Pub food has come along way since pies and steak specials, and the latest in the new breed of pub dining is Ajò at The Welcome Hotel in Rozelle.
Ajò, The Welcome Hotel, Rozelle
Step past the traditional bar and through the glass door and you’ll find yourself in a casual and elegant space that feels like more like a dining room than a bistro pub.
Ajò accommodates 80 persons including the inviting indoor-outdoor terrace area with controlled shutters and blinds. Dark timber tones contrast with mustard paper placemats and vibrant flowers; a design that gives the venue an elegant and comfortable feel.
The restaurant is headed by Chef Daniel Mulligan who brings a menu of Sardinian and regional Italian-inspired dishes. Mulligan has worked as head chef for eight years at Pilu in Freshwater after cooking at Darren Simpson’s renowned Sydney restaurant, Aqualuna.
14 craft beers are on tap and 50 bottled craft brews feature on the menu, including the local Ekim After Battle Pale Ale, a sessionable brew with a floral and aromatic nose, fruitiness on the palate and hint of bitterness on the finish.
An impressive wine list includes several lesser known NSW wineries such as Stuart Olsen’s A Boy with Fruit, Italian regional wines such as Vermentino di Sardegna and popular varietals.
An amuse bouche sets the tone of the Italian-inspired menu with Sicilian green olives and pork mince, panko-crumbed and deep-fried.
Sydney Rock Oysters, White Balsamic Jelly
Sydney Rock Oysters ($3.50 each) from Pambula in NSW are served at their best, freshly-shucked, in their delicious brine and dressed with shallot jelly.
Freshly Marinated Sardine Fillets
Sardines never looked this pretty, and while their flavour may be divisive, the Freshly WA Marinated Sardine Fillets with fennel, capers and a side of charred focaccia ($14) take your taste buds to the shores of the Mediterranean. This is a fine entree dish to share or to enjoy on your own.
Fregola risotto with Queensland Spanner Crab
The Fregola Risotto with Queensland Spanner Crab ($24) is a must-have. Buttery and creamy on the palate, the toasted almonds give it a lovely texture and the marjoram elevates the flavour.
Huon Salmon with Peppers and Vongole
Huon Salmon with Slow-cooked Peppers and Vongole ($35) comes with a perfectly crisped skin and tender flesh. The combination of vongole and sweet peppers works well with the pink fish.
Seared Mutton Back Strap
The Seared Mutton Back Strap with Olive Caramel ($32) is tender and full of flavour. The mutton is served pink with a broadbean purée and baby artichokes. The olive caramel however is an acquired taste, and the combination of sweet and salty flavours compete unfavourably with one another.
Vanilla and Thyme Panna Cotta
Pre-dessert is a delightful Vanilla and Thyme Panna Cotta topped with almonds and blackcurrant jelly. Light and elegant, it serves to prime the palate for what is to follow.
The irresistible Eton Mess ($12) is almost too pretty to eat. Mini meringues and wild strawberry discs dot the dessert made with mascarpone and topped with a sprinkling of pistachios. The dish is not as sweet as you might expect and well worth saving room for at the end of the meal.
Ajò brings to Rozelle a winning combination of a fine menu complemented by a good range of wines and craft beer in contemporary surrounds. The vibe on a weeknight is relaxed and welcoming with couples and small groups filling both the dining room and the outdoor space. While the Welcome Hotel may not be your local, it is well worth a repeat visit.
Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.
The Welcome Hotel
91 Evans Street, Rozelle 2039
Ph: (02) 9280 1323
Lunch: Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday, 6pm – 10pm