Update: Woolwich Pier Hotel was recently awarded Best Hotel for Dining by Sydney Morning Herald’s Pub Food Guide 2014.
Being a harbour city, there are countless bay, reefs, coves, peninsulas and inlets around Sydney’s foreshores and seascapes.
Many of these spots are popular with Sydneysiders because of its often breathtaking and panoramic views over the water. Throw in Sydney’s acclaimed ‘320 sunny days in a year’ and a glass of chilled chardonnay and you have the perfect formula for spending a day outdoors to soak up the sunshine.
Unless you get there early, weekend dining spots are so popular among locals and tourists that many people are willing to wait up to an hour to get a table at some cafes and restaurants around Sydney.
Are there anymore restaurants serving good food with views that nobody knows about? I am inclined to think not.
But there is one restaurant in Sydney that is a little more difficult to get to because it is tucked away from tourist hotspots around the city and public transport is in the form of less frequent buses, especially on weekends.
The Woolwich Pier Hotel located towards the end of the Hunters Hill peninsula in the exclusive suburb of Woolwich has just re-opened after extensive renovations.
Apart from a handful of restaurants clustered around the eastern end, it is a very leafy and quiet spot where one can sit and watch the sailboats gently rocking in the calm waters.
We only found out this is the first Sunday the restaurants has re-opened after its renovation period.
Even at 1.30pm when we get here, the lunchtime crowd queueing for orders does not seem to be dying down anytime soon.
“There is an average 45-minute wait” the waitress tells us.
There is a nice and shady dining area in the outdoor courtyard and there are also ample sitting area upstairs to have a drink while waiting for the meal buzzer to sound.
You can either have a few drinks or if adventurous, you can go for a short walk around Woolwich once you have placed your orders.
On this busy Sunday, our meal buzzer took an hour and a half to sound – literally double the waiting time which we were told earlier. The kitchen and wait staff know they are under-staff and under the pump with so many people here today. Accordingly, the bar is happy to oblige my request for two rounds of free drinks while we waited for our food.
The menu looks a more exciting than the average restaurant in a pub. The usual bar snacks include garlic toasties, croquettes, salt and pepper squid, split pea and ham soup and prices are competitive despite the restaurant’s elegant decor in an upmarket location.
Portions are fairly generous and a spanner crab linguine comes with vine-ripened tomatoes, chilli, garlic and diced zucchini.
The twice cooked pork belly looks dark and luscious. It is stacked up on braised kale, smoked speck, prunes and topped with red apple crisps.
The meat is very tender and yielding and I find sweetness of the prune juice to be right on the mark.
Full marks to the chef for thinking about a great sauce complement that does not involve apple for this pork dish. The red apple crisps are also an excellent idea to give some texture although they can be a lot more crispy.
There are a lot of families with young children here today and a Sliders section on the menu has 6 choices for your burger patty: herb & cheddar crumbed chicken, grilled chicken, pulled pork belly, pulled lamb shoulder, beer battered Dory fillet and grass-fed beef.
What an excellent choice for these small sliders and I can see them going down so well with the kids. There is a minimum order of two sliders and we choose the grass-fed beef and pulled pork belly.
The sliders come in small, golden brown brioche buns studded with white sesame seeds.
This grass-fed beef slider comes with relish, pickles, onion jam, melting cheddar and mayo.
The pulled pork belly slider is sandwiched with red cabbage slaw and smokey BBQ mayo.
I have had meals here in the past but it looks like the hotel has really stepped up its game in the food department.
We are sitting on the long communal sofa and after an hour and a half, we have also made conversation with the folks next to us who have waited almost as long as us.
The lady next to me orders a confit duck leg that comes with savoy cabbage and a fig sauce drizzled on a reservoir made from chestnut puree. I thought it looks pretty good, certainly better than many restaurants within a pub.
The dining room is buzzing with the the weekend crowd and for families, children are allowed in the main bar areas too.
The French fries are crisp and arrive pipping hot to the touch. They are seriously addictive with a cold beer.
The outdoor area of this pub is a shady from a huge tree and is popular with families because it is child-friendly.
A Pier punch seems to be popular and why not on a lazy Sunday with beautiful outdoor weather.
I normally prefer wooded chardonnays but an unwooded 2012 Mike Press Chardonnay has no hints of oak and its fresh nectarine flavours are elegant.
The grass fed beef burger comes with sesame brioche bun, melting tasty cheese and more of those French fries.
Flathead fish and chips are crisp and I prefer tartare sauce to a green pea mash dip.
The Woolwich Pier Hotel is one of Sydney’s more elegant pubs because it isn’t grungy and it doesn’t have a “pub odour” like some drinking holes in the city. It is a pub dining experience that I would happily recommend to Sydney visitors.
It the tail end of winter and pink Magnolias are in full bloom. We take a walk after lunch to look at some of nature’s beauty and more importantly, to work off the calories from a hearty lunch.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite pub in Sydney and what is your favourite food when dining in a pub?
Woolwich Pier Hotel
2 Gale Street
Woolwich, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9817 2204
Opening hours: Open 7 days for lunch and dinner