14/20

Welcome Hotel

91 Evans Street, Rozelle, New South Wales

All Details
The dining room lacks the charm of the hotel's old-school bar.
The dining room lacks the charm of the hotel's old-school bar. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Terry Durack

The demarcation line runs right down the middle of this lovely old inner-city pub, dividing what could almost be parallel universes. To the right of the corridor is your pub of yore, with chatty blokes propped at the bar; gleaming taps of craft beer and meat tray raffles to support the local fishing club.

To the left is the pub of the here and now, with its fashionably muted dining room decked out in shades of Armani, its paper-over-white-clothed-tables and its printed menu of saffron tagliatelle and fried zucchini flowers.

The O'Keeffe family bought the 136-year-old Welcome Hotel in April, and are in the process of realigning the pub experience with a greater focus on food. Hence Liam O'Keeffe recently lured promising young chef Daniel Mulligan, an eight-year veteran of the two-hatted Pilu at Freshwater.

Feather-light Kipfler potato gnocchi with pork and fennel ragu.
Feather-light Kipfler potato gnocchi with pork and fennel ragu. Photo: Edwina Pickles

On deck for less than two months, Mulligan has put together a subversively Italian menu that echoes his Freshwater heritage while stopping short - so far - of putting on the famous Piluvian suckling pig.

Good little appetisers (salmon croquettes, as seen at Pilu) and terrific semolina-dusted Fuel Bakery bread come unrequested; nice touch.

It's a pub, right? So let's start with a couple of oysters ($3.50 each) and something to drink. The Sydney rocks arrive stranded on a dish of ice with a pink vinaigrette, fulfilling their brief without going beyond it, and sadly, the pre-dinner drinks arrive so late they can no longer be called pre-dinner.

Then comes a big stack of noisily crunchy pane carasau (Sardinian crisp bread) with crumbled pecorino Sardo, good Sicilian and Ligurian olives and two small-gauge and not dissimilar salami from Salumi Australia ($15).

Kipfler potato gnocchi is feather-light and puffy, tossed with a deeply flavoured ragu of pork and fennel ($24) that is so thoroughly together it's like eating a comforting stew with some equally comforting mashed potato.

Another standout dish is an entree of New Zealand king salmon ($20), which has been baked in a crust of rock salt (as it is at Pilu) then flaked into luminous, soft, pink chunks, strewn with green leaves, dehydrated olives, pink grapefruit segments and dibs and dabs of chilli aioli. Subtle, shimmering and summery, it's an idea worth pinching from your ex-boss.

A new, improved wine list will be in place in a matter of days, and from what I've seen, it's a cracker. Put together by award-winning former Pilu sommelier Lara Caraturo, it's a slow passeggiata through some of Italy's more interesting regions as well as some good local labels.

Mulligan cooks well, sending out well-rested, pink-hearted Victorian lamb rump ($32) teamed with logs of roasted salsify, golden carrot puree and a good, meaty jus. Crisp-skinned snapper ($33) is set off nicely with baby artichoke hearts, although the accompanying saffron-steamed Cloudy Bay clams are too firm to be fun.

An affogato dessert ($14) is fine, the vanilla ice-cream, Frangelico and Golden Cobra espresso melting into a pleasantly creamy, coffee-flavoured soup.

By day, the light is lovely throughout the hotel and the restaurant's shady, palm-fringed covered terrace is a drawcard. But it's the blokes in the old-school bar that are the real drawcard. When asked why nobody serves a pony of beer (a 140-millilitre glass) any more, one replies straight-faced: ''Because they slip through your fingers.'' Another references Tony Abbott, referring to the public bar as ''the suppository of all wisdom''.

At night, the dining room lacks the charm of their blokey humour, and the table service, in these early days at least, is slow to the point of negligence. A wine glass is brought still warm from the dishwasher; you wouldn't catch the boys putting up with that for their beer.

It makes me wonder if we need the demarcation line after all; whether we couldn't coexist over both craft beer and fine wine. Instead of being torn between old and new, the inner-city pub could become a happy intermingling of cafe, wine bar, meeting place, beer hall and dining room; the so-called ''third place'' between home and office so cleverly strategised by Starbucks. Just a thought - but a welcome one.

THE LOW-DOWN
Best bit The charm of an old Aussie pub.
Worst bit Phoned-in service.
Go-to dish
Kipfler potato gnocchi with pork and fennel ragu, shaved pecorino, $24.

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.

tdurack@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Rate this restaurant

Rate this restaurant:

Use [left] and [right] keys to rate, [enter] to submit, [esc] to cancel.

Rate this restaurant with 0.5 a star Rate this restaurant with 1 star Rate this restaurant with 1.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 2 stars Rate this restaurant with 2.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 3 stars Rate this restaurant with 3.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 4 stars Rate this restaurant with 4.5 stars Rate this restaurant with 5 stars

Write a review

Thanks for voting!

