From the moment you lay eyes on its facade, there’s no doubting the inspiration behind The Lion & Wombat. A coat of arms featuring the two animals – one a favourite of medieval English heraldry, the other an Australian icon of marsupial cuteness – shines above the door. A large Union Jack flag is the first thing you’ll see through the window. The Lion & Wombat wears its influences on its sleeves.
“We wanted the name to sound British, similar to my favourite pubs in London, like The Stag or The Queen’s Head,” co-owner Alex Back tells Broadsheet. “Those sorts of names that, when you hear them, you think of a British pub.” So one night over a bottle of wine, he and his wife Sophie Machin “made a list of every single British animal and Australian animal that we could think of, even the silly ones like dragons and shrews – but we kept coming back to The Lion & Wombat.”
Next, they had to find a venue. And choosing this spot on a quiet corner just off Barkly Street was a no-brainer. The building has lived many lives – a graphic design studio, a cafe and even a dairy – and this history was important to them. “It wouldn’t feel like a British pub otherwise,” Back says. But like any building of a certain age, the inside needed to be almost entirely redone – a renovation the two tackled themselves. Now, the polished interior features a sunroom and a beer garden out the back.
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The couple have also curated a food and drink menu heavily inspired by Back’s time managing pubs both here and in the UK. “With the food, the intention was to source as much local seasonal produce as possible, and then use that produce to make British-inspired dishes that would give us some nostalgia,” Back says.
“We’ve got a Scotch egg – a soft-boiled egg wrapped in sausage mince and then breadcrumbed and deep-fried – which people love,” Machin says. “And an elevated fish finger sandwich made with some fantastic Australian fish.”
The quintessential Sunday roast also makes a weekly appearance; the pair would be foolish not to offer it. “It’s a more traditional Sunday roast,” Bach says. “So every week we do the same, it’s either roast beef, roast chicken, or a vegan nut roast with all the trimmings, peas and gravy. Oh, and Yorkshire pudding – we’d get murdered if we didn’t.”
The drinks menu is a hefty one. On it, there’s a list of more than three dozen wines (mostly red and white, with some bubbles and rosé thrown in for good measure), and six local beers on tap, including a Wombat Draught made for them by Stomping Ground.
But Back and Machin are most excited about the cocktail list. “I wanted to there to be lots of nods to the UK,” Back says. “So we’ve got the Big Liz, which has lavender and pear; we have the Paddington, with marmalade and whiskey; and we’ve got the Cuppa Tea, which is made with jasmine-infused gin, ginger and peach. They’re really fun and they’re going to be great for the summer.”