19 Albermarle Street, Newtown
Reviewers present: Robot Simone, Joe Blogs, Burger Bot, Batman, The Riddler, Millerkands
Time of review: Weekend dinner and drinks (note: review based on 2+ visits)
"I really need you tonight!"
It's my favourite, I'll tell you now. This pub is located a convenient 30 seconds' walk from our front door - in fact I walk past it almost every day - hidden in the back streets of Newtown.
It's around the corner and up a bit from The Courthouse Hotel, but holds its own with a distinct personality and style. The pub itself has a sweet front bar, complete with bar stools (sit and chat to the staff or friends), which you can follow through a mixed loungey/pool/sports on TV/video games section into either the bistro or courtyard beer garden. There may be some kind of gaming room... but I don't really venture into those (flashing lights! LOUD NOISES!). Each of these areas has its own 'type' of clientele - the regulars sitting at the front bar with their schooners and little piles of change on the counter, tradies enjoying the daily Tradies Happy Hour, cool kids wasting time on games of pool or watching some sport, the family-friendly types socialising in the bistro, and laid-back locals in the courtyard. One group I personally haven't ever seen there: Jerks.
The food deserves its own special mention. Rumours abound that the chefs at the Carly bistro also work at/are training for Oscillate Wildly, the degustation restaurant on Australia Street, and it's possible that they do use the bistro as a testing ground for high-class culinary ideas. My top tip is to order from the specials board inside - you're going to get a lot more than your average pub meal, and for less than a restaurant price. The regular menu does have some really good basics too; a few we've sampled are the chicken burger, steak sandwich, and the fetta and something tart (really good).
This may cause a food fight within the Sydney Pub List group, but I'm nominating the Carlisle Castle as the best food pub in Newtown (... and Sydney... and the world....) up against big contenders The Botany View's Darley St Bistro (which I would love to revisit).
The chicken burger (pictured below) is part of the regular menu, and is a great feed, but it's a shame to miss out on ordering from the Specials. They have a great range of seafood dishes but never fear, vegetarians and non-sea-creature-eaters have some great options as well. The specials appear to change seasonally - certain unnamed Sydney Pub List reviewers were almost in tears when on our last visit, we discovered the braised beef cheeks had been replaced (albeit with an amazing Oktoberfest-inspired pork knuckle).
The outdoor area is mostly covered, and great for (winning!) an afternoon game of monopoly over a couple of drinks and a meze dip platter (take extra bread, or containers, or be ready to use your fingers to just eat the dips - they are unbeatable). Heaters keep the enclosed space warm in winter, and a border of small palms on the inside of the wall adds to the ambience without feeling fake.
The Carlisle Castle runs the usual pub fun - raffles, trivia nights, etc - mostly centred around the front bar. The bar staff are friendly and interesting; they look like they belong in Newtown without being a bit over the top as the Courthouse staff tend to be (there doesn't appear to be a facial hair prerequisite here, for instance). The bar itself is rumoured to be imported Italian marble, a leftover from ye olde dayes where the Carly was one of 3 pubs in a 200m strip.
You know that musty spilled-beer, sticky floor smell that wafts out of some pubs to attack you on the footpath (hallo, Sando!)? This pub doesn't have that. There's a fresh, cold beer smell inside, and the whole place is clean without feeling like it's been bleached.
A good range of beverages are available, at good local pub prices - Carlton Draught is $4.50, BurgerBlogs fave Kosciusko is $5.50. There is a bottle shop in a separate room off the bar, but watch your EFTPOS receipts as it may come up as 'Las Vegas Gaming International'!
Some downsides do exist to this little suburban oasis: it may not be 30 seconds from your house; it pays to arrive fairly early to grab a table outside on a nice day; and on some days the bistro can be buzzing with families and kids - not always a place for a quiet dinner. But overall, this is a friendly, un-pretentious little place with something for almost everyone.
And to seal the deal... one day I was walking past at about 1pm on a weekday, and they were blasting 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' at way above normal volume. HOW COOL IS THAT??!?!?! (volume returned to normal by the time I walked past again)