Australian country pub makeovers

Feb 17th, 2018, 01:46 AM
  #1  
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Australian country pub makeovers

Here's something to try - feral mixed grill

Pubs in the country strive to adapt to our changing drinking culture ? or they die - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
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Feb 17th, 2018, 07:17 AM
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Ummm...yum.

Enjoyed that story though, thanks for posting farrermog.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 02:11 PM
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That’s right, Farremog. It’s interesting how country pubs’ dining has changed over the years.

My grandmother had a job as a waitress in the First Class Dining Room of a Hotel* in, I think, Coonabarabran, as a young girl. She was born in 1891, so I’m guessing this would have been around 1915 or so. In those days, cars were few, people travelled long distances, using hotels for accommodation & meals - hence the number of hotels in all the country towns that seem curious nowadays.

I can remember white linen napery & full silver service in country pubs in the early - mid 50’s.
These were the days too, of Ladies’ Lounges, front & back bars for the men, who would go according to how they were dressed, I think. The well dressed could drink where they liked, but work clothes kept a man in the “workers’ bar”.

I remember a Glen Innes hotel, where we stayed a few days, when my older cousin was going into boarding school at the convent . We had “ full board” - 3 meals. Breakfast included porridge and semolina, fruit compotes & a menu of the usual cooked options. We had porridge at home and I remember thinking semolina was quite exotic.

Grills, roasts, curries and fish if the towns were near rivers were the usual fare. Local Chinese Gardens & orchards in many towns ensured fresh fruit &vegetables. I don’t recall having anything other than British influenced cooking until the mid 50’s, when we went to a Chinese restaurant in Pitt street, Sydney, but I imagine there must have been Chinese restaurants around the countryside, following the gold rush. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Certainly, we had lots of Greek cafes. Sadly, all but a few of them are now just a memory.

I suppose the increase in cars, improvements in roads meant more people were dropping in for quick, casual meals & instigated the “ counter lunch”. Typically, a menu of a few staples of generous proportions & a daily special. Ordered at the bar, served at small tables - either in the beer garden or dining rooms. Hotel Accommodation faded away with the advent of motels & the pubs’ food was a sidebar to the main game of beer, spirits & a gradually growing wine consumption.

In the last 20 or so years, I’ve seen a lot of country pubs starting to put greater emphasis on their food. This might be by leasing out their kitchens, or hiring chefs. It’s interesting to watch the changes that have influenced how we use pubs now.

When I was in my early 20’s, you had to be a “bona fide traveller” to get an alcoholic drink on a Sunday in a pub. I didn’t drink, but think you had to be 10 -20 kms from home - and show your Licence to prove it! Imagine that now!

Regulated Blood Alcohol limits & increasing RBTs cut into many pubs’ alcohol sales, although some of this was supplemented by bottle shop sales, until the supermarkets got into the act & undercut the prices.

I don’t smoke & loathed the smoggy, smelly atmosphere in some pubs, so didn’t go. that’s gone! Publicans thought it would cut their trade - but I think it has probably increased it, with the return of people like me, who come for a wine or two, some good food with friends.

Poker machines came, are hugely profitable & for a while seemed to dominate the space. Now, they are usually in their own area, where the rest of us don’t have to see or hear the wretched things.

I think the resurgence of good pub food in country towns has something to do with youngsters returning, too. For a while there was a wholesale exodus of young people to the cities, and overseas where there were jobs, educational opportunities and a more enticing lifestyle. Prohibitive real estate costs in Sydney & a burgeoning interest in food, wine & produce regions like Orange, Mudgee, the South Coast in NSW have encouraged a lot of those young people to move back, taking their culinary skills to build restaurants & bistros in their old stamping grounds.

It’s a win all ‘round. The pubs have a new string to their bow. The returning kids have an established space & clientele on which they can build. We, the locals & travellers have great food in interesting &sometimes historic locations. Successful publicans show they’re in the Hospitality industry. The unsuccessful ones just think they bought a money making machine.

* I don’t know when “pub” became an acceptable term for “Hotel” - but I do know that my mother’s eyebrow would have become airborne if I’d used it when I was a youngster.

