It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. For years, you might have walked by the postcard pretty Victorian terrace on the corner of Bay and Glebe Streets and had no idea it was even there. Now a lovely pale shade of mossy green, the building radiates with a nostalgic charm so irresistible it practically calls you by name and invites you in for a drink.
Known for over a century (since 1862, in fact) as the Australian Youth Hotel, this heritage-listed boozer’s sporting a new name, but still holds on to her beautiful old bones: well-loved floorboards, two working fireplaces, panelled ceilings and a stately wooden bar that takes pride of place in the main room. Brothers and co-owners Daniel and Zelman Nissen were wise to maintain the old-timey atmosphere in their seven-month-long renovation; they’ve made the joint feel restored and revived as opposed to reworked or reinvented.
However much you decide to commit here, you’re covered. A quick schooner in the cute little courtyard? Tick. A hearty pint of Guinness and a heartier caramelised onion, potato and cheddar pie in the company of lager-swilling tradies at a high table in front? Tick. A spot on a comfy Chesterfield lounge, glass of mulled wine in hand, with a behemoth of a Sunday roast and a game of Jenga? Perhaps a bargain three-course lunch with bottomless beer or rosé in the elegantly rustic, sun-drenched dining room out back, known as the Stables Bar & Grill? Tick, tick. Everything to eat and drink is available to enjoy everywhere, so there’s none of that irritating exclusivity to get in the way of a good time. This is meant to be fun and easy.
The ticks go even further – 20 wines by the glass to choose from; a dedicated list of Spritzes; taps that honour the classic (Tooheys New, Heineken), the craft (Philter, Grifter) and the in-between (Little Creatures, White Rabbit), with a further two handfuls of stubbies and tinnies to boot. Then there’s the whopper of a menu that reads like a whirlwind tour of Western Europe and the Mediterranean. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen taramasalata, puttanesca, hummus, choucroute, Bolognese, halloumi and rice pudding featured on a single page, but here they are. Don’t fret, traditionalists – burgers, salads, and sambos have not been forgotten.
It pays to take chef Ben Allcock’s British heritage into account when considering your order. The guy sure can batter an onion ring and bake one heck of a savoury pie, but the Sunday roast is his crowning achievement. At $24, it could definitely feed two: three hefty slices of rosy lamb leg, fat perfectly rendered, dressed in pleasingly light gravy and joined on the plate by a giant hunk of pumpkin, roasted spuds, braised red cabbage and a big ladle’s worth of leek and cauliflower mornay that’ll have you moaning in butter-and-cream-induced pleasure.
If you need another tick, dogs are also allowed. Owners, according to a sign, are simply tolerated.