22 March 2024

The Durham Castle Arms celebrates 33 years as the ultimate meeting place

| Dione David
Join the conversation
people sitting at tables in a pub

The Durham Castle Arms Inn has long been a “hub of the community”. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Back in the day when Adrian Moran was a humble barkeep at The Durham Castle Arms, he sat at a table in a Thredbo ski lodge as people took turns sharing their occupations.

Among the doctors and lawyers, his response elicited the most enthusiasm.

“At this table of about 14 people, I kid you not, about half had met their spouses at The Durham,” he says.

“I see this kind of thing all the time. The other day, a guy came in – I recognised him because I remembered I’d once spilled a drink on him and had to get him a shirt from out back. He was there celebrating his 10th anniversary with his wife, whom he’d met at Friday night drinks at The Durham.”

The Durham’s more than three-decade history is littered with stories like this.

READ ALSO What the bloody hell is ‘Australian’ cuisine?

The pub was named after the Norman castle built in Durham, England, around 1000 AD. If you look around, you might come across a somewhat ornate door knocker loosely fashioned off a famous ‘sanctuary knocker’ at Durham Cathedral.

“A sanctuary knocker was an ornamental door knocker on a cathedral or church door, and under medieval common English law, these instruments afforded the right of asylum to anyone who touched them,” Adrian says.

The pub’s first owner, Bill, who hails from Durham, passed it on to his son Josh, who eventually sold it to Adrian in 2018.

Adrian himself started at the pub in 2005 at age 21, working the hotdog stand and clearing glasses before moving behind the bar. He says it’s the kind of place where the people you meet and things that happen “just seem to stay with you”.

“I’ve always liked pubs because they’re hubs of the community, and I find them to be a great equaliser,” he says.

“We can have professionals from the ANU and high-ranking public servants and politicians sitting next to young families, blue-collar workers, chefs and so on.

“Once