The Oaks, Neutral Bay

The Oaks is an iconic pub in Sydney’s Neutral Bay.  It opened its doors in 1885 and throughout its 120 year history, it has never failed to be a place that Sydney-siders will frequent time and time again.

The water feature at the Ben Boyd Road entrance of The Oaks

The water feature at the Ben Boyd Road entrance of The Oaks

By a stroke of good fortune, Lorraine had an appointment at The Oaks and asked if, along with Celia and Pete, I would like to join them for lunch.  I was thrilled.  Because I love a spur-of-the-moment event and this was an opportunity to catch up with good friends and I’m one of those people who is sentimental about The Oaks.

Walking in to the beer garden

Walking in to the beer garden

Way back in my nursing days, after an evening shift, we used to pile as many people into a car as possible and drive to The Oaks for a few champagnes or cocktails.  We’d laugh and carry on all night long swapping stories about the horrid Charge Nurse on 8C or the lazy Sister in 7D and often we’d be there until closing time.   The Oaks is a place where people walk away with warm and lasting memories.

One of the bars at The Oaks

One of the bars at The Oaks

Pressing forward a couple of decades, The Oaks would still have to be one of Sydney’s best pubs.  While it has been renovated and while the menus have changed and while they have made improvements like having their own on-site butcher’s ‘shop’, it is still the same as ever and most importantly, there’s the famous oak tree, looking as healthy and as impressive as always.

The Oaks, oak tree

The Oaks, oak tree

I can walk to The Oaks from where I live.  It’s a bit of a trek but it means I don’t have to fight for a park or once at the pub, continually check my watch to see when I next need to run out to put more money in the meter. I entered through the gates on Ben Boyd Road which takes you through to the outdoor beer garden where any time of the year, it’s very pleasant to sit under the shade of the oak tree.  That’s where I waited for Lorraine and Celia but alas, I was in the wrong part of the pub and found them in the Bar and Grill. There is nothing on the menu that’s going to surprise or amaze you but there are plenty of options.  The Oaks has always been famous for its steaks and also for the fact that if you wish, you can cook your order at the barbecues out in the beer garden.  In 2013 the SMH Good Pub Food Guide awarded The Oaks, Best Steak in NSW. I saw potato scallops on the menu and as I was famished after my hike, I ordered them.  Even though I thought they were pricey at $10.00 for a small bowl.  It said they came with vinegar but I couldn’t taste it.  I found the scallops to be a bit oily and felt they needed to be served with some sort of a dipping sauce like an aioli or tomato sauce – or at least the vinegar!

Beer battered potato scallops with sea salt and vinegar $10.00

Beer battered potato scallops with sea salt and vinegar $10.00

Then we had The Oaks classic prawn cocktail.  I thought the salad part of it was a bit limp and blonde looking and definitely the salad needed a bit of colour.

The Oaks Classic Prawn Cocktail:  $18.00 GF

The Oaks Classic Prawn Cocktail: $18.00 GF

We thought we should try a pizza.  We chose a mixed wild mushroom, garlic, mozzarella and truffle oil.  We all thought it was rather bland and as it was presented, it certainly looked like it could do with a splash of colour.  However, the thin and crispy pizza base was wonderful.

Mixed wild mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella and truffle oil $21.00

Mixed wild mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella and truffle oil $21.00

We ordered the Classic Cheese Burger with tomato, lettuce, beetroot, cheese, apple wood smoked streaky bacon with a spiced tomato ketchup and fries.  I just loved this burger and I thought the meat patty was generously proportioned and it was good to know the mince came from their very own butcher.

The cheeseburger with fries

The cheeseburger with fries


A very tall rare burger

A very tall rare burger

Another dish we tried was the beer battered flathead fillets with fries, mushy peas and tartare sauce.  Don’t you just love mushy peas!  They provide so much colour to a plate of fish and chips.  The batter was crunchy and the fish tender.  This wasn’t an inexpensive dish but it was well executed.

Beer battered Lakes Entrance Flathead Fillets with fries, mushy peas, lemon and tartare $28.00

Beer battered Lakes Entrance Flathead Fillets with fries, mushy peas, lemon and tartare $28.00

Whenever I see pork belly on a menu I have to order it.  We had the slow roasted pork belly with apple and fennel slaw and apple relish.  I just loved this beautifully presented dish.  The crackle was ‘crackly’ and the pork, through the slow roasting process, very tender.  The richness of the pork was beautifully contrasted by the apple and fennel slaw.  It’s a dish I’d come back for.

Slow-roasted pork belly with apple and fennel slaw and an apple relish:  $28.00 GF

Slow-roasted pork belly with apple and fennel slaw and an apple relish: $28.00 GF

The most expensive dish and the most raved about and the one The Oaks received the award for, was the rib eye on the bone with bone marrow, roasted potatoes and green beans.  You can have it with a variety of sauces and we chose the green peppercorn but I’m not sure I had any.  The steak was so tender and juicy and full of flavour that I just let it scream on its own.

Dry aged rib eye on the bone 400gms served with roasted bone marrow, roasted potatoes and green beans $42.00.

Dry aged rib eye on the bone 400gms served with roasted bone marrow, roasted potatoes and green beans $42.00.

We couldn’t leave without dessert and shared two between us.  The first was the white chocolate brulee with summer berries and chocolate ice cream.  The brulee had a wonderful snap of caramel on the surface and then the custard had a welcoming smooth and creamy texture.

White Chocolate Brulee with summer berries and chocolate ice cream $14.00 & GF

White Chocolate Brulee with summer berries and chocolate ice cream $14.00 & GF

We also had the Banoffee pie served with caramel gelato.  By this stage I was so full I could only manage a spoonful of the gelato and yes, it was fantastic; very smooth and creamy and lovely to have something icy cold at this stage of the lunch.

