A golden-hued art deco building, Woollahra's Light Brigade Hotel has a historic facade that gives way to a slick and modern space with a range of long communal tables and booth seats for its boisterous, sports-mad clientele. The recently revitalised menu is a crowd-pleaser, offering popular pub fare done with a lightness of touch and a nod to modern Italian.
Entrees are familiar but expertly done, including fried calamari ($16), bruschetta ($12) and a cured meat board ($22). There are also sliders — everyone's doing them, but this take on the mini hamburger (3 for $15) is a safe bet, offering an easily devoured trio of neat-looking buns on a wooden platter. They're full of flavour, with the chipotle aioli adding a welcome dash of smoky heat without overpowering the classic pickles, cheese and beef combination.
This is fun, unfussy food made for sharing with a group. Another good option is the cheese plate ($18), which rotates through different cheeses, normally with an Italian bent. On this occasion, it includes a creamy, delicious soft blue-veined cheese and a bitey Australian cheddar. Throw in some chunky quince paste, thin slices of pear and lavosh and it's another winner.
Mains include pepper crusted seared tuna salad ($21), which includes strips of tuna with just the lightest of searing to seal in the pepper flavor. They sit atop what's kind of a twist on a salad nicoise, with soft boiled eggs, kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes and crunchy green beans. Offering fresh and clean flavours to complement the raw fish, it was good enough to convert an avowed seafood hater on this visit.
Like many Sydney pubs at the moment, the Light Brigade is offering some pretty healthy discounts to get an edge in a tough dining market. Two-for-one Tuesdays offer a great chance to pick up pub-quality cooking at food court prices, while the $12 special nights (steaks on Wednesdays, burgers on Thursdays) are a terrific bargain. A good option for burger night is the steak sandwich ($18), which is already a firm favourite amongst the new menu offerings and benefits greatly from thick, sweet beetroot relish.
The Light Brigade Hotel offers a bit of something for everyone, not least a wine list with a good range of options from Australian and New Zealand vineyards. Recommended tipples include a shiraz with strong berry flavours from Barossa Valley's St Hallet ($9/$42) and a Partisan Tempranillo ($9/$43), from South Australia's McLaren Vale region.