A lot of beers were drunk, schnitzels eaten and trivia answered in the search for the best pubs Sydney has to offer. We honed our pool skills, got surprisingly accurate with darts, and busted some PBs at Big Buckhunter in the pursuit of the venue that ticked all the boxes; welcoming, great beers, good food, games, entertainment, inclusive and relaxed. There are a lot of rock-solid pubs in this city, and these are the pick of the bunch.
Our favourite Sydney pubs
Charge your glasses, friends, and join us in a toast to Sydney’s pubs. To the fusty watering holes that champion the old ways nd to the young guns swinging open the saloon doors to local breweries fermenting up a flavour storm in all corners of the city. These are the best pubs in the business.
If the world were about to end, we’d probably do what Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect do right before the Earth’s destruction in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and go to the pub. And we’re not talking just any pub – we’d make tracks to the Courthouse Hotel. The beautiful thing about this old boozer is that it’s a pub designed to facilitate a good time on your terms. Want to sit up at the bar with a huge plate of fish and chips and watch back-to-back AFL games? This is the best place for it. Prefer to sink your tip money in pinball machines while you annihilate jugs of Stone and Wood Pacific Ale and Young Henrys Newtowner? Right this way. They’ve even got two separate outdoor areas so that smokers and diners can both enjoy the sunshine, and they let you bring your dog (on a lead) or kid (no lead required, probably). It’s the little details that count with a pub steak, like the addition of a red wine jus to the sauces menu and splurging on broccolini for the mixed greens, but if you’ve fulfilled your iron quota already, the chicken burger with avo, chimichurri and lemon yoghurt in place of aioli is a good time. Plus, there’s a whole lot more on the menu here for veggos than your average pumpkin salad – praise be for the haloumi burger. You know how the Courty got so awesome? Practice. They’ve been perfecting the art of the pub session for a really long time now. In fact the only thing that would make it better was if you could just spend more hours here. They’ve figured
There was a time when a pub serving anything more exciting than a pilsner was unheard of in this city, but what a difference half a decade makes. Suddenly even your backstreet local is making sure they’ve got a Young Henrys or Stone and Wood on tap, and maybe a Lord Nelson and something from 4 Pines in the fridge. When it comes to full-throated support of craft beers, few do it better than the Union Hotel in Newtown. In 2015, the pub’s 22 taps played host to over 300 different brews. This year they’re planning to simmer down and aim for about 200 to ensure that when you find a favourite you get to taste it again before it leaves the building. On our visit they’ve got beers from Akasha, Modus Operandi, Nail, Hopdog, Rocks, Hart and Hound, Sierra Nevada and Van Dieman in the house, and before you get all “dude, where’s my lager?”, there’s Reschs too. Remember the stark dining room up the back? General manager Luke Hiscox has presided over a spruce-up and now it’s a much snappier spot for a counter meal, and they’re packing an impressive list of 24 gins dominated by Australian distillers too. If juniper spirits aren’t your jam they’ve also got 35 whiskies on the go. The bistro here has always been popular, but it’s vastly improved now that Hiscox has brought the operation in-house with Big Arties running the kitchen. Now a massive serve of tenderloin kangaroo slices, potatoes, black cabbage and beetroot with a pink peppercorn sauce is as comforting as a home-cooked meal with
It’s a truly great pub that manages to strike an easy balance between being a familiar, cosy watering hole and raising the bar where it counts – the food and drink. We don’t much mind what old timey art sits on the walls, or if the playlist forgoes Chisel for the Natalie Imbruglia on occasion, but we do care quite a lot about what’s on our plates and in our glasses. At the Welcome a degree of extra care has been given to the menus so that the craft beers on tap reflect the evolving boutique brewing scene in Sydney, and also match the season. In summer you can expect a high rotation of tropical pales and sessionable golden ales, but come the wintry months you’ll want to wrap you laughing gear around the toasty, bitter dark ale from Tassie’s Moo Brew, or treat yourself to the resinous, fruity aromas in Mornington’s imperial IPA. If you don’t know what you like or don’t recognise the line-up on your visit grab a tasting paddle for $20 and work it out the fun way. Now that you’ve slaked that thirst it’s dinnertime. Over in the adjoining restaurant chef Daniel Mulligan flexes his kitchen muscle with a modern Italian menu, but in the public bar the menu finds a middle ground between higher end dining and bistro stalwarts. Yes, they do a pub pie, but here it’s a little pot of comforting chicken and mushrooms stew with a caramel coloured pastry crown. Do not fear the pub pasta here. Mulligan’s former posting was at Pilu at Freshwater and his Italian pedigree shows in a plate of ten
The timber floors of the Local Taphouse have been worn smooth by the continuous foot traffic of the parched and the curious over the last five years. The number of licensed establishments spruiking local, boutique and limited-run brews continues to rise, but this corner hotel in Darlinghurst is an old hand at the craft beer game. The gleaming bank of 20 taps behind the ground floor bar still promises some of the frothiest fun to be had in Sydney; a tasting paddle is both an education and a damn good way to spend $17.50 and an hour or two of your time. We could taunt you with descriptions of the gentle caress of nutmeg and cinnamon in the spiced harvest ale from Bridgeport, or suggest that if the last thing you tasted as you left this mortal coil was the fruity, bitter blast from Fuller’s Wild River American pale ale, you’d die happy. But it’s likely those brews will rarely, if ever be seen on the taphouse line-up again. What we can do is promise that on your visit the breadth of brews on offer will cater to novices and the knowledgeable alike. There will be malty pints to warm the cockles of your heart and double hopped brews that’ll take your bitter receptors to great new heights and half the fun is not knowing what to expect each time you visit. In fact, come often enough and you might get your name on a brass plaque on the bar – every regular's secret dream. The Local has always been a good shout for a pub meal, but now that chef Brett Stafford is shaking the pans in the
In the backstreets of Wolloomooloo the grand old dame of Sydney pubs is still holding court. As a patron of the arts, the old girl hosts regular theatre performances –the resident company is Red Line Theatre Productions – and currently there are two French chefs in the kitchen, complete with curled moustaches, so we’re betting this is one of the only pubs to serve a cheese soufflé. The soundtracks is the old pub rock singles that you wish you could remember when you’re putting together a playlist and it’s not unheard of for the locals to have a boogie off to one side of the bar. There’s some nice craft action on tap with Nomad and Badlands, Guinness for strength and Asahi for something clean and crisp. Or if you fancy a glass of plonk, the friendly staff here may not be wine experts, but they do know about the wine in their own fridges and can steer you to something you’ll like. She may be old, and a bit rough around the edges but to her many fans the Old Fitz is a great beauty that we hope never changes.
When a hot dog and a craft brew is all your heart desires then it’s time to cannonball down the slopes of Surry Hills to the Royal Albert Hotel. You will not be the only one making a beeline for this compact taphouse so expect to squeeze inside the front bar to get amongst the good-natured carousing that happens here every evening at quitting time. When you’re not feeling the sardine vibes out the front mosey on through to the middle pod where things get roomier and you can sit rather than lean. Head even further back and you hit the dumpling house for Asian-style bar snacks, but for our money it’s all about the burgers and hot dogs here. Our bartender admits that the kitchen won’t even tell him where they source their amazing cheese kranskies. The sausage is super-juicy with the cheese incorporated inside to rich up the meat, rather than the stuffed-crust situation you’re imagining. Approach with caution if you don’t want to spray your date with the first bite. The chilli ‘Fat Albert’ dog comes dressed in spiced tomato sauce and mustard with slices of pickled onion across the ridge and a serve of crinkle-cut fries on the side for only $10. We’re ’dawg devotees but you won’t regret giving the burger your time either. There’s probably some old-school soul or rock’n’roll playing but you’ll be hard pressed to hear over the excitable hubbub. Collars are loose and shirt sleeves are rolled up and the eight taps and two hand pumps are getting a workout. There’s no predicting the
When was the last time your local offered a plate of four juicy lamb chops? It was probably sometime in the early ’90s, but thankfully the new era at the Unicorn hotel is kickin’ it old school in the kitchen. Here your chops come with a slice of buttered white Tip Top bread, a fried egg for an extra three bucks, house-made mint sauce and a light, clear gravy. The counter meal has a new king. And the retro hits don’t stop there. For five bucks you get a plate of Jatz and a huge serve of French onion dip that takes three biscuit refills to finish. They get top marks for letting you choose the sides for the tender, perfectly pink skirt steak - cauliflower cheese and honey carrots for the win – but it’s the schnitzel that has won our eternal affections. It’s such a simple detail, but the fact that your golden-crumbed chicken breast comes with the wing attached is an immediate sign that this schnitzel is not like the other ones. The team from Mary’s is behind the resurrection of this Paddo pub and that’s why the silky smooth mash and top shelf gravy that is propping up your schnittie is so damn good. And yes, there is a burger on the menu. When it came to the drinks list some very smart choices were made. There’s Reschs, VB, and Fourex for lager lovers; Young Henrys cider for sweet relief; and a wit beer from the Illawarra Brewing Company that is light and bright, with a touch of spice. It’s the perfect antidote to time spent sweating in Oxford Street traffic. Here’s something
This colourful hotel is like one of those children’s party venues where each room has a different theme. The public bar is all breezy open space with solid timber foundations; downstairs things get more tropical with cocktails and vintage décor. There’s the sitting room with lounge settings and frond print walls, but outside goes full garden party with floral upholstery, rainbow umbrellas and festoon lighting running between frangipanis and palm trees. And nothing is on the same level here – it’s like a technicolour MC Escher drawing that serves drinks and Peking duck buns. During the week it’s not heaving but it gets seriously busy on weekends. Luckily you can book a space. They’re also a dog and child friendly establishment, but equally encourage watching fully grown men crush each other into the dirt on the pull-down screen when a game is on. The Asian American bistro mix peaks with one-dollar dumplings on Thursdays, but if you’re Hank Marvin, the burgers are a good bet. The Balmain Hotel is definitely on the right track. In a suburb that takes its pubs very seriously it’s nice to see something outside the mould of sports bars and schnitzel.
