Each year we hand out a whole stack of awards to the watering holes that have impressed our socks off that year. We're rewarding the old school haunts that staunchly refuse to change as well as the fresh new takes on old boozers. We're singing the praises of inclusive venues and rewarding those who give as much care and attention to what's on your plate as to what's in your glass.
A lot of Sydney’s pubs play a single trump – tender steak, good times trivia, clean beer, golden schnitzel – but it’s a truly special boozer that can show a full and winning hand. Dove and Olive is that place. It’s been a couple of years since it set up inside the shell of the old Clarendon on Devonshire Street and tapped the biggest craft beer collection in Surry Hills. Suddenly we had a pub for all occasions where the beers, food and vibe are were ace and the mounted deer horns came with googly eyes. Need a quick meal before a Belvoir production? The hefty parmigiana could see you through a performance of Cloudstreet without needing a snack at interval. A thick chicken breast cloaked in a crunchy, crumbed armour comes topped with tomato puree, eggplant, double smoked ham and mozzarella, plus they chuck some grated parmesan on for good measure. The board – it would never all fit on a single plate – is then laden with fries and a hillock of coleslaw. If you’ve eaten your fill of steak and pepper sauce, order the tender rump with blue cheese and asparagus on top. As the cheese melts you get a bitey, savoury sauce that can be mopped up with another generous pile of fries. Gigiddy! Sure, the Shakey up the road is cheaper, but this is the place for something you didn’t overdo in your student days, and they do budget-friendly $9.90 specials from Monday to Thursday. Their pub food may not be what you'd call game-changing, but it is tasty, fast and fun. Where they re
When a hot dog and a craft brew is all your heart desires then it’s time to cannonball down the slopes of Surry Hills to the Royal Albert Hotel. You will not be the only one making a beeline for this compact taphouse so expect to squeeze inside the front bar to get amongst the good-natured carousing that happens here every evening at quitting time.
There’s no shortage of pubs in Paddington and Woollahra, but few possess the old world charms of the Lord Dudley. This vast, red brick hotel looks more like a British country manor than an Inner East establishment, and the vibe is similarly relaxed. Out on Quarry Street locals and their faithful hounds get a solid lean on with a pint of Old Speckled Hen in hand.
It’s a truly great pub that manages to strike an easy balance between being a familiar, cosy watering hole and raising the bar where it counts – the food and drink. We don’t much mind what old timey art sits on the walls, or if the playlist forgoes Chisel for the Natalie Imbruglia on occasion, but we do care quite a lot about what’s on our plates and in our glasses.
The timber floors of the Local Taphouse have been worn smooth by the continuous foot traffic of the parched and the curious over the last five years. The number of licensed establishments spruiking local, boutique and limited-run brews continues to rise, but this corner hotel in Darlinghurst is an old hand at the craft beer game.
In spite of its multi-million dollar location right on the northern headland, the Coogee Palace never even came close to living up to its potential as a destination pub – it got a C-minus at best. But with the opening of the Coogee Pavilion Rooftop we now have an A-grade beachside pub just a short bus ride from the city.
A night at the Darlo is as close to a guarantee of good times as Sydney is able to give. This community living room on a Darlinghurst corner is the first port of call for mid week pool comp, they boast a trivia night that has been stumping smart-phone cheaters for five fact-filled years and there’s a weekday happy hour that helps you stretch your booze budget just that little bit further.
A lot of Sydney’s pubs play a single trump – tender steak, good times trivia, clean beer, golden schnitzel – but it’s a truly special boozer that can show a full and winning hand. Dove and Olive is that place. It’s been a couple of years since it set up inside the shell of the old Clarendon on Devonshire Street and tapped the biggest craft beer collection in Surry Hills. Suddenly we had a pub for all occasions where the beers, food and vibe are were ace and the mounted deer horns came with googly eyes.
It’s a truly great pub that manages to strike an easy balance between being a familiar, cosy watering hole and raising the bar where it counts – the food and drink. We don’t much mind what old timey art sits on the walls, or if the playlist forgoes Chisel for the Natalie Imbruglia on occasion, but we do care quite a lot about what’s on our plates and in our glasses. At the Welcome a degree of extra care has been given to the menus so that the craft beers on tap reflect the evolving boutique brewing scene in Sydney, and also match the season.
