Sydneysiders will tell you, to embrace the experience of visiting their 'home of sport' in Moore Park and having a quick beer at a pub in 'Paddo', or a rendezvous at a corner hotel in Surry Hills, is an ingrained tradition.
Taking the famous 'walk up the hill' from Central Railway Station through Surry Hills you notice many historical buildings which have been converted to house trendy restaurants and bars, playing home to some of the city's most eclectic characters. This once-working class suburb, threaded with rows of postcard pretty terrace houses, is now one of Sydney’s most beloved drinking and dining destinations.
The Paddington pub scene has hosted some of the most memorable supporter celebrations and commiserations in Australian sporting history.
The massive contingent from the Barmy Army, supporting the English cricket team on Ashes duty, feel right at home wandering the streets of Paddington and the myriad of hotels and bars.
Die-hard rugby fans have always used the 'Paddo Pubs' to kick start their match day whilst the Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers A-League derby fans can be heard miles away after leaving their respective meeting places.
Winter weekends entertain some lively banter as home and away supporters of NRL and AFL teams leave Surry Hills and Paddington, snaking their way through the back streets toward the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground precinct.
Once riddled with desperate slums, Surry Hills is now one of Sydney’s most dynamic and charm-filled suburbs. Lined with cool restaurants and hip bars, it has a thriving pub scene, with hotels once the notorious homes of razor gangs now fashionable bastions of gastronomy and good times.
If you are after a “night on the tiles”, as Sydneysiders say - then here’s the pick of the pubs.
The Cricketers Arms
The Cricketers Arms
This gloriously unreconstructed pub is a Sydney institution - standing unrenovated and whole while others in the area have fallen victim, one by one, to the ambitions of builders and architects.
The main attraction is the atmosphere, a creation of the eclectic mix of old and new customers, while the cold beers and cheap meals - $10 tacos and steaks - are happy bonuses.
106 Fitzroy St, Surry Hills.
Once a gloomy old man’s pub, a 2016 renovation saw The Dolphin transformed into one of the most on trend drinking and dining dens in Sydney.
The kitchen pumps out excellent bistro food with an Italian bent - think Roman-style pizzas and European salads - and there’s sweet little wine room for those who like things a bit fancy.
But many just come to drink cold beers, pre-mixed negronis and good wines, while nibbling quality pub food in cool surrounds.
412 Crown St, Surry Hills.
Dove and Olive
Dove and Olive
Craft beer is the speciality of this popular pub in the back streets of Surry Hills.
With more than 20 domestic and international craft brews on tap, not to mention a heap more by the bottle, plus a menu of well-cooked bistro classics, a Sunday roast option and daily specials that start at $10.90, there’s not much not to love here.
156 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.
This sprawling bar inside the 1912 heritage-listed Hotel Harry offers a New Orleans via Havana take on Sydney pub drinking and dining.
There’s plenty of Southern eating to be had, including fried chicken and chipotle fish tacos, but as many people go for the jugs of Pimms and spiced rum cocktails, the DJ and the comfy booth seating, as the food.
40-44 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills.
A writer recently described the Hollywood as “gritty” and that seems as good a description as any for this character-filled hotel with a past.
Larger-than-life owner Doris Goddard was once a film star and the pub retains something of a golden years of Hollywood glamour about it, with a deeply faded James Ellroy edge.
Drop in for a beer to rub shoulders with some colourful Surry Hills characters.
2 Foster St, Surry Hills.
There’s an emphasis on regional NSW wines at this imposing but charming red-brick pub with open windows onto Oxford St.
Try tipples from vineyards including Orange, the Hunter Valley and the Southern Highlands and stay for quality beef or burgers for lunch or dinner.
A new barber service means you can get a trim while enjoying a beer.
252 Oxford St, Paddington.
Beer lovers should seek out this thriving hotel located a short jog from the SCG.
The ever-changing range of beers is impressive, with a focus on local craft brews. The atmosphere is always fun and warm, while the youthful menu includes cheeseburgers and fish tacos.
122 Flinders St, Darlinghurst.
The Light Brigade
The Light Brigade
Founded more than 120 years ago, The Light Brigade is an historic art deco hotel located in the heart of the Paddington pub scene.
Always rated among Sydney’s favourite watering holes the Light Brigade boasts four entertainment, dining and bar levels ensuring patrons always find a reason to visit.
Catch every major sporting event on the impressive 103-inch plasma screen in the Brigade Bar, dine at Subida the Spanish tapas restaurant, enjoy an intimate cocktail in the Brigade Lounge or relax in the leafy Brigade Rooftop terrace.
Corner of Oxford Street and Jersey Road Woollahra.
This classic corner pub has been fully restored but retains a cosy rustic charm that truckloads of glossy paint cannot hide.
Feel the working-class heritage seeping through the walls while sitting in the downstairs public bar with its soaring ceilings, or go upstairs for some modern Chinese food at the happening East London restaurant.
85 Underwood St, Paddington.
The Lord Dudley
The Lord Dudley
One of Sydney’s most beloved pubs, the Lord Dudley was built in 1889 in the fashion of a grand English manor house.
On tranquil afternoons, drinkers spill out onto the leafy streets outside the main bar, while inside find European ales, English lagers and local brews.
Hearty comfort food, the likes of pies and terrines, is served in a basement restaurant between sandstone walls.
236 Jersey Rd, Paddington.
Paddington’s main thoroughfare, Oxford St, is lined with outstanding pubs, but the reigning queen is this beautifully renovated two-level establishment that’s as beloved for its food as its comforting spaces.
The drinking zone is at the front, with some seats looking out onto the busy street, while from the kitchen to the rear, roasted chickens emerge from a bank of rotisserie ovens imported from France.
384 Oxford St, Paddington.
It’s all about the view from the verandahs at this grand corner pub overlooking Paddington’s lovely Five Ways.
To sit at the Elephant Bar on a sunny afternoon with a cold beer or chilled wine is one of life’s pleasures, with the view towards Sydney Harbour an added thrill.
237 Glenmore Rd, Paddington.
As traditional a Sydney pub as you can find, the 'Shakey' has remained virtually unaltered since opening in 1879.
Pub lovers will fall for the exterior tiles, the interior wallpapers and wooden bars that are a nod to times gone by.
Modernity strikes in a menu that includes a yellow chicken curry and pork ribs, alongside the inevitable chicken schnitzel and fish and chips, with Resch’s on tap.
200 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.
While other pubs in Paddington are genteel and historic, this hotel - run by a collective of cool young restauranteurs - exudes punk rock attitude.
At The Unicorn, the music is loud, the pub grub retro - think crumbed chops with honey carrots or a chicken parmigiana - and the beer is Resch’s, a Sydney cult brew increasingly hard to find.
The Unicorn has a cheeky, irreverent edge.
106 Oxford St, Paddington.