Thsnks for an interesting thread Farremog- it’s given me an opportunity of thinking about some pubs, publicans & lovely people I haven’t thought about for a long time. And yes, there are a couple of country publicans in my family.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 02:17 PM
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I had a “real feast” in the Birdsville Pub. Camel, wild pig.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 03:17 PM
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That's a great contribution Bokhara, deserving of a much wider readership!
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Feb 17th, 2018, 03:54 PM
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Aw thanks, Farremog. Old stone, rolled around a bit, gathered some moss here &there
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Feb 17th, 2018, 05:44 PM
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As it happened my (maternal) grandmother was also born in 1891 and her father, a country bank manager, in those days a pillar of the local community, and given to lecturing the local community from the bench as a part time magistrate as well as on diverse matters such as literature or astronomy at the Mechanics Institute, had a major fall from grace when his affair with a local married barmaid (of all people!) was exposed and as a result he lost his job and was estranged from his family, he finishing up in Melbourne and they in Sydney. In the late 50s I enjoyed staying at a country pub (at another location!) run by one of his granddaughters, my aunt, and an uncle, which I can still 'smell', and remember for sarsparilla drinks, darts and hookey boards, separate old style kitchen out the back with snakes (tigers no less) sometimes found lounging on the connecting path, and an exciting main railway line directly behind.
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Feb 18th, 2018, 06:35 AM
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Great stories Bokhara and farrermog. We experienced a few Aussie country pubs while we lived in WA - some good, some, well, let's just say they could use some improvements. A few surprised us with their unexpected good food.

Which begs the question - are roadhouses in the same category as country pubs? We considered taking a road trip and staying at roadhouses, but the idea was much more attractive than the reality.
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Feb 18th, 2018, 01:59 PM
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A good question Mel. TBO I've only thought of roadhouses as a convenient place to refuel and perhaps grab a bite - in my peak travelling days I often looked forward to a (non feral) mixed grill at a Golden Fleece servo 'roadhouse' - some may have had an associated motel of sorts - but generally 'accommodation' didn't register with me either with those or at what others might consider the dinkum roadhouses, those sprawling, dusty affairs further out with huge rigs parked out the back amid a collection of drums, and who knows what.
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Feb 18th, 2018, 02:12 PM
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So unless things have changed a lot, the answer would be 'no'. (Others here are in a far better position than I am to advise - unfortunately most of my travelling these days is up and down the Hume and Federal Highways between Sydney and Canberra.)
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Feb 18th, 2018, 03:58 PM
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Btw that's not casting nasturtiums at roadhouses, I'm sure they can be classy affairs - after all I'm pretty sure I've seen one with a bedstead out the back with a communal mattress.
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Feb 19th, 2018, 06:34 AM
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I've seen one with a bedstead out the back with a communal mattress.

Ha! Sounds like we made the right decision to give them a pass!
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Feb 19th, 2018, 07:15 PM
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I've become a fan of the country pub, though food-wise, when they get it wrong they can really get it wrong!

I know the pub in Warracknabeal and the "food festival" they host. It's a great way for the pub to become the point of introduction of a whole new thing which locals won't have been familiar. In this case, American BBQ. A very nice fit for an area that has already embraced country music and rodeos, plus it's a perfect tie-in to livestock farming, which of course is a part of the culture. It's "simple" food and has a rural backstory of its own and I think will catch on in a way something like a Mexican or Asian food festival might not.

Then again, I've always been surprised by how much more diverse small rural eatery menus have been compared to the rural areas I grew up around in the middle US, so I could be wrong. I just know that acceptance in unfamiliar cuisine so far has been directly related to distance from either a city centre or at least an artsy-fartsy enclave.

My in-laws own(ed) a country pub that catered primarily to locals, some of whom who would be found holding down the same bar stool most nights. They had a bit of the pokies and Tatts, but for the most part, it wasn't much of growth industry. But, being on the edge of a wine region, it always had a wine buying base along with the beer. And being where it was, they were able to expand the back area to include a bistro, indoor plus a deck with great views. It made a real difference and they needed a real chef to pull it off. Unfortunately, being a historic old wooden pub, it burned about two years ago and council has been a nightmare about rebuilding ever since.

Last edited by CounterClifton; Feb 19th, 2018 at 08:14 PM.
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Feb 20th, 2018, 10:43 PM
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Love reading all the stories about people's lives and country pubs.
Re Chinese food - I believe that during and after the gold rush the Chinese ran restaurants that served "British " food . Every country town had a Chinese restaurant that served Chinese food (adapted to Aussie taste) from the 50's . We used to take our pots/saucepans to get the food to take home . No throw away then.
The only roadhouses I know are food and petrol stations eg Willare near Broome and those on highways .
Great to see pubs such as Wangaratta offerings .
Food in the countryside is alive and well with hotels such as The Royal Mail Hotel Du Kelsey being a food destination .

Last edited by northie; Feb 20th, 2018 at 10:44 PM. Reason: Dunkeld spelling mistake
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 12:19 AM
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I loved Bokhara's mention of the "bona fide traveller".

From my father's town, Ganmain, the Grong Grong pub was exactly the right distance. Google maps tells me it's 25 kilometres, so it must have been about 20 miles the distance necessary. I don't think there was any eating done there, as far as I can recall - but then I was just a kid. No breathalyzer units either.
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Feb 22nd, 2018, 12:21 AM
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I can remember looking for Golden Fleece service stations on road trips - because the food was usually good.
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