We like our local to be stumbling distance from our front door. But for the most arresting beer garden in easy striking distance from Sydney, you’ll want to jump a train down Wollongong way in the name of pub adventures and possible whale watching.
The 130-year-old Scarborough Hotel is an easy 600m stroll from the station. And if you get the express from Redfern it’ll take just shy of an hour and half before you're standing on the cliff tops on the south coast and filling your lungs with salty air.
On the street level of the hotel you’ll find a small café counter with a coffee machine and cake stands, but hold fast and keep moving. Next you’ll come up on the orderly queue for food orders from the upstairs kitchen. This is where you need to stop if Thai beef salad, linguini or the monster two-person seafood platter are on your To Do list.
Take a sharp turn down the stairs and you will emerge onto the picturesque beer garden. We’re talking golden sunshine and a rolling green lawn that ends abruptly at a precipice that meets the beautiful briny sea. You can whale watch here for heaven’s sake. No seasickness or possible collisions for the clever clogs who kick back here to watch the annual migration of humpbacks.
Got kids? Bring them along. There’s plenty of space around the sturdy wooden tables to let the little ones tumble down the gentle slopes and keep out of trouble without having to sit still.
Up under the balcony is where you’ll find the garden barbecue. Order up two skewers of garlicky barbecued prawns (five crustacea on each) on a bed of chips with a little salad of bitter leaves on the side, or the fish of the day – on our visit it’s barramundi – grilled until golden with aioli and lemon. Fruits of the sea are the kitchen’s strength so next time we’ll order a platter of fresh prawns in lieu of the roast pumpkin and roquette salad that’s overdressed in balsamic glaze.
It’s a cash only operation downstairs at both the bar and the barbecue and while you won’t be able to get a meal for less than $20, over at the outdoor bar wines start at six bucks and won’t crack a tenner by the glass. Or for brews there’s Peroni, Fat Yak, Cascade, Carlton, Pure Blonde and Cricketers Arms, or James Squire brews in stubbies. Operating on coins you found under the couch? A Billabong from the ice cream chest is only $2.
For a late night schooner and a ten-dollar steak we’ll stick to Sydney’s inner sanctum. But for an early arvo session in a postcard worthy setting it’s well worth a jaunt down to this devilishly good-looking day-time pub.