Ask any north-sider what The Oaks means to them and it’s bound to be a good time. Whether it’s a post-game pint, a Saturday night session or simply because it’s Sunday, sitting under the sparkling limbs of the beer garden’s oak tree feels somehow a part of area’s DNA. And now there’s a new reason to visit.

In September, Neutral Bay’s iconic pub The Oaks rolled out the first stage of its multi-million dollar redevelopment: its sports bar Taffy’s. Now, they’ve launched Alala’s, a modern restaurant honouring publican Andrew Thomas’s grandmother, Alala Thomas, who bought the pub in 1975.

Thomas is the third generation in his family to run The Oaks (his father, David ‘Taffy’ Thomas, now 86 years old, still insists on working every Wednesday when Andrew has a day off), and thought it was important when planning the biggest redevelopment in the pub’s 133-year history to ask its regulars and locals what they wanted. “Not only did it mean people would like the new spaces, but they’d feel a connection because they’d contributed,” he says.

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Alala’s is particularly exciting if you know what it looked like previously; the dark, wooden bar and heavy, green carpets (designed to cover the stains of a good night) have been replaced with stone floors and timber furniture in light tones. The sun-filled bay windows and oak tree just outside were the inspiration for the colour palette of greens, soft blues and apricots, and the whole space has a more breezy, modern feel. There’s also a terrace for coffee and pastries in the morning.

Alala’s new menu is more exciting, too. Head chef Julian Nikiel, a former protégé of Mike McEnearney of Kitchen by Mike, is ably supported by sous chef Siddharth Kalyanaraman, whose side hustle is cooking for the Australian Cricket Team when it tours India.

“Julian started two months ago and started pickling things straight away,” says Thomas.

Pickled cherries are served with a chicken, pistachio and tarragon terrine, and watermelon rind accompanies the charcuterie. (Also, watermelon rind – why have we been throwing it out?)
There are five tartines on the menu (open sandwiches) including one with fresh sardines, chermoula, harissa, cucumber and orange blossom; and another with pork belly, nectarine, rosemary tapenade and pickled zucchini. All easily pair with the signature cocktails, including Alala’s Pearl Diver (Bacardi blanca, pomegranate liqueur, farlernum), or the Blonde Negroni (suze, gin, Lillet).

Speak to any of the staff, though, and they’ll tell you to order something from the rotisserie. You can order the plump golden chooks or pork-belly porchetta in the restaurant, but also at the new Oaks Bottle Shop and Takeaway, which is open until 1am. Punters can grab a bottle of wine and a roll stuffed with porchetta and salsa verde or spiced cauliflower and pumpkin hummus, harissa and rockette. They call the wineshop a “cellar door” because it also has tastings of some of its products; it’ll also be hosting craft beer nights where you’ll be able to try rare and hard-to-find beers on the regular.

Alala’s

118 Military Road, Neutral Bay
(02) 9953 5515

Hours:
Mon to Thurs 10am–12am
Fri to Sat 10am–1.30am
Sun 11am–12am

oakshotel.com.au/alalas