This corner pub is, from street view, as innocuous as any other. More than 110 years old and a little rough around the edges, it looks like your average neighbourhood hotel, but an extensive upstairs renovation draws Barhop through the doors in the quest for a good steak and a schooner on the lower north shore.
PUBS ARE A DIME A DOZEN in Sydney, so it takes something special to make it more than just a regular haunt for locals. The Buena Vista is aiming to achieve this on two fronts.
The first is the upstairs reno, which is very good.
The ’80s carpet and sticky tables downstairs are left for dead in this light, breezy, timber-filled space filled with hanging plants, teak tables and an open ceiling resembling an urban treehouse. At one end is a barbecue where people are sizzling their own steaks. At the other, the ever-present plasma screens. Timber tables are warmed by the heaters, and umbrellas guard against the on-off rain. It’s a nice space that will only get better insummer.
ELSEWHERE ARE SEVERAL UNINSPIRING bars that host a crowd of old and young, leaning more towards the latter as the bars get noisier during the night. The bland downstairs bars and bistro do the 110-year-old exterior, which has changed over the years but still looks endearingly tattered, a disservice. If only the renovation included downstairs, because it tastefully bridges the old and new.
THE SECOND VICTORY is the food menu, which isn’t the cheapest around (hey, it’s Mosman) but is solid and varied. The portion sizes are also huge, which is crucial when judging a good pub feed. All the usual pub grub favourites are there – schnitzel, a big steak, burgers – and most come with a mountain of chips and salad. But, for something different, there are also share plates that can be mixed and matched. And, again, they’re very generous. We have an odd mix of plates – stuffed mushrooms with spinach, ricotta and garlic, duck pancakes with hoi-sin sauce and shallots and oysters with gin and tonic, fresh lemon and mint (three plates for $25) – but they’re good all the same.
THE DRINKS MENU has also had a slight rejig, with a surprisingly decent-looking cocktail list and a good range of beers and cider on tap. Unfortunately, both times Barhop visits, the mysterious man who makes the cocktails is either busy or MIA, so we never get to try them. Instead, we have Dirty Granny apple and Bulmers pear cider on tap ($6.50), cheap Pure Blonde schooners ($4) and some fairly nondescript wines from a list of a dozen including a Waihopai pinot noir ($8.90) and decent Polin and Polin Convicts rosé ($9.90).
SINCE THE RENOVATION, the licensee has done an overhaul and retrain of the staff to ensure they’re not just young students too busy chatting about their Saturday night to serve you and yours. This is a good thing because the first time I visit, that’s exactly what I get. The next time, the staff seem much more switched on. It looks like this old stayer is getting a bit more spring in its step, which is pleasing to see. It might not be breaking new ground, but with good food, cold cider and an airy spot to sit and enjoy it all, it ticks enough boxes.
YOU’LL LOVE IT IF you’re looking for a decent pub on the north side.
YOU’LL HATE IT IF you like pubs that ooze character.
GO FOR the courtyard in summer, cider, share plates.
IT’LL COST YOU cocktails $10-$16, wine by the glass $6.90-$12.90, beer on tap $5.60-$6.30, share plates one for $10, three for $25, five for $40, eight for $50.
Buena Vista Hotel
Address 76 Middle Head Road, Mosman, 9969 7022
Open Mon-Thurs, 11am-midnight; Fri-Sat, 10am-midnight; Sun, 11am-10pm