The Old Vic reborn as lively pub and restaurant

Beautiful setting: The Old Vic Hotel in East Maitland. Pictures: Marina Neil

Beautiful setting: The Old Vic Hotel in East Maitland. Pictures: Marina Neil

HISTORIC residence and former pub Roseneath was built in 1837 by one of Maitland's earliest settlers, Samuel Clift. Impeccably grand, this two-storey sandstone building is now home to Maitland's newest restaurant/bar/pub ... The Old Vic. Open since August last year, The Old Vic has received a new lease on life since owners Jimmy Morgan and Sonia van Huisstede took over.

Main: Steak on the menu at The Old Vic.

Main: Steak on the menu at The Old Vic.

A warm glow shines from tall, timber windows onto a large stone verandah set with a few tables and chairs and a long bench filled with pillows. Silhouettes move between rooms inside, where it's warm and cosy underneath the high pressed metal ceiling and white walls that throw dark timber furnishings into sharp relief. The bar is topped with leather bound books and wine bottles. Its shelves are cluttered with glassware, nik-naks, and more bottles filled with spirits and other liquors. A few mates stand at the bar chatting, while other people sit on stools at the benches opposite. Fairy lights, along with the occasional startling blaze of a motion sensor light, light up the back yard courtyard where people sit beneath outdoor umbrellas, eating and drinking and talking the night away. Back inside, the old dining room is bright with conversation, charm, and the enticing smell of home-style food.

The Old Vic features a locally focused drinks list, including beers brewed in Morpeth and certified organic wines from the Hunter Valley. The cocktail menu is pretty good, too. There are organic soft drinks for those of us who need a sustainably mindful sugar fix, Kombucha (lightly sparkling, fermented tea), and a good selection of delicious sounding juices, such as Cranberry and Hibiscus, for anyone wanting to abstain from the hard stuff.

Welcoming: The bar at The Old Vic.

Welcoming: The bar at The Old Vic.

Breakfast is served on Sunday, lunch on Friday and Saturday, and dinner on Wednesday through to Saturday.

The Old Vic is very reminiscent of an olde English pub that you might visit somewhere in the verdant green countryside of Britain. However, there's a glaring absence of sausage and mash on the menu. I can easily see myself cosied up in the corner, in the winter time, with pint of dark ale, the crackle of a warm fire, and a big plate of sausage and mash.  There are, however, lamb cutlets with baked potato and scotch fillet with some fancy sounding sides. To start, we have an entrée of cider-glazed chorizo with toasted rye, and a bowl of house-smoked beer nuts to nibble on while we wait for our drinks.

The service is enthusiastic. There's not much staff on the floor, tonight, so the barman divides his time between pulling beers and making cocktails as well as taking orders and bringing out the food. The Old Vic’s owner, Jimmy, helps him out where he can.

The chorizo and rye arrives alongside a pint each of Mullet Run Maple Porter by River Port Brewery, in Morpeth. The meat is cooked well and the cider glaze gives a touch of sweetness to the slightly spicy sausage. The rye bread comes from Blackbird Artisan Bakery, just up the road, and adds a delicious savoury crunch to the dish. I already liked the Maple Porter on its own, but I reckon it's even better when it's washing down a hunk of spicy meat.

For main we order the green curry with chicken, from the specials board, and the 250g-scotch-fillet with kumera purée, and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. There's a decent heat to the curry, which is watery, and the chicken is cooked well, soft and tender, like the vegetables. The scotch-fillet is ordered medium-rare, and arrives medium-well. The asparagus dish is fresh and snappy. 

All the pieces of the puzzle are there; the charm, the character, the furnishings, and the overall feeling. The Old Vic will surely see it's best days yet.

CORRECTION

The chef at Talulah Bar was incorrectly identified in April 2 review. The chef at Talulah is Cooper Thomas. Former Talulah chef Anthony Kocon now operates the East End Hub on King Street, Newcastle. 

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