A good recommendation, but pub food falls into a number of categories.
First, quite a few pubs especially in the big cities have dining rooms that are pretty good restaurants, they manage to keep the pub atmosphere but serve top food. In Sydney these included "Civic Dining" in the CBD; "The Four in Hand", "The Bellevue Hotel" and "The Light Brigade" in Paddington; and "The Palisade Hotel" in The Rocks. Some of the restaurants have outgrown the pubs, like "Bistro Moncur" at the Woolhara Hotel which has moved far, far away from its pub roots - maybe the clue is the restaurant has a seperate name to the pub.
Then there are the more traditional pubs that still do counter meals. In Sydney I found a lot of these to be pretty average with cheap deals on steaks and simple fish and chips. Good fuel whilst on a session but not destination food. In smaller towns these pubs can be better, when I lived in Adelaide there were some great pubs that did really good counter meals like "The Exeter" in Rundle Street which served interesting food.
A couple of central pubs in Sydney (in The Rocks) that do OK food are "The Australian" in has very interesting beers (a good change from the standards) and does food pizza, whilst "The Lord Nelson" has a good range of pub classics, and brews its own beer. NOTE: all the pubs I recomend in The Rocks are "up the hill" away from the more tourist area around Circular Quay
too true, k. I was mulling this over today, we could all throw in our personal recommendations et al, but there's so many good ones.
I think you can break aussie pub grub into two general groups:
1) the quasi-restaurants, where top chefs turn out stellar quality food in a public hotel setting (peter konistis, formerly of eleni's and omega, and now at the civic hotel in the city comes to mind);
b) the archetypical aussie pub, where the counter meals consist of (usually badly cooked) cheap cuts of steak, the aforementioned chicken parma (misspelled, more often than not, or listed as a "snitzel"), or a greasy burger loaded with egg, pineapple, grilled onions and beetroot, served on a burnt white bread bun. you're usually given the options of chips (fries) & side salad or mash & veges (why they don't consider mashed potato to be a vege is another of life's mysteries).
if you're lucky, you may get a stir-fry or similar, as that level of pub has recently discovered that one can actually serve asian food outside of a chinese restaurant. if you're very, very lucky, the chef may make his/her own gravies or sauces, although odds are, they'll come from 4 litre jars labelled "masterfoods catering pack".
most use table number signs, which always bewilder and confuse the floor staff, but some are gradually turning to the remote beepers, doing away with another great aussie tradition: the matronly woman with the microphone, cutting into the phil collins background music to announce in a nasally 'kath & kim" voice, "NUMBER 57, YOUR SNAGS ARE READY".
reading back on that, I'm not sure if that's of any help, or merely perpetuating a cultural stereotype.....
only eight schooners? heh, no, I concur.
that, or the dodgy-looking doner kebab van in the remote corner of the servo carpark....
funnily enough, I picked up a book yesterday at the clearance stores: "counter meal - recipes and stories from great australian pubs" by david carr and ned meldrum. published by funtastic in '05. not a bad collection of glimpses into the aussie pub world.
I'd recommend it to the OP if it's still in print.
Oysters kilpatrick really takes me back! In all honesty seafood is good but generally best in pubs in the city (particularly ones with seafood reputations) or seaside towns - for instance if your in a pub in central australia probably best to steer clear of the seafood.
It really depends on where you're going, there are some very good gastro-pub's, and pub fare really covers a diverse range of food everything from the standard fish 'n chips to mod oz that rivals some of the better melbourne restaurants. As a melburnian, I can only recommend pub's in melbourne.
So if you coming to Melbourne I would recommend:
Hotel Lincoln (Cardigan St - Carlton)
The Courthouse Hotel (Errol St Noth Melbourne)
If you go to the lincoln on a Monday the bar menu is reduced to AU$12
I have really enjoyed the bangers and mash (Pork sausages with mashed potato, kale and onion gravy) in the past.
One of the most enduringly popular pub meals (although not generally part of the gastro-pub experience) would have to be chicken parmigiana, many places on Monday's or Tuesdays will offer cheap parma's and pots (smallest glass of beer) for AU$10-12. I recommend the Great Northern Hotel (Rathdowne St Carlton North) which as well as offering standard steaks and parma's in the front bar also offers a dining room with table service and a more extensive menu or The East Brunswick Hotel (Lygon St, East Brunswick - No.1 or 8 trams from swanston st) which has a grungier feel but I think offers the superior parma.
Just in case you don't know the pub's take on Chicken parmigiana is generally a chicken Schnitzel topped with napoli sauce and mozzarella then grilled (some pubs also add ham in b/w the sauce and cheese which I personally think is a travesty!)