As a frequent visitor to regional areas, I’ve long been worried about the effects of bypasses upon local businesses. In the case of Leura’s Alexandra Hotel, a Federation-era pub that now finds itself tucked on the westbound access ramp to the Great Western Highway, it seems to have been a catalyst for them to strive to better meet the needs of their local community.
With an original exterior, you’ll find this sprawling public house gets more renovated as you wander deeper inside.
While the front bar looks pretty original, the more expansive middle bar offers up a jukebox, pool and fireplace nooks furnished with comfortable brown, leather lounge chairs.
It’s serviced by a wood-fire pizza kitchen, manned by pizzaiolo Marco Marano, and to my eye at least, it’s turning out more credible looking pizzas than the better known, trendy Leura Garage.
Gentle railway theming – appropriate for what was once a railway hotel putting up short term visitors upstairs – sees the back bar indicated by a former Leura Railway Station sign.
This bar services visitors to Redfern Bistro, their formal dining room, and the back rooms teaming with birthday party guests. (Happy Birthday was sung three times during my visit, with friendly floor staff joining in with gusto.)
Right out back you’ll find the cleverly named Platform 3 lying just metres from the railway tracks.
It offers refrigerated glasses, beer taps and twenty-buck cook-your-own rump steaks that you prepare on a barbeque surrounded by shaded picnic tables.
This diverse food and beverage offering, headed up by Food and Beverage Manager, Ian McMahon, really gives locals plenty to choose from in a wide variety of settings.
We opt to dine in their bistro, settling in with glasses of Molly’s Cradle NV Premium Brut ($8/each) and Sydney Rock Oysters ($18/6). Nicely presented on a bed of rock salt, half of the oysters are served au natural, while the rest are topped with a sharp ginger mignonette. They eat better dressed, but only because they’ve been shucked a bit early and have lost their lovely liquor. The sparkling wine is crisp and citrussy - making it great against oysters - and feels like a bargain at the price.
From the kitchen, headed up by Anna Borna, we receive a generous ball of Spiced Liver Pate ($16). Served with caperberries, cornichons and grilled baguette slices, the silky-smooth pate has a delicate roast bone flavour that intertwines with Borna’s gentle spicing.
Pan Roasted Duck Breast ($34) arrives with crisp, well-seasoned skin and a juicy, tender interior. It’s part of an eye-catching plate adorned with caramelised citrus, duck fat potatoes, colourful heirloom carrots and house-made Peking sauce, that’s credible and tasty, with fresh, volatile ginger as a pleasing top-note.
It’s a well-proportioned, complete plate that might only leave you with a hankering for some Greens ($8). Today’s selection includes broccolini, beans and sugar snaps cooked so they retain their snapping fresh crunch under pine nuts and quality feta. The feta is made by Brancourts, a family-run business in North Sydney, who have been producing cheese for more than a hundred years.
By the time we get to the Seafood Linguine ($29) I really like this pub kitchen. The simple pasta, dressed with a classic garlic, parsley and white wine cream sauce and a selection of nicely cooked seafood. Baby squid, mussels and two types of fish are all cooked with care.
The biggest surprise turns out to be dessert: balanced on peanut praline, a crisp round ball of Sticky Date Deep Fried Ice Cream ($10) eats like pure late-night kitchen genius.
Frying off sticky date pudding around a ball of creamy ice cream throws in wonderful dark toffee notes that really sing against a generous drizzle of butterscotch sauce. It caps off a great meal at a locally-focused pub where the kitchen puts effort into technically good cooking on a please-all menu, appropriate to a public house.
62 Great Western Highway, Leura
Ph: (02) 4782 4422
Thanks to Spooning for arranging this visit.