There have been plenty of Sydney pubs that have undergone dramatic renos, transforming them from humble community boozers with oodles of character to up-market gastropubs with plenty of polish but not much spirit. Thankfully, that has not been the fate of the Oxford Tavern. Its 2022 facelift hasn't altered its identity, but rather enhanced the thriving dive bar vibes of this pub's notorious yesteryears while making the most notable glow-up where it counts – in the kitchen.
A brand new menu with an elevated direction has been curated by Odd Culture Group's executive chef James MacDonald and head chef John Hockey, moving the eats away from its former American barbecue focus and infusing influences from multiple world cuisines. Expect taramasalata and smoky eggplant dip with grilled Turkish bread, tempura broccolini with caper shallot dressing and mussels with fermented chilli butter and fries.
But if that sounds a little too gourmet for your tastes, worry not. There will still be the favourite Tav classics on the menu, including classic plates like chicken schnitties, nachos and steak, as well as vegan options. And the Sunday roast will remain a fixture, as well the pub's culinary mascot, Black Betty the barbecue smoker. She'll be put to good use smoking elements of the new menu, such as the brisket for the beef pie.
Once upon a time, the Tav's entertainments were (quite literally) of a more titillating variety, but the 2022 incarnation of the pub has other good times in mind, with the introduction of a portable stage for live gigs 'in the round' amongst punters. Programming will hero a proudly queer direction, executed with direct community collaboration that celebrates inclusivity, universality, and with a coincidental wink to the pub's past, body positivity.
Behind the bar punters will find local crafts from the likes of One Drop and Grifter and Bracket Brewing, but also a fresh cocktail offering with a particular focus on those agave rascals tequila and mezcal, as well as a rolling selection of slushie riffs on classic cocktails, from a Penichillin' (get it?) to the crowdpleasing frozen JD & Coke.