It has already made a name for itself as Rozelle’s premier craft beer venue, but The Welcome Hotel is giving locals a new reason to stop by – the launch of its newly renovated restaurant, Ajò.

Head chef Daniel Mulligan has brought his passion for Sardinian food to the table with a menu that brings together the best of regional Italian fare and Australian produce. Mulligan’s love of cucina Italiana was nurtured during his recent travels in regional Italy and under the tutelage of Giovanni Pilu during his eight-years as head chef at Pilu at Freshwater. But for Mulligan, inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere. “Whether it’s a meal I had in Italy, a photo I saw, or an old cookbook I flipped through, I use my cooking experience to shape my new menu items,” he says.

Safe to say, this is not your ordinary pub grub. On the primi menu traditional offerings of antipasti are served alongside Sydney Rock oysters, bottarga-crusted swordfish belly and zucchini flowers cooked in fennel seed. The secondi menu steps things up with dishes such as smoked spatchcock and the chef-favourite: seared mutton backstrap served with broad bean, baby artichokes and olive caramel. The menu is complemented by local and Italian wines and the hotel’s specialty range of craft brews – there are 14 beers on tap and more than 50 bottled varieties.

With its sophisticated bistro feel, dark leather banquette and rustic tableware the newly renovated dining space is a welcome face lift for the hotel. “I think one critic wrote the old space had, ‘All the charm of a bowling club dining room’,” says Mulligan with a laugh. “So yes, the new space complements the food a lot better now.”

Ajò at The Welcome Hotel
91 Evans Street, Rozelle
(02) 9280 1323

Mon to Sun 11.30am–11pm