$6 million makeover for The Oaks in Neutral Bay

The Oaks in Neutral Bay is to have a $6 million revamp that includes three new venues.
The Oaks in Neutral Bay is to have a $6 million revamp that includes three new venues. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The Oaks Hotel is as much a symbol of the lower north shore as Luna Park or Balmoral Beach.

As a rite of passage venue for the area, publican Andrew Thomas didn't know what to expect when he took the unusual step of running focus groups to find out what locals wanted from The Oaks.

"My favourite was the one that said 'the poor darling needs a little botox'," he says.

Poor it isn't, because looming building work involves a $6 million revamp that includes three new venues and the drafting in of outside food talent.

First cab off the rank is a sports bar, Taffy's, which will open before next month's Rugby World Cup with a menu from chef Danny Russo.

"Danny did such a great job with our bar and grill he'll look after the Taffy menu as well," Thomas says.

Matching the cheeky design of life-size Richie Benaud cutouts and novelty beer taps, Russo's draft menu includes duck nachos – with fried wontons stepping in for corn chips – and "Reuben" spring rolls.

In late October Alala's – named after family matriarch Alala Thomas – will open, the garden conservatory eatery including a menu from Acre chef Gareth Howard.

"One of things our research showed was the people coming off the bus wanted something quick to eat," Thomas says.

So the Oaks bottleshop is also getting a takeout food section with freshly baked bread and a rotisserie.

"Publicans need to listen to the locals," Thomas says.

You wonder if the bottleshop's dedicated craft beer curator was a focus group request?