Years ago when I lived in London, meeting friends at the local pub on a Sunday afternoon was a weekly ritual.
For us Aussies, it was like a home away from home, a warm, cosy space where we could catch up over a hearty, affordable meal or lounge around and read a book. Some people would bring their kids along and dogs were welcome in the garden out the back.
Hideous pokies were nowhere in sight.
Until recently, few Aussie pubs offered such a community-like atmosphere. But over the past 5 years or so, they’ve been springing up everywhere.
The introduction of Good Pub Food Guides in Sydney and Melbourne which give awards for warm, welcoming environments and well-thought-out dishes made with fresh, local produce have helped to encourage the emergence of the gastro-pub.
“The English gastropub movement of the 1990’s was about bridging the gap between the high end city restaurants and the public houses – the Anglo equivalent of the French Brassiere if you like. Providing restaurant quality food, made with local produce, at pub prices,” says Tim Condon, publican at the Riverview Hotel in Balmain, Sydney.
It’s a trend which has clearly caught on.
Seven months ago, a run-down pub in Rose Street called The Duck & Swan Hotel, Chippendale was given a makeover and, much to the delight of locals, is now serving restaurant quality food.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by how popular it is,” says publican Ben Kirkman.
“The locals love it. Quite a few come in, order a glass of wine and sit and read their book. We have a couple of book clubs which meet on Saturdays.”
When I visited one Sunday recently, it was buzzing. I wanted to check out the Sunday roast, a regular monthly event.
Roast lamb and beef with all the trimmings were on the menu ($25 each), and it was hard to choose between them.
I opted for the beef and my partner chose the lamb. We were gobsmacked by the generous slices of pink juicy meat accompanied by fluffy Yorkshire Pud and steamed vegetables. Really delicious comfort food.
“Chef also does chicken and pork roasts – with crackling,” says Kirkham. “And we’ll be running them fortnightly as winter approaches.”
If Sunday roast doesn’t appeal, you can opt for a light lunch of fish fingers with lime chilli may or a BLT on sourdough roll served with a glass of house wine or draught beer or soft drink. Or choose a dish such as the pan-fried salmon with quinoa salad and wild mushroom and truffle risotto, or the sauteed chicken breast with chickpeas, goat’s chees, roasted rapsicum, red onion and parsley salad (($19).
Starters include salt & pepper squid with chilli lime mayo ($14) and fig and prosciutto salad ($18) and for dessert, there’s baked vanilla cheesecake with orange and port reduction ($10) or rich chocolate tart with raspberry coulis and yoghurt ($10).
Duck in soon before it gets too busy.
The Duck Inn,
74 Rose Street Chippendale, Sydney
Ph. 02 9319 4415