The crackling fire, the promise of a warm, hearty meal – is there anywhere better than a pub on a chilly winter’s day?
The Doss House
Descend into what is possibly Sydney's cosiest offering: The Doss House, (pictured above) a subterranean whisky bar in a building that dates to the 1840s. Logs crackle in the original fireplaces, where over the years a doctor, a bootmaker and even an opium dealer warmed their hands during the winter months. Original sandstone walls separate five spaces where patrons can sample the extensive whisky menu in convivial surrounds that pay homage to the historical Rocks location.
77-79 George Street, The Rocks
The Four in Hand
This conjoined local watering hole/fine-dining restaurant shouldn’t work, but it does. In the pub there are six large-screen TVs showing footy, and trivia on Tuesdays; next door it’s all white tablecloths and chicken liver parfait. It doesn’t matter which part of The Four in Hand you dine in, you’re guaranteed a soul-warming experience, especially on Sunday when for $25 the kitchen turns out perfect joints of roasted meat accompanied by seasonal vegies, crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pub.
105 Sutherland Street, Paddington
The Temperance Society
The Inner East may have claimed the mantel for quantity of cosy pubs but the Inner West has The Temperance Society, a neighbourhood bar as warm and charismatic as Mark Ruffalo in a Snuggie. Upstairs, armchairs, a library nook and a chesterfield combine to create the lounge room of your dreams, while downstairs the prices will make you feel pretty smug, too, with Sicilian olives for $4.50 and a very respectable $15 Reuban. Temperance is now brewing hot mulled cider with Young Henry’s Cloudy Cider in Newtown; a soothing hot toddy made with spiced rum or whiskey; and an adults-only hot chocolate made with Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur and Distillery Botanica Koko Noir Chocolate Liqueur.
122 Smith Street, Summer Hill
"The Shakey" has been a Surry Hills mainstay since 1990 and its wintertime appeal lies not just in its classic pub carpet, rabbit-warren of rooms and 14 beers on tap. The menu is traditional British comfort food such as steak-and-kidney pie, fish and chips and a full English breakfast every weekend. To really thaw your limbs, go for the Shakespeare’s regular $15 Traditional Roast Dinner, served only on Sunday. It comes with all the trimmings: crisp roast spuds, proper Yorkshire pudding, rich gravy and garden vegies. Poetry on a plate.
200 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
The Riverview Hotel & Dining
The only thing that outshines the bright-red doors of the Riverview is the warm glow from the fireplace; cosy is the word that describes this 19th century tavern. Things get even more snug on a Sunday when the kitchen puts on its famous Sunday roast – expect roast beef, Yorkshire pud and all the trimmings – for $30. And if for some reason you decide against the roast, turn your attention to the 12-hour braised lamb shoulder – you’ll just need to convince someone to share it with you.
29 Birchgrove Road, Balmain
The Glebe Hotel
A skillful update has rendered The Glebe Hotel a better, bright version of itself while retaining its historical quirks and neighbourhood vibe, especially in the main bar. Formerly the Australian Youth Hotel, this venerable tavern has been serving the Glebe community since it opened in 1862. Nab a spot on the chesterfield sofa next to the roaring fireplace and settle in for a homey evening amid the pleasant hum of chatter, clinking glasses and candle glow. Double down on that feeling of wellbeing and order the Steak & Guinness Pot Pie. An enormous pie dish is lined with mashed potato, filled with rich stew and topped with a golden lid of puff pastry – and it’s yours, all yours! On Sundays there’s an all-day roast for $24 ($30 with dessert) that changes weekly served from 12pm until sold out.
63 Bay Street, Glebe
This tucked-away bar is all vintage cocktail accoutrements, dapper serving staff and Art Deco flourishes. It’s part speakeasy, part New York supper club, with booths fitted with leather banquettes, chandeliers and a menu featuring oysters, T-bones and key lime pie. Every Sunday, though, The Roosevelt eschews its American bent in favour of the Old Dart, putting on a $25 roast of beef sirloin or chicken with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. To amplify those feelings of enormous wellbeing, add a goblet of cab sauv.
32 Orwell Street, Potts Point
The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Back in colonial days there was no climate-control, no polar fleece, no Rheem hot-water systems. You kept warm with copious amounts of denial, beer and a roaring fireplace. So it goes at the Lord Nelson, Sydney’s oldest continually licensed pub, where the seasonal ales are brewed on-site, the fire crackles and the only denial is about having to work tomorrow.
