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Sydney: Riverview Hotel, Oaks Hotel

For my first night back in Sydney for Christmas (which happened to be Christmas Eve), my parents wanted to show me a great little pub they'd found in Balmain called the Riverview (29 Birchgrove Road). The upstairs dining room was booked out, but bar food was available in the main pub area on street level from 6pm. We had arrived rather hungry at 5.30pm! So we perched on semi-uncomfortable stools around a long tall table and chewed the fat for a bit.

The waiter was chummy, the wine plentiful, and the food (post 6pm) very tasty. All of us wanted the duck salad, but each ordered different things for the purpose of variation! I had the mushroom gnocchi, which was just the right amount for gnocchi, which can often be too much/too filling. My mother's prawn pizza looked great, but she hasn't expected the hidden jalapeños and extra water was required! Dad was content with his steak, and my sister's duck salad looked OK but probably not as great as all of us had hoped.

Prawn pizza

Yummy pear, walnut, rocket side salad

Steak & chips

Duck salad

Mushroom gnocchi

The pub is old-school but modernised; typical Balmain in that it is small-ish, two-storey, and on a street corner among weatherboard houses and hilly streets - but friendly, warm and efficient. We checked out the upstairs dining room before leaving - it seemed more formal, but still nice. Possibly a great venue for a party or event.

My sister and I then headed to the Oaks in Neutral Bay (118 Military Road) for apparently ritual Christmas Eve shenanigans that I had never heard of. The Oaks is a HUGE, classic pub my family have gone to since I was a little girl in the 1980s. It has been renovated and restructured since then of course - losing some features for the worse, I think (e.g. several years ago, the night before I left for Melbourne, they wouldn't serve my parents and me a shot - MY PARENTS! - and seemed to have no hot chips as a menu item, despite serving them as a side). Nonetheless, the huge oak tree in the huge beer garden is still a huge drawcard, plus there are so many bar sections, you're bound to find one to suit you. There's not much better than sitting at the Oaks on a sunny afternoon, sipping your troubles away and then sizzling up a steak on the self-cook grill plates. It's one of the few places I always make the effort to visit when I'm in Sydney.

The Oaks Hotel - beer garden


Sexy carpet in the Sports Bar of the Oaks

On Christmas Eve, the joint was packed. I'm talking wall-to-wall bodies in every bar. It was great, and fun, but obviously a bit hard to get a drink, or pick your way to the loos, only to have to wait in line. There were mainly young-ish patrons, on average probably 23-26 years old, but a few older, including a few friendly tourists... (I'm a sucker for an accent!). When I lost my sister around 1am (both our phones had died), I cabbed it home. Awesome fun; but possibly not a pace I'm cut out for anymore?! (How sad!)

Riverview Hotel on Urbanspoon

The Oaks on Urbanspoon

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