Uni­corn Ho­tel

Time Out (Sydney) - - FOOD & DRINK -

Found: the best counter meals in Syd­ney. By Emily Lloyd-Tait When was the last time your lo­cal of­fered a plate of four juicy lamb chops? It was prob­a­bly some­time in the early ’90s, but thank­fully the new era at the Uni­corn Ho­tel is kickin’ it old school in the kitchen. Here your chops come with a slice of but­tered white Tip Top bread, a fried egg for an ex­tra three bucks, house-made mint sauce and a light, clear gravy. The counter meal has a new king.

And the retro hits don’t stop there. For five bucks you get a plate of Jatz and a huge serve of French onion dip. They get top marks for let­ting you choose the sides for the ten­der, per­fectly pink skirt steak – cau­li­flower cheese and honey car­rots for the win – but it’s the schnitzel that has won our eter­nal af­fec­tions. It’s such a sim­ple de­tail, but the fact that your golden-crumbed chicken breast comes with the wing at­tached is an im­me­di­ate sign that this schnitzel is not like the other ones. The team from Mary’s is be­hind the res­ur­rec­tion of this Paddo pub and that’s why the silky-smooth mash and top-shelf gravy prop­ping up your schnitty are so damn good. And yes, there is a burger on the menu.

When it came to the drinks list some very smart choices were made. There’s Reschs, VB and Fourex for lager lovers; Young Hen­rys cider for sweet re­lief; and a wit­bier from the Illawarra Brew­ing Com­pany that is light and bright, with a touch of spice.

We’ve seen many half-ar­sed wine lists in pubs, but this is not one of them. The Ravensworth ries­ling from the NSW South­ern Table­lands is fresh, zingy and smash­able, and the su­per-fruity Jauma Pub Juice shi­raz is light enough to make it hot weather ap­pro­pri­ate. They’ve even got their own wine, a South Aus­tralian gre­nache from Ochota Bar­rels called ‘And It All Went Dark at Mary’s’.

Our only real gripe with the Uni­corn is the noise. The ground-floor bar is a cav­ernous space and the hard stone floors, bare walls and high ceil­ings bounce ev­ery deci­bel of high spir­ited carous­ing back at you. Down­stairs things are a lit­tle qui­eter, though they’re still crank­ing Mid­night Oil, AC/DC, Spi­der­bait and Paul Kelly tunes. Out the back in the en­closed court­yard is the best spot for chats.

Syd­ney has seen a spate of pub re­vivals in the last three years, and while many are vastly im­proved, they also tend to lose many of the tra­di­tional el­e­ments of the clas­sic Aussie pub. Not so at the Uni­corn. The tunes are rock, the food is ex­cel­lent with­out be­ing fid­dly, and the doors are open to any­one who fan­cies a schooner – col­lars not nec­es­sary.

Uni­corn Ho­tel 106 Ox­ford St, Padding­ton 2021. 02 9360 7994. Daily 11am-late.

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