Twelve of the best: Pub Food Guide 2014 award winners

Juicy delight: Rib-eye on the bone from the Bar & Grill at The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay.
Juicy delight: Rib-eye on the bone from the Bar & Grill at The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. Photo: Edwina Pickles

eftpos Best Pub

Woolwich Pier Hotel, Woolwich

A lot of thought has gone into the recent renovations and the new-look menu at this shining example of what a pub should be. It's almost not a city pub, perched out there overlooking the river. Terrific food, well-thought-out dining areas, amazing location and great service, and we love the fake grass out the back for the kids.

Destination NSW Best Country Pub

Willow Tree Inn , Willow Tree

Exceptional in every way, with service that matches the skill in the kitchen. The complimentary bread is house made, the 400-gram sirloin steak thick, fine-grained and about as local as you can get (mooing up the road). Also, heavenly desserts that wouldn't be out of place on the whitest linen. You can catch a train there and it has accommodation. A country gem.

AHA (NSW) Best Pub Chef

Scott Webster, Carrington Place, Carrington

Best beer garden: Settlers Arms Inn at St Albans.
Best beer garden: Settlers Arms Inn at St Albans. Photo: Phil Hearne

The Carrington has been highly praised in every edition of the Pub Food Guide so far and it’s thanks to the amazing work of owner and chef Scott Webster (with head chef Scott McLean). Presentation, quality ingredients, taste and innovation, without losing sight of the pub grub ethos.

Best Service

Joe Van Der Heide, Hunters Hill Hotel, Hunters Hill

Joe, the 24-year-old duty manager, is not just an office manager; he is present, often in the bistro taking orders, serving food and making sure things go smoothly. And he does a great job of training all the young staff to provide a high level of service. If anyone was made for hospitality it is him.


Best Newcomer

The Henson, Marrickville

A long-neglected Marrickville icon has been given a stunning refit that combines cool quirks with a great all-day menu. Setting, design, drinks, service and food are all impressive. With a large kid-friendly courtyard and a perennially busy dining room, this local beauty has something for the whole community.

Best Value for Money

Plantation Hotel, Coffs Harbour

Out now ... The Sydney Morning Herald Pub Food Guide 2014.
Out now ... The Sydney Morning Herald Pub Food Guide 2014. 

With a large menu and a large clientele you might expect the food to slip – but the Plantation churns out generous plates of food to a high standard at breakneck speed but not break-the-bank prices. A bacon, potato and broccoli chowder is the biggest on the coast, possibly the whole state, and there’s spare change for dessert, if you have room.

Best Family Friendly

The Belrose Hotel, Belrose

Our reviewer visited this hotel with her sister and two nieces. She had this to say: ‘I was blown away by the sheer scale of the jungle-themed playground, friendly staff and number of happy young families. Not a crying kid in sight! My sister told me that out of her friendship group with young kids “none of us would ever dream of going anywhere else for dinner if the little ones are coming”.’ That’s a pretty solid recommendation.

Best Burger

The Commercial Hotel (Gerry’s), Millthorpe

The saltbush lamb is from Wellington in Central NSW, the patty is juicy and firm, conjured to perfection and clean on the palate. Then, stash layers of earthy beetroot relish, rich caramelised onions, crunchy greens and thick tomato slices between buttery buns and the whole package hits the tongue for six. There’s more: on the side, soft, sweet potato rounds with a mayonnaise and curry-spice dip.

Best Beer Garden

Settlers Arms Inn, St Albans

Under the shade of a massive tree, the garden in bloom, green grass underfoot, horses walking to one side of the beer garden … ridiculously perfect. You feel like you’ve discovered a secret valley, the kind of place you take a detour to when you’re on the road and it grabs your heart and won’t let it go. A seriously beautiful place to sit and drink the house beer.

Best Pizza

The Beach Palace Hotel, Coogee

This is the kind of pizza you scour the city for: the base is never flimsy, the crust has just enough snap and they’ve clearly thought about pizza/topping ratios, so it isn’t weighed down by unnecessary bulk. This is equally excellent Sunday afternoon with a beer or for a mid-week dinner with the kids’ pizza.

Best Steak

The Oaks Hotel, Neutral Bay

If it’s available, don’t worry about the expense ($42) and go for the rib-eye on the bone from the new Bar & Grill with its in-house butcher – it’s worth every cent. Thick, juicy, meaty, perfectly cooked (unless you go the cook-it-yourself option) – and it comes with beautiful marrowbone, mash and sautéed spinach. Works brilliantly with the anchovy and parsley butter.

Best NSW Wine List

Royal Oak Hotel, Cessnock

This wine list is, to put it simply, not what you expect to find in a pub restaurant. It features a broad selection of predominantly Hunter Valley wines. But apart from the Hunter staples of semillon, chardonnay and shiraz, it also features varietals such as tempranillo, viognier and chenin blanc. A handful of imported wines round out an impressive list.

The Sydney Morning Herald's 2014 Pub Food Guide will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, November 23 (from participating newsagents, while stocks last). It will also be available in bookshops and online at for $9.99 from today.