Pub grub’s come a long way since ham steak and pineapple. Here are Sydney’s bistros, taverns and hotels with the best food on tap.
The Unicorn Hotel
Setting the benchmark for a recent throng of refurbished pubs, The Unicorn Hotel has tapped into our nostalgia to deliver the archetypal Australian pub, free from pokies, the TAB and TV screens screaming live sport. It’s a welcome respite and the grub is damn good, too. Eat in the beer garden, dining room or around a large oval bar and sink your teeth into classic suburban Australian dishes given a contemporary, tongue-in-cheek twist. Start with Jatz and French onion dip or a prawn cocktail of three plump tiger prawns, iceberg lettuce and Marie Rose sauce before succumbing to the “fancy steak” – a 350-gram Rangers Valley Wagyu onglet with a side of crinkle-cut fries and honeyed carrots. Just leave room for a lamington.
￼106 Oxford Street, Paddington; (02) 9360 3554
The Dolphin Hotel
When restaurateur Maurice Terzini (Icebergs Dining Room and Bar) was given the keys to monolithic hotel The Dolphin, Sydneysiders were eager to see what would unfold. What emerged was a multifaceted venue Sydney never knew it needed and it’s been packed ever since. The establishment’s outstanding public bar, wine bar, dining room and cocktail lounge will have you speculating whether it is in fact a pub. A quirky design featuring crimpled-white-cloth-adorned walls and white-on-white décor provides a blank canvas for plates of inspired Italian food. Salsa verde and dense kipfler potatoes form a foundation for sweet Western Australian octopus, while buffalo ricotta and gremolata add comfort and zing to pappardelle Bolognese in equal measure. The Roman-style pizzas (note: thin and crisp) shine, too – try the classic tomato, garlic, basil and mozzarella. Just fantastic.
￼412 Crown Street, Surry Hills; (02) 9331 4800
Paddo Inn Bar & Grill
One of Sydney’s most popular pubs has received a major shot in the arm, courtesy of chef Matt Moran, who has created a menu that holds its own with dining rooms all over Sydney. Of course, don’t expect spheres and foams – as always, Moran’s food relies on quality produce and classic technique. In casual bistro-style surrounds of brass, dark woods, cane chairs, white brick walls and black-and-white sketches, staff deliver food that, for the most part, has been given a kiss from the grill. Start with a salmon gravlax, duck liver parfait or steak tartare with a glistening egg yolk on top. On the grill you’ll find everything from snapper served with greens and Berkshire pork cutlet with charred cabbage and apple sauce to an array of steaks typified by a whopping 900-gram dry-aged T-bone.
￼Paddo Inn Bar & Grill; 338 Oxford Street, Paddington; (02) 9380 5913