Look, who among us hasn’t had a dig at the Far East, what with their beautiful homes, jaw-dropping views and the ability to wear white linen without looking like they’ve slept in their clothes? And sure, the drive to South Head is no picnic, but once you’re sitting on the terrace of the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel with a glass of dry rosé, you have to admit that this is a bloody nice place to cash in some down time. Happily, it’s not merely the domain of wealthy boomers with moorings – Watsons Bay Hotel is also an extremely family-friendly venue. Location alone makes this an excellent spot to bring the next generation: the pub fronts onto the gentle shores of the harbour on one side and a rolling green park on the other. But it’s the dedicated kids’ activities, events and on-site café serving kid-friendly fare that really marks this venue out as somewhere your child-toting friends are not just tolerated, but welcomed. Don’t believe us? Last school holidays they hosted cookie-making classes, petting zoos and a pirate day, complete with face painting and treasure hunts – these guys are totally cool with the underage set. When it’s sunny they get hit hard at lunch, so arrive early for a shot at one of the tables right against the banister and this way you’ll also barely make it across the courtyard with your buzzer before your $24 serve of fish and chips with a punchy tartare sauce is ready to go. Pair it with a glass of the King Valley rosé from winemaker Eddie McDougall, whic
The Hero was built in a no frills era, and they haven’t added any in the intervening 170 years. Timber floors, convict-hewn sandstone walls and lantern light create the shell in which Guinness is to be drunk and songs sung by the fireside. Things can get a little rowdy if a bar crawl comes through, but it’s always got a strong crowd in attendance most days, matching James Squire brews to a rich lamb shank with gravy on a mammoth pile of mash, or making short work of the house burger that eschews the American style taking over the city’s eateries. This is an old fashioned works burger – taller than it is wide with a well-seasoned, well done beef patty with heaps of tinned beetroot, mayo, lettuce and tomato and a serve of the crunchy yellow chips you associate with road stop dinners on the side. Time your visit for Friday nights and Sunday arvos when there are live bands so you can holla along to a Kenny Rodgers tune, or hatch a plan to get into the Hero’s cellars where they keep the tunnel to the Harbour that was once used for smuggling rum and drunken patrons to waiting clippers. Thirsty for more? Sign up for the James Squire newsletter and get lashings of expert craft beer know-how, delivered directly from the Melbourne brewhouse to your inbox. Learn how to match beers like a boss, or educate yourself on the nitty-gritty of every English ale type known to man. There – conversation fodder for the pub.
There’s a lot to love about the Erko. There’s old chesterfield sofas for lounge lizards, high tables that can fit your whole crew and a jukebox gently glowing against one wall for people who cannot and will not relinquish DJ duties. Out the back is a sheltered outdoor deck with a barbecue, colourful festoon lighting, sturdy picnic tables and strict capacity limits – get in early or settle for the great indoors. The bistro here is rock solid. The drawcard is the smoker, so wait times can get serious for plates of brisket, ribs, wings, pulled pork and vegetables – everyone can have some smoky fun here. It’s still closer to $20 than a tenner for a main meal but six bucks gets you three to four slices of the garlic, parmesan and chilli cob toast any time. If you’re the retiring type you can aim for the side room with big screens and tall tables, but the action is all out in the main bar. It’s a big open space decked out in forest green and wood panelling with high ceilings and heaps of seating – but keep clear of the pool table unless you want a cue to the kidneys. There are TVs mounted up high on the walls, and projector screens that they roll out for big games. They mix the old with the new when it comes to tap allocation so you’ll have Young Henrys, Lord Nelson, Feral, Stone and Wood, Matilda Bat, Murray’s rubbing shoulders with VB, Reschs and New. Designated driver? This pub boasts its very own carpark, making a visit to the Erko that much simpler. You really have no excus
A lot of Sydney’s pubs play a single trump – tender steak, good times trivia, clean beer, golden schnitzel – but it’s a truly special boozer that can show a full and winning hand. Dove and Olive is that place. It’s been a couple of years since it set up inside the shell of the old Clarendon on Devonshire Street and tapped the biggest craft beer collection in Surry Hills. Suddenly we had a pub for all occasions where the beers, food and vibe are were ace and the mounted deer horns came with googly eyes. Need a quick meal before a Belvoir production? The hefty parmigiana could see you through a performance of Cloudstreet without needing a snack at interval. A thick chicken breast cloaked in a crunchy, crumbed armour comes topped with tomato puree, eggplant, double smoked ham and mozzarella, plus they chuck some grated parmesan on for good measure. The board – it would never all fit on a single plate – is then laden with fries and a hillock of coleslaw. If you’ve eaten your fill of steak and pepper sauce, order the tender rump with blue cheese and asparagus on top. As the cheese melts you get a bitey, savoury sauce that can be mopped up with another generous pile of fries. Gigiddy! Sure, the Shakey up the road is cheaper, but this is the place for something you didn’t overdo in your student days, and they do budget-friendly $9.90 specials from Monday to Thursday. Their pub food may not be what you'd call game-changing, but it is tasty, fast and fun. Where they re
This old Petersham boozer has undergone yet another round of upgrades, but we’re pretty sure these ones are going to stick. The former Newington Inn is now the Public House Petersham, and we have to admit, they seem to have had the people’s best interests at heart when they spruced up the beer garden, turfed the TAB and reworked their food offering to be a lot more friendly to families, little humans and people making better life choices. Broke students are the only ones who didn’t luck out. Aside from the unnecessary name change that is only going to confuse taxi-drivers and Google Maps, all the updates here have been for the better. They’ve added a whole lot more furniture so everyone can bung in together for a pub dinner; replaced the gambling facilities with a dedicated games corner (the fooshockey is still there); and strung the upstairs verandah with festoon lights so that smokers have a nice spot to sit and muse on the state of the nation. This also means the spacious beer garden down on the ground floor is blissfully smoke free – everybody wins. They aren’t kidding around with the hot nduja salami on the Feeling Hot Hot Hot pizza – it builds to a serious burn for sensitive palates – and they’re not really trying to play by Naples’ rules here. Want creamed corn on a pizza? They’re doing it. Those devilled sardines speaking to you? Yep, they also fall under the vast subheading of things that can physically be put on top of a pizza base. We take the road more travelle
The Forest Lodge is a diamond in the rough. From the outside this brown brick local doesn’t look like much, but inside there’s a decent feed, plenty of space, a warm welcome and a surprisingly excellent craft beer collection. They focus on local brews like Modus Operandi, Wayward, Gang of Four, Murray’s and Badlands, while Coopers, New and Reschs keep the lager dream alive. The Sydney Uni crew and Inner West locals love the Flodge equally, and it’s a family-friendly joint if you have little ones in tow. The menu is massive - it starts at wings, fried and squid, moves through pizzas to burgers/hot sambos, steaks, pasta and salads, and on a Wednesday you can feed yourself for a fiver with a meatball roll. Keep restless hands busy with Street Fighter, pinball and pool, or just pull up a stool for some craft beer capers is comfy surrounds. Anything goes here.
This watering hole on the backstreets of Paddington is not as fancy as you might expect a pub adjoining a fine dining restaurant to be, but that’s a large part of it’s appeal. You can go high end next door, but here football will be on the six big screen TVs; Carlton, New, Coopers, Peroni and Asahi will be on tap (Young Henrys and Lord Nelson bring the craft flavours); and a local might bring his pet parrot in for an afternoon tipple (hopefully). It’s a proper pub in all the ways that count It’s the bar menu that connects the dining room and the public bar. Jellied ham hock terrine and Jerusalem artichoke soup share the menu with shepherd’s pie and corned beef with colcannon that is a very good reason to change up your steak order. The crumbed pigs ear with a quenelle of concentrated salsa verde is not a real substitute for a schnitzel, but a bacon and black pudding sandwich is bang on for a rich, salty bar snack while you barrack for the Bloods. Dining room review There’s something about eating at the Four in Hand that always makes life suck a little less. It’s the soothing room of crisp white tablecloths and amber wood chairs with thickly padded seats. Black banquettes sigh a little as you sink into them and thick wooden window frames look like they could’ve been pulled from the original Orient Express. It’s a reassuring place staffed by some of the most steadying hands in the game. Restaurant manager and sommelier Stephen Craig pours excellent wine matches, while floor
In a leafy pocket of Ultimo you’ll find this old timer that strikes a comfortable balance between the old ways and the new. Traditional pub fixings still have pride of place in the public bar. There’s an old propeller blade mounted on the red walls above the requisite Reschs and Kent Old Brown posters, the ceiling is proper pressed plaster and the windows are painted in peeling Celtic script. Refreshment comes in familiar packages here. There’s Little Creatures, Coopers, Reschs, Old, New Carlton, Squires and Kosciuszko There’s no beer garden but they have co-opted an outdoor section of the neighbouring park for alfresco beers and a Sunday barbecue each week. The newer elements to the Wolseley are all found out the back in the bistro, which has been taken over by the Pub Life Kitchen outfit, famous for their experimental burgers on Wednesdays and their trashy-but-goo cheeseburgers the rest of the time.
