It must feel good to be a pub.
Everyone’s always excited to visit you, you’re always in good company, and your taps have beer coming out of them. Everyone knows that the best pubs in the world are in Australia—and though Melbourne will try to fight us on this—the best of the best are really in Sydney.
From Newtown to Darlinghurst and over the bridge to the Northern Beaches, here are the best pubs in and around this grand, sparkly city.
Do you like natural wine? Do you like delicious tacos? If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, The George is patiently awaiting your patronage. Part owned by Joel Amos of online natural wine retailer DRNKS, The George has an incredible wine-shop led by the DRNKS crew attached to the pub where you can buy a bottle and then pay corkage to pop it in-house. After getting a bit of a polish-up last year, it’s become a much-loved local that lacks pretention or judgement.
Home to some of Sydney’s best chicken schnitzel, The Unicorn in Paddington pays tribute to the classic Aussie pub, but steps things up a notch or two when it comes to food, beer and wine. With a huge mural of Australia on one side and a wooden pool table and dartboard on the other, this two-story Oxford St institution gives off some strong Australiana vibes. Not only does the menu include Mary’s burgers and their famous schnitty with the wing on, but the wine list also boasts some of Australia’s best natural and biodynamic blends. Owned by Jake Smyth (of Mary’s Burger, The Landsdowne and The Basement fame), it’s no wonder there’s a line out the door here every Friday and Saturday night.
The Rose Hotel
Would a pub by any other name smell as sweet? The Rose is a true local’s pub—attracting neighbouring uni students and Chippo residents in equal measure, lured by their tasty menu and cheap drinks. Out the back of this Cleveland St corner pub, you’ll find arguably the most splendid beer garden in all of Sydney, lined with picnic tables and benches to perch upon on a balmy summer’s afternoon. With a range of craft beers and ciders on tap, The Rose is the perfect spot for a laid back afternoon bevy with mates.
Chippendale’s Lord Gladstone has an almost cult-like following. Renowned for its boozy, wild live music nights and its support of local artists (we see you, Scott Marsh), it comes as no surprise that this is where all the cool kids congregate. With cheap eats and an event on almost every night of the week, the Lord Gladstone is most definitely where the party’s at.
Affectionately dubbed "The Courty", Newtown’s most cherished taphouse serves up a classic pub menu with generous portions and a host of lunch and dinner deals, too. Perched in the suburban streets of the Inner West, The Courty’s main pull is its huge paved beer garden out the back, and its welcoming attitude to all walks of life. Oh, and its cheap beer jugs. Definitely revered for those, too.
The Oxford Tavern
Petersham’s Oxford Tavern recently came under new management, but you can bet your bottom brisket that The Black Betty barbeque is still smoking its way into your belly by way of delicious Wagyu brisket, pulled pork or pulled jackfruit. Aside from the food, you’ll find beer here that you won’t find anywhere else, as the new owners (James and Josh Thorpe) specialise in rare ales with unique flavours.
Essentially, the Lord Dudley is the legendary great-grandfather of Woollahra. Founded in 1896, the Dudley is about as old-timey England as a pub can get, with mahogany wood and open fireplaces scattered throughout its maze-like floor plan. Ivy climbs the walls out front, while Rugby loving locals fill its suburban sidewalk with a smoke in one hand and a pint in the other. The food is rustic and hearty—think meaty steaks and chicken potpies—and the atmosphere is cosy and familiar, like sharing Sunday dinner with your folks.
The rebirth of Sydney live-music institution The Landsdowne in 2017 was both a blessing and a curse for this town. On the one hand, we finally have a place to completely let loose whilst watching some incredible bands, but it’s also single-handedly responsible for 75% of Sydney-sider’s weekly hangovers. Owned by Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham (Mary’s and The Unicorn) this two-story dive bar is about as no-frills and dingy as they come, but that’s also its charm. Looking around, you mightn’t expect to be wowed by the food offerings, but it’s worth noting that the Detroit style pepperoni pizza coming out of the ovens here is nothing short of scrumptious.
The pub formerly known as The Swanson Hotel remerged recently with a fresh refurb and a new name (that's actually the venue's original title): The Kurrajong Hotel. Across the road from leafy Harry Noble Reserve and Erskineville Oval, it's a local charmer with 12 taps pouring beers from local and independent breweries and head chef Daniel Lanza (Opera Bar, North Bondi Fish) keeping sustainable and local produce front and centre. If you like a challenge and you're extra hungry, why not have a go at The Kurrajong's enormous off-menu "Mount Parmarama" parmi stack. Finish it in one go and you'll score a t-shirt and be added to the pub's hall of fame.
Erskineville’s LGBTI+-friendly Imperial pub reopened early last year after getting a much-deserved makeover, and the results are fabulous. Low-key locale it is not—if you’re heading for a night at the Imperial, be prepared to dance, sing, and drag your heart out. Offering good times and delicious food via the ground floor restaurant Priscillas and debaucherous party vibes by way of The Basement, this pub puts the extra in extraordinary.
Friend In Hand
Taking it back all the way to 1858, Friend in Hand has been satiating the thirst of Glebe and Pyrmont residents for centuries. Old school and a little eccentric, this local watering hole boasts a classic bistro menu and some pretty eclectic décor. With a charming clientele spanning all ages and creeds, you’re bound to make a friend here—and that includes George, the resident sulphur-crested cockatoo who has called the pub home since she was two-years-old.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Sydney-sider who hasn’t started or ended a night at Darlo Bar. It’s a classic "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" style pub, with tables and chairs scattered out onto the bustling sidewalk of Darlinghurst Rd. Prepare to mix with some colourful clientele if you take a seat here—otherwise head to the open-air rooftop bar for a cocktail, or order some takeaway from nearby restaurants that’ll deliver straight to your table.
Who doesn’t love a good multi-storey pub vibe in the heart of Darlinghurst? If you’re looking for something a little swanky (thanks to a huge refurb a few years back), East Village offers you no less than three tempting options. Head down the stairs for a glass of vino in the classy wine bar, keep it cool at the luxe Athletics Club mid-level, or climb your way to the top and devour a delicious meal on the rooftop terrace (easily one of Sydney's greatest rooftop spots).
Public House Petersham
If you’re looking for a pub that screams "COMMUNITY!", head to Public House in Petersham. With a big focus on craft beer and classic rock tunes, this dog-friendly spot is a favourite among laid-back Inner West locals. The spacious courtyard lined with festive striped umbrellas is where all the action’s at, with a wood-fired pizza oven pumping out some of Sydney’s best cheesy pies. Feeling the heat? Allow the outdoor mist machines to cool you down as you sip on something by Marrickville's Batch Brewing Company, located out the back.
Over the bridge (but not so far away), the recently renovated Newport (previously The Newport Arms) offers incredible waterfront views and a modern Australian menu in a sweet, trendy setting. Merivale have done an incredible job retaining the best parts of this much-loved Northern Beaches pub, whilst injecting new life into its aging décor. As we’ve come to expect from Merivale, the menu consists of local fresh produce with innovative twists and zesty cocktails to enjoy amidst a cool and contemporary atmosphere.
Looking for Sydney's best beer gardens? You'll want to check our list out here.
Image credit: Jude Cohen, Jude Cohen, Tanya Lee, Frederica Portentoso, Caitlin Hicks