Lower North Shore institution The Oaks is getting a multi-million-dollar makeover. The sprawling boozer, which has been pulling schooners for 133 years, will be converted into three separate venues: a sports bar, a conservatory, and a bottle shop and takeaway joint. The three venues will be rolled out in stages over the next couple of months in the biggest refurb the Neutral Bay hotel has ever undergone.
“Each new venue has a unique identity and totally new experience for Sydney, underpinned by our family history,” publican Andrew Thomas tells Broadsheet.
The first space to open will be Taffy’s, a sports bar with retro games and the largest foosball table in NSW (it can accommodate eight players). It’ll be opening in September, just in time for the Rugby World Cup, and for some reason will also have a Hulk Hogan novelty beer tap and a life-size cut-out of cricket legend Richie Benaud. Quirky snacks – such as duck nachos made with fried wontons instead of corn chips, and Reuben spring rolls filled with cheese and pastrami – will be on the menu. There’ll be 20 beer taps (with brews rotating monthly) and “bold” cocktails, including a smoked, barrel-aged Negroni.
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“Taffy’s is named after my dad and will be a new breed of sports bar,” says Thomas. “The North Shore doesn’t have an epic sports bar, which is why we’re launching Taffy’s before the Rugby World Cup, a one-of-a-kind sports bar and entertainment hybrid with a good dose of quirky humour.”
The conservatory, which will open in October, is named Alala after Thomas’s grandmother, who bought the hotel with her son David “Taffy” Thomas in 1975. (“A woman before her time,” says Thomas.) Its outdoor patio and bay windows will overlook the pub’s famous 70-year-old oak tree. Alala will serve pretty seasonal cocktails with fresh garnishes and dishes such as tartines (open sandwiches) topped with goat’s cheese, prosciutto and pear.
The Oaks Bottle Shop and Takeaway, also slated to open in October, will be “redefining the traditional bottle-shop experience to become a cellar-door-style tasting room and takeaway inspired by a 1950s milk bar,” says Thomas. A dedicated beer curator will lead tastings, giving beer fans the chance to try before they buy, and a cast-iron oven will turn out fresh, hot bread. The takeaway will serve rolls filled with rotisserie-roasted meat and gravy from midday till 1am daily, “so commuters can enjoy hot roasts and wholesome takeaway on the run”.
Taffy’s is slated to open this month. Alala’s and the bottle shop are due to open in October.