"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." It seems that Jane Austen's sardonic criticism has been taken literally by Chippendale's previously single-and-ready-to-mingle The Lord Gladstone, as his new lady love The Lady Hampshire is open for business to the hungry-thirsty residents of Campderdown.
Headed by co-founder and ex-CEO of the Riversdale Group Paddy Coughlin (and now founder of boutique Sydney pub company Bourke Street) and publican Ben Johnson, the gents behind The Glad have taken over the old Hampshire Hotel on Parramatta Road — and they've given the old girl a pretty epic facelift. From the mural in 'Larrikin Laneway' to the carefully mismatched furniture in the beer garden, the pub has strived to maintain the classic feel of the vibrant local while adding a little extra inner west spice to the old favourite.
The menu continues with the pub grub theme that's been so successful at the Chippendale pub, with burgers and classics like schnitzels and steaks ruling the roost — the bite-sized tacos have made the leap across to the Lady too. On Wednesday nights, these tacos (usually $6 a pop, or two for $10) are half-price, meaning you can eat as many of the tasty little suckers as you can without blowing your grocery budget for the week. Notable inclusions are the Buffalo chicken tacos with a decent chilli bite and rich blue cheese, and the succulent coffee and cola-braised brisket tacos. For those ho aren't too taken with meat, the chilli con lentil tacos with shredded iceberg and sweet potato crisps are pretty darned good in their own right.
It's a pretty traditional list of burgers, with the three basic numbers being a cheeseburger, a fried chicken burger and a pulled pork burger ($15-17). In addition to those is the decadent vego option — a quinoa and white bean patty with cheese, onions, mustard and sweet potato fries for $18 — and the venue's signature bun stuffer, the glorious Camperdowner ($22). This burger is the perfect love child of the epic cheeseburger and the classic Aussie, stuffed with meat, double cheese, streaky bacon, beetroot and egg. There's also the risky element of a slice of pineapple on the burger, but turns out it's a surprisingly welcome addition, with the sweetness of the pineapple and beetroot balancing the saltiness of the bacon and providing an extra textural layer to bring the burger together. While having pineapple on savoury stuff is hotly debate (in this reviewer's opinion, it has no place on pizza), this in an instance where it actually works well.
Four salads also feature on the menu, with the options of the falafel, squid and the classic American Cobb ($16-18) salads packing the leaf and protein punch. The real star though is the super basic, yet perfectly executed, feta, mint and pea salad for $11. With the star ingredients mixed in with a healthy dose of rocket to craft a dish that is fresh, crisp and delightful in its simplistic charm.
The one criticism of the menu that has to be noted is the pub's take on rissoles ($19), the staple of so many Aussie upbringings. It's a noble attempt the revive the favoured dish of busy mums and dads around the country, but during our visit, it fell short in execution. The texture is a bit too soft, and the balance of vinegar is way off. The side salad is meagre and not properly dressed, though some super crunchy shoestring fries with an out-of-this-world onion gravy is the saving grace of this dish. Seriously, it's really great gravy.
However, there's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the rest of the menu is an excellent execution of classic pub food with a few twists here and there, all topped off with either a deep-fried gaytime ($9), made with pistachio praline and golden syrup, or a superb banana split ($17). The wine list is a nice condensed selection of favourite varietals, and includes the Jed Malbec ($9.50 glass), which is a wine you should order as soon as you see it without looking at the rest of the list because it's that wonderful. The taps host a decent variety of beers, including (of course) the Young Henrys favourite, the Newtowner.
The whole venue manages to avoid the excessive bells and whistles that can find their way into a pub, and instead opts to do the classics well. It's a great vibe inside, with punters just looking to have a brew and a feed in a chilled atmosphere that doesn't place you on show — or on edge. If they continue on their current course, it's safe to say that this Lady Hampshire will have smoother sailing than her namesake.
Images: Steven Woodburn.