IT’S the forbidden, naughty food that society, dietitians, The Heart Foundation and our conscience tells us not to have. I confess that I occasionally commit the mortal sin (and lead The Apprentice and my other weak and wayward work colleagues into temptation), to embrace that devil of a dish – the pub schnitzel with chips.
This crumbed, fried and cholesterol-laden slab of goodness can be completely ruined if not cooked (deep-fried?), properly. Thankfully for diners wanting to harden their arteries, the Station Hotel in North Sydney makes a more than passable pub schnitzel (and it’s a bargain for $10). Even better they make you have a drink (hard or soft) as the $10 deal is only with a drink purchase (so you can wash down all the fatty goodness). Guinness and Kilkenny on tap is a blessing.
The Station Hotel is nothing flash but neither is it ordinary. It is a modern space, circular in design with a centrepiece bar against a supporting column, with tables and couches filling the space and a couple of pool tables in one area. No pokies here (but they’re down in the bowls of the pub in another area). It can get very crowded during the close of the working week (the pub does accept bookings), and staff are friendly, patient and notice when tables need to be cleaned after the next sitting has taken over.
But it isn’t just the schnitzel and chips at the $10 price tag. The lunch menu consists of 14 acceptable items for those who don’t want to be naughty – four choices of pizza, a Thai beef salad, a warm tandoori chicken salad, and a slow-roasted tomato fettuccine – to name a few. There’s always a couple of specials on the board behind the bar as well.
The Apprentice, who once resembled singer Meatloaf (he admits that), and transformed to become a local squash champion, tends to be seduced by the salt and pepper squid which is served with a lime aioli and a scattering of salad leaves. He can always be relied upon to not finish (much to the delight of the gluttons at the table who, like vultures, tend to pick at it), as he is determined to maintain his athletic physic and not go back to singing Bat Out of Hell for a living at his local RSL. It’s a decent serving of calamari pieces dusted with corn flour and then lightly fried. The batter is crisp and fluffy, the squid tender and the seasoning well-balanced. These morsels are enhanced by the creamy aioli which has been lightly infused with lime (no Kraft tartare sauce at the Station).
The pièce de résistance – the chicken schniztel with chips – comes with a choice of gravy (pepper or plain), or if you want to add to the kilos – a creamy mushroom sauce. As we are health conscious, The Giant and me always opt for the pepper gravy (our waif companions usually go for mushroom). The schnitzel is a decent size, about a centimetre thick, and the flattened breast is lightly crumbed and deep-fried. The outer layer is crisp and crunchy (not spongy and soaked in oil), and the meat is tender and slightly moist. The gravy and sauces aren’t anything special but bring back memories of the gravy used on that university student staple – chips & gravy (but that’s nothing to complain about as I don’t want a fancy sauce on a pub schnitzel). The cook also knows not to drown the schnitzel by over saucing it but puts enough on the plate to dunk the chips in.
The Beef & Guinness pie was chosen by Madame Lush. It’s not a pot pie but a good-quality, ready-to-made pastry pie filled with a rich robust gravy and chunks of beef. Madame believes that it may be from Simmone Logue.
The serving of mash, peas and gravy gives it that air of English pub tradition but $10 for a ready-made pie seems just bit out of kilter when you can go to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels and get a good pie fix.
We’ve also tried the pizza and the fish & chips on other occasions, all good-sized and well-presented meals and all have received the thumbs up by my companions.
Compared to some of the menus we have seen in other North Sydney pubs the Hungry Bon Vivant crew believes that the Station Hotel offers the best-valued pub food in the North Sydney commercial area.
Update (31 May 2011): Station Hotel had as a blackboard special a Himalayan lamb curry with rice ($10) which was a substantial serving of fragrant lamb curry served with five crispy deep-fried popdoms and steamed Basmati rice topped with a refreshing dollop of yoghurt riata. The curry was suprisingly good. Large, tender cubed pieces of lamb in a rich dark curry sauce with enough heat to please the curry lover (though I could go hotter). The curry’s fragrance and flavour leads me to believe that this curry has been lovingly prepared with fresh, dry curry spices and the tad of sourness in it suggest the possible addition of tamarind. It was the perfect dish for a wet and wild rainy Sydney day. A very good alternative to the regular menu items.
The verdict: Well-priced pub food with a few modern twists. Very pleased that there are still pubs in commercial areas of Sydney that haven’t become over-priced faux “gastro pubs”.
What: Station Hotel, Blue Street, North Sydney, NSW, Australia (opposite North Sydney Station). Phone (02) 9954-4622.
When: 2, 19 and 31 May 2011.