A night at the Darlo is as close to a guarantee of good times as Sydney is able to give. This community living room on a Darlinghurst corner is the first port of call for mid week pool comp, they boast a trivia night that has been stumping smart-phone cheaters for five fact-filled years and there’s a weekday happy hour that helps you stretch your booze budget just that little bit further. It’s not a club, but they do host DJs on Saturday nights for a low-key shimmy in spitting distance from the city’s original party district, and being the good sorts they are they’ll also cure the hurt they helped make by providing $12 Bloody Marys all day Sunday. If you’re a little frocked up head upstairs where the open-air terrace has a gentle garden party vibe (rainbow festoon lighting, white cane furniture) and a bar that shakes up a fruity cocktail. Downstairs is more of a well-worn rumpus room with squashy couches and clusters of stools. There’s a four-in-one arcade game that includes Frogger and Ms PacMan, a Street Fighter console and a pool table that’s never standing empty. Mementoes of international jaunts are tacked up behind the bar and fairylights provide the mood lighting. The soundtrack mixes a little classic rock (AC/DC, Creedence) and a little vintage folk (Rodriguez) with some Triple J faves, which is a solid trifecta guaranteed to illicit at least one “Tuuunnnneeeee!” from your cohorts. They’ll mix you up a tequila and juice here, but unless you need the firepo
The Australian Heritage Hotel strikes a comfortable balance between historic tourist stop, and a pub that hard-bitten Sydneysiders still want to frequent. They have zero interest in your traditional Neopolitan pizzas here, preferring a bizarre array of flavours like Peking duck, tandoori chicken, chilli beef and refried beans, smoked salmon and the famous coat of arms pizza with emu and pepper kangaroo meat. Or you could just keep hand and jaw busy with a packet of spiced, local jerky while you peruse the impressive craft beer collection in the double door fridges. All six states are well represented and the staff are a friendly bunch who are happy to walk you through the options. Of course, there’s just as much fun to be had by randomly picking something and discovering a new favourite from the 50-odd breweries available.
As more and more great old pubs go under the knife the Cricketers Arms remains resolutely as it ever was, wearing its sticky floor and chipped original tiles with the grizzled pride of an old-timer who’s refused to move with the times, and with good reason – everybody loves the Crix. In fine weather finding a seat in the courtyard is like winning the boozehound’s lottery, especially if it’s not the seat right by the entrance to the famously scuzzy, graffiti-covered men’s bathroom. The women’s bathrooms are, by contrast, charming in a homemade-floral-decoupage-on-the-roof kind of way. In winter, the same small odds are applied to the three tables sandwiched between the open fireplace and the vending machine, and many a friendship has begun and ended over the worn green of the pool table up the back. They like to theme the tunes here. Depending on the day the DJ booth could be pumping out reggaeton, old-school rock’n’roll, jazz, Latin, hip hop and some alt-country when the mood takes them. You’re in Swans territory when you're drinking up at the bar here. Games are screened on TVs artfully placed so that the bar staff can see them too, and if it’s a home-ground game over at the SCG you want to get in the door before the full-time buzzer sounds – postgame, this place fills fast.
The Kirribilli Hotel is not an ostentatious pub. Its rounded, Art Deco, red-brick façade tucks neatly in among the shopfronts lining Broughton Street without drawing too much attention to itself. But we’re always told it’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside this amiable local just north of the Bridge is an impressive craft beer selection. The Inner West may be rife with craft beer-heavy establishments, but the offerings are thinner on the ground north of the Bridge. Luckily the Kirribilli Hotel is pulling more than its weight on that score, spruiking flavoursome wares from Two Birds, Monteiths, Stone and Wood, 4 Pines, Mountain Goat, Murray’s and Endeavour. They elect a brewery of the month and showcase multiple beers to really get to know what a brew house is capable of. They even keep your frothy curiosity wallet-friendly on Tuesdays and Fridays when there’s $6 schooner from 5-7pm. All the codes are on the big screens but this is pretty firm AFL territory, and if you don’t care what the score is the terrace out the back is a popular spot for a tipple when people clock off for the day. It may be a humble, red brick hotel in a quiet corner of the Lower North Shore, but if our Nicole deems it a good shout for two-up on Anzac Day, it’s definitely doing a bunch of things right.
They’ve taken the idea of 'humble pub as a blank canvas' very literally at the new look Dolphin on Crown Street. The old corner boozer has had an extreme makeover, and it’s fairy god-parents are an impressive rollcall of Sydney hospo identities. Maurice Terzini has enlisted his crack team from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar for the aspirational project, including Lenny Opai on cocktail duty and chef Monty Koludrovic overseeing things in the kitchen. Plus they’ve got famed Sydney sommelier James Hird (ex-Wine Library) taking care of wine procurement. Lucky too, because not only does the transformed Dolphin boast a buzzy public bar, dining room and open air terrace, it also has a wine room and salumeria. Generally we hate the phrase “something for everyone” but they’ve certainly given being a one-stop shop a red-hot go at this new venture. Like so many venues in Sydney right now, these guys are set up for all moods and budgets. Get in and out for only $25 with a plate of the pigs head fritti and a glass of orange wine. They are like salty, crunchy edible Jenga blocks, packed with tender ribbons of pork, sweet corn kernels and herbs. At the opposite end of the flavour spectrum you’ve got a orange semillon from Shobbrook wines in South Australia that’s as fresh and clean as a just-mown paddock at dawn. It hits your tongue like it’s fizzy, but changes course to finish dry and smooth. Want to linger? Good, because there’s a collection of bitter, refreshing Italian-style cocktails
We always knew that the grand reopening of the Newport Arms under the Merivale banner was going to be a very big deal. They had already flexed some serious renovator’s muscle when they took over an old coastal pub in Coogee and turned it into a legitimate scene, but that was nothing compared to the makeover that has occurred at the vast watering hole up on Sydney’s northernmost peninsula. First things first: do you have a crisp white shirt, a designer dog/child and great hair? Excellent. Bring the lot and you’ll fit right in on a Sunday. The new look Newport (they’ve dropped the arms from the name) is absolutely rammed with a parade of the beautiful people downing a crisp, dry French rosé and stalking a mythical empty table beneath the striped umbrellas and giant cacti now dotted around the venue. It’s a famously huge venue and that hasn’t changed, but it’s looking like several million bucks what with the fresh juice cabana, the paddling pool for little humans, the raw bar dishing up Sydney rock oysters and buckets of prawns and the mesmerising twirl of the chickens, porchetta and a whole salmon in the rotisserie. If you too are powerless to resist those golden, spinning, fragrant meats, you can order them at the Kiosk, which sits in front of a kids play area fitted out with ten pin bowling, ping pong tables and a mini basketball hoop. As you might expect the wait times for food can back up, especially if you want a whole chicken, so it’s worth seeing what looks ready befo
The Henson Park Hotel was for many years an abandoned, rotting shell of a pub hidden in the backstreets of Marrickville. But with one hell of a refurb it's now one of the most family-friendly watering holes in the Inner West. The front bar of the Henson looks like any other local haunt. Stain-resistant carpet, sturdy bar stools, milky coffee-coloured tiles, pool table and dartboard are all present and accounted for. But look a little closer. The floors aren’t gunged with decades of unspeakable stickiness, the gleaming taps give plenty of space to craft brews – Young Henrys, Batch, Rocks Brewing Co – and the stereo is cranking out the Black Keys, Ball Park Music and Electric Guest. Want a quiet drink? The front bar is all the best parts of an old school pub without the weird smells, and the beer garden is enormous. There's a games room with pinball, old-school Big Buck Hunter machines and Pacman, and the kids get their own rumpus room in a converted garage, complete with a Mr Men mural and shallow ball pit. But really it’s the bistro that is keeping the hearth-fires burning at the Henson. A lamb shank shepherd’s pie will put padding on your ribs, and they add Asian influences to the mix with a karaage chicken burger and ssamjang lamb ribs. If it's League season you can order your food to go and head to Henson Park to watch the Newtown Jets bring the pain, they run a dart comp on Tuesday, and a deli and wine shop is in the works so stay tuned.
