The Boolarra Community Hotel has been on our check-list to visit for some time, but we were told that it wasn’t open and certainly whenever we’ve gone past, there hasn’t been any noticeable activity within or without. So I was more than surprised when I heard that the hotel had been acquired by the Boolarra community, with residents chipping in to take shares in ownership. Sometimes this seems to be the only way to resurrect a hotel that has fallen by the wayside and with a community located where it is, not having a pub handy is always an issue. And so it was with some interest that we decided to visit this Sunday for lunch, especially as we’d heard that the meals were very good.
The layout of the Boolarra Community Hotel is quite the country style with reasonably large, open, areas both inside and out. There’s been a lot of work going on to bring the pub back online and there still seems work to be done. That said, in the relatively short time from when the community took over the hotel, there has clearly been substantial progress made; serving beer and food is the mainstay of any pub, so this aspect has naturally been a priority. Given the comments on the Boolarra Community Hotel Facebook page, what’s been achieved so far has been well received. And we were also well received, with the sort of welcome that makes you glad that you did stop by and indicating that you’ll most likely have an enjoyable time.
Arriving early meant that things were quiet, though a family had beaten us to the punch. The lunch menu has quite a good selection and my eyes went straight to the Cattleman’s Steak Sandwich and my wife decided on the BCH (Boolarra Community Hotel?) Burger. While waiting for the meals, I decided to enjoy a Mercury Dry Cider, a brand that I haven’t tried for a very long time and I quite enjoyed it, while my wife chose to just have some water today. When the meals arrived, we both thought ‘that’s reasonable’, and then slowly came to realise that these were deceptively large servings. Not only were they very filling, they were both extremely good with some lovely hidden flavours, and the chips were perfect. These are the sort of wholesome pub meals that keep people coming back again and again.
Being on one of the main roads often taken by tourists from the Princes Highway to Wilsons Promontory and vice versa, the Boolarra Community Hotel is well located as a stopover. And from what I’ve heard, there’s a large area at the back that is being considered for use as an RV stopover and/or short term camping, which would be ideal given that there are very limited stopovers in this part of Gippsland for tourists and others. While many townships in the rest of Australia make a lot of effort to be ‘RV Friendly’, such places are few and far between in Victoria. And Boolarra wouldn’t be a bad place to take a break, before heading off to one’s new destination. We were wondering if the large group of Mazda MX5s that we passed shortly after leaving were planning a stopover at the pub, if they did, they wouldn’t be disappointed.
Life Behind Bars – Am I Off Track? When I wrote my first life behind bars story, it was a result of something undefined that I wanted to express, but hadn’t quite managed to assemble in my mind. I started following a theme, but it’s only after comparing the early and later Life Behind Bars stories that I realised that the emphasis of my stories had changed considerably. Where initially it was more about the bar/pub, it’s history etc, it’s now morphed into stories that perhaps emphasise the meals available at various country pubs, rather than the pub itself. While that’s all fine, I don’t think that’s what I intended.
It was a journey that we recently did that made me realise that I’d become somewhat fixated with lunches available at these pubs than the actual pubs themselves. The theme, Life Behind Bars, had become more of a culinary journey than a cultural one. We’d travelled out to Briagolong one weekend to have a look at some potential camping sites along Freestone Creek and planned to have lunch at the Briagolong Hotel on our way back, but the hotel was closed for meals on a Tuesday. So we travelled back the way that we’d come to see if the Newry Hotel was serving meals and it was the same. So in frustration I continued on and we ended up not having any lunch until we got home.
It was only later back home, thinking about this that I had a look back at my earlier stories, which made me realise how far off-track (of sorts) I’d gone. I was missing the opportunity to write stories about Life Behind Bars because I was thinking too much about the food. So from now on I’m going to take each pub as it comes and not worry about whether lunch is being served. Note that I did check the opening hours on the internet beforehand, but there was no mention of when meals were and were not served. Sometimes it just pays to call.