19 Kent Street, The Rocks
The Lord Dudley
The Lord Dudley is the closest Sydney has to an olde worlde English pub with its two roaring fires, pints of bitter, sturdy wooden bar (perfect for leaning upon while holding forth to the publican) and a menu of British gastro-pub winners such as bangers and mash. The family-run institution serves as a meeting place for locals (and their dogs), who gather in its wood-panelled spaces for craft beers and the Sunday roast, served for lunch and dinner.
236 Jersey Road, Paddington
The Cricketers Arms
You can tell a good Sydney pub by whether or not locals have given it a nickname. Case in point: the Crix. Downstairs, it’s a character-filled old boozer with lounges pulled around the fireplace; upstairs, little rooms are crammed with mismatched furniture and dotted with snug nooks. The bistro menu has always been respectable – pub fare with pride – and on Sunday there is a killer $15 roast with seasonal vegies and buttery mash. Like a warm hug.
106 Fitzroy Lane, Surry Hills
The rooftop courtyard is a warm-weather delight but The Taphouse is more than just a summer fling. Refusing to hibernate during the winter months, the three-level tavern is very welcoming with its shiny beer taps (20 at last count), worn floorboards and eclectic array of seating options (chesterfield or throne-like armchair, the choice is yours). The winter warmth is particularly evident on Sunday when the pub puts on its $25 traditional roast (12pm until sold out) – either beef or pork belly, each with soul-warming roast potatoes, honey-roasted carrot, enormous Yorkshire pudding and tasty gravy.
122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst
The East Sydney
As the barometer drops dramatically (well, for Sydney), the East Sydney Hotel puts in a large order for wood for the fireplace, around which patrons gather on chilly evenings. To thaw frozen fingertips (and melt hard hearts), order a mug of spiced mulled wine or apple cider – and be careful not to singe your coat. On a Sunday, it get even snugger when patrons pile in to see live jazz and snack on haloumi skewers and steak and chips.
Corner Crown and Cathedral streets, Woolloomooloo
The Old Fitzroy
The Fitz is a Sydney institution, a glowing beacon beckoning from the backstreets of Woolloomooloo. Once safely ensconced, patrons can partake of 22 beers on tap, ideally to be consumed by the fireplace. Marshmallows are free for the roasting and on Sunday a $20 roast is most civilised, especially considering Sepia alum Nicholas Hill is at the pans – the rest of his Brit-pub fare. Check out the box office for what’s playing at the Old Fitz Theatre to prolong the pleasure.
129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo
The Hero of Waterloo
There are actually three fireplaces at this venerable pub in The Rocks, though the one you need to make a beeline for is in the main bar – it’s the biggest and marred by neither cigarette machine nor big-screen TV. Dating to 1843 (The Hero is involved in an ongoing biff with its neighbour The Lord Nelson over which is technically Sydney’s oldest pub – don’t get involved), the old building still has shackles and a smuggler’s tunnel in its basement. A night cuffed to the sandstone walls or an encounter with the ghost of Anne Kirkman (allegedly pushed down the stairs to her death by her publican husband in 1849) don’t sound particularly soothing but a few moments warming your hands by the fire and a snifter of whisky should put paid to that.
81 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point
It may be right by the water at Woolloomooloo Wharf but that’s neither here nor there during the winter months when there are three fireplaces to park yourself beside at The Tilbury. On a Sunday the kitchen serves up a $35 roast with the most – braised lamb shoulder, mint sauce, cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes; pork loin with crackling, apple sauce and all the trimmings; or a Sunday Spit Roast which is cooked and carved in the courtyard by head chef Mark Holland. Available from 12pm to 5pm.
12-18 Nicholson Street, Woolloomooloo
The Foxtrot Inn
It’s easy to walk on past the unobtrusive Falcon Street entry to the Foxtrot Inn. Come in from the cold to an intimate den complete with well-stoked fire, armchairs you can really sink into, low lighting and clever cocktails. A wintery evening, though, requires a glass of full-bodied red for instant internal heating.
28 Falcon Street, Crows Nest
There’s nothing cosier than having a faithful hound snoozing at your feet. Pooch is welcome at Redfern’s favourite neighbourhood bar, but if you’re dog-less, Arcadia still offers the solace of twinkling fairy lights and the succour of a warming cup of Gunther’s Glühwein – red wine spiked with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise and orange rind. Add a cheese toastie for chilly winter’s eve excellence.
7 Cope Street, Redfern