Sydney's Best New Pubs of 2018
Honouring the best new additions (and returns) to Sydney's pub scene this year.
SYDNEY'S BEST NEW PUBS OF 2018
Honouring the best new additions (and returns) to Sydney's pub scene this year.
Scroll down the page and take a look at the pubs listed. Recognise a few names? That's because most of them aren't new, but overhauls of historic buildings and pubs that were closed for years (or decade). But these overhauls aren't just new paint jobs — they're impressive. The Imperial Hotel has returned with three levels of inclusive fun and nightly drag shows, a 177-year-old Pyrmont pub is back after laying dormant for 30 years and a north shore favourite has been dramatically made over by hospitality giant Merivale.
There's a new pub, too, one that deserves to be on this list not only for its top-notch pub grub but for its lush garden terrace and rooftop with 360-degree views. But, more on that below.
At Concrete Playground we encourage exploration and showcase innovation in our city every day, so we thought it fitting to reward those most talented whippersnappers pushing Sydney to be a better, braver city. And so, these six new pubs — and impressive overhauls — were nominated for Best New Pub in Concrete Playground's Best of 2018 Awards.
For the past 30 years, the Terminus Hotel, a 177-year-old pub in Pyrmont, has been an enigma to passersby, its facade overgrown with vines, its windows boarded up and its doors bolted. Yet, back in the 1840s, it was one of the city’s most boisterous drinking spots. This year, business partners David Mathlin and Binu Katari have brought the old girl back to life. Downstairs, drop an elbow on the marble-topped Tram Bar and order a craft beer, such as a signature Terminus Lager or a French sparkling wine. Alternatively, head into the cosy courtyard. Either way, you’ll be able to watch the open glass-walled kitchen in full flight. Upstairs, there’s a classy cocktail bar named after Vera Dempsey, a tough, buxom woman who ran the Terminus in the 1930s. Heading up the kitchen is Turkish-born chef Bektas Mustafa Ozcan, who’s worked at Anason, Chiswick and Jamie’s Italian. His menu features both fancied-up Aussie pub classics and moreish Mediterranean share plates.
Words: Jasmine Crittenden. Images: Kitti Smallbone.
For 132 years, Balmain’s renowned Exchange Hotel fed and watered local punters. Last year, it sadly closed doors amid rumours that its next life was that of a call centre. Luckily, the rumours were false, and the historic hotel reopened its doors in July, 2018. The heritage-listed pub has been treated to a decor and menu refresh — and welcomes humans and dogs alike. Located on the corner of Beattie and Mullens Streets, the centenarian pairs craft cocktails with inventive Italian eats. You can match an espresso martini with a Mick pizza, topped with prosciutto and cherry tomatoes, perhaps, or a charcuterie board with a negroni. Alongside the cocktails, you’ll also find a neat lineup of local wines and spirits, and a hefty selection of tap beers. And if you decide to head in for a post-work tipple, you’ll be greeted with a $5 beer and house wine happy hour — running from 4–6pm, Monday to Thursday. Perhaps the biggest drawcard, however, is the pub’s dog-friendly stance — which means you’re guaranteed to experience some top-notch dog watching (and patting) while you’re there.
Words: Samantha Teague.
Since 1885, carousers on the north shore have been gathering at the Woolwich Pier Hotel to sink a bev or two and catch some glistening harbour views. But, after a huge reno in October 2018, the pub looks a fair bit different. The Pier, as it’s known around town, has scored slick new design and a modern new menu inspired by French and Japanese cuisine. If you’re a longstanding Pier drinker, you’re in for a surprise. While the building has lost none of its heritage elements, the place is now a whole lot fancier. Alexander & Co, the firm responsible for venues like Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, the East Village and Stanton & Co, has looked after the interiors, giving them a Sydney seaside stamp. For those looking to lay their eyes on the water, the wraparound balcony overlooking Cockatoo Island still has plenty of room among its 70 seats. In keeping with these dramatic changes, head chef Glenn Tabudlo has launched a new menu. Lovers of the chicken pot pie — don’t panic. The much-adored staple is still available, as is a bunch of The Pier’s tried-and-tested classics. Even though it has some fancy new furnishings, it is still a local pub, after all.
Words: Jasmin Crittenden. Images: Jessie Harris.
Back in August last year, Merivale slipped the news that it’d be taking over much-loved northern beaches pub The Collaroy. It then closed the doors to the beachside boozer so it could undergo a revamp — and now, it has finally reopened. Just like before, you’ll feel comfortable taking a dip at the beach, before spending the rest of the day (and maybe night) drinking at your leisure. Downstairs, executive chef Jordan Toft has organised a menu that changes throughout the day. Kick into the morning with the ultimate post-surf feed: brekkie pizzas. They’re accompanied by coffee, juice and house-made pastries. Lunch sees cafe-style fare come to the fore, and then when darkness falls, the kitchen goes into gastropub mode, serving up things like anchovy toasts with pickled shallot and hearty pub meals, which will change daily. Meanwhile, upstairs, where the beach views are uninterrupted, there are two bars and an open kitchen. Taking care of the drinks menu is a team of bartenders from Merivale’s other venues; look out for plenty of crisp whites, roses and summery cocktails.
Words: Jasmine Crittenden.
The Macquarie Park hangout has all the makings of a quintessential Aussie boozer, boasting a roomy front bar and bistro, a garden terrace for those al fresco sessions, and even its very own rooftop bar, complete with 360-degree views. From the same group behind large-scale watering holes like the Bella Vista Hotel and Hillside Hotel, The Governor is angling to be a crowd-pleaser, offering a little something for every mood, occasion and time of the week. The main bar and bistro, which can seat an impressive 260, is decked out in dark timber, royal green and foliage aplenty, with cosy booths that take their design cues from old-school train carriages. Settle in by the open fire, or out under the festoon lighting of the leafy terrace. To match the variety of spaces, Head Chef Luke Lashford has put together a broad food offering — with everything from teriyaki chicken poké and a range of woodfired pizzas, to a slow-cooked Flinders Island lamb shoulder. The drinks list is designed to complement, featuring old favourites alongside crafty seasonal creations.
Words: Libby Curran. Images: Kai Leishman.
An inclusive, LGBTQI-spirited space with three layers of flamboyant fun for all is taking over Erskineville. After a $6 million renovation, the Imperial Hotel is back and brighter than ever. Opening its new spaces in four stages, this triple threat is offering nightly drag shows, a veggie-focused menu, signature cocktails in honour of iconic queens and chances to sashay the night away. If you’re looking for more of the club vibe, the bottom floor of the Imperial is a space of creativity and acceptance. With DJ sets on the weekend and a bevy of colourful performances, there’s never a dull moment down in the Basement. Its restaurant Priscillas offers mainly vegetarian cuisine (inclusive of vegans, gluten- and lactose-intolerant, of course) with a lively atmosphere. After closing for nearly three decades, the Imperial’s rooftop bar is back with a plethora of art pop deco and a variety of spaces fit for any occasion. Imperial Up functions as an Italian restaurant with Andy Warhol-esque charm to match. Finally, keep your eye out for the addition of a same-sex wedding chapel sometime in 2019.
Words: Noelle Monge.
Top image: Woolwich Pier Hotel by Jessie Harris.