This colourful hotel is like one of those children’s party venues where each room has a different theme. The public bar is all breezy open space with solid timber foundations; downstairs things get more tropical with cocktails and vintage décor. There’s the sitting room with lounge settings and frond print walls, but outside goes full garden party with floral upholstery, rainbow umbrellas and festoon lighting running between frangipanis and palm trees. And nothing is on the same level here – it’s like a technicolour MC Escher drawing that serves drinks and Peking duck buns.
The Green Park Hotel is doing it right. It may be only a stone’s throw from the heart of Kings Cross but there’s a very different kind of party going on in this prettied up pub. It’s not a gay bar but even early on a Saturday evening you’ll find the place heaving with the handsome boys of Darlinghurst sporting expensive shoes and imported denim. Everyone else is here too – it’s the sort of place people gravitate to. Even if the sun is still shining, inside it’s always beer o’clock thanks to a green-so-dark-it’s-almost-black paint job, deep blue tiles and a black top bar.
In spite of its proximity to the CBD, Pyrmont has never boasted the same expansive boozing scene that you’ll find in other areas of inner Sydney. There are high class cocktails to be had at Sokyo Lounge and Black Bar at the Star, but good places for a pint of craft beer and some pub food were light on the ground until the Quarrymans Hotel got a serious makeover. The macrobrewed lagers have gone to that big megapub in the sky. In their place are 24 craft beer taps and one handpump for real-ale enthusiasts. Those coppery valves are now supplying Pyrmont with anything from Ekim’s super-refreshing After Battle pale ale through to a strawberry wheat beer, a blueberry hefeweizen or an alcoholic ginger beer for people yet to acquire the taste for hops and barley.
At the Welcome there's an adjoining restaurant where chef Daniel Mulligan flexes his kitchen muscle with a modern Italian menu, but in the public bar the menu finds a middle ground between higher end dining and bistro stalwarts. Yes, they do a pub pie, but here it’s a little pot of comforting chicken and mushrooms stew with a caramel coloured pastry crown. Do not fear the pub pasta here. Mulligan’s former posting was at Pilu at Freshwater and his Italian pedigree shows in a plate of tender, golden saffron pasta tubes arrive with a pork mince and porcini mushroom sauce, fragrant with rosemary and finished with a restrained sprinkle of pecorino cheese.
Rather than shaking its fist at the youth and going the way of the dinosaur, famous old Marrickville boozer Vic on the Park has reinvented itself as a new community hub. These days it embraces music, art and weird sports with the same ferocity that it once gave to Tooheys and the ’Tahs (actually, it still does that too), and the joint’s enthusiasm is proving infectious. Prime real estate at the Vic is out the back on the huge, covered wooden deck with a shady tree at one end and a fire pit for the odd spit-roast lamb at the other. From there you can survey the basketball court/parking lot called the Projects, where mini festivals, basketball competitions, bike polo and hip-hop afternoons take place.
The front bar is all the best parts of an old school pub without the weird smells, and the beer garden is enormous. There's a games room with pinball, old-school Big Buck Hunter machines and Pacman, and the kids get their own rumpus room in a converted garage, complete with a Mr Men mural and shallow ball pit. But really it’s the bistro that is keeping the hearth-fires burning at the Henson. A lamb shank shepherd’s pie will put padding on your ribs, and they add Asian influences to the mix with a karaage chicken burger and ssamjang lamb ribs.
A decade ago, had you suggested a drink at the Megahole (as the Cremorne Hotel used to be called in certain circles) people might have worried that you’d taken leave of your senses. It may have been open late and serving booze, but it was a last resort. It’s incredible what a renovation and cultural shakeup can do to a place. Minskys Hotel (as it is now known) is as far from that woozy dive as it’s possible to get while still operating within the same four walls. What stands there now is a welcoming, stylish pub that you wouldn’t be ashamed to take you parents to.
The Henson Park Hotel was for many years an abandoned, rotting shell of a pub hidden in the backstreets of Marrickville. But with one hell of a refurb it's now one of the most family-friendly watering holes in the Inner West. The front bar of the Henson looks like any other local haunt. Stain-resistant carpet, sturdy bar stools, milky coffee-coloured tiles, pool table and dartboard are all present and accounted for. But look a little closer. The floors aren’t gunged with decades of unspeakable stickiness, the gleaming taps give plenty of space to craft brews – Young Henrys, Batch, Rocks Brewing Co – and the stereo is cranking out the Black Keys, Ball Park Music and Electric Guest.