Most of the time, you have a pretty good idea how good the pub nosh is going to be from the look of the place. Hotel Centennial, recently bought by Anthony Medich, looks pretty spiffy: low dangling lights, modern fixtures, bottle green walls. Picture frames peppered around the shelves. The dining room is light and vibrant. Perhaps the greatest promise of all is entering and, only a few metres in front you, seeing Chef Justin North in the open kitchen.
If you’ve come to Hotel Centennial anticipating a Bécasse 10 course degustation, you’ve come to the wrong place. It is, after all, a pub, and this one embraces the Woolahra-bistro ethos in both its fit out and its food: warm, inviting, slightly more swish than thy neighbour.
While North has become well known as the best for fusing the technical and the flavoursome, his fervour for the best produce has always been foremost. Many a small producer has him to thank for putting a product on the culinary map. And even though this is a pub – and this is pub food – the produce comes first, and the quality is as good as you’ll get.
Marinated tuna salad with miso and toasted sesame is an exciting starter: there’s flavour, crunch, and a delicious hunk of tuna that will have you wishing you hadn’t let it slip down so fast.
For main, share a whole wood roasted Holmbrae chicken, roast gravy, greens and thyme. Could there be a dish less pretentious? Send around the table a side of broccoli, flat beans, smoked almonds and green harissa.
A chef of North’s experience has no problems sending out a delectable whole roasted Snapper. Simple and full of flavour. When the produce is this good it’s all you need.
There are plenty of al-a-carte options, including one of the best Shepherd’s pies you’ll taste (shank and shoulder) and your (slightly elevated) pub favourites: Holmbrae chicken schnitzel, herb and parmesan crumbs with shaved fennel salad and battered local fish and fries with kale, tartare and citrus salt.
North brings the food to the table with a big smile. After a hard twelve months, you could forgive him for looking less jaunty. After taking a few bites of the food, and seeing him back in the kitchen, it isn’t hard to see why he’s so happy.
88 Oxford St, Woollahra NSW Australia
+61 2 9362 3838