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The Old Fitzroy Hotel

  • Bars
  • Woolloomooloo
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Photograph: Yusuke Oba
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. The roast at The Old Fitz
    Photograph: Yusuke Oba
  3. The steak and chips at The Old Fitz
    Photograph: Yusuke Oba

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Woolloomooloo’s historic pub has cracking food, its very own theatre and more character than you can poke a stick at rolled into one grand old time

We spot the candy cane umbrellas first. Red and white striped, they stand tall out the front of Woolloomooloo’s historic Old Fitzroy Hotel. The three-storey brick and butter building looks well-worn yet strong – which makes sense when you consider the Old Fitz is around 150 years old. The pub is surrounded by leafy green trees, punters are out the front knocking back cold ones, and today it’s glowing in the spring sunshine. Just from the exterior, you can tell the old boozer has more character and charm than a new opening could dream of.

Fun fact: The Old Fitzroy Hotel is the only remaining theatre pub in Australia (it’s found out the back and down the stairs). Locals have been coming here for decades to see some of the most interesting and cutting-edge theatre in the country, overseen by Red Line Productions who look after the whole shebang. Our arts & culture editor tells us just last week she saw two of Australia's most legendary cabaret artists  – Paul Capsis and iOTA – perform in a reimagining of absurdist classic The Chairs directed by trailblazing director Gale Edwards. Impressive.

Inside, touches of ritz and old-world glamour are juxtaposed with grit and grunge. Sparkling chandeliers drip crystals from the intricate pressed-tin ceiling, and portraits of Australia’s most famous playwrights dress the walls. The furniture is mis-matched, the carpet crimson, and you can tell there’s been many a rollicking late night within those walls. We wish we were there.

A friendly barman rocking a blonde mullet that Nedd Brockmann would be impressed with greets us as we take a squiz at the booze list. There are some interesting mostly-Aussie drops – this an Odd Culture venue (also Odd Culture Newtown, the Duke of Enmore, Spon), after all. There are also beers from local breweries, Grifter Brewing Co and Wildflower Brewing and Blending. We order a glass of 2020 Xavier Goodridge Papa pinot noir from the Yarra Valley. It’s light-bodied and tastes of juicy raspberries.

As well as a theatre and a pub, the Old Fitz has a bistro on the first floor. (There’s a separate menu for the pub and the bistro, but both are French-British leaning, and spearheaded by Odd Culture Group’s executive chef James MacDonald.) It’s a gorgeous, Jane Austen-esque space with weathered floorboards and antique oil paintings – it looks like the kind of place you would take your mum for Sunday lunch. The bistro is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, though, so we will be back (with our mum).

We toy with taking a seat in the semi-alfresco mezzanine space that’s channelling greenhouse vibes with hanging plants and other lush leaves in pots, but it’s too nice a day to not sit outside, so out the front we go. And today, with balmy weather and a slight breeze, it’s bliss.

A rectangular duck croquette arrives crumbed and golden bronzed with sea salt flakes on top. It’s served with a ramekin of Frank's RedHot sauce and we dunk away. It’s crisp and crunchy on the outside; inside, the shredded duck is tender and coated in a creamy, well-seasoned white sauce. The vinegar cuts through the fat, and the chilli gives a nice whack –all up it’s one very tasty snack.

Our next plate is a winner, too. Two soft-boiled eggs are halved and adorned with a dollop of mayo, a thin anchovy and a verdant garden of watercress, chives, dill and chervil. The yolks are bright and perfectly jammy, and the creamy, vinegary mayo, salty anchovy and fresh herbs bring it to life. If you’re hosting a garden party, this is the snack to serve. Heck, any party for that matter.

Steak au poivre arrives nicely cooked – pink and charred – and amped up with a peppery and glossy jus. On the side is a big handful of skin-on chips that are dusted in a white pepper and dehydrated seaweed seasoning that makes the crunchy potato incredibly moreish. It’s a damn fine steak and chips, and the five common myna birds all looking at our plate probably agree.

Sydney has a lot of excellent pubs, ones with history and good bones, delicious food and ice-cold beers. Places you can drop in by yourself after work and feel welcome, cheer on your favourite team, or stroll in with mates and forget about the time. And close to the top of the list is where you’ll find the Old Fitz.

Here’s hoping the show goes on for another 150 years.


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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


129 Dowling St
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 11am-midnight; Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm
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