AUSTRALIA In praise of pubs

Four ho­tels in Ho­bart come with rich his­to­ries and lively le­gends

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - LEE MYLNE

CUS­TOMS HOUSE HO­TEL IN the early days of the Cus­toms House Ho­tel it was known as a chop house, which meant a good square meal could be found in­side.

To­day, own­ers Paul and Karen Jubb hope the same can be said about their spa­cious res­tau­rant over­look­ing the Ho­bart waterfront. Sailors have al­ways played a part in the his­tory of the ho­tel, lo­cated in the heart of Ho­bart’s ma­rine precinct, and this tra­di­tion con­tin­ues to­day, par­tic­u­larly when the Syd­ney-to-ho­bart yacht race fleet comes into port in late De­cem­ber.

Built by Charles Gay­lor and li­censed in 1846, the ho­tel took its name from its lo­ca­tion op­po­site the then Cus­toms House, now Tas­ma­nia’s Par­lia­ment House. Gay­lor was one of Ho­bart’s early set­tlers and his name is cut into the build­ing’s front cop­ing stone.

In more re­cent years the ho­tel has ex­panded into the next-door shop and the for­mer Ma­rine Ho­tel, and in 2003 it un­der­went a sub­stan­tial trans­for­ma­tion when it merged with the ad­ja­cent ship chan­dler’s ware­house in Mor­ri­son Street. Both build­ings are listed on the Tas­ma­nian Her­itage Reg­is­ter. The ren­o­va­tion re­sulted in a main bar, a 100-seat res­tau­rant, a func­tion area called Vue and 12 new gue­strooms, tak­ing the to­tal to 23 rooms, six with water views. More: cus­tomshouse­ho­ KNOPWOODS RE­TREAT In colo­nial days, when Ho­bart was a wild and bawdy town, there was none who liked a drink and a good time bet­ter than the Rev­erend Bobby Knop­wood, the chap­lain to the colony and a mag­is­trate for its first two decades.

In 1829, he opened the pub he called the Whalers’ Re­turn and which now bears his name in the sand­stone build­ing on Sala­manca Place. It’s likely he would ap­prove highly of Knopwoods Re­treat, still one of Ho­bart’s most pop­u­lar wa­ter­ing holes.

The cosy pub has gone through sev­eral in­car­na­tions — at one point be­ing the Lord Nel­son, at an­other the Nau­tilus — and it was not un­til the 1980s that it took the name of the man who be­gan it all.

Knop­pies, as the lo­cals call it, is a wel­com­ing place and it’s easy to see why the small bar is usu­ally crowded ( but don’t be put off). There’s a large open wood fire and some strik­ing works by Tas­ma­nian artists, and the at­mos­phere is warm and in­ti­mate.

‘‘We re­ally try to keep it as tra­di­tional as pos­si­ble, and that is part of its charm when a lot of other pubs have mod­ernised,’’ says li­censee Kate Cawthorn. And Knop­pies seems to ap­peal to ev­ery­one, from fish­er­men and politi­cians (state par­lia­ment is just a stone’s throw away) to univer­sity types and tourists.

The com­bi­na­tion of ex­cel­lent cof­fee, food, beer, wine and a cosy at­mos­phere makes this pub a hot favourite. It can be crowded at lunchtime, but no book­ings are taken — so head for the bar and wait for a ta­ble to be­come free. The menu, which changes daily, is writ­ten on a black­board, and noth­ing costs more than $15. On Fri­day nights the bar is packed with the af­ter-work crowd, spilling out on to Sala­manca Place, where there are more ta­bles and chairs. Beers on tap vary, with darker ales served in win­ter. You’ll also find Tas­ma­nian whisky from Lark Dis­tillery (just down the road in Davey Street) and Strait vodka from north­ern Tas­ma­nia.

And what be­came of the Rev­erend Knop­wood, the first of­fi­cial res­i­dent of Bat­tery Point ( pre­vi­ously known as Knopwoods Point)? Well, he couldn’t avoid trou­ble and fell out with gov­er­nor Ge­orge Arthur be­fore dy­ing in 1838, aged 75. Check out the brass plaque out­side Knopwoods Re­treat that re­lates his ver­sion of the feud. More: 39 Sala­manca Place, Ho­bart; (03) 6223 5808. REPUB­LIC BAR & CAFE Is it a pub? Is it a gallery? Is it a cafe? The Repub­lic in North Ho­bart is all three, and the com­bi­na­tion works. Sup­port­ing the arts is a vi­tal part of what makes the Repub­lic tick: there’s mu­sic here ev­ery night as well as chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tions on the red wall that gives the gallery its name, all in a cool, ca­sual at­mos­phere.