The Friend in Hand should be the subject of a Slim Dusty song. It feels like someone uprooted an outback pub and replanted it in the back streets of Glebe, complete with a public bar decked out in more Australiana tat than you can poke a stick at. There’s the famous cockatoo that sits happily at one end of the bar, but he goes to bed at 6pm so if you are keen for a drink with the pub’s avian mascot make it a lunchtime Reschs. A model train set runs along the back of the bar and out around into the foyer passing the street signs, old public notices, black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings, an impressive collection of foreign currency and some mounted taxidermy heads. Model aeroplanes and a canoe hang from the ceiling and a good chunk of the bar is given to the big glass aquarium where they keep the hermit crabs for Wednesday crab racing. The eclectic hoarded vibe lessens a little in the dining room – called the Fork in Hand – where they have an open gas fireplace and do a tasty chicken parmigiana. The people in the pub also have character to spare. There’s always a few council workers still in high-vis out the front, grizzled locals with tales of the old days and a bartender blithely singing along to ‘Groove Is in the Heart’ – one of the top 100 karaoke hits on Music Max channel – while she pulls your standard domestic beers for the half dozen bikies who roared up to the curb on immaculately polished Harleys. The beers are cheap and super cold, the wine list will get the
The Green Park Hotel is doing it right. It may be only a stone’s throw from the heart of Kings Cross but there’s a very different kind of party going on in this prettied up pub. It’s not a gay bar but even early on a Saturday evening you’ll find the place heaving with the handsome boys of Darlinghurst sporting expensive shoes and imported denim. Everyone else is here too – it’s the sort of place people gravitate to. Even if the sun is still shining, inside it’s always beer o’clock thanks to a green-so-dark-it’s-almost-black paint job, deep blue tiles and a black top bar. Lighting the way is a collection of vintage lamps and a whole lot of candlelight in amongst the liquor bottles and on tables – romantic and hangover-friendly. They’ve divvied up the tap space so that there’s a nice balance of familiar faces like James Squire One Fifty Lashes, and strangers you’d like to know better like Young Henrys, Murrays, Matilda Bay and White Rabbit. They also do a beer of the month, which means $5.50 schooners of the Ruby Tuesday amber ale. In fact there’s enough on tap that you don’t even need to know what lies beyond the vintage wood-panelled fridge doors behind the bar. The tunes here are grade A, prime quality rock. Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ comes hot on the heels of Suzi Quatro’s ‘Devil Gate Drive’, Icehouse’s ‘Electric Blue’ and a little ‘Rebel, Rebel’ from Bowie. Give it a few more hours and there will be dancing. On Sundays there are $5 drinks to be drunk, live music on Thursdays to g
There are two very distinct sides to the Sheaf. The beautiful towering art deco façade gives way to an entranceway lined in signed music memorabilia and a framed copy of the Liverpool Echo from the day John Lennon was shot. To your right is one of the fanciest gaming lounges we’ve seen outside a casino, complete with a fish tank and an outdoor waterfall. On the left of the hall is the public bar where serious East Sydney Roosters fans gather. So far, it’s exactly what you’d expect to find inside a hundred year old pub. But we’re in exceedingly well-heeled Double Bay, and once you get to the beer garden it’s very clear clear that the Sheaf is more blue ribbon than blue collar. Since our last visit they’ve expanded the gazebo to ensure it never rains on this garden party parade, but on a nice day there’s still room for you to sit outside under the golden Veuve Clicquot umbrellas with a glass of the bone dry French rosé from Domaine Saint Anne. Cocktails hail from the fruity elixir set, although in this day and age if you’re not serving a Negroni the people may riot. It really is the perfect pub cocktail: no fresh ingredients beyond the garnish, equal measures, difficult to arse-up. And there’re always jugs of Pimm’s to keep an afternoon session on a rolling boil. Just want a beer? 4 Pines, Moo Brew, Stone and Wood cover off craft; and Carlton, Peroni, Heineken and Asahi are all present and accounted for. The food menu is about high-end covers of familiar fare, like the wagyu
There’s no shortage of pubs in Paddington and Woollahra, but few possess the old world charms of the Lord Dudley. This vast, red brick hotel looks more like a British country manor than an Inner East establishment, and the vibe is similarly relaxed. Out on Quarry Street locals and their faithful hounds get a solid lean on with a pint of Old Speckled Hen in hand. If it’s a bit nippy for alfresco boozing it’s time to battle for seats as close to the proper wood fire as you can get. This is also the spot to play a Scrabble, Jenga, and Connect 4 while you wait for one of their pies that take 25 minutes to bake to golden brown. If a serve of juicy, slow cooked beef in a pastry hat doesn’t move you, go for the classics – steak and chips, burgers, bangers and mash. The cosy, wood panelled room that for the sake of this review we will call the living room is great for settling into for the long haul, but we’re also big fans of claiming a bar stool and bending the elbow with a Guinness. This may look like an old-fashioned watering hole inspired by the best of the Motherland, but its attitude to beer embraces the new with half a dozen craft taps offering Stone and Wood, Badlands, Murray’s, Young Henrys, Lord Nelson and Yulli’s brews. Downstairs the restaurant is still strung with hanging plants and the private dining room’s greatest feature is unequivocally the fish tank built into the wall, and up on the first floor it’s like the land of lost, comfy couches. But for conviv
A lot of fuss gets made over the Glenmore’s unbelievable harbour views, taking in the majesty of the Harbour Bridge and hooking around past the Opera House sails to the glittering CBD. It’s an easy sell, especially because it proves you don’t need to fork out for a top-tier restaurant for the kind of Sydney vista that belongs on a postcard. In fact the Glenmore is the sort of place you could make your local, at least for post-work drinks when the rooftop bar gets packed with people loosening their collars and clinking Samuel Adams, a schmiddy of Peroni or a pint of Guinness. The rooftop is also a ridiculously popular lunch spot on weekends. If you like a Blue Moon or a Budweiser in more secluded surrounds the middle floor has smaller rooms with pool tables and couches, and out on the street a picnic table is great for people watching. This is a great place for dinner before heading down to enjoy some high brow pursuits in Walsh Bay.
This Riley Street staple got a Drink and Dine redux three years ago and still boasts sass, style and good times. Some elements – like the kooky cocktail menu, weekly Black Betty’s Barbecue and Queenies restaurant upstairs – give it more of a bar feel. But the open beer garden, well-worn vinyl couches, sports screenings and weekly specials (from $5 steaks on Mondays to $10 for a kilo of fried chicken on Fridays) keep it firmly in the pub realm. Food-wise it’s all about bistro favourites with Frankenstein twists – think nacho pizzas, mac and cheese on burgers and meat pie-loaded hot dogs – alongside the originals. Drinks-wise you’ll find plenty of local and imported beers on tap, cheap tinnies and a bunch of fruity cocktails, best shared around in jug form. The Forresters is looking a little more lived in these days – but it's only testament to it being an ongoing Surry Hills favourite.
This grand old establishment on the Woolwich peninsula is how we imagine a country club would be minus the golf or horses – though sailing is a popular pastime in this well-heeled neck of the woods. Chic renovations have seen colourful cabanas installed by the decorative lawn and a raised terrace built in the shade of a great tree – this is where weekly high tea happens. There’s a sombre, elegant sports bar set up at the foot of the stairs that lead up to the first-floor cocktail bar boasting a wraparound verandah that looks over the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers. But it’s in the cavernous main bar, trussed in golden timbers, that people congregate. They know their audience so the seniors’ fish, chips and wine lunch special carries on, and even if you’re a spring chicken it’s worth dropping $25 on a plate of crisp battered Dory, skinny fries, creamy tartare and a pot of mushy peas. On a blustery evening order the fat, rustic pork and fennel sausages with masses of peas, gravy and mash, plus four onion rings to add crunch. Good news, high rollers: they still have that 40-buck rib eye on the menu too if you’re in need of a serious iron boost. Carlton and Coopers are yours for the asking, but they aren’t wed to the mega-brewery set, so you can slake that thirst with Young Henrys, 4 Pines and Matilda Bay brews, or a Peroni if you’re a sucker for tall, cool Europeans. They may be keeping things classy in this neck of the woods, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your litt
Being the oldest continuously licensed pub in the city, the Lord Nelson has had a lot of practice at being awesome. (Sure, the Fortune of War Hotel is older, but there was that whole getting-closed-down-and-demolished-due-to-the-plague thing so the Nelson has the longest, unbroken run.) They brew their own beer here and a fresher pint in Sydney is a tall ask. There are six mainstay brews: the summery beginners’ Quayle ale, the bright 3 Sheets, the British-inflected Trafalgar pale ale, the full-flavoured, spicy Victory Ale, Nelson’s Blood for the Guinness/porter fans, and the complex, full o’ flavour Old Admiral. Plus there’s always a seasonal brew to keep things interesting. Not a beer drinker? These guys aren’t the type to judge. Instead they’ll simply whip you up a ‘Nelson Nudie’ cocktail using fresh bottled juices. Prep your stomach with the Nelson’s primer of choice: the beef pie, which comes perched atop a mashed-potato raft in a sea of gravy, and sporting a tamo-shanter of mushy peas. Or if you prefer to graze they do a proper ploughman’s from 3pm. During the week this historic old pub is popular with a tailored corporate crowd, but on a Sunday this should be your first port of call for a leisurely pint or two. Get there mid-afternoon and you’ll miss the lunch and dinner crowds, and the noise, and score yourself a prime seat from which to observe the curious mix of well-heeled locals and backpackers who’ve tracked down an authentic Sydney experience. If you’re after his
This old neighbourhood watering hole went through something of an awkward adolescence, going from a crusty local joint to a Belgian Beer Café for a five-year continental break. But now it has been restored to a sensible old pub with a penchant for craft beer and it’s a look that suits it. The crowd here is made up of families, young professionals and well dressed older couples who look like they probably sail on weekends. They split themselves pretty evenly between the shady beer garden, dining room and the front bar where the heavy timber tables and fireplace have an old-fashioned, gentlemanly feel. They have Coopers and Carlton on tap if your old habits just won’t die, but we’ll be dropping our hard earned on tall frosty glasses of Trumer pils, Balmain pale ale and Feral Brewing’s Hop Hog instead. New beers can appear as often as weekly so you could be lucky enough to find the fresh, full-bodied Mountain Goat Fancy Pants amber ale on tap, or something equally as delicious. The kitchen treads a familiar, up market path with pizzas, parmas and pulled pork burgers, but to really get the most out of your dinner dollars head here on Wednesday nights when they offer half-price mussels pots. They come with a cream, tomato or Cajun sauce with sourdough for essential dipping. Balmain has more pubs than any one suburb needs, but for craft beers and cheerful barkeeps the East Village is the pick of the bunch.
