More than 100 reviewers ‘risked life and limb’ to visit over 500 pubs in New South Wales, says Keith Austin, editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide, which was launched in Sydney last night. But only about 400 reviews made it into the 2014 edition.
So why don’t all the pubs make the guide? Well, the standards are high, and food poisoning isn’t one of them (yes, a couple of years ago a reviewer fell ill on assignment).
Pubs are assessed and scored out of 20 for food, service, ambience, and the magic ‘feel good’ factor. So if they make it into the guide they’re definitely a winner. Unfortunately, some pubs just miss out by a whisker (or should that be ‘serviette’), but others don’t deserve to be there, like the one that dished up this special.
“Burns victims’ carrots teamed with a salad left dressed in the bowl so long the cherry toms had emulated ebola victims does indeed make for a special, but not in a good way.”
Another problem faced by contributors is the 100-word review limit. As Keith says, “Once you’ve covered the food, the service and the ambience, there’s not much room left to describe that stuffed moose head or the amazing loos…”
But décor can play an important role in the pub experience, as this reviewer found.
“Facing off with a zebra, oryx, kudu or deer? Either you’ve had too many beers at the zoo, or you’re at the Bella Vista Hotel, where majestic animal heads, mounted between curtain-draped booths, lord over this swanky new hotel. The mixologist (aka stylist) has taken a nip of Out of Africa, a dash of Arabian Nights and a slug of Christian Lacroix for a décor cocktail that combines exotic animal skins, Gothic chandeliers, wing-backed chairs, dripping candles, tree-trunk tabletops, smoochy banquettes and funky under-bar lighting. Pretty damn cool for what was once a tile showroom.”
It is the Good Pub Food Guide, not the ‘Good Pub Décor Guide‘, but even so, there’s very little room for reviewers to indulge in evocative food imagery, which is a pity, because I like the sound of the charcoal-scorched focaccia at The London Hotel in Balmain, which the reviewer described as, “So delicious you just want to smear yourself with fantastic smoky baba ghanoush and hand a wand of fluffy bread to your partner and have a great romp.”
But most importantly, grab yourself a copy of the Good Pub Food Guide and get down to your local for some top nosh.
The Good Pub Food Guide will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, November 23 (from participating newsagents). It will also be available in bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au for $9.99 from today.
Disclaimer: The writer may or may not be an occasional contributor to the Good Pub Food Guide.