Last year Sydney celebrated America's contribution to the culinary table. Whether that was slow-cooked barbecue, fried chicken or cheeseburgers, we just couldn't seem to clog our arteries fast enough with offerings from the land of lard.
This year, Mary's boys Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth, Porteno's Elvis Abrahanowicz and Young Henrys Oscar McMahon have turned their attention to Australian cuisine (yes, we have one). Their much-anticipated pub baby, The Unicorn, is proudly dishing up Aussie pub classics, including steak and chips, roast chook, meat pies and a pav so bloody delicious it'll bring a patriotic tear to your eye.
Despite the swanky address in Paddington, you won't find leather banquettes or fancy dangly lights inside. Who needs 'em. Instead, there's a dartboard, a pool table (with games just $1), an old piano for drunken sing-alongs, cold beer and good food. Seriously m8, what more do you need?
"This is beautiful darl, what do you call these things again?" Rissoles. That's right, at The Unicorn you can order a plate of cold leftover rissoles ($10) with a side of sinus-clearing mustard, homemade relish and fluffy Wonder White bread. Expectations for this dish were pretty low to begin with, but these slightly-burnt meat patties were actually so darn tasty, I'd be proud to serve them to international dignitaries. If it's not fancy enough for yer, you can also order Jatz with house-made French onion dip ($5) — it was the ultimate party starter from the '70s, this Aussie appetiser still hits the spot to this day.
From the main menu, it's pretty hard to go past the Mary's burger, but with Elvis in charge there are still plenty of other dishes to instil food envy. The Unicorn's Holmbrae corn-fed chicken schnitzel uses both the breast and wing, which are deep-fried to a crust. It's served with creamy mash and a pool of pan gravy — and if you ask me. it's one of the best in Sydney.
There are also a few steaks on offer, although you won't find the usual porterhouse, scotch fillet and rib eye on the list. Here it's hanger steak ('the everyday steak'), chuck steak ('the big steak') or sirloin on the bone ('the fancy steak') expertly cooked with a choice of sides, ranging from cauliflower cheese, crinkle-cut chips, peas, mash or honey carrots. You may have shied away from cooking these curious cuts at home, but they come up real nice when treated with a little respect. Vegos are not (entirely) forgotten, there's also a vegetarian lasagna ($18) containing 'a shitload of vegetables with pasta 'n' cheese'. Well put.
The real cherry atop The Unicorn is the old-fashioned dessert list. In particular, the trifle ($14) is bound to leave you jelly-kneed. Served in a glass-footed trifle bowl, prepare yourself for an epic mountain of raspberry jelly, sponge cake, custard and frothy cream, with a compote of rhubarb and strawberries at the bottom (thankfully, canned peaches don't make an appearance). There's also pavlova, sticky date pudding, and an arctic roll (all $14), made with layers of sponge, jam and ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and coconut, like a frozen ice cream lamington. Just think about that for a minute will you.
Young Henrys is well represented on tap — however, it would be pretty un-Australian to neglect the VB, Resch's and Carlton, which feature alongside. For the plonk, the wine list is all-Australian, featuring top drops by small local producers, listed by state.
Just when you thought The Unicorn couldn't get any more magical, you'll be pleased to learn it's located on the lockout-free side of Oxford Street. You little beauty!
Images: Bodhi Liggett