Sydney best pub food

June 8, 2015

Sydney city skyline lit up

Hotdog from The Henson, Marrickville.Pub fare has changed over the years but it's still possible to grab a hearty meal on the run or dine at leisure. Here are 10 of our favourites.

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A pub was once a place of gravy-brown carpet, SKY racing and men "just popping down for a quick one" that was never quick and never one. Tuesday night was Ladies' Night (or rather two-for-one Breezer night), and children could entertain themselves by colouring in a serviette with a Keno pencil.

The ghost of indoor ciggies still haunts a few hotels but most pubs have evolved with the rest of the hospitality market. Craft beer is the new New, pokies have been banished to a VIP Lounge and dinner at the pub no longer means a pie-warmer pie and a mate muttering something about "I don't mind if you eat while I smoke".

Hotdog from The Henson, Marrickville. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Every pub has midweek and lunchtime specials where you can score a top feed and pinball change from $15. However, the quality and availability of such specials are more variable than the odds at Dapto greys, so here's a look at Sydney best $15-and-under pub grub, consistently available for the advertised price or less.

Black Angus Rump and Horseradish Cream $14

Dove & Olive

Classy stuff: The Four in Hand's confit duck terrine.

Sydney has more steak-night specials than you can poke a cattle prod at, but a good-quality cut for under $15 is rarely a menu mainstay. Enter the Dove & Olive, which serves up 220 grams of Australian Black Angus steak for $14 every day.

The 150-day grain-fed beef has decent flavour and a chew that's easy on the jaw. It's smothered in a thin gravy and served on a wooden board (as per the pub food manual), along with a dab of horseradish cream, shoestring fries and an organic leaf salad.

Besides great-value steak, this perpetually crammed pub offers an extensive menu with "a hint of American nostalgia", plus 24 rotating craft beers on tap, including a brew of the month selected at the Craft Beer Fight Club gatherings.

156 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, 9699 6001

Dolsot Bibimbap $13

Ryedales Tavern

There's not much happening at this chrome-finished West Ryde pub, frequented mostly by old blokes whose exercise consists of the 10-yard TAB dash to get a bet in before Albion Park jumps.

Things heat up in the bistro with a menu that's a mix of Australian and Korean. Bypass the served-with-chips standards and head to the chef's recommendations where you'll find bulgogi (soy-marinated sliced beef), yookgaejang (soupy beef hotpot with potato noodles), al tang (spicy fish roe soup).

Pub grub: The Confit Duck Terrine w/ Piccalilli & Grilled Iggy's Sourdough, at the Four in Hand pub, Paddington.There are other places in Sydney where you can get a better bibimbap with banchan but those places don't have Reschs on tap and a dedication to screening Italian football. The bibimbap is grade-A beer food. Steamed rice (crisp on the bottom thanks to its stone hotpot) topped with beef mince, carrot ribbons, sprouts, egg yolk, mushroom, and water spinach. "Bibim" means to mix so snap open those chopsticks and go to K-town combing ingredients.

18 West Parade, West Ryde, 9809 3709

Bangers and Mash

Boyles Sutherland Hotel

Bangers and mash isn't the most exotic dish and nor should it be. Hot, buttery mash, herb-heavy pork sausages, a ladle of peas and peppery gravy with slivers of onion. When these powers combine at Boyles Hotel they summon one of the great comfort foods of the Commonwealth.

The snags and squashed spud combo has been around since the 1920s, if not before. Black-and-white pictures of Sutherland woodchoppers and blacksmiths dress the walls of this popular pub and it's nice to think that 80 years ago these high-waisted chaps were drowning sausages in onion gravy similar to the fluoro-vested tradies that nurse schooners here today.

806 Old Princes Highway, Sutherland, 9521 2315

Fried Chicken with Red Eye Mayo $15

The Oxford Tavern

Deep frying things and serving them in plastic basket is a signature move of chef Jamie Thomas and the Drink'n'Dine Group, who also own The Norfolk, Forresters and Carrington hotels. That these pubs are kings of the $10 lunch special is some achievement considering they blew up the pokies yonks ago and, as a result, the ability to subsidise food costs through gambling.

The fried chicken at this former strip club in Petersham is, shock, horror, deboned. Whoah, now wait a minute, sunshine. Bones equal more taste right? Correct. But it's also neat to sink your teeth into fatty white bird with no concern about the avian skeletal system. If you want more flavour there's chicken salt in the condiments tray on each table. Chicken salt on fried chicken? Come in spinner.

The accompanying red eye mayo is a bit how-yer-going. Leave it and visit the condo tray again for a big lug of Rita's Hot Ass Sauce (nods to the Tavern's girly-bar past).

1 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, 8019 9351

Confit Duck Terrine $14

Four in Hand Hotel

At the black-and-white tiled Four in Hand, chef Colin Fassnidge has raised the standards of pub food in Sydney sky high.

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