Banoffee pie served with caramel gelato $14.00

Banoffee pie served with caramel gelato $14.00

I loved my time at The Oaks as the place is so full of memories for me however, although I believe the food is better than the average pub food, you are also going to pay a lot more for it.  I felt the prices surely can’t go any higher without losing patrons. By another stroke of good fortune, shortly after this lunch, two of my nursing friends contacted me asking if, ‘for old time’s sake’, I would like to meet them at The Oaks.  I squealed.  We had three and a half hours of catching up and reminiscing on the good times we’d shared on the wards and at The Oaks.

Nurses from 4/84 Mauve!

Nurses from 4/84 Mauve!

If you’d like to make some memories, I suggest you beetle over to The Oaks and start to create some wonderful experiences – you might even meet some nurses! The Oaks:  118 Military Road, Neutral Bay NSW 2089 Ph:   (02) 9953-5515

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  1. LOL All through the post I wondered if we’d get treated with a selfie. Yay!

    I would love the comfiness of The Oaks and I’d dearly love to join you all one day.

  2. Love The Oaks, good to see it hasn’t changed too much (it was always a cut above other pubs I used to frequent!) and boy do those mains sound yum.

  3. Looks like a great place to have a great time.
    Love the pork belly, it’s so yummy.

  4. Sounds like quite the feast! I’m so glad so many of the entrees were hits!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful place to gather with friends. Those types of establishments hold a dear place in my heart. They are full of so many memories. I have one of those as well. 🙂

  6. Beautiful place, Charlie. I love the look of that pizza and the burger looked good, too. I am not a fan of scallops, so I would never order those. Your dessert s looked lovely, though! A good one was had by all by the looks of it… 🙂 xo

  7. I have never had battered and fried scallops – I am fascinated! And good golly – they serve ice cream with brulee??? I need to find me a restaurant here that does that or I need to move! That Banoffee pie – wow!!!

  8. Right now any place it’s warm and there’s sun is a draw even if some of the dishes were a bit disappointing. I’m curious about the potato scallops though. Are they scallops that are coated with potatoes or are they potatoes shaped into patties so they look like scallops?

    The rib eye DOES look delicious so I can understand the raves. )

  9. This looks like a great place! One of the joys of where we live, is we’re a 20 minute walk away from two different areas of St. Louis that have numerous restaurants. So nice to not have to hassle with driving. Fun post — thanks.

  10. The potato scallops look fun!

  11. What a wonderful coincidence that your nursing friends wanted to meet there too! Sounds a step up from your average pub especially when it holds such lovely memories. X

  12. What a fun time, and some interesting looking food, particularly the burger, fish and chips and the desserts. And to get to meet friends at one of your favorite places twice so close together…how nice. It looks like a beautiful place to dine and drink.

  13. The beer garden looks inviting with that big tree and it does look like a classic pub. I hate the way that pubs are beginning to charge the same as restaurants now without necessarily the same service, creativity or quality. Some of the food at this pub looks overpriced. But I would happily run into a few ex work mates – in my case teachers. We did what you did till the wee hours. Enough said!

  14. What a great place for a casual get together with friends! The oak tree is amazing!

  15. How lovely to catch up with such lovely friends- both old and new! A couple of those dishes do seem a little unfinished, but the steak and pork look gorgeous indeed- yummo! Xox

  16. They certainly know how to beer batter, that batter is fried to crispy perfection!
    And the banofee pie… magic 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  17. This is giving me serious potato cravings.

  18. Sounds way more elegant than the bars we hung out at after a nursing shift 🙂 The beef dishes and desserts look fantastic…and I’m certain you had a blast with both groups of friends! xo

  19. G’day! Looks like a great place to experience Charlie, true!
    Love the burger and that the mince came from their own butcher too! Photos look YUM and GREAT! I am full now! lol GREAT photo of you and the girls! 🙂
    Cheers! Joanne

  20. We need to do more lunches Charlie! I so enjoy spending time with all of you – if only we lived near to each other!

  21. It does sound very pricey, but what a marvelous time with so many dear friends. 🙂

  22. Sounds like a really good time!

  23. What a lovely place and delicious dishes you had. I would like to go there someday.

  24. Somewhere I missed that you are a former nurse…

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time at The Oaks. Sometimes a place is as much about memories and atmosphere as the food. But this seems to have both.

    I’d love to dine there today, anywhere outside really. Temp here in southeastern Minnesota this morning is minus 12 degrees F. And that does not count the windchill.

  25. It was great fun, wasn’t it! We have to catch up again soon! xx

  26. It sure look like a great place to meet friends, and the food look great…
    Hope you are enjoying the remaining of the week Charlie 😀

  27. Oh how delicious!!
    I have never been to The Oaks. Terrible 🙁 I will definitely have to make it there! The pork looked so good and I love a Banoffee pie!!!
    So nice to catch up with old friends 🙂

  28. God where do I start. Many a love affair started for me on a Thursday night up there at the Oaks. Then there was the time the rose seller handed me a rose saying a guy in the bar had bought it for me. Unfortunately, I never found out who that was. I think anyone who grew up on the north shore is totally fond of the place. I must get back there and soon.

  29. What a lovely place with scrumptious food.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  30. All of this within walking distance? Yum. I’d go just for those fantastic-looking fish and chips.

  31. Looks like a place that my husband would adore!!

  32. It’s always so nice to catch up with old friends and when you meet it feels like old times 🙂 It’s just with time constraints and because we all have different lifestyles it’s hard to meet up all the time. I’m glad you had a good time and it’s also nice to know even pubs like Oaks now cater for the GF intolerant!

  33. This place has everything that is needed: the charm and the food.

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