As one is faced with the prospect of grappling with boredom of a Sunday afternoon, I decided to convince the better half to make a trip out of town. You might call it a trip down memory lane, to rediscover the tradition of an afternoon spent chewing the fat in a country pub.
After living in Canberra for quite some time, I have to say there is little opportunity to simply meander down to a suburban local pub (with the exception of Ainslie or Oâ€™Connor) that displays the characteristics of a true â€˜localâ€™. A pub with a sense of true community spirit, where one is likely to run into someone they know without having to pre-organise a gathering of the faithful, and where you will always find someone amenable to indulging in the amber ale.
I cast my mind back to a time when it seemed normal to pile a few mates into the car and take a drive (within an hour) out of town, to rediscover the feeling you get from the â€˜localâ€™. On Sunday, I decided again to do just that.
Tarago wasnâ€™t the first pub I had in mind, but I remembered that it had been mentioned recently in passing on RiotAct and thought it good as any place to commence my path to rediscovering country pubs in our region.
Anyway, on arrival at a country pub, there is always a sense of hesitation on taking the first step into the bar (particularly with partner in tow) as you are sure to receive the gaze of all and sundry indicating that, â€œyou must be a blow-inâ€. After a couple of longer gazes the locals went back to watching sport on a well set up system of big screen tvâ€™s and a serious game of pool.
After ordering, I looked around for the infamous series of open fires I had remembered from a visit in my misspent youth. The bar staff must have sensed this and directed us towards a room feeding off the kitchen. What I guessed could have once been counted as the â€˜ladies loungeâ€™. Not long after settling in for a drink, the publican himself came out and introduced himself to us and made us feel very welcome â€“ as if we had just moved to town, something you do not get in Canberra.
Mark (the publican) explained that he was relatively new to the role, having taken over from the previous licensee, who had been in the job for over 14 years. I mentioned in passing that I knew a former licensee who had owned the pub well over 25 years ago in an effort to find common ground. Conversation progressed and he went onto to indicating that they are making great inroads into putting on live entertainment and also offer an accommodation deal I thought was quite hard to beat – $70/person per night, including a main meal of decent pub grub, a bed (of which there are 30 at the pub) and a big fry up in the morning.
Although I didnâ€™t spend too much time getting to know the locals, the staff and people that did come out back (out of sheer curiosity) made an effort to make us feel welcome. The Loaded Dog and the community that drink there have reinforced in me that the true sense of community is still alive and kicking in small country towns.
I think Iâ€™ll be heading back, particularly given that patrons out there tend engage in past times such as watching rugby, enjoy putting a team together to support a fundraiser trivia night and are always up for a good dose of country pub rock.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The drive is relatively easy â€“ for Sowâ€™siders, simply head out to Queanbeyan, out along the Kings Highway and after arriving in Bungendore, keep heading through town along the Bungedore Rd towards Goulburn for about 10 minutes and youâ€™ll strike Tarago. For Norâ€™siders, take the Federal Highway north out of town, and turn off Macs Reef Rd and head down Smiths Gap into Bungendore, turning left at town onto Bungedore Rd and again its 10 minutes to Tarago north along the road to Goulburn.