The Old Fitz has been serving pints to Woolloomooloo locals since 1860, attracting a fiercely devoted clientele who seem stuck to the carpet. But in the past 20 years or so, it’s become just as notorious for what’s coming out of its kitchen as what’s being poured from its kegs. In the early 2000s it was instrumental in boosting the popularity of laksa. More recently, under its last owners, chef Nicholas Hill (Porcine; ex-Sepia; The Ledbury, London) was installed in the kitchen, where his menu of British-influenced, nose-to-tail pub food – hot-chip butties, Scotch eggs and chicken pie – garnered plenty of praise.

New owner Odd Culture Group (The Duke of Enmore, Oxford Tavern, Odd Culture Newtown) took over the pub last year. Since then, young gun Anna Ugarte-Carral (ex-Momofuku Seiobo) has been on the pans, creating menus that hop from bavette steak frites to a fried-fish sandwich and bowls of pasta. Now, Ugarte-Carrel is heading overseas (you can get her final two menus till mid-June).

Taking her place is Toby Stansfield, current head chef at pasta palace Fabbrica, who has previously worked at Monopole and Yellow. He’s set to put his own spin on the menu, bringing his restaurant experience into The Old Fitz’s pub setting. Here’s what he has in store.

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What’s your new job title?
I will be taking on the head chef role at The Old Fitz. It will test my hand in making up dishes for the charming dining room upstairs and the forever welcoming pub downstairs. The Old Fitz is always a good time anytime you go, and I’m really excited to work with Odd Culture Group – they make very fun venues and hand over a lot of creative control to their staff, which is what really appealed to me.

Why did you decide to move to Odd Culture and The Old Fitz?

I felt like I needed a bit of change. The opportunity arose through a mutual friend of Anna [Ugarte-Carral]’s and mine, so I took a chance and landed the job. The Fitz has a great standing with so many people and seemed like a fun environment to get back on the pans.

Do you have any fun plans or ideas for your new role?
I have always had a fairly technical approach to creating dishes, playing with textures or trying to come up with fun ingredient combos. I’m going to relax my style for The Old Fitz, have a little Australiana nostalgia in my dishes and reproduce some classics with my own spin. I’m also going to produce something that’s totally approachable and fun for the dining room – seasonal, fresh and simple.

Will you bring along any dishes or ideas you’re known for?
I have planned to bring along a few dishes that are inspired by favourites I created in my time in other kitchens, such as Yellow and Monopole. I will also mix them with a bunch of dishes that I personally enjoy eating regularly. I’d like to create a sharing vibe, where everyone feels welcome and drawn in to have a feed, whether it be in the pub or the restaurant.

Will we see any cool ideas or dishes that you think will thrill diners?

I have some dishes that are a bit kitschy – I hope they will take people back to their childhood.

Toby Stansfield will take over the head chef role in mid-June.

oddculture.group/
@theoldfitz