Sydney’s pub dining has come a long way in the last twenty years. It’s more than a decade ago when The Forresters in Surry Hills became the first pub to offer $5 steaks to draw in the crowd.
Since then, publicans have realized that ridiculously high profit margins for alcohol can only be sustained if there is a pull factor for the drinking crowd. Many pubs have up the ante by creating tantalizing food menus to match killer cocktail lists designed specifically to woo the ladies. And pub owners know too well that when the sheilas come in, the blokes will follow suit.
Some establishments have also refurbished their old and tired premises. Gone are the dark and dingy corners with the stench of beer from the day before. Hip and modern decor bring about a breath of fresh air and a renewed appetite to serve good, wholesome food.
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s annual Pub Food Guide has given casual diners more visibility in locating some of the best pub food the city has to offer. In addition, many pubs and hotels have engaged PR professionals to devise cutting-edge marketing campaigns to lure in customers, often through social media hype and frenzy.
And with the kind invitation of PR agency Shake Appeal, I am here at The Flynn with my shiela friend, Towkayso.
Drawing inspiration from Australian swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn (20 June 1909 – 14 October 1959), The Flynn’s Lil’ Damita Restaurant is named after Flynn’s first wife, French actress Lili Damita.
Towkayso tells me a Toffee Apple cocktail is like the handsome Aussie actor himself – endearingly sweet yet deceptively powerful.
And just like how a woman may blush after noticing a suave and charming gentleman, she is already blushing after a few sips of this cocktail.
Or perhaps the blushing is because she is having lunch with me.
Zucchini blossoms are stuffed with gorgonzola and ricotta. The batter is light and crisp yet the cheese inside is hot and gooey.
Sprinkled with finely shaved parmesan, this tri-cheese entree is a serious contender for Mysaucepan‘s zucchini flower recipe that she loves preparing at home.
Hiramasa kingfish is super fresh and the skin delightfully crisp. The meat is a little firm from being just a tad overcooked. I would have preferred this beautiful fillet on medium rare by searing it skin-side down on the hot griddle for an even longer majority of cooking time.
I taste turmeric in the sweet carrot and ginger puree and wonder if this is the best flavour combination for such a fresh piece of seafood.
Seasonally, this warm and creamy puree would work better in winter but on a sunny day at the end of summer, I am thinking bold salsa verde ala Jamie Oliver to give this dish more attitude.
Towkayso’s chicken burger is a meal that any bloke would be happy to greet in a pub.
Served on a wooden platter, a steak knife spears through a brioche bun, grilled chicken breast fillets, lettuce minted slaw, lettuce and hot mayonnaise. Hot steak fries on the side complete the picture if you have a cold beer in hand.
In recent years, I have come to judge a pub by its signature steak just as you would a Chinese restaurant by its signature fried rice.
A 300gm Angus scotch fillet from Rangers Valley north of New South Wales with a beef marble score of 3 -6 sounds too good to pass. And grain-fed (as opposed to grass-fed) tells me this steak is worthy if cooked well (See my comparison of grass-fed vs grain-fed steaks here).
I prefer my steak presented on its own and choice of sauce on its side. However, this slab of rib-eye comes with a couple of deep-fried onion rings, grilled mushrooms and roast tomatoes piled on top.
A request for medium rare is beautifully complied with and the red wine jus turns out to be a revelation for this succulent and juicy piece of meat. It is redolent of butter, beefy flavours, black pepper, herbs and of course, red wine.
Each mouthful is laden with a tasty piece of beef fat and as it pans out, this steak is one of the best among so many pub steaks I have tasted in Sydney.
The Flynn’s menu has some pretty enticing items ranging from burgers, steak sandwiches, fish and chips to pasta and pizzas. There’s also lunch specials for $12 from Mondays to Thursdays – Black Angus Burger, sashimi and soft shell crab salads, ricotta meat balls and even bahn mi courtesy of Head Chef Thuong Dang‘s Vietnamese heritage.
But for now, I am happy to sing praises for the zucchini blossoms and that awesome piece of rib eye steak.
So dear reader, do you have a favourite pub in Sydney and if so, what is your go to dish there?
2A Bligh street
Sydney, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9223 0037
Opening hours: Lunch & Dinner Monday to Friday, 10am till late. Closed Saturday & Sunday.