Uncorked to underground ... Angela Gallagher of French-themed Le Pub in King Street. ''Even the sherry vinegar is from France,'' she says. Photo: Janie Barrett
SO, SUMMER'S here, the sun is hopefully shining, the third edition of the NSW Pub Food Guide is out on Saturday and I'm going to suggest that the best, newest pub of the more than 500 that we reviewed is, er, in a basement in King Street.
Turn the music off at Le Pub and you may well hear, and feel, the rumbling of trains coming and going at the nearby Town Hall and Wynyard stations.
Which is why the Paris Metro theme at this beautifully realised French bistro-style pub is so apt. Patrick and Angela Gallagher, who tasted success with a French-inspired menu at their Uncorked restaurant at the Union Hotel in North Sydney, decided to go all-out with the fit-out of the old St Patrick's Tavern.
''We sort of themed it along the lines of the Metro but we also wanted to go as authentically French as possible while making sure it was comfortable and still a pub. Hence the name,'' Angela said. ''The food is very French and highly styled but also designed to be very quick. We don't want people to be sitting around waiting forever at lunchtime. So we do use a lot of sous vide techniques, a lot of 12-hour slow cooking to help us pump out the food at lunchtime. We also tried to be authentically French by sourcing French ingredients - even the sherry vinegar is from France.''
Le Pub is an interesting arrival on a pub scene that has been undergoing a major food revival in the past few years. More pubs are both sourcing food as locally as possible, with many growing their own herbs and even making their own honey. At The Imperial Hotel in Oxford Street, Paddington, for example, the steaks are all sourced from the hotel's own Rivertree Land and Cattle company in northern NSW.
Another trend coming through is cuisine specialisation, as seen with the French-inspired menu at Le Pub. The Norfolk Hotel on Crown Street, for instance, leans heavily towards Mexican fare, as does the Excelsior in Foveaux Street, Surry Hills, and The Eastern's new rooftop restaurant in Bondi Junction.
Then there's The Forresters in Riley Street, Surry Hills, with its American-themed dishes, and its new Queenies restaurant with its southern-fried American and Caribbean food theme.
And to this you can add the Royal Albert, also in the pub-heavy Surry Hills district, with its excellent Bamboo Dumpling Bar, and the new eatery upstairs at The Sydney Brewhouse in Wentworth Avenue, where the Smash Sausage Kitchen specialises in, well, the ever-so-humble but gourmet snag.
The 2013 Pub Food Guide is for sale for $5 with Saturday's Herald in NSW. Ask your newsagent, while stocks last.