There may be a lot less jelly and nudity all round at the Oxford Tavern, but the spirit of the former topless bar lingers in the poles built into the bar and the Jelly Wrestle shared dessert of jelly, ice cream, waffles and sundae trimmings that you eat with gloved hands. During the week it’s tacos, burgers, hot dogs and mains with a side of chips, but our favourite time to visit is on weekends when the backyard smoker has been fired up in the leafy, undercover beer garden and you can order brisket, chicken, pulled pork and ribs by weight. Make it a Sunday and $10 Bloody Marys increase the good time factor by 12 points, though a midweek schooner of Monteith’s smooth cashew nut lager or a Kosciuzko pale ale doesn’t hurt either. On a Friday night unwind with ten buck Margaritas until 8pm, and then hang tight because the Friday night party here provides boogie opportunity that’s lock out free. The Oxford Tavern might have put its shirt back on, but it’s still a loose collar kind of joint where good times are the whole point.
It’s almost a shame beer gets you drunk. We consider this while poring over the beer list at the this freshly renovated pub in Alexandria, reckoning that if it didn’t we’d down every last brew, from the sweet, malty Hunter Beer Co. witbier through to the palate-cleansing bite of the Feral Hop Hog IPA. Being spoiled for choice is a nice problem to have, and with the rise of dedicated craft beer bars around Sydney, it’s becoming endemic. We’re big fans of the Rocks Brewing gang here. In fact, we like their beers so much we got a keg to welcome our new editor to the building. And to make accessing the good stuff even easier the Rocks Brewing Co have opened their very own pub. Unlike their brewery bar further down in Alexandria, the Lord Raglan plays well with others. Home ground advantage is given to the Rocks brews, naturally, and you don’t hear us complaining about more places to get the Boxer red ale on tap, but the other six taps are a rolling showcase of the best craft beers on the market. They only order a keg or two of each, so this is the place to seize the day and drink till it’s gone – it moves so quickly they don’t even bother putting labels on the taps. You’ll have to keep an eye on the slate labels suspended over the bar to see what’s on offer. They run a tight operation here. They took a derelict pub, gutted it and let only the bare essentials back through the heavy wooden doors. There is a bar constructed from old doors with 12 taps; fridges for the fancy bottl
There are plenty of pubs in Sydney that had their character forcibly removed sometime in the 90s when sports bars were in vogue, and there’s a few more than that didn’t have much to begin with. In those cases it’s not about reviving the hotel; you’re starting from scratch with the same liquor license. But when it comes to the excellent collection of historic boozers that populate the back streets in the older areas of our city, we want to fix what’s broken, boring or sub-par and leave everything else right where it is. Which is precisely the approach taken at the Bald Rock Hotel. This compact pub harks back to the working days of White Bay when wharvies and power station staff needed an after work drink. The main bar is constructed from the kind of heavy sandstone blocks that would be comforting in an apocalyptic siege; there’s a beer garden to one side that is more like a country shed lean-to with concrete floors and a few potted plants, and between them is a dining enclave with a black banquette and proper table settings. Not a sniff of a theme to be had here – vintage booze advertisements are still the major decorative feature. On tap you’ve got Reschs, Bulmers, New, Guinness, Carlton, Fat Yak, Peroni and Pure Blonde, with Balmain Brewing Company’s golden ale the sole nod to craft brews. It’s a compact list but it covers the bases. The big changes here are in the kitchen and the attitude. What used to be a bit of a blokey spot has expanded their welcome. In addition to
Sydney might be struggling to keep the late-night vibes pumping, but there’s a rebel force of party people and most weekends they are congregating at the Lord Gladstone. The ability to squash so many Sydney scenes inside a modest space is one of this pub’s most impressive attributes. On an unremarkable Saturday night you’ve got Bondi babes, queer indie kids, footy fans, sneaker freakers, hip-hop heads and what appears to be a crew of nonchalant models all cramming into the concrete courtyard for a good time. Remember out the back of the Abercrombie? It’s like a more condensed version of that: you’re yelling over the tunes, people are smoking up on the balcony and everyone’s getting their flirt on. And they like to keep you guessing. There’s always a Sunday session, but it might be disco tunes at Completely Sundays, or perhaps it’s an afternoon of hip hop and live graffiti at Sunday Walls. Fridays are a knees-up featuring Sydney legends like Joyride and the Bad Deep crew, and if you clock off a little early, Fridays at 5pm are also when they tap a keg of Tooheys New with the proceeds going to an elected charity. What a clutch of good eggs. You can trust them with your $22 sirloin, which comes with green beans and a peppery gravy, or visit on a Thursday and a rump steak will only cost you a tenner. And you’re not a real Sydneysider until you’ve eaten at least one deep-fried Golden Gaytime and thumbed your nose at the gods of nutrition. Right now many of our pubs are going ha
We’re not saying that the old ways are always better, mostly because we’re not octogenarians yelling at the kids on our lawn, but there’s no denying that many of the best elements of a local pub were perfected long ago. The non-negotiables are fresh beers in cold clean glasses, tunes, trivia and a solid counter meal. Bonus points are awarded for a little open-air terrace for alfresco bevvies, a beer list that embraces the old ways but doesn’t fear the new wave of craft breweries, and a super-chill attitude. That’s a top score for the Botany View then. This old boozer is hidden down on South King Street by the crossroads of Newtown, Erskineville and St Peters, and there’s no denying it’s a bit of a diamond in the rough – but it never lacks for company. The counter meals here are a big part of the Botany View’s appeal. They’re outsourced to Darley Street Bistro, and they do really solid work. You order separately at the kitchen window in the very centre of the pub and then choose your home base. Perhaps the well-worn front bar is your speed? Or maybe you’ve brought the whole crew for dinner and drinks – that’s when the big tavern tables upstairs come in handy. But the most popular spots are out on the terrace. On Thursdays trivia is hosted by Newtown identity Reta (you may know her from the Marly trivia on Wednesdays); on Fridays they are all about the raffles; and on the last Sunday of every month they host a blues jam session, which is a bit of fun. Of course, all of these
You’re going to want to love your sport if you’re drinking here. And many do, judging by the Wallabies memorabilia on the walls and the footy on both plasma screens (one on each end of the bar, so you won’t miss a minute). Can you avoid it? Yes, provided you’re happy to tuck away in the library and games nook (there’s Connect Four!) or hunker down over a $12 steak. Which, by the way, is actually very good – a tender, juicy medium-rare sirloin with a little jug of pepper sauce, a pile of fries and a salad of bitter greens and thinly sliced shallot. Vegetarians have the choice of making a meal of side dishes – love those green beans with lemon oil – r taking a punt on the pumpkin tortellini. Though it’s a surprisingly exxy choice at $26 a serve. Drinks-wise, craft fans are set with Vale Ale’s crisp and slightly bitter pale, or a Little Creatures bright ale. We’d love to see a few more classic pours (where’s the Reschs?) at this classic pub, or at least a little more tap selection. But then, what they do pour, they pour well. The Aussie Youth is definitely the most attractive and welcoming pub in the area with its well-trodden-on floorboards and sturdy old bar. Their lines are clean, their glasses are cold and their staff are friendly. That’s entertainment.
