Bars & Pubs

The Best Pubs In Surry Hills For Good Beers And Great Vibes

By Benedict Kennedy-Cox

People outside The Dolphin Hotel, one of the best pubs in Surry Hills

Casual, cruisey and timeless, there is something so deeply comforting about the humble pub. Taps of cold beer, wine by the glass, chicken schnitzels, sport on the telly, happy hours and tables full of mates. If you’re ready to brave the odd steep incline, Surry Hills in Sydney’s/Eora's Inner East makes a worthy destination for your perfect pub odyssey. 

Surry Hills has a variety of classic pubs—seemingly on every corner—and each of them has had to step up their food and drinks game to stay relevant in the increasingly upmarket area. The result is an array of pubs offering wildly diverse dining and drinking options ready for you to nominate as your home away from home. Here is Urban List's take on the best pubs in Surry Hills.

Cricketers Arms

106 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Cricketers Arms | Instagram 

Dive into the Cricketers Arms where the patrons are young, the decor is old and the attitude is cheeky. Boasting the title of Sydney’s Best Pub (1972) and Enya live in concert every Tuesday, it is clear the Crix doesn’t take itself too seriously. The main bar is loud, wooden and full of people having a fun night, chatting, yelling and wasting time.

There’s a very smokey courtyard and—somewhat paradoxically—a flash French bistro upstairs called Chez Crix. Wander up for fun and easy-going French-leaning fare like steak frites, croquettes, and terrine served alongside a menu of natural vino. Cricketers also boasts a refreshing and easy-drinking Golden Bone Kolsch, brewed at Frenchies Bistro & Brewery in Rosebery. Get your kicks here late into the night or sharpen your pool skills with free games every Sunday.

Best for: The last stop before kick-ons.

Hotel Hollywood

2 Foster Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Hotel Hollywood | Instagram 

This pint-sized corner bar is one of Sydney's most beloved boozers. Hotel Hollywood is a longtime local favourite, but attracts a fashionable crowd too, usually starting or ending a night out on the town.

First opened by actress Doris Goddard, Sydney's first female publican, inside you'll find Hollywood memorabilia on the wood-panelled walls, a spinning disco ball, an old jukebox, toasties, and classic beers on tap. There's live music on Thursdays and DJs through the weekend. Pull up in one of the red booths for the night or bust a move on the makeshift dancefloor. 

Best for: Making the party last a little bit longer.  

Royal Albert Hotel

140 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills 

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Royal Albert | Instagram 

Even though they’ve been slinging suds since 1927, the Royal Albert Hotel has not had to update much to retain their perfect pub experience. The front bar is a classic bar furnished with leather stools, stained glass and wooden surfaces lovingly scuffed by years of hard use.

The TV screens here don’t show sport, instead listing various on-tap craft beers. Classic meets modern all over the menu featuring burgers (patties from Emilio’s Butcher), hotdogs and dumpling share plates. The wine list features some of the best of Australian and New Zealand vino including some gorgeously bubbly Moondara Petillant Chardonnay (Gippsland, VIC) which pairs well with a seat in the cosy courtyard or on one of the street side tables that suit families and furry friends. 

Best for: Yarning with the bartender over a craft beer.

Shakespeare Hotel

 200 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills 

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Shakespeare Hotel | Instagram

With a main bar featuring sepia-coloured tiles, nostalgic red patterned carpets, creaky stairs, and vintage mirrors, it is clear that the "Shakey" is proudly old school. And why wouldn’t they be? There’s an unchanged charm about the place; locals chat with bar staff like they’re in a sitcom, regulars nervously watch the Bunnies on TV and seemingly every sign is hand-painted.

Yet the Shakey is not immune to a few modern changes including a range of pet nats, cocktails (including the dangerous Devonshire Iced Tea), and a bistro menu featuring vegan options and eclectic specials. Plus dogs are welcome in the front bar that always seems to be in a relaxing chatter. It’s a divey joint that has retained an authentic Australiana charm worthy of a place in your heart.

Best for: Mid-dog walk pints.

The Dolphin Hotel

412 Crown Street, Surry Hills 

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: The Dolphin | Instagram 

Few pubs can offer such a variety of vibes while remaining as true to themselves as The Dolphin Hotel. A Crown Street fixture for many years, The Dolphin hovers somewhere between a modern pub and a multi-storey bar and restaurant, delivering top-notch woodfired pizza and pasta in a breezy atmosphere. 

