The old Lansdowne, while well loved, certainly wasn’t a restaurant. The boys behind Mary’s and The Unicorn, Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham, are out to change that, reopening the pub this week with a repurposed kitchen downstairs.
Unusually, students are first priority with meal deals done properly (it’s across from Sydney Uni). “We’ve taken the microwaved lasagne that everyone eats when they’re at uni and done it well with delicious pork,” says Smyth. “We’re targeting the [90-year] history of the building and feeding the students.”
Hardly anything coming out of chef Phil Morgan’s (Hartsyard, The Devonshire, The Unicorn) kitchen is priced at more than $20. There are $10 daily lunches, including a chuck steak made with marbled Ranger Valley beef, a barbeque cheeseburger, Korean-American nachos and chopped salads, and a late-night menu that runs until 2am.
The dinner menu has different accents, from Korean to classic Australian pub fare (fish-finger sambo). But it’s the Detroit-style, “bastardised” pizza that really anchors the concept. “It’s a version of Soho’s square-pizza slices in New York,” says Smyth. It’s made with dough that has been fermented over 48 hours and baked in custom-made pans. “It’s not deep-dish like the fucking Pizza Hut you had as a kid, it’s super delicious with a crusty base,” says Smyth. The meat lovers’ pizza comes with pepperoni from LP’s Quality Meats.
Browse the condiment counter for garlic-chilli oil, parmesan and honey. “It’s just fun, no one else is doing it in Sydney. Float it up with some chilli flakes and mix and match your own toppings.”
The Mary’s burger makes an appearance in the form of a pizza. The filling - pickles, onion, beef patty, American cheese, mozzarella and leaves – has been rolled into balls and crumbled across the base, which is then drenched in Mary’s special sauce.
Pasta is done in a wok, giving it a smoky, caramelised result. There’s a play on the Mee Goreng (an upgrade on your childhood two-minute noodles); carbonara (with the option of adding house-cured guanciale – pig jowl); and a burnt-tomato sauce.
The pair has kept prices down and quality up by outsourcing work to a centralised kitchen nearby. Eliminating table service helps too.
Young, independent natural winemakers coming first on the drinks list. “It’s the shit you want to drink when you’re partying and not thinking about things,” says Smyth.
The Lansdowne will open June 15. The lunch menu will be available from June 16.