While we reserve the right to retain a certain fondness for sticky carpet, cricket on the telly and old-timers propping up the bar, the modern pub has evolved. We want our beer to be craft, the interiors to be conversation starters and the menu to compete with the latest food-blogger infested hotspot. Is that too much to ask? Apparently not as here are six new venues that could fast become your new local.
Garden State Hotel
It's been open for all of five minutes but the Garden State Hotel is already buzzing. Ex-Circa chef Ashly Hicks is working on several menus that will stack flavour almost as high as the four-storey venue they inhabit. In the Public Bar his DIY sandwiches are the perfect way to get your hands dirty with piles of Flinders Island lamb, juicy pork belly or blackened chicken are loaded into sextet of fresh milk buns at the table. We also enjoy the return of the classic Ritz cracker to the menu. To wash it all down go for Stone and Wood's Pacific Ale or an earl-grey spiked Bombay Sapphire mar'tea'ni.
The bloom is back on The Rose. The two clever gents of Harry & Frankie winebar have rescued the beloved Fitzroy hotel for future generations. "As much as things change a lot of it stays the same," says co-owner Tom Hogan. Lifelong regulars have returned after a fresh interior re-furb (along with a few more punters of the lady variety), live footy is back on the tv screens and you might even be lucky to stumble upon good old meat raffle. The menu consciously avoids veering into gastropub territory. The humble chicken parma has been upgraded at The Rose now coming from ethically raised, happy chooks. Tom recommends the traditional mixed grill featuring the likes of black pudding, Merguez snags and saltbush lamb cutlets depending on what's good on the day.
You'd hardly recognise Pint on Punt now. Recently the newly dubbed Windsor Alehouse did away with the gaudy Irish/Brit pub vibe and switched to serving up modern Australian cuisine plus 19 refreshing ales on tap. Incumbent owner Evan Mahoney explains, "people expect restaurant quality food in pubs nowadays at a reasonable price". Evan suggests trying the black pudding and brie bons bons. Don't balk at the fancy ingredients; they are basically the upper-crust cousins of arancini balls. Meanwhile the vegetarians among us are flocking in for Windsor Alehouse's veggie parma with obligatory double cheese. While you’re at it, be adventurous and grab a pot of Cavalier's cherry sour beer on the side.
The George Hotel has been transformed into Freddie Wimpoles. "We want to be one of those seven day places...and become the local's bar of St Kilda," says general manager Scott McKay. The funny name comes from a former owner and once St Kilda mayor Frederick Wimpole. But the beer is serious business with a tap offering being tampered with weekly. Try Bad Shepherd's hazelnut brown ale alongside a "French Dip" sub sandwich. Dunk your meaty sandwich into the accompanying beef broth to make it all juicy and messy and just so damn good. And definitely ask for extra cheese.
Having just flung open its doors, Fitzroy Social has taken over the former Little Creatures Dining Hall space. The warehouse looks like another world with David Bromley's scrawled over the walls and a jungle sprouting from the ceiling. The menu is also plays things a little differently; scoff mac 'n' cheese pizza, caramel and nutella pie or Fitzroy Social's supercharged surf and turf (with pork belly and chorizo in addition to the traditional steak and prawns).
Sydney goes south as the second incarnation of The Cut moves into the old Stokehouse City and Comme site. From the same family of venues as Sake and Munich Bauhaus, this Big Apple-style bar and grill focuses on steak and sustainable seafood. Have zero regrets and spend a fair chunk of your tax return on the $98 Seven Creeks wagyu scotch fillet with a special bloody mary (they incorporate sauces from the Cut's dining menu!) at a long, lazy lunch with your buds. Start saving your pennies.
Image Credit: Windsor Alehouse via Facebook