Time Out says
Classic pub grub goes next level at this reinvigorated Woolloomooloo pub that’s lost none of its time-honoured appeal
The Old Fitzroy has always been a charmer. Established in 1860, the tavern once known for dishing up steaming bowls of laksa, is now pushing the boundaries of pub grub. Business partners Jaime Wirth, Michael Delany and Joel Amos have brought their brand of vigour and guaranteed good times – already a proven success at the Duke of Enmore and the George Hotel in Waterloo – to this unassuming corner of Woolloomooloo, and Sydney is all the better for it.
The upstairs level has had a facelift, with country English estate-esque portraits of ladies, hounds and landscapes adorning crimson walls. The ground floor remains mostly untouched with groups of old friends and couples relaxing into newly upholstered chairs at sturdy wooden tables for a late-week catch-up adding to the room’s inviting vibe, courtesy of a welcoming front bar and fireplace.
Also fuelling that welcome is chef Nicholas Hill’s take on traditional English pub fare. He’s manned the pans at Sepia, Quay and the Ledbury in London, and now he’s applying that fine-dining level of finesse to the plates here. Marvel at tangy globe artichoke, for instance, leaves pleasingly smacking of bay leaf vinegar, asking to be pulled apart and dipped into a moreish parmesan sauce.
Let the specials board guide you. Red deer and ox tongue terrine, wrapped in radicchio, comes with a tart black grape mustard that cuts through the intermingling chunks of tender meat. The pie reveals a rich stringy pork and molten cheddar filling beneath a golden, flaky top marked with a blackened yet sweet onion heart.
Then there’s the schnitzel. Coated in a thin and crisp crumb, this $25 beauty is matched with salty, rosemary-sprinkled potatoes that would more than suffice as a standalone snack. Vanilla custard treacle tart, a slick column with a burnished-brown top in a pool of molasses-rich sauce, recalls the nostalgia of crème caramel. It’s hearty, flavour-packed, well-priced and impressive stuff to enjoy.
The new Old Fitz draws and pleases everyone, but the old guard remains: the theatre out back still stands and an eager audience can often be found waiting for the clanging bell that signals the performance’s imminent start. With the fire roaring, craft beers on regular rotation (the Grifter, Yulli’s and Young Henrys are all on tap) and a concise wine list heavy on the natural stuff, proceedings are relaxed and jovial – even a Beatles song playing starts a singalong. This ease is also echoed in the informed yet laid-back service.
Invigorated, inspired and essential again, the Old Fitz delivers the whole package and reasserts its Sydney pub institution status. The old dog can indeed learn new tricks.
129 Dowling St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 11am-midnight; Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm|