyard to a soundtrack of Dire Straits and Blondie, then cool down when the mist machines fire. Want to shoot pool? Go ahead, then have a round on the pinball machines for good measure.
There’s no agenda here. No one trying to push their vision. Which is another way of saying PHP is a place for everyone. The ham and pineapple pizza on the kids’ menu comes out of the same woodfire oven as the Margherita (the “Famous Original”) for the adults. And no one’s going to judge anybody for sinking a few schooners of VB when they could so easily be exploring the range of milk stouts and sours out the back.
Those who do explore, though, will be well rewarded. Small Batch is something of a lab for Marrickville’s Batch Brewing Company to experiment with new and exciting flavours. Order a taster of six beers for just 15 bucks, and the crate might come stocked with the likes of a zesty mango-and-lime sour, an amber märzenbier and a “Juicy as Phuck” IPA to carry back to the picnic tables. Order the katsu sambo, and the fat circles of eggplant will be fried crisp and stuffed between pillowy white bread with salted cabbage and chilli mayonnaise.
This is solid pub food, too. The schnitzel crisp, the gravy rich, the salad sharper than most. Chips have the right amount of salt and crunch. Steak has proper grill marks. Go vegetarian and be served woodfired cauliflower, a couple of pizzas and a burger made meat-free. Service? They do it well, and the banter comes for free.
Public House gets the balance right, keeping the bones, engaging the neighbourhood, adding colour around the edges. In doing so, it’s landed on a model that speaks to the locals, the not-so locals and everyone in between. A public house if there ever were one.