63 Bay St Glebe, NSW 2037
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 11am-midnight; Sat noon-midnight; Sun noon-10pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9692 0414|
A Glebe pub on a chilly, drippy Friday night is a good place to be, whether you're having a post-work schooner with your mates, welcoming in the weekend with a steak and a glass of red, or you're with your mum and dad, sipping a lemon squash through a paper straw.
Tonight, the whole seething mass of humanity huddles within the cosseting walls of one of the oldest – and cutest – pubs in the inner west. What was the Australian Youth Hotel (since 1862) has lost its historic name, and been rechristened the Glebe Hotel.
Brothers Daniel and Zelman Nissen recently reopened the three-storey corner pub after a seven-month makeover by design firm Alexander & Co. It comes complete with chesterfield sofas, arty pics of Glebe locals in the public bar, an upstairs function space called Nude, and out back, the Stables Bar & Grill.
Essex-born chef Ben Allcock has put together a British-leaning menu of steak and Guinness pie, a mixed grill for two, sausages and mash, and fish and chips with mushy peas; but I'm not convinced the Brit stuff is the best old Blighty can offer.
There's not much joy to be had in the pork and veal sausage roll ($8), a long, pale, soft-crusted, length of bready meat. Perhaps the kitchen feels it is beneath it to cook something so humble? It shouldn't. A sausage roll is capable of greatness, and worthy of respect. Make a great sausage roll and The People Will Come.
It's more adept with Cloudy Bay clams ($20), teaming them with smoky lardons of bacon and piles of grilled sourdough for dipping in the dark, murky juices. Or sending out some decent cured meats ($16) – prosciutto, salami and dried chorizo – with cornichons and fiery pickled green chillies (but no bread, toast, or grissini).
With more than 20 wines by the glass, it's easy to build in a crisp and lively Johnny Q Chardonnay from South Australia ($8.50/$37). Diners and drinkers in the attractive courtyard or cosy old-school bar front up at the counter for service, but the Stables has friendly, if hard-pressed, staff waiting tables.
A mixed grill ($75 for two) is a mixed blessing; a neatly grilled eye fillet cooked medium to well, flanked by an oily yet bland pig's head terrine, pressed lamb ribs with not much life left in them, two fried eggs and a good white-peppery Cumberland sausage. It comes with thick onion gravy, crisped bacon, chips, quoits of thick, battered onion rings, field mushrooms, and the sort of tomatoes that British chefs have historically added to a mixed grill for a pop of colour. There's not a hint of greenery in sight, not even a frizz of curly parsley.
It's a pub, so you have to have a pie, and Allcock's steak and Guinness pie ($25) ticks the pie boxes with its generosity, flaky pastry, shreddy, slow-cooked beef and meaty juices. Ticks also for the buttered cabbage and silverbeet, and the mountain of smooth mashed potato, although I'm tiring now of the gravy. And we're not talking Colin Fassnidge technique or Ben Greeno finesse here, just box-ticking.
To end, a butterscotch panna cotta with pistachio and cinnamon crumble ($12) is average. OK, so the Glebe is more of a pub than a gastropub. My bad. But I still say any pub is a good place to be on a drippy, chilly Friday night.
Cost: About $130 for two, plus drinks.
Vegetarian: Four snacks, a main and a counter meal, several sides.
Drinks: More than 30 beers, as you would hope, and a competent wine list that goes beyond the obvious.
Go-to dish: Steak and Guinness pie, $25.
Pro tip: Ask for a table downstairs in the brick-and-wood dining room rather than the poky loft upstairs.