Maitland’s a town where the pubs outnumber the cafes. Some open at 7am, most were never renovated, and all are filled with locals who, for the most part, looked at me like I was an alien crash landing in their backyard.
The pubs also have a charm and beauty that too many Sydney bars have sadly lost. We’re talking original 1950s fittings, middle bars, troughs, tiled walls, and bar counters that have been gouged by time and countless stubbies. In short, they have an authenticity no interior designer could ever recreate.
My favourite pub in Maitland is the Grand Junction Hotel (88 Church Street): a beautifully dilapidated monstrosity near the train station that looks like something out of a movie. Possibly a horror.
When you walk in you’re faced with a high pressed-metal ceiling, rock and roll posters, friendly staff and locals, pinball machines and comfortable bar stools. What I especially like, however, is their live music (when I was there Melody Pool played a charming and intimate set).
There is no craft beer (I stuck to Coopers and Tooheys Old), they serve shots in schooner glasses, and I wouldn’t drink a cocktail there if you paid me, but it immediately made me feel at home. Actually, in some ways it was better than home, since I wish to hell there was a pub like this in Sydney.
Those who want a more boutique experience, however, should definitely try The Pourhouse (327 High Street – it was formerly the Tooths Exchange Hotel).
Although this curvy pub has retained its old classic facade (it’s one of those 1940s buildings that were inspired by the shape of cruise liners) and has kept the tiles on the inside, the food and beer here are modern. The Pourhouse only serves craft beer, with a range that beats most Sydney pubs, and have great burgers and fries that rival Mary’s in Newtown – although I do love the brioche buns that Mary’s use …