Write a review

91 Evans Street, Rozelle, New South Wales

  • Cuisine - Italian
  • Prices - About $100 for two, plus drinks
  • Features - Licensed, Bar
  • Chef(s) - Daniel Mulligan
  • Owners - Liam O'Keeffe
  • Opening Hours - Lunch and dinner daily
  • Author - Terry Durack
Close map

10 comments so far

  • $100 for two people (plus drinks) for a pub meal!

    Doesn't that sum up everything that's wrong with Sydney dining and why restaurants are going out of business quick smart.

    Commenter
    Fredgassit
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 8:49AM
  • Fred,

    I hear you, but it's not your traditional 'pub meal'. It's a restaurant meal, attached to a pub. They have experienced chefs, they source better quality ingredients. The service should be better (but apparently wasn't in this case).

    You would never want to pay $100 for a schnitty and chips, or a piece of rump. But that's typical pub grub, served out of a bistro with a little buzzer that tells you when the food's ready. This, rightly or wrongly, is something entirely different. You can't really just lump them all 'pub food' just because it's attached to a pub.

    Commenter
    I'M BRIAN AND SO IS MY WIFE
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 9:42AM
  • Brian,

    I understand that this not is not a pub meal however a hundred dollars for two + drinks is still too expensive in a restaurant that offers no view or other entertainment.

    Over the last 6 years or so pub food has increasingly improved, many pubs offer a lot more than just schnity and chips and the price is still pub food prices. Don't you think it is time that restaurants such as this one brings their prices down otherwise I think Fred may be right about the business end.

    Commenter
    xmass
    Location
    Rozelle
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 10:43AM
  • Brian,

    You're right, the food is better than the usual pub grub.

    But it's still a pub where working men (if they still exist) go. So how about some good, affordable meals for them.

    Commenter
    Fredgassit
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 12:15PM
    • Yes it is a pub, but why must it to cater to people like yourself? There are hundreds of other pubs in Sydney who tailor to people after a cheap meal. The new owner has put the time and money into creating something for people who he sees as willing and able to pay for something a little different and in an environment they enjoy. If you don't like the idea of it, don't go there. I don't really enjoy places like this but not every person appreciates the old working class notions associated with pubs.

      Commenter
      Oxen
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 17, 2013, 11:17PM
  • Oh thanks, Terry. Another place I can strike off my list! Used to go there quite a bit. Now forget it. Please Herald, STOP writing places up. Let us keep our secrets...

    Commenter
    Glen
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 1:17PM
  • The previous pub owners offered both a fancy menu and a more pub-bistro style menu, so these mythical working men could still get an affordable meal. I would bet my bottom dollar that this system will continue under the new owners. But Terry Durack doesn't review pub food, he reviews restaurant food, so pipe down.

    And instead of banging on about the "$100 for two" price tag why don't you take a look at the helpfully provided individual meal prices. $32 for crispy skinned salmon with baby artichoke hearts and SAFRON STEAMED CLAMS seems kind of cheap, if you're into that sort of thing. If, on the other hand, you're not into that sort of thing then kindly order from the bar menu or slip around the corner to the many, many, many other pubs in the area which offer a pub menu.

    It's pubs like this that sum up everything that's RIGHT with Sydney dining. They offer something different, delicious and modern. Which, after decades of steak/schnitzel/burger and chips and mash and gravy and salad is very attractive to many people. Myself included, on occasion.

    $50 per person for a two or three course meal is not at all expensive, and you can keep your view and entertainment.

    Commenter
    MCPC
    Location
    Rozelle
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 3:09PM
  • MCPC,

    Pipe down?

    Yes Sir!

    I didn't quibble about the quality of the food, and I've dined all round the world at the best.

    It's the price I was talking about and the surroundings -- check out the photo.

    If you're happy to pay $100 bucks for that, then that can't be helped -- there's one born every minute.

    Commenter
    Fredgassit
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 4:03PM
  • Stay away from my pub......I love it just the way it is.

    Commenter
    mike1978
    Location
    Date and time
    September 17, 2013, 7:30PM
  • hmm...pubs of 'yore' didn't have 'craft beers' on tap - they had things like Tooheys Old or New, or Reschs... the pony hasn't been spotted in Sydney for decades and was never popular - it was big in the country when A/C was elusive, the days hot, and a middy or schooner got too hot by the halfway point - around the time The Welcome was known locally as 'The Buncher' - a bunch of, well,.....and I think Starbucks in Balmain closed owing to lack of interest.

    Commenter
    Sleuth
    Location
    London
    Date and time
    September 18, 2013, 7:41AM

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

Most viewed restaurants

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Sydney

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Melbourne

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Brisbane

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Most viewed restaurants in Canberra

View all

You can also view recent reviews for:

Promotions

Gorgeous native seasonal produce prepared in a sublime natural wonderland.