The Rag and Famish Hotel is one of the oldest Pubs in North Sydney. Once known as the Sailor's Return in the early colonial days. In 1860, Charles Bullivant of the 46th regiment purchased the pub and renamed it the Rag and Famish. Over the last 100 years, the pub went through several changes of ownership and numerous renovations but retained its classic style.
The street level's main feature is the antique oak-panelled high counter bar. This is the more lively space where you can watch sport and have a yarn with your mates. Further through the main bar, you step down into a courtyard area, which is ideal for groups.
Sink yourself into a comfy vintage Chesterfield or perch at one of the high bar tables for a pre-dinner drink. The cosy atmosphere is the perfect setting for long conversations over a few drinks followed by a hearty meal.
The new a la carte menu has been designed offering simple but classic dishes. The waiter mentioned that on Thursdays it is steak night and the place is booked solid. That was enough to tell me to order at least one steak and I was also keen on the lamb shoulder. On the way into the restaurant, I walked past a couple of patrons bobbing their heads with satisfaction while pointing at their plates filled with Salt and Pepper Squid. So I was keen to try the Salt and Pepper Squid. The Kingfish Ceviche also looked an ideal entree choice.
The Salt and Pepper Squid was cooked perfectly. In fact, it was the best Salt and Pepper Squid I had tasted in a long time. The strips of squid had obviously been marinated first as they were so tender. The salt and pepper coating was slightly crispy. I wished I had thought to ask how it had been cooked as it was so good. I'm thinking the squid may have been quickly stir-fried again with a small amount of chilli which made this dish sing. The aioli and fennel sauce was slightly sweet with a mild aniseed flavour, with only a hint of garlic making it not overly rich.
The Kingfish Ceviche was light, fresh and full of citrus zing. The sashimi grade Kingfish was mixed with avocado, coriander, sesame and lime. My favourite addition was the pomegranates which provided little bursts of juicy goodness with each morsel. The crunchy fish skin garnish provided added texture and presented well.
The 200 gram Eye Fillet was seared and cooked perfectly medium raw sitting on a light jus. The juicy meat hardly needed much pressure from a knife. I particularly loved the high stack of Potato Boulangere, which was full of buttery roasted goodness.
I'm a fan of Lamb Shoulder but generally, I've had it prepared the Greek way. I was interested to taste it paired with dukkah and labneh sauce. Surprisingly it was still tender and came easily off the bone, though not as melting in the mouth as I hoped for. After a few mouthfuls, I felt quite full. The Middle Eastern touch with the labneh yoghurt sauce and dukkah was nice but for me added to the heaviness of the dish. Mind you, I had eaten Salt and Pepper Squid for an entree, so I had to shift part blame there. The presentation was gorgeous, though I think a more generous serve of gravy would have been delightful.
We were so full but I can't resist dessert. As it was a hot night, we ordered Espresso Creme Brûlée and Affogato which was served with a Frangelico shot. Both were delicious and gave us the caffeine kick we needed to get home after such a satisfying meal.
We had been served a memorable dinner and I was pleasantly surprised by the Rag and Famish Restaurant, not only by the charming decor and atmosphere but clearly the menu has brought the dining space up a few notches. It was clear that time and effort had been taken in the kitchen to cook and serve each dish with precision and care. This restaurant is the ideal choice for a date night or a family get together and often changes their menu, so it's a place you will want to visit more than once.
There is a lot on offer at the Rag and Famish and the lower level pub bistro menu is also a great option for casual dining, well known for their famous lid pies. There is also live entertainment Friday and Saturday nights along with Karaoke and Tuesday Trivia.