Tap into value and choice
Guide and photos by Matthew Michaelis
Pubs these days are a long way from the stereotype that’s been at the heart of the Aussie culture since women had to drink away from their blokes and pie and mash were the table settings.
The convoy of bar foods served to accompany grog is being replaced with choices of the sort that would have inhabited ‘members only’ establishments a few decades ago.
Back in those days, the non-gratis degustation started with little serviette-lined baskets filled with cheese cubes, cabanossi, sides of red and green pickled onions and Jatz crackers.
The next course upped the ante with stainless ovals brimming with small sausage rolls, party pies and the grand finale (if you were lucky) baskets piled with chips and garnished with minced fish bites. The bar menu was about feeding the patron while they continued knocking a few drinks down. It was a way of keeping the loyal customers coming back to wet their whistles. The food was a comfy extension of home. Mash, gravy, peas, a roast, steak or schnitzel.
These days, we’ve decided to fess-up to our indiscretions and dubious culinary ways. The responsible publican is now firmly in charge, guided by the Responsible Service of Alcohol laws while keeping the tastebuds at peace and the stomachs lined so we don’t wind up in a state on the doorstep.
The changing face of the patron also has hotel owners looking at the bigger picture: healthier takes on classic ingredients, modern menus, proud chefs and clean, pleasant, renovated spaces to eat the food in. All this and a reasonably priced drink and beer.
What’s on offer at your local pub is worth a look. Here’s cheers to the effort many hotels are putting in to please, and keep, customers coming through their doors. I’ve listed some notables here with a snapshot that includes a keyhole to the sort of choices available. If you’d like some more you’ll have to rock up and try your nearest local pub eatery.
If you dislike awesome food, despise friendly locals and live entertainment and are repulsed by relaxed and easygoing surrounds then the Rails kitchen is not for you.
This hotel is the stuff of a great family night out. Playthings for the folks, reasonably priced food and drink, pool tables and other temptations too
The Richmond Hotel in Lismore offers the hungry patron double the choice with two eateries – Lizzies and The Terrace Bistro.
‘The Fed’, as this Hotel is affectionately called, is Alstonville’s iconic Federal Hotel and has welcomed locals and tourists alike for more than 100 years.
This is a classic country pub. Rest assured there’s plenty of hospitality, good food and care. Take in some of the landscapes as you travel out to Eltham.
This is a ‘2 Schooner’-awarded hotel dining room which means they have won (17/20) two years running in the SMH Good Food section Pub Food Guide Awards
The Middle Pub has all the stuff of any upright local hotel. Take yourself into the dining areas and polished floors and smart fittings come with the meal
This hotel isn’t exactly a wallflower. Many love and patronise this pub. Here the spring menu showcases local produce. Headed up by local chef Shane Morrit, the new team has sourced produce from the local northern rivers region.
The Northern is right in the heart of the action in Byron Bay. Pop in for that good traditional pub feel. It’s cosy and friendly dining. You can sit in the sun on the side of Jonson Street and watch the parade of locals and tourists walking by, while noshing on some square meals.
It’s been six years since this pub’s identity changed to the Court House Hotel. With the transformation came a steady customer base enjoying a creative menu with dishes such as crispy skin duck, roasted parsnips, fennel and citrus salad, topped with orange glaze.
This 1940s Art Deco-style pub is a local favourite for many. A huge seating area is flanked by choice in food, beverages and out-staged entertainment. For kids, teens and the entire family it’s wholly complete.
Don’t be fooled by the carpark surrounds, this is as snug a spot as any around. An attractive and contemporary refurb inside awaits any patron from business to parent, with a fun games room for kids too.
At one hundred and six years old, this is truly an original and authentic Aussie pub. It’s like the Jurassic Park of hotels. Not that you’ll find living fossils at the bar, but it’s certainly an interesting place to visit.