Few pub complexes can rightly call themselves an institution, but friends have been meeting at the Oaks since 1885
Fun fact. The oak tree that shades the beer garden and from which this mammoth Neutral Bay hotel takes its name was a sapling gift with purchase to the pubs’ then owners’ daughter, Kathleen Furlong, in 1938. Seventy-six years later you can still while away the hours beneath the boughs of this mighty tree and cook you own steak, if you’re so inclined. The lure of this shady beer garden has always been a key element of the Oaks’ appeal, but following a recent refurbishment this sprawling establishment now boasts a spruced-up lounge bar (now called the Bar and Grill) with tartan carpet, black bentwood chairs, a glass-and-sandstone wine cellar and their very own, in-house butcher. It also has the pub’s broadest range of craft beers on tap with Murrays, Two Birds, 4 Pines, and Lord Nelson on our visit. Think you have steak-eating power of a thousand men? This is also the place to try your hand, and stomach, at the tomahawk rib eye that weighs between 1.7 and 1.9kgs and can cost up to $95, with green beans and roast potatoes on the side. They’ve added a prettied-up garden pavilion and given the tramway bar an Art Deco makeover with a zinc bar, but left well enough alone in the garden palace where the proper, wood fireplace is the drawcard over winter. Upstairs, in what used to be the owner’s private residence, is a warren of rooms with pool tables and chesterfield sofas, with gaming facilities hidden right up the back. Whether you like to be under the tree, beside the fire or in front of a steak, the Oaks has a place for you.