How is it that a pub bistro as isolated as this is gang-busters virtually every night? I’d understand if it was on King Street, but in the jumble of narrow residential backstreets a few blocks back from the main strip? From the outside it has the appearance of any ocker pub you’ve come across in this country and when you open the door the visuals don’t improve all that much either. Don’t get me wrong, I reckon it’s perfect the way it is; black and white chequered floor, sweeping marble bar with the usual musty beer mats, pool room out the back and a dining area that wraps past a hole-in-the-wall kitchen to an ample outdoor courtyard complete with bench seating.
Menu-wise, there are a couple of options – a concise and almost predictable laminated menu featuring schnitzel, steak and pot pie, and a seasonal blackboard menu that’s heavy on fresh seafood, homemade pasta and a few desserts. Thanks to being overseen by the nearby one-hatted Oscillate Wildly, the food comes a few notches higher than your average pub. Nothing fancy, just thoughtful.
Arrive at 7pm and you’ll be greeted with a dining room bustling with families and kids so there are two things you could do – turn up at 6pm and nab a table before the onslaught or grab a table in the quieter room between the bar and the main dining room. The second option is less atmospheric but you won’t have to yell to your mates or travel too far to get the next round.
The fish dishes on the blackboard menu seem to follow the same formula: rocket leaves tossed with various combinations of ingredients, topped or sided with the fish then swirled with bright green parsley oil.
Crispy skin snapper (25.5) roast eggplant, fennel, capsicum, capers, croutons & balsamic vinegar.
Whole oven-roasted yellow belly flounder (24.5) with roast capsicum, broadbeans, red onion & preserved lemon.
Pan-fried mahi mahi (26.5) with artichoke, peas, eschallot, chorizo, avocado & preserved lemon.
Rare seared bluefin tuna (26.5) with eggplant caponata, grapes and black olive tapenade.
Every one of these is perfectly-cooked and thoroughly enjoyed and I can vouch for the enormous pot pie, the schnitzel and when it’s on the menu, the seafood pasta. The lack of photo’s for these means the camera was left at home for a change.
Desserts come at $10 a pop and the limited choice make deciding easy. Apricot tart with praline and ice cream is a simple winner with its rustic flavours and the tarte tatin is hands-down better than anything I came across in France. No kidding. It’s fresh, crispy, sticky, sweet and beyond divine. The stuff I tried in France was either cold and spongy or reheated and sloppy.
The usual sticky date pudding shows its face from time to time, there’s gelati and even a cheese plate.
Whilst I can vouch for the seafood at The Carlisle, like our more recent crispy skin jewfish (25.5) with braised French lentils & semi-dried cherry tomato jus, the pan-fried calves liver (24.5) was pretty good. Even if it was a bit raw in places. Nice big stack of burnished liver with savoy cabbage, lardons, confit garlic & roasted eschallot & balsamic jus.
Is this the best pub in Newtown? Not sure as I haven’t been to all of them, but at least I now know why it’s so busy. Something to do with the food, methinks.