The New and Cool on Sydney’s Pub Scene

Charing Cross Hotel & Dining Room - Saltwater Images

Charing Cross Hotel & Dining Room – Saltwater Images

What’s old is new again and at the pub, that means out with the pokies and in with the chic and sleek. Sydney’s pubs are a part of our past but over the last few years plenty have been given a new lease on life. Here’s our guide to a few of the latest public houses reopening their doors with a fresh, new look.

The Charing Cross Hotel

Lookout Waverley, The Charing Cross Hotel has been transformed from the pub on the corner to the place to be when you’re in the tough spot between Bondi and Clovelly.

Dating back to 1857, The Charing Cross still has its historical charm, but now there are plenty of wham bam touches that have brought this public house into this century. The heavily stylised, oh so chic look beloved by Sydney’s bar scene is done extremely well here – your eyes will zoom in on the seven metre long Chesterfield bench in a to-die-for baby blue leather that’s just calling for a night out with the girls. Walk around the corner and you can’t miss the giant CHARO sign in the beer garden out back – the letters came all the way from the entrance of the former Concorde Lafayette hotel in Paris.

The Charing Cross Dining Room is a comfy mix-match of rattan chairs, rococo wallpaper and wooden floorboards that all look just right together. Chef Matt Kemp is back in the kitchen after a break following his Balzac and Montpellier Public House days and he is certainly re-energised.

Try the deconstructed lamb niçoise salad for a delicate twist on the famous dish, or test your taste buds on crispy pigs head and Piccalilli. If you’re after comfort food, sit at the marble topped main bar and snack on homemade chicken pie and wood fire pizzas. Book in advance as they’re already filling up during the week.

The Charing Cross
81 Carrington Road, Waverley 2024 

The Hills

The old Central Tavern in Surry Hills has been totally transformed this year. First there was the opening of Brooklyn Social upstairs, where we can’t get enough of the BS-branded burgers, and now there’s The Hills. Brand new and ready to party like it’s Venice Beach circa 1990. There are Hawaiian jerk pizzas, kale salads and octopus tacos on the menu, along with a killer cocktail list. Keep an eye on the outdoor area as it gets spruced up in the next few weeks.

The Hills
42 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills 2010 (opposite Central Station)

The Swanson

Erskineville has just a few pubs left that haven’t been given the wow makeover. The Kurrajong was converted just a few months ago and no one is looking back. Sit al fresco with your puppy or inside sequestered in the leather booths on the ground floor if you’re after a casual wagyu burger, duck salad, pizza or homemade pie. Venture upstairs to the Dining Room, where the lights are dim, the tables are set to perfection and the marble bar is buzzing. Brad Sloane from the Balmain Pub Group has the food covered, with a great selection of dishes showcasing a commitment to superfoods and local produce. Check out the Cone Bay Barramundi with Black Barley, Shaved Fennel & Scallop Salad, Ponzu.

The Swanson
108 Swanson Street, Erskineville 2043

The Clock

The good old Clock has been a long-standing institution on Crown Street and even after a refurb in 2012, isn’t resting on its laurels. The Whisky Room has just opened up inside and yes, as the name suggests, it’s the spot for serious whisky drinkers. Make your way through more than 100 different whiskies, or if that challenge is too daunting, start with the Whisky Flight of three hand-picked whiskies.

The Clock Hotel
470 Crown Street, Surry Hills 2010

Coogee Pavilion

Merivale has once again worked its magic, this time turning Coogee’s favourite party pub, The Palace, into the Pavilion, a refined, robust and right on trend restaurant/bar/playground for all ages. From coffee carts and florists to wood fire pizza oven and oyster bar, you can get almost anything and everything here – and yes, the waiters’ aprons and the crockery are for sale.

It is Coogee and it is Merivale so be prepared for crowds – don’t worry, spend the time waiting for a table touring this palatial institution.

Find out more about the cool new Coogee Pavilion reno

Coogee Pavilion
169 Dolphin Street, Coogee 2034

Keg & Brew

Another Surry Hills oldie, the KB Hotel, is getting a fresh new look and emerging as the Keg & Brew this October. Think Texas cheek with cheeky cowboys and plenty of bourbon – although there’ll still be plenty of Aussie craft beer on tap. Watch this space. 

Keg & Brew
26 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills 2010

About the author

Lisa used to use Sydney as a base to drop off souvenirs before heading off on the next adventure but these days she’s got her feet almost on the ground, with a desire to try every high tea in Sydney, and a cute cavoodle puppy at home. Travel writer, photographer and Kitchen Aid freak, she loves to eat, bake and write.

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