Burger bar out, House Diner in – The Lord Wolseley is the pub that’s casual about drinks, but serious about food.
From the outside, The Lord Wolseley may just seem like a regular inner-city pub, tucked away in a quiet corner of Ultimo. Even when you come inside, you may still think that. But The Lord has a few tricks up its sleeve, thanks to new, renowned head chef John Javier, who has brought some international flavour to the old-school Australian pub.
Previously home to the much-loved Pub Life Kitchen, the dining room is now simply called House Diner and serves a smorgasbord of delicious, bespoke dishes. Javier has an impressive resume, interning at Noma, before working at Sydney establishments Momofuku Seibo, Quay and the recently closed Master. He now leads the kitchen at the pub that has been standing since 1881, injecting some fine dining into the menu and creating a cool, contemporary gastropub.
The House Diner is out the back of the pub, in an old-school dining room setting with checkered table clothes and dim lighting. It’s not table service, you have to go buy the beers, wines and co in the pub next door. The beer list offers the usual suspects, with the added inclusion of the Marrickville legends The Grifter Brewing co Pale Ale. The wine list is mostly Australian wines, with an occasional dalliance over to Italy or France, all at decent prices.
However, the food is the main event at The Lord Wolseley House Diner. It’s all about familiar and approachable food with modern, unique flavours from all around the world. Literally all around the world. There’s a variety of Asian-inspired dishes, with a spicy Szechuan burger ($18 with fries) or Fried Ling Burger ($18 with fries) and even in the dessert with the milk panna cotta ($12). Head Chef Javier describes this particular dish as “Asian tiramisu” as it’s swimming in strong-as-heck Vietnamese coffee and sprinkled with toasted buckwheat.
Alternatively you can try the flavours of the Middle-East, with their lemon and pepper chicken wings ($4pp) paired with a finger-licking good toum (Lebanese garlic sauce) that gives El Jannah a run for its money. They also have it in one of their lunch specials, a fusion of cultures with lamb kofta surrounded with stracciatella (an Italian speciality egg drop soup) and pistachio praline. ($20) This is paired with some heavenly homemade flatbread on the side, which is just perfect for ripping up and soaking in that sauce.
Venice is represented with burnt pumpkin saor, which basically means burnt pumpkin, playfully paired with a poached egg, chevre and sage.
To top it all off, there are dishes that are a bit above the usual Australian pub-fare that you simply must try. Lightly-grilled scallops ($5pp) served with trout roe and seaweed butter, are playfully served on a dish of pebbles. These are melt-in-your-mouth and something you’d expect at a fine dining establishment, not a pub. There’s always a fish-of-the day, we tried the crispy-skinned BBQ Mulloway fillet with capers ($30), which had been refrigerating for 5 days just to ensure the right crunch of that skin.
The Lord Wolseley serves a delicious dinner, whether you are there for the pub classics or something a bit more fancy. It’s fine dining without the pretence, serving schooners and scallops and everything in between. The staff are fun and down-to-earth and it was a pleasure to meet John Javier, who is incredibly humble, despite his lengthy career. It may be standing since 1881, but it is definitely not stuck in its old ways, offering something new and exciting.
The Lord Wolseley Bistro is open Tues-Sat 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm, Sun 12pm-5pm