There’s not much we like more at Time Out than a well-worn boozer that still remembers the frenzy of the six o’clock swill. But sometimes the smell is so ingrained in the beer-soaked carpet that there’s nothing left to do but rip it out and start again. While you’re there you may as well throw 30 craft beer taps behind the bar, a whole shelf dedicated to bourbon and as many taxidermy beasts as you can lay your hands on. This is pretty much what’s happened at the old KB Hotel. We know a lot of hearts sunk at news of a renovation. For pre-train drinks and late night tomfoolery you couldn’t beat this vestige of inner Sydney’s working class past. But we’re here to tell you that the new edition – the Keg and Brew – is still a bloody good spot to bend your elbow. They’ve added cowhide panels to the heavy, three-sided timber bar, along with cowboy print crimson wallpaper, old time rock and roll on the stereo and baseball on the TV. There’s life in an American-themed refit yet. Simon Kraegen, the heavily bearded craft beer fan who earned his stripes as a bar manager at the Dove and Olive, is party master here, and he has managed to pull a whole new crowd to the Keg and Brew without turfing the old one. On a Friday arvo you’ll still find slouching music students from AIM and clocked-off council workers filling up the tables out on the footpath. Inside it’s rammed to the gills, with a post-work crowd downing $4 Reschs at happy hour. After a seat? The rush tapers off to a gentle hubb
The Shakespeare Hotel does some of the most reliable and cheap pub food around. The whole menu is $12.50, which means suddenly your options at the lower end of the scale are far greater than chips – we’re talking pork ribs with plummy barbecue sauce, two big braised lambs shanks on a bed of mash, or even a simple rump steak with mushroom sauce – and the portions are generous. The Shakey is many things to many people and the punters here pretty accurately reflect the Surry Hills mixed bag of beanie-clad students, upwardly mobile design and media types and a fair whack of locals from the sizeable housing commission estate across the street. For those who just want a cold Tooheys New and a quiet flutter at the TAB there is a corner dedicated to just that. Want to watch the footy in the company of like-minded folk? There are flatscreens in each corner. Tables are scattered around the bar on the ground floor, with the most prized perches being up on the right hand side where you are closest to the taps of Reschs, Byron Bay pale, Ruby Tuesday amber, Guinness and Coopers Green. For everyone else it’s leaning room or nothing. Out the back is a canteen-style bistro but for a little more ambiance head up the stairs to the cosy, parlour-style rooms that are decked out like a faded Victorian guesthouse with old velvet couches and dark painted walls. They do trivia on Monday nights, a badge draw on Wednesdays and if a serious Swans game is on, it can be tricky to get in the door. For deca
The corner of Wentworth Avenue and Goulburn Street had been in a state of flux over the last few years, changing names, changing plans and never quite settling down. But since Harpoon Harry moved in things have become rock solid. In fact, you’ve probably already been hitting this hot spot for a boogie thanks to the kickass DJs they book for their free Friday and Saturday night parties. But now there’s a whole new set of reasons to visit, and it involves a little bar snack called johnny cakes. They're basically piping-hot cornmeal pikelets with a creamy pimento cheese spread swiftly melting on top. It feels like breakfast for dinner and is an excellent foil for a few rounds of the malty Monteith’s American pale ale. Who do we have to thank for these delicious morsels? That’d be Morgan McGlone, whose name will sound familiar because he is the guy behind Belle’s Hot Chicken. Many places choose to apply the ‘American’ tag in the broadest possible sense – basically anything in a bun - but here they’ve taken a different path. McGlone has clocked serious time in Tennessee kitchens over his chefing career, and so enlisting him as the menu curator for Harpoon Harry was something of a masterstroke. Instead of getting yet another subpar basket of wings with Frank’s hot sauce on them, here you are presented with a dish of the super smoky, sticky and slightly sweet wings drizzled with Alabama white sauce, a tangy mayo based dressing that cuts through the smoke and fat. We fully understa
If you want to pinpoint the exact moment that Oxford Street in Paddington got its groove back, it was when ex-Momofuku chef Ben Greeno threaded the first lot of Bannockburn free-range chickens onto the newly installed rotisserie at the Paddington. Those brined chooks are the major reason there’s a waiting list at this schmicked-up pub opposite the Paddington United Church – all the foams, foraged treats and fusion in Sydney seemingly can’t beat a juicy piece of chicken with sticky, golden-brown skin for crowd appeal. And the best news of all is it isn’t going to bankrupt you to get it. A mere $39 covers a whole bird, gravy, fries and a bowl of crisp cos leaves liberally salted and dressed in diced onion and chives for flavour you can see. You can try for a seat in one of the designated dining rooms – up the back half of the ground floor by the open kitchen, or upstairs – but this is, at its heart, a pub. We have better luck scouting for a seat in the public bar up the front or in the cocktail bar upstairs. If all you want to do is sink pints of Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Heineken and watch the world go by, this is an extremely good looking place to do it. They’ve ticked all the boxes for a high-end pub so expect lots of white tiles, dark timbers, landscape paintings and distressed finishes – it matches the well-heeled set here perfectly. Our favourite haunt is undeniably the bar upstairs where you can order up a Margarita (they’re calling it a Mariano Martinez – t
We know there were a few tears shed for the old White Cockatoo. Not because it was a particularly outstanding establishment, but because it did cheap drinks and schnitzels that were so big they came on a platter. But you can still get the exact same schnitties at Goni’s Schnitzelria in Marrickville, and the new look pub just by Petersham Station is, by almost every measure, better than it’s predecessor. The White Cockatoo is now the West Village, and the name change was a damn shame – why take something so staunchly Australian and give it a US white wash? - but the food, vibes and drinks are ensuring that on a Saturday night the place is packed with a mix of clean-cut families and crews of young locals dressed in their best party jeans. People certainly love what they’ve done with the place. In its old state we didn’t realize how big this corner pub was, but they’ve opened the whole place out so that it flows from the corner decorated with vintage sporting goods to the long tables by the bar before hooking around to the dining room decked out like a fancy potting shed and out onto the deck without interruption. The good news is there’s a schnitzel on the menu - it’s a Vienna schnitzel, not chicken, but it’s big. Not platter big, but still a sizeable, tender fillet of veal hammered flat, thinly crumbed and fried until golden brown and properly crunchy. The burnt butter with capers, parley and lemon ladled over the top is a punchy, zesty foil to what is essentially a deep
Hot chips. They’re a tricky thing for restaurants to get right, mostly because we’re all so pernickety about how we like ’em – for us it’s crisp and golden on the outside and fluffy in the centre, and don’t skimp on the salt. The good people over at the Duck Inn have found a nifty way to kick this problem by offering a tasting of three types of chips, a ‘flight’, if you will, of French fries, beer-battered and triple-cooked batons of the humble spud, plus a little pot of aioli for just nine bucks. They called it Chipfest, and we reckon they should make it a permanent fixture. Chipfest was just one initiative that the Duck introduced to welcome themselves back into the neighborhood after some recent renovations. Other schemes included a Mexican Cinco de Mayo fiesta, a monthly curry night that books out faster than a bullet train and Australian winemaker dinners, all of which have enlivened the pub, seeing it become a much more dynamic place than it was before. It also helped set the place apart from the Rose Hotel, which is only a block over and entertains more of the Sydney Uni crowd. During the makeover the pub was stripped back, scrubbed, whitewashed, polished and groomed. They’ve done a commendable job with the interior: a poor man’s library of faux-bookcase wallpaper sits well with their attempt at a cosy vibe, candelabras drippingwith wax and small bottles of flowers sit atop the tables and the bar is a beautifully wide thing, easy to sit at with a beer or a ladle o
Back when Balmain was a wharfie town you needed a pub on every corner to cater to the mighty thirsts of the dockworkers. These days, residents are still thirsty, but tastes have diversified from straight-laced lager and the house red. You’ve got the East Village offering craft beer and mussels, the Balmain Hotel doing cocktails, steamed Peking duck buns and high-end dining at the Welcome Hotel. But right in the thick of things is Dick's Hotel, a pub that’s sticking to its old-school guns. Inside you’ve got a hard-wearing, dark wooden bar, walls decked out in sports memorabilia, TVs tuned to the footy and stubby holders that you can buy on the spot. There are a few concessions made to craft beer fans with the likes of Young Henrys on tap, but we prefer to order up a tall glass of Redback and take it out into the massive beer garden. There’s a huge domed roof protecting one half of the paved courtyard from inclement weather, and if you’ve got a faithful friend of the four-legged variety that’s AOK: dogs are welcome in the open-air section. If you aren’t interested in the $15 special (Mon-Wed steaks, Thu schnitzel, Fri burgers), expect to pay $22 for prawn linguine or a barbecue chicken pizza, or snack on six-dollar garlic bread. There’s no theme at Dick’s, no cocktails and no fuss. They banked on friendly service, a decent feed and lots of space appealing to the masses. And it looks like they were right.
