Best of the best 2018 - Commonwealth Hotel

Left to right: Executive Chef, Phil Pearce, Owners Cath Antaw and Stewart Smith and Executive Chef Aaron House. Photo: Stewart Hazell.
Left to right: Executive Chef, Phil Pearce, Owners Cath Antaw and Stewart Smith and Executive Chef Aaron House. Photo: Stewart Hazell.

Much like its surrounding environs, the last few years has seen Cooks Hill’s historic Commonwealth Hotel enjoy a welcomed rejuvenation.

Last week, the closely guarded Novocastrian secret was let out of the vault, when this amazing pub was awarded winner in the 2018 AHA NSW awards for excellence for ‘Best Casual Dining’.

Not to rest on its laurels, the Commonwealth Hotel was also named as finalist in the categories of Best Outdoor Experience, Best TAB, Hotel of the Year – NSW Country and Chef of the Year for the Commonwealth Hotel’s Executive Chef’s Aaron House and Phil Pearce.

The old school charm of this original Cooks Hill corner pub has been retained with the original 1920’s tiled walls and bar, proudly showcasing the then Invictus horse logo of Tooths & Co Brewery, now known as Carlton & United. Step beyond the confines of the original bar area and you are taken to a lush open-air beer garden, the perfect place for a casual lunch or dinner.

Back in 1920 when the Invictus logo tiles were first laid, the Commonwealth Hotel would have been a major gathering place in the community. A place to meet with friends, spin a yarn, tell the odd tall tale or two and of course, enjoy your favourite amber ale.  

The modern day Commonwealth Hotel has maintained and indeed up-scaled this time-honoured tradition; adding a carefully considered and curated wine list featuring many Hunter Valley vineyards including Olio Mio Estate, Margan, Tamburlaine, David Hook, Hungerford Hill, Tyrells and Tulloch.

The restaurant menu is substantial and offers an array of dishes, from traditional pub favourites like tender crumbed lamb cutlets, Resches beer battered fish and Hunter Valley sourced porterhouse steak, to meals more akin to fine dining establishments, yet for a fraction of the cost.

The menu includes mezze plates with house made dips, Turkish bread, salami, olives and sun dried tomatoes; house made arancini with a flavour that changes daily; or crispy crumbed eggplant chips.

The kitchen executes a fine balancing act between creativity and quality, while not taking itself too seriously.  The ‘Rolls and Burger’ section of the menu is a perfect example with dishes such as the Nebraska Manwich, the Chick-Chick-Oink roll, and the aptly named Crab-U-Lous burger with Cajun spiced crab.

As you continue to read, the menu subtly changes to include beautifully executed dishes offering complexity and tonnes of flavour. Meals and drinks are reasonably priced, with most available in a gluten free or dairy free option. The staff are friendly and attentive and clearly brought home the bacon for this award winning venue.