Top 10 pubs and clubs for a summer drink in Sydney

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Coogee Pavilion rooftop: Grilled seafood, cocktails, and beach views.
Coogee Pavilion rooftop: Grilled seafood, cocktails, and beach views. Photo: Supplied

Coogee Pavilion

Here's something to chew on when you're swizzling a cocktail at Coogee Pavilion this summer. Back in 1935, when the building was an aquarium, a tiger shark coughed up the tattooed arm of a small-time criminal in front of a crowd of people gathered to see the beachside palace's new attraction. Turns out before it was captured a week earlier, the tiger shark had swallowed a smaller shark, which had swallowed the inked-up arm of a murder victim. What a nice afternoon out for the little ones.

Anyway, the latest addition to Merivale's super-pub isn't a wobbegong tank but a Mediterranean rooftop oasis open on December 30. There's charcoal-grilled seafood, shoreline views and an absence of severed limbs. We trust.

169 Dolphin Street, Coogee, (02) 9240 3000

The Collaroy Hotel

There's a sign above the bar at new-look Collaroy Hotel that reads "Surf and the sand with a drink in my hand". Amen. No phrase better encapsulates the ideals of an Australian summer except maybe, "I'm going to sit around in my jocks with cricket on the box".

The ground level of The Collaroy has easy beach access and is the kind of place designed for wet-bum boardshorts and sand between your toes. Upstairs is better equipped for sauv blanc on ice where there's loads of natural light, white tiles, green things in pots and beach views for miles. You're going to want to eat oysters on the verandah here.

1064 Pittwater Road, Collaroy Beach, (02) 9982 3924

The Henson


The pool table is back! And the pinball machines! And the Daytona USA link system! The new games room at Marrickville's favourite family pub (pictured above) rules, okay? Almost as much as the hotel's food, which is full of locally grown produce and oodles of great things that have been smoked, pickled and cured in house.

This is the best pub in the inner west to take kids to. Not only because of a kid's menu that actually features nutritious food but also a ballroom (the other kind of ballroom) next to the beer garden where moppets can throw brightly coloured balls at each other while mum and dad sip on gin-spiked granitas in the the sun.

91 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, (02) 9569 5858

The Grand National

The Nash was another pub to get a makeover in time for summer, and in an act of genius the new owner and long-time publican Lance Burrows installed more TVs. Usually more tellies at a pub isn't a good thing, but it's summer so it means you can watch the cricket from pretty much anywhere you sit in the hotel. Thanks, Lance.

It's also nice to see wood has replaced chrome as the material of choice for refurbished pubs. The green-walled front bar has a set of awesome wood-panelled booths that are high enough off the ground to induce vertigo and the sky-lit dining area is filled with sleek timber tables. The new menu isn't bad either - big ups to the Bindaree pasture-fed scotch fillet.

161 Underwood Street, Paddington, (02) 9363 3096

Manly Wharf Hotel

Wow there's been a lot of money spent on white paint at the Manly Wharf Hotel. Take a seat on the deck and it feels like you're in a Diet Coke commercial. The hoards of Ray-Banned, toothy-grinned locals wearing fedoras have a lot to do with that just-for-the-taste-of-it sensation as well.

The harbour view is one of the best and only improved by eating a prawn roll from the pub's new Burger Liquor Lobster pop-up. Fresh prawns on white bread with iceberg lettuce and cocktail sauce: the real taste of summer.

21 East Esplanade, Manly, (02) 9977 1266

The Welcome Hotel

This Welcome has some of the best pub food in Sydney thanks to former Pilu at Freshwater head chef Daniel Mulligan on the pans. The new-ish Ajo Restaurant has a leafy undercover, outdoor terrace that's a top spot for tucking into Mulligan's Sardinian-inspired fare. Bottarga-crusted swordfish belly with pickled beetroots and grapefruit puree, say, or fregola risotto with Queensland spanner crab, almonds and marjoram.

There's also a cosy beer garden to knock back some fried zucchini flowers and sink something from the blockbuster beer list.

91 Evans Street, Rozelle, (02) 9180 1323

Cronulla Sailing Club

Something of a local's secret, Cronulla Sailing Club opens its doors for boozing on Friday nights in the summer months. You'll have to deal with ferocious lines at the bar and navigate a lot of blokes balancing wrap-around sunnies on the back of their neck but the reward is one of the best sunsets around.

The club faces west over Gunnamatta Bay and when the sun beds down everything turns gold. That it's impossible to nab a seat on the concrete wharf doesn't matter.

The cat-and-mouse between cougars and tradies that goes on after dark is equally spectacular.

50 Waratah Street, Cronulla, (02) 9523 6114

Bondi Bowling Club

You can't accuse a bowling club that hosts lawn parties with DJs and stocks six-litre bottles of rose of being out of touch with the youth. In an effort to keep Bondi Bowlo from going under like other community clubs, the board of the BBC enlisted Andy Kaplan (Panama House, The Corner House) to help relaunch the club in November. There's now craft beer, cocktails and a menu full of bikini-friendly salads such as barbecued octopus, mango and papaya.

The place for all your Sunday session needs this summer.

1 Warners Avenue, Bondi, (02) 9130 2383

Courthouse Hotel

Newtown without The Courtie would be like Bondi without the beach.

The sun-dappled beer garden pumps on summer weekends when Champion Ruby rollies and Coopers jugs can be found cluttering most tables. None of the loyal punters here are having a bad time and the best spot for a seat is outside next to Lennox Street. It feels like a mate's backyard and the nucleus of every song written about guys and girls and hurts and hearts in the inner west.

It's also the unofficial headquarters of blokes who look like they're on the way to a costume party dressed as the mod versus punk brouhaha of the '70s. The kind of blokes rocking Ben Sherman shirts their mum bought them with cherry Doc Martens and mohawks. Let's call them "pods".

202 Australia Street, Newtown, (02) 9519 8273

Petersham Bowling Club

Where Bondi Bowling Club has started targeting Camilla-wearing Goldfrapp fans, Petersham Bowlo has long known about the popularity of (good) country music and craft beer in its five-kilometre radius. The greens are too far gone for bowls, even the barefoot kind, but they're an excellent surface for kids to attempt cartwheels on and most afternoons the club is full of six-year-olds doing just that.

The pokie-free PBC is serious about beer. Taps often feature brews from Doctor's Orders, Riverside and Badlands and there's 50 types of bottled beer to choose from in the fridge.  

Order a pizza from the bistro, put a dollar in the Indiana Jones pinball machine and let the good times roll. Or at least attempt a cartwheel or two.

77 Little Brighton Street, Petersham, (02) 9569 4639