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What do you get when an Irish Publican and Singaporean-Malay Chef tackle the challenge of transforming a historic local hotel into a classic, independently-run Australian pub tailored to the diverse community surrounding it?
You get the Salisbury Hotel in Stanmore — complete with a hearty new menu, open courtyard and nightly offerings. And one week out from opening, it’s already shaping up to be just what locals need to avoid tapping their Opals for a night out in Newtown.
Wearing a smile as he navigates the construction site of his new kitchen, Chef Ridz is beaming with pride. “I feel like a child on Christmas Eve,” he says — “I helped design this kitchen, it’s a dream come true.”
The new kitchen at Stanmore’s historic Salisbury Hotel is spacious and homely by design, with a small set of windows opening out onto the large new beer garden where a 1926 Dennis brewery truck has been parked. Amid a new wave of culinary-chic hotels in the inner-west, it’s about as unpretentious as they come.
While his culinary career began in Singapore, Ridz has more than left his stamp on the local food scene since moving here in 2000 — manning the kitchens at Glebe's Le Petit Tarte and The Flying Fajita Sisters, as well as The Henson Park Hotel in Marrickville and The Trinity in Surry Hills.
Discussing the Salisbury’s new seasonal menu, Ridz laughs and insists he’s “not trying to reinvent the wheel. All the classics are there — a big Aussie Brewery Truck burger, schnitzel, Coopers beer-battered fish and chips, beef and guinness pie — we’re just making good, well-seasoned food,” Ridz says. “My goal is for locals to have smiling tummies when they’ve finished eating.”
Publican Trish Larkin’s focus on Stanmore’s community is immediately apparent when stepping into the Salisbury, with framed portraits of locals hanging along the walls with small plaques revealing where they had their first drink. Commenting on the pub’s makeover, one beer-drinking local tells me that “before the renovations, I hadn’t seen a young person here for ten years.”
But that’s all changed now, with a range of new nights inspired by Stanmore’s diverse and colourful community, including two-for-one dinners on Monday, Drag Bingo on Wednesday, and a stellar Salisbury Sunday showcasing a traditional feast and musical lineup of local talent.
“It’s a meeting place for all, young and old,” Larkin says. “We wanted to build a pub where you’d be happy to take your mam, grandad or children — a great place to meet for a drink and not fall over.”
Larkin, who was born in the Irish town of Waterford but moved to Australia twenty years ago, is clear about one thing — “it’s possible to modernise a classic. I do think it’s possible to recreate the feeling of an old village pub, especially when the building has been here since 1899. It’s fostering an openness and serving up good quality food, without trying to be something we’re not. That’s what we’ve done here.”
The numerous changes mightn’t take everyone’s immediate fancy, but Trish is confident there’s something for the whole family — and she would know. Having wrangled her partner, Gerard Dore, to help out, the pub has become a bit of a family project.
“He fancies himself a bit of a pub mechanic,” she laughs — “and the kids helped design our children’s menu.”
“I love Stanmore’s typical village feel, there are all the classic fixtures — a second generation barber, school, church, chemist and fish & chip shop. But there are also some great new businesses like Core Catering, Mule Cafe and Sixpenny.”