Classic Pub dishes have long defined our favourite watering holes, and while there are plenty of Pubs still offering steaks, burgers and schnitzels, it’s the chefs offering a new take on the traditional who are gaining traction.
While it may seem a simple approach, clever reinvention has been key to retaining Pub patrons accustomed to the more traditional fare of steaks, schnitzels and burgers, with an occasional Sunday roast, without going too far down the gastropub road as happened in the UK.
Colin Fassnidge’s reinvented versions of burger, schnitzel, fish and chips, steak and chips, and his pie of the week at the Banksia Hotel near Botany in Sydney are both pretty and spectacular reinterpretations of the Pub Classics, both in look and taste.
The burger uses dry-aged beef along with quality cheese and pickles plus a housemade smoked pepper mayo, while the steak is wagyu flank with a red wine jus.
But it’s the corned beef, wagyu grade 3, with chat potato, house pickled cauliflower and turnip, all floating in a glistening clear broth made with the brining solution, that catches your eye. It’s a dream-like version of the one your nanna should have made.
Fassnidge (Four in Hand, 4Fourteen) has chef Leigh McDivitt (ex Rozelle’s Three Weeds) helping deliver Pub Classics and produce driven dishes at this Monarch Group-owned Pub in a lesser known corner of Sydney’s south-west.
While higher grade produce such as free-range organic chicken is in the schnitzel and graded wagyu flank is in the steak dish, it’s the clever use of wagyu off-cuts and sweet potato skin chips that go into a cracking beef tartare, as one example of how costs are offset to reduce bottom line.
“The tartare costs us an egg and some seasoning and that’s about it,” says McDivitt.
Sydney’s Balmain Pub Group Executive Chef, Brad Sloane (The Greenwood, North Sydney; Town Hall Balmain; The Swanson, Erskineville) has been through at least half a dozen Pub kitchens in the past five years, leaving behind old-fashioned menus in a far more up-to-date state than before he entered.
“I have a pretty regimented structure to menus these days for my Pubs. We always have a range of burgers, we generally have a range of pizzas, steaks and salads as well - things like super food salads because there is a massive health kick. A lot of the time I try to make things gluten-free as well,” says the former AHA Chef of the Year.
“And there are the Classics but (instead of the traditional) we do a chicken karaage burger (at The Greenwood) with kimchi coleslaw and soy and sesame mayonnaise.”
Other famous Pubs, such as the Breakfast Creek Hotel in Queensland, are also constantly reinventing Classics to maintain a global reputation as a destination Down Under, including a dish of barramundi baked in butter, topped with fresh Queensland prawns and served with hollandaise sauce.
When it comes to steaks, the Pub offers provenance in a 60-day in-house dry-aged rib-eye on the bone using a grass-fed five-breed cross from Mandalong Station.
Meanwhile Melbourne’s The Windsor Alehouse tricks up that Victorian staple, the parma, but does a veggie version with double cheese, grilled eggplant, napoli sauce and fennel salad, or there is a Clonakilty black pudding with a twist, as it is served with three brie “bon bons” and a roasted beetroot gel.
The gastro-fied Fitzroy Social from Chef Andrew McConnell (Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co, Supernormal, etc) lists a supercharged surf and turf with pork belly and chorizo as additions to the traditional steak and prawn dish.
And forget chicken caesar, at Auckland’s Clare Inn, their salad comes with the obligatory cos leaves, soft egg, croutons, grilled bacon and parmesan but the chook has flown the coop and been replaced by crispy duck.
Much as the craft beer trend has crept into Pubs to become a common feature, new twists on tried and true Classics are taking pride of place on menus too.