Orig­i­nally the Rose Ho­tel, the pub opened in 1831 and was later re­named the Rose and Crown. By 1938 it had been sub­stan­tially re­built as an art deco brick build­ing stand­ing on the corner of El­iz­a­beth and Bur­nett streets and was then called the Em­pire Ho­tel.

In 1997 the pub was taken over by Tony Heath and Peter Mcdon­ald, who de­cided to put an em­pha­sis on live mu­sic and re­named it Repub­lic Bar & Cafe.

Part of the pub is given over to the Red Wall Gallery. ‘‘The Red Wall re­ally came about be­cause we had a bar­tender called Kim Dug­gan whose wife was an artist and we ar­ranged to show her work,’’ says man­ager Jeremy Heath. ‘‘Then we had an­other artist, and it just started from there, hold­ing reg­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tions. The ex­hi­bi­tions now change ev­ery four or six weeks, show­cas­ing the work of emerg­ing Ho­bart artists; the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the venue is di­rected by lo­cal artists Ni­cole O’lough­lin and Rory Dick.’’

When it’s an open­ing night, the crowd is there for the art; at other times, the art is there for the peo­ple who visit the bar. And the mu­sic can be any­thing from jazz and blues to acous­tic, hip hop or world mu­sic. Ses­sions start at 10pm on Fri­day and Satur­day nights and at 8.30pm or 9pm on other nights. Oc­ca­sion­ally there are spe­cial events, such as Hot Au­gust Jazz, start­ing at lunchtime.

The com­mit­ment to the arts ex­tends to po­etry read­ings on the first Sun­day of each month, and in true pub tra­di­tion there’s also a quiz night twice a month.

The Repub­lic’s mood is cafestyle, re­laxed and mod­ern, with log fires in­side and a beer gar­den with bar­be­cue area out the back. An ex­ten­sive cafe- type menu caters for all tastes and bud­gets, and there is also a spe­cials board that changes reg­u­larly.

Nearly ev­ery­thing on the menu is sourced lo­cally — no frozen fish here, it is all caught in Aus­tralian wa­ters. Beef, lamb and pork come from a Tas­ma­nian butcher, and chicken dishes are pre­pared free of chem­i­cals or hor­mones (and the eggs, of course, are freerange). More: re­pub­ SHIP­WRIGHT’S ARMS Ship­wright’s Arms Ho­tel at Bat­tery Point is a tra­di­tional old English-style corner pub steeped in his­tory. It’s the sort of pub where a woman might take off her pink high heels af­ter a day at the races and hang them over the beer taps on the bar, and no­body will mind. Or where a bloke might take off his shirt to show some­one a par­tic­u­lar tat­too and at­tract a small group of in­ter­ested ob­servers along the bar.

There’s no pok­ies, no keno, no live mu­sic, no pool ta­ble — but there’s plenty hap­pen­ing if you keep your eyes and ears open, and Ship­pies (as the lo­cals af­fec­tion­ately call it) has prob­a­bly seen it all. A pop­u­lar haunt for boat­ies and yachties and sea-go­ing folk of all kinds, this Ho­bart in­sti­tu­tion has been around since 1846 and re­mains as pop­u­lar as ever.

It’s a pub that tends to be fre­quented by reg­u­lars rather than tourists, but strangers are al­ways wel­come for a beer and a yarn. And if you hap­pen to be a vis­i­tor who’s ex­plor­ing the quaint Georgian vil­lage of Bat­tery Point, one of Ho­bart’s loveli­est lo­cales, then it’s a great place to stop for some re­fresh­ments.

Ship­pies is a favourite with crews from the Syd­ney-to-ho­bart yacht race and its walls are adorned with nu­mer­ous pho­to­graphs of the spec­tac­u­lar boats; a 7m-long photo mu­ral tells the story of the race and a dis­play fea­tures ev­ery line- hon­ours win­ner since 1945.

It also has a unique col­lec­tion of Tas­ma­nian and mar­itime mem­o­ra­bilia, while the din­ing rooms dis­play pho­to­graphs of Old Ho­bart and Bat­tery Point. The front bar, built by a ship­wright, fea­tures Tas­ma­nian tim­bers, and log fires keep it cosy in win­ter.

Ship­pies has com­fort­able gue­strooms up­stairs, of­fer­ing bud­get accommodation. And if you plan to dine in, be sure to make a book­ing for the bistro, be­cause as one of Ho­bart’s most fa­mous ho­tels, with a rep­u­ta­tion for good food, it can get busy. More: ship­wright­

dis­cover­tas­ma­ This is an edited ex­tract from Great Aus­tralian Pubs by Lee Mylne (Ex­plore Australia Pub­lish­ing, $34.95); ex­plore­aus­


Clock­wise from top left, Ship­wright’s Arms, Cus­toms House Ho­tel, Knopwoods Re­treat and Repub­lic Bar & Cafe

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