Pubs in Sydney seem to come in two speeds: old timers serving lager and crinkle-cut chips, or extreme makeover contestants with more bells and whistles than the Hogwarts Express. And then there’s the Unicorn Hotel, which is both a newish comer to Sydney’s storied pubs scene and still one of the most #strayan watering holes in the city.
There’s no room for cultural cringe, because at the Unicorn they have a deep and enduring love for Australiana. Please help yourself to some Jatz crackers and French onion dip. Run out of biscuits? They’ll pour out as many serves as you need to scrape your dip bowl clean. While everyone else is trying to be a European wine bar, a fine diner or a Montauk holiday home, here they’ve got a huge map of Australia across one wall and a prawn cocktail en route to your table, with little coral-coloured tails hooked over a cocktail glass filled with Marie Rose sauce and shredded lettuce.
You won’t find a better schnitzel in town, and we’re not talking cheap, shit chicken here. They’re frying up proper free-range, hormone-free chooks from Holmbrae in Taralga, NSW. And the daily steak is always worth your time. They cook it right – a very hot pan to get that crisp, caramelised shell, and a liberal hand with the seasoning. You can choose your sides to make it your preferred version of meat and two veg, and these guys excel at sauce. Damn straight they have Diane on the menu, but we can never go past their bone-dense gravy.
They have not baulked at a single classic pub feature except the big screens. And that hasn’t stopped people using the Unicorn as a before and after spot for the SCG. There’s darts, pool and a piano man for a Friday night sing-a-long. You can get cosy and romantic downstairs in the darker dining room, or head out to the back courtyard for a little fresh air. Or stay upstairs where people are getting a little rowdy, in a good way.
Beer nerds can slug a salty melon gose from Willie the Boatman, or maybe a red ale from Mismatch, while old codgers sink Melbourne Bitter like there might be another CUB strike at any minute. And just when you thought that you might have to graduate from pub drinking in order to get a decent glass of wine, they go and sling some of the most smashable natural wines from around Australia onto the list. You never need to brace for an acidic sauv blanc again. Here you can raise a glass of oaked riesling that tastes like a fancy woodworking barn, or a bright, juicy gewürz. Here's to our 2017 Pub of the Year – the most resolutely Aussie joint in town.