It’s just a sports bar, anyway, and things get way more interesting the higher you go. Chimney Thai kitchen and dining area is on the second floor for when you want South East Asian food and pub classics in the same place. Keep an eye out for the antique stained-glass window depicting a cancan girl flashing her frilly bloomers - this is one of those rare character-infused Sydney pubs that hasn’t had a facelift in the last 15 years. The third floor is a nautical-themed bar specialising in bourbon and rum, but the rooftop is where you really want to be. We love how climbing that last steep flight of stairs and emerging into daylight feels like heading above deck on an old boat, but what we really love is that there’s a tiny, secluded kiosk-type bar up here, just floating in a sea of skyscrapers. Now all you need to do is grab a table, sit back and while away the hours. The vibe’s chilled and divey, the beer’s cold and cheap, there are shade sails to protect against the glare and weather, and the punters are young and friendly. Someone wise once said something about giving thanks for simple pleasures – he was probably at Sweeney’s drinking on the roof.
The small bars of Sydney are on home turf when setting up shop in Redfern. The Dock, Arcadia Liquors, Gunther’s Dining Room, the Bearded Tit, and the Angry Pirate have all been firmly woven into the night-time fabric of this suburb on the rise, and they won’t be the last. But fortunately there is still a place to go for a bloody good steak, some cracking trivia and a cold, well-poured beer, and that place is the Woolpack Hotel. If you’re going to get here on any night, make it a Thursday. Their trivia is famous and has built up the kind of loyal following over the years that means a free table around seven pm is as rare as hen’s teeth. Lob in early or book ahead. If you’re more a quiet sort, hole up in the little library-style enclave up the back that’s lined in bookshelves and features a framed Brett Whiteley print on one wall. On the other wall TV shows the Bunnies playing their hearts out – they’ve got the yin yang thing sorted here. Instead of a full rebrand as a craft beer pub the Woolie quietly added a very respectable tap list to their offering and then kept going about their day. They didn’t make a fuss about it, but now you can get a beer from 4 Pines, Balmain, Young Henrys, Stone and Wood, Endeavour and Badlands as easily as you can get a cold, clean lager from Reschs, Carlton or Tooheys. If you’re jonesing for some iron it’s worth dropping the extra cash in the 350g rib eye on the bone. Ours arrives perfectly medium rare and seasoned like a boss. The little sauc
If your afternoon involves setting up camp in the beer garden at this Chippendale institution and making jugs of beer and pizzas vanish without a trace, things can’t be going too badly for you. The picnic tables out the back are hard won territory and only reluctantly relinquished in heavy rain. Watch the pool cues on your way back through to the main bar whose two most prominent decorative features are the glowing blue fish tank at the centre of the bar and the wax waterfall created by years of candlelight. It’s a mixed crowd here. The local universities are responsible for a lot of the filled seats here, but there are plenty of Chippendale locals here for a beer and the NRL. They’ve got three Coopers brews on tap for those who stay faithful to the habits formed in their youth, plus Moo Brew’s toasty, clean dark ale for nights when an easy-drinking Chippendale lager just isn’t calling your name. If you overdid it last night and can’t face the queues at Café Giulia, these guys also do weekend breakfasts that includes a big, English-style fry-up.
Rather than shaking its fist at the youth and going the way of the dinosaur, famous old Marrickville boozer Vic on the Park has reinvented itself as a new community hub. These days it embraces music, art and weird sports with the same ferocity that it once gave to Tooheys and the ’Tahs (actually, it still does that too), and the joint’s enthusiasm is proving infectious. Now simply called the Vic, the bright front bar still shows footy on multiple screens, serves jugs of Carlton and holds fast to the kind of dark carpet that hides a myriad of sins. But it’s spacious – really spacious. A whole football team could stampede through on their way to the bistro and you’d barely have to tuck your feet in. Lucky, because that is precisely what happens here on Saturday arvos. Following a Newtown Jets home game at nearby Henson Park, rugby league fans stream through the doors in search of cold beers and hot pies to accompany their post-game debrief. Prime real estate at the Vic is out the back on the huge, covered wooden deck with a shady tree at one end and a fire pit for the odd spit-roast lamb at the other. From there you can survey the basketball court/parking lot called the Projects, where mini festivals, basketball competitions, bike polo and hip-hop afternoons take place. At its core this is still an old-timey pub slinging schooners of Reschs, but they have skewed the taps towards the craftier end of the spectrum with Fat Yak, the McLaren Vale pale ale and Young Henrys on t
It doesn’t take much to make a quality alehouse. To start with you need a stripped back, heritage building with the kind of hard-worn wooden floors that have survived countless after-work rushes and last drinks shuffles. You probably don’t want to put anything fragile on any of the walls or shelves because elbow-room and space to rest a schooner are in short supply on busy nights. Sturdy furniture is also a good call: wooden chairs, comfy couches and banquettes that can withstand the rigours of boisterous conversation and high spirits at the end of the working week. Next, you’ll be needing some beer, ideally a range of local brews and if you’re brewing in-house, even better. The final piece of the pub trifecta is the food, which should be simple, hearty and arrive in generous serves. Put it all together and what you get is Harts Pub in the Rocks. This is the place to head for a pint of porter, pale ale or a straight up lager from the Rocks Brewing Co; you can get those pints for a pocket-friendly eight bucks during the two-hour happy hour 4.30-6.30pm on weekdays. Are you already familiar with the Rocks beers and looking to try something new? On our visit there’s a cherry-flavoured tart ale from Edge Brewing in Victoria, a beautifully bitter Black IPA from Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley, plus a more reserved IPA from Pirate Life Brewing. The line-up of the guest beers changes regularly, so there’ll always be something new to investigate. The meals here stick to classic
Anyone around Balmain in the ’80s and ’90s would remember the Cat and Fiddle as a hard-worn, divey little rock pub with a dark, sticky band room and space for community theatre. It’s a very different beast now. The blackout drapes have been pulled down and sunlight streams in through the open windows of what was once the band room. The whole place got an Irish makeover in 2013, which means there’s Magners cider and Guinness on tap, in addition to Coopers Green, Peroni, and James Squire 50 Lashes pale if you’re not here to experiment with your beer. They’ve also chucked Brooklyn lager on tap for lovers of American brews. Maybe whisky is more your style. If so, you're in luck:behind the red tiled bar there are many upstanding members of the Scotch family, like Oban, Dalwhinnie, and Taslisker. But when in an Irish pub we make like Jimmy McNulty and put Jameson in our glass. When it comes to boozing snacks, forget all about those dusty packets of salted nuts and order a bowl of hot chips with curry sauce and cheese. The gently spiced sauce is more savoury and interesting as a chip dressing than plain gravy and they don’t hold back on the grated cheese. If you’re sick of the pub gulls cadging your chips, order the smoked cod and leek pie. Inside the golden pastry pocket the salty, creamy sauce is rich with smoke and packed with tender white fish and ribbons of soft leek. It comes with a side salad of cos, fennel, walnuts and apple, and since neither salad nor pie are s
Pub Review There are four main quadrants to this late-night hotel at the tipping point of King Street. The front bar is a quiet sports bar most nights, and a seat in the open window is tops for people watching, but on weekends things get rowdier. Up the back and down the stairs is a sunken beer garden with a retractable roof and scads of heaters for chilly evenings. Got a big crew? This is where you want to head for jugs of Coopers, Stone and Wood, Rocks, Young Henrys, White Rabbit or some straight-laced lager. If cold beers just aren’t going to cut it they also have warm spiced mead on the menu. Up on the first floor you’ll find Waywards, a bar and music venue open Thursdays through Saturdays, but at the heart of this vast establishment is Uncle Hops. Their cosy craft beer bar is a warm timber hideaway for brews and meaty snacks. Uncle Hops A specialty craft beer bar at the heart of the Bank Hotel Not so long ago the bar in the centre of the Bank Hotel was little more than a holding pen with unusually high ceilings. Thanks to some clever pub feng shui, they’ve transformed the space into a cosy craft beer bar in its own right. They’ve lowered the roof with a false ceiling of timber beams, warmed things up with copper-lined lightshades and dedicated the 12 taps at the bar to boutique brews. If you like your beer fruity the blueberry hefeweizen from Prickly Moses over delivers on the promise of a berry-flavoured brew. Still prefer a lager to a hardcore IPA? The Murray’s Ves
There’s something wildly out of place about the Carlisle Castle. It’s an old-school Sydney working men’s pub, nestled in the back streets of one of the most gentrified bits of Newtown. You’d expect something either polished up to cater to the locals who dwell in the poky seven-figure terraces that surround the pub, or the hip young things who got lost to or from the Courthouse Hotel a couple of blocks away. But instead it’s a long, narrow front bar with a paintjob last touched up in the Keating years, a few tables scattered around, a beer garden deck and a bistro. Were it not for the fetchingly bearded bar staff, you’d assume you were in the docklands of 1986. And that’s the Carlisle’s superweapon: it doesn’t fix what isn’t broken. You’ve got tap beer, a few house wines, basic spirits. Sure, the bistro has been done up. Now there are candles on the tables soft-lighting the excellent fish burger, gnocchi and pot pies flying out of the contemporary Australian kitchen in the arms of the terribly hip floor staff. It’s a far cry from its former serviceable pub-grub days. But all the ambiance in the world is no match for the meat raffle going on and the pie warmer in the front bar. Does this pub even know that it’s in Newtown? Oh, and there may or may not be a ghost. We’re betting on “not”, but consider yourself warned in any case.
