The Oxford Tavern in Petersham has reopened after major renovations. Photo: Steve Lunam
In their most ambitious pub transformation yet, the Drink N Dine duo of Jaime Wirth and Michael Delany have jelly-wrestled an old suburban topless bar and somehow come out on top.
The renovation of the Oxford Tavern is a beauty. The fitout looks great, the food is solid and the drinks aren't going to win awards - but who can say no to something called a banana hammock? I feel like I'm on holiday just looking at it.
The only word of advice is not to touch the walls. They're one of several elements of the old, crusty pub that has been retained - sticky gunk and all - and brought into 2014 in a clever and subtle way.
Holiday in a glass: The Banana Hammock. Photo: Steve Lunam
The stripper pole has been incorporated into a back bar and the exterior has been untouched but the rest has been manicured into a super-trendy hipster pub much like Drink N Dine's previous renos including the Norfolk, the Forresters and the Carrington.
The old, prison-like beer garden has been transformed into a jungle-covered oasis with a steel-drum smoker that will fire up on weekends, cooking meat to buy by the pound.
Despite the meat-fest out the back and the American diner/Mexican barbecue bent to the fare (yes, we're still on the US trend), the menu is vego friendly.
A chunky Crystal Street Salad (mex-grilled chicken substituted with tofu, slaw, queso fresco, green mango, jalapeno, tortilla and honey-lime dressing, $18) and the triple-threat barbecue corn (coated in popcorn, corn chips and creole mayo, $8) are some of the options, the latter being the pick of the menu.
The tacos, despite the homemade tortillas and fried avocado or pork-belly fillings, were bland but the mini cheeseburgers were enough to encourage my vego companion to take her bi-annual bite of protein. It's a big call but I'd say they're as good as the Mary's burger.
Size seems to be the name of the game here. Hot dogs are ginormous as is the charcoal chicken with kicktang sauce, slaw, rice and beans - all of them very reasonably priced, especially $10 for lunch.
If you're feeling particularly adventurous, there's one dessert on the menu - a mess of jelly, ice-cream, caramel popcorn, waffle, chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, whipped cream and cherries called the Jelly Wrestle - for five to share. No cutlery, gloves provided.
Like the other Drink N Dine venues, cocktails are a bit of an afterthought and go for fun over finesse. Margaritas, largaritas and Porto Coladas (cachaca, malibu, sumol pineapple, lime, cherry, $16) seem overly watered down and not very flavoursome.
The best bet is to go with cheap tap beer or cider, or a jug of Crystal Street hurricane (vodka, gin, rum, tequila, cointreau, grenadine, passionfruit, orange, $25).
This is a place to go cheap 'n' cheerful; come with a big group, start with a cruisy afternoon and end with a boozy night. That's what Drink N Dine do best and they've hit it on the head yet again.
You'll hate it if … you're looking for the Oxford Tavern of old.
Go for … mini cheeseburger, barbecue corn, beer garden barbecue.
- 02 8019 9351
- Cuisine - American (US), Mexican
- Prices - Burgers $18, cocktails $10-$16, tap beer $5.50-$8, wine by the glass $8-$9
- Features - Bar, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly
- Owners - Jaime Wirth, Michael Delany
- Opening Hours - Monday-Thursday noon-midnight, Friday-Saturday noon-3am, Sunday noon-10pm
- Author - Rachel Olding