Groups will love the shared mezze dishes which include whipped ricotta and San Daniele prosciutto. There’s also Italian Birra Morretti on tap as well as a hefty wine list which features David Spillae's “Bougie Goon” in a 500mL carafe. 

Best for: Pub vibes with a fancy Euro menu. 

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336 Riley Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Forrester's | Instagram 

Perched at the top of one of Surry Hills' steepest hills, Forrester’s is a classic watering hole that's well over 100 years old. These days, the Applejack Hospitality team is running the show and while they've smartened things up—added a cocktail bar, a bottomless lunch, and a dog happy hour ("Yappy Hour")—you can still expect to encounter a tried and true pub vibe every night of the week. 

On Mondays steaks are $15, Wednesday is trivia night, and there's live music in the bar on Thursdays and Fridays. Forrester's is also now famous for "The Big Yorkie", a full roast dinner served in an enormous Yorkshire pudding. 

Best for: A good time, any night of the week. 

Hotel Harry

40/44 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills 

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Hotel Harry | Instagram

Colourful and cavernous, Hotel Harry is a grand old corner pub with multiple spaces across multiple storeys to get lost in. The MO at Harry's is "eat, drink, and dance" and here your night can very easily move between all three. 

During the week, there's comedy on Mondays, a nightly happy hour with $6 beers and $10 frozen cocktails, and a sprawling pub menu packed with burgers, schnitzel, tacos, steaks, salads, and more. On the weekends, Harry's "House Party" kicks in with guest DJs, free entry, and late-night vibes thanks to its 3am license. 

Best for: Beginning or ending a big night. 

El Loco At Excelsior

64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills 

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: El Loco | Instagram 

Beneath all the colourful pinatas, streamers, candy skulls, Spanish language puns, painted barrels and
Frida Kahlo portraits, you can see the old pub this place once was. El Loco is not an overly authentic Mexican joint but it’s colourful, it’s camp and it doesn’t care. Thankfully, neither should you.

The range of margaritas is extra salty, available classic, frozen or in special seasonal variations. Tacos and quesadillas are fresh and made on delicious corn tortillas. DJs are often present spinning a Central American soundtrack full of salsa and big band tunes. No one is here because it’s their local, they're here for a good time so make sure you are too.

Best for: Birthdays and margaritas. 

The Trinity

505 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: The Trinity | Instagram 

The downstairs of The Trinity resembles one of the cornerstones of contemporary Australian culture: the pool room. It is a boozy living room lined with books, kegs, sports memorabilia, pies with mashed potato and gravy and Guinness sales in the top 50 of NSW.

If you want to get away from the sport however, which is often played loud enough to hear the commentators, pop upstairs to the open-roofed Tilly May’s, a sleek and laidback cocktail lounge. Tilly May’s has its own menu of share plates, salad bowls, and dessert specials as well as cocktails, gin, wines by the glass or bottle and a stunning international range of bourbon, scotch, and whiskey.

Best for: Watching footy (downstairs) or casual cocktails (upstairs).

Dove & Olive

156 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Dove & Olive | Instagram

Lively, leathery and gorgeous, there is a smile on every face in the Dove & Olive. Downstairs features a 26-tap craft beer stacked bar (which you can explore with a $15.90 beer-tasting paddle) amongst smokey teal walls and black and white framed photographs of sporting greats. Upstairs features mafia-esque booths made for drinking and feasting with friends while the sun shimmers through the panelled glass windows at golden hour.

Even the smoking section is nice here, that’s how good the Dove & Olive is. You could read about their multiple pub food awards or you could prove it to yourself by ordering a bowl of spaghetti, bolognese or arrabbiata ($15 every weekday at lunch). We recommend getting a cheeky side of fresh fried potato scallops with your choice of condiment from their bookshelf of sauce.

Best for: Catching up with old mates.

Keg & Brew

26 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills PubsImage credit: Keg & Brew | Instagram 

Keg & Brew is a four-storey pub with heaps to explore. On the street level, it's a classic pub with a cowboy theme, animal heads, cowhides and booth seating. Beer lovers are in heaven here with 31 taps featuring pub favourites and limited craft releases.

Head up to level one or two to wine and dine in their modern bistro dining areas with French and Italian white wines available by the glass. However, the most lively place is the green and serene rooftop. With city views and an open kitchen, it is a great place to enjoy a sunny afternoon session. 

Best for: Rooftop beers. 

For more of Sydney's best, check out:

Image credit: The Dolphin Hotel | Instagram 

Urban List Best Of: has our highest stamp of approval—curated lists of the very best recommendations for you to eat, do, see, buy, or book, carefully chosen by our Editors.

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