Pub review The Clock is an institution in the Sydney pub scene. This regal two-storey hotel occupies a commanding position on Surry Hills's Crown Street and a well-earned place in the hangover hall of fame for most Sydneysiders who've spent a big night out here. And despite some slight decor adjustments over the years, it remains essentially the same. The Clock aims to be most of the things to most of the people – and it does so commendably. The biggest shift the past couple years has been the addition of the courtyard, which usually ends up full of smokers. It's a lovely spot with hanging ferns and great mood lighting – Sydney is, after all, a city that truly embraces the outdoors – but if you're not prepared to regress to 1999, when you'd wake to stinky clothes after a night out, you'll need to stay indoors. Or make for the big, wraparound balcony and grab a cocktail or wine from the mostly Australian list at the upstairs bars. It's mostly a beer scene at the downstairs front bar, where you'll find big crowds diving into pizzas and other pub staples like fish and chips and steak. Trends come, trends go. We grow older, and so does the Clock. But the crowds that have kept it one of Sydney's most buoyant pubs for decades? They're forever. The Whisky Room A dedicated whisky den in the depths of the Clock. The whiskey room at the Clock Hotel is a warm, low-lit enclave shut off from the hubbub of the rest of the hotel by two swinging saloon doors. And once inside, the amber g
Balmain and Rozelle have more than their fair share of old-man pubs, back-street locals and old wharfie haunts. But as the demographic becomes less blue collar and more blue Mercedes, a lot of the old watering holes have pulled up their socks and started catering to an upmarket crowd. And leading the pack is the Riverview Hotel. Its charcoal paint job and glossy red doors are straight out of picture-book England, and the warm glow from the fire draws people in from the in-no-way-mean streets of the Inner West. On any day but Sunday it’s hard to beat a good pub pie; but here they are flipping the beef and Guinness standard on its head and serving up a lamb shank pie paired wuth a heavenly carrot puree, some broccolini and topped with a rosemary jus. Of course, on the day of rest, it’s all about the Sunday beef roast, with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings for $25. Or you can indulge in a high tea on Saturday arvo for $45, which includes a premium selection of three savoury and sweet treats each. Think delicate sandwiches and homemade scones. Upstairs is a restaurant that does a three-course set menu for $70. This is also where you can take a crack at some of the more expensive drops that are stored in the floor-to-ceiling wine racks at the foot of the stairs. For the rest of the hoi poloi downstairs the wine list is kept short and sweet, averaging out at about $9 a glass. The Argentinean Catena Alamos malbec is the kind of wine you’ll want to keep close all evening, or i
A beachside pub is like a clubhouse where everyone’s a member and your reward for avoiding bluebottles and sunburn is cold beer and fish and chips. Ideally it’s a volleyball’s bounce from the shoreline, stocks the kind of summery beers you’d expect to see in Contiki commercials and isn’t too fazed by a little sand caught in your pockets. In very good news for the Northern Beaches, the Collaroy Hotel ticks all those boxes. It still looks out over the south end of the beach, but what used to be the old Surf Rock Hotel has become a seaside saloon going full tilt with the coastal theme. The chairs are upholstered in a trout print fabric, there are raffia-style fans turning lazily overhead and where possible they’ve put in glass ceiling panes to let the seaside sunshine stream on in. Get in early for box seats out on the terrace looking down onto the beach. The beer fridges split the shelf space between summer holiday brews like Corona, Miller and Aquila and a tentative craft beer range with Rocks, 4 Pines and Endeavour, but it’s down to Reschs, VB, Dirty Granny cider, Peroni, Carlton and Fat Yak on tap to do the heavy lifting in the name of hot weather refreshment. There’s steak, burgers and schnitzel on the menu here, but they’re a lot more interested in the fruits of the sea than the herds of the land. Coffin Bay oysters come natural or with seaweed salad and a soy and mirin dressing. Tempura rock prawns and fish tacos join forces with salt and pepper squid for shared seafoo
There’s nothing now to suggest that this was one of Sydney’s most beloved gay venues – through the ‘90s and well into the noughties. The blacked-out windows, sticky carpet and mirror ball have been replaced by your standard pub renno: wood floors, tiled bar, pleather booths, beer garden. The upstairs balcony is one of the best spots in Newtown to people-watch, so go on Saturday afternoon to secure a spot, and hunker down with a beer or a glass of wine from one of their rack of taps (yes, wine on tap – it works). A cheerful bartender warns us that a schooner of Asahi or Peroni will set us back $9.50 and $9 respectively – and it’s $6.20 for Pure Blonde. Given those prices it’s disappointing they don’t have a single craft beer on tap. Instead they put a lot of energy into keeping people entertained. There’s comedy on Mondays, cult cinema screenings on Tuesdays, a women’s hip-hop night on Wednesdays (renovate all you like but Wednesdays will always be ladies-who-like-ladies night in Newtown). Upstairs the space is huge, with large booths and tables to accommodate diners, and a menu that reflects the restaurant name: The Animal. A rack of beef short ribs is $29 or coal-roasted meat portions (free-range chicken, lemon and thyme; pork shoulder, garlic and parsley; suckling lamb, lemon and aioli) come in 300 or 600 gram serves that start at $16 for the smaller chicken serve and go up to $45 for the larger lamb.
This historic hotel has stood like a sentinel on Millers Point for nearly a century, and although it spent time as a boarded up beauty, inspiring a million “if I bought that building…” dreams, now the cladding has come off. Underneath the old girl has been restored to her former glory, and now the northern city workers have another outpost for beers and pub pies that’s prettier than most. It’s also a convenient pit stop for anyone checking out Barangaroo Reserve. There’s not a lot of space at the Hotel Palisade, but they’re making the most of what they have by cramming wobbly tables and wooden chairs into the parlour rooms behind the main bar. This is where you can seat a bigger group along the moss green banquettes and chat business by the brass lamplight. In the main bar it’s jam packed until about 8pm when the crush dissipates and you can get comfortable with a pint of well-poured Guinness, or perhaps a little Nick and Nora glass of Champagne. Little vintage touches like the crystal glassware add a sense of occasion to your session here, and in an unlikely turn of events, it’s the smokers who get the best seats in the house – the little side walkway has a handful of seats and some killer city views. We’re the first to say that pub cocktails should be approached with caution, but they’re doing surprisingly good work here. A Bitter Chocolate Manhattan mixes Jim Beam rye whisky, bitter Italian vermouth, a snifter of Lagavulin for a smoky, salty bite, chocolate bitters and j
Sydney's late ‘90s pub renovation trend of chrome and schmiddys was an aesthetic disaster from which the city has taken a long time to recover. Thankfully, more recent transformations have a little more class, prioritising personality, history and style over homogeny. The Clovelly Hotel is one that has looked to its past to move forward, taking the building's Art Deco aesthetic and keeping that theme running throughout the pub. It's seen in the beautiful lighting above the Lounge Bar, and the geometric blue colour palate echoed in most of the pub’s many spaces. To feel like you're near the ocean, take the stairs to the second level. Its elegant metal frame tables and stools spill out to an adjacent beer garden with views (of sorts) out to sea. It's a good spot to observe the handsome building, complete with beautiful timber arch-shaped windows reminiscent of Play School. The drinks are fairly standard – this is more a Tooheys New kind of place than a spot for coastal craft beers – and the wine list mainly local. The Public Bar offers plenty of TAB and betting options, if that’s your thing, and is always full of codgers. While the Cloey (as the locals call it) no longer feels like the sort of place you can turn up to in a pair of shorts you’ve pulled on after a swim, it's still a decent beachside pub where you can meet a couple friends, order a snack from the bistro and drink a few well-earned arvo beers.
In spite of its proximity to the CBD, Pyrmont has never boasted the same expansive boozing scene that you’ll find in other areas of inner Sydney. There are high class cocktails to be had at Sokyo Lounge and Black Bar at the Star, but good places for a pint of craft beer and some pub food were light on the ground until the Quarrymans Hotel got a serious makeover. The macrobrewed lagers have gone to that big megapub in the sky. In their place are 24 craft beer taps and one handpump for real-ale enthusiasts. Those coppery valves are now supplying Pyrmont with anything from Ekim’s super-refreshing After Battle pale ale through to a strawberry wheat beer, a blueberry hefeweizen or an alcoholic ginger beer for people yet to acquire the taste for hops and barley. Inside, they’ve gone for an artisan workshop look with bare floorboards, a sandstone bar with a timber top, brown leather benches under the shabby-chic window frames and brass-pipe footrests under the bolted-down tables. On one wall is a neon sign declaring that ‘in hops we trust’ and with a double-hopped IPA in hand, so will you. Paralysed by all the options? They do a tasting paddle for $15 so you can try 170mL of the four most intriguing brews. You’ll have to fight the after-work crowds to get a seat in the triangular, chipped brick courtyard lit by garlands of lights. But the best seats in the house are actually the ones at their semi-regular rooftop keg parties. Grab a ticket and drink in the view over Darling H
Hungry? We've rounded up the best eats in town
Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Sydney's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop – and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, of course. Behold: our definitive eat-and-destroy list.