"It's not a craft beer pub, or gastropub or any of that," says The Unicorn co-owner Jake Smyth. "It's just a proper Aussie pub." Smyth reopens the doors to the Oxford Street hotel on December 15 along with his Mary's business partner Kenny Graham, Young Henrys co-owner Oscar McMahon and Porteno's Elvis Abrahanowicz. The good mates bought the Paddington pub in September and have spent the last four months transforming it into "somewhere quite pretty" says Smyth. "Except then you've got us working here."
There's not a television, poker machine or Reschs poster in sight (although the cult Sydney beer is available on tap, along with VB, Carlton, Young Henrys and other local brews). There is instead a proud reclaimed red gum bar, native flora and fauna illustrations, and the occasional white tyre swan thrown in for good measure.
"The pub isn't telling its whole story within the first five minutes of opening," says Smyth. "The things everyone loves about Aussie pubs, like marks on the wall, broken tables in the corner, a well-worn bar - those things will happen over time."
The Unicorn is serving up classic pub food such as a weekly roast, mixed grill, vegetable lasagne, Mary's burger, Villi's pie and trifle. "We've been delving into old Margaret Fulton cookbooks a bit," says Smyth. "One great recipe we found for the roast of the week is called colonial goose. It's really just a stuffed lamb leg."
There will also be a "daily steak" and a "fancy steak". Smyth says the "fancy" option will be something like an O'Connor beef chuck steak for two, whereas the daily number is a O'Connor hanger steak priced under $20.
The Unicorn is also pouring all-natural, all-Australian wine from $8 a glass. Drops on the short list come from winemakers like Tom Shobbrook, James Erskine and Patrick Sullivan.
With Merivale's recent reopening of The Paddington a couple of blocks up the road, Oxford Street's top end is the place to party this summer.
180 Oxford Street, Paddington, Mon-Wed 11am-late; Thurs-Sat 11am-3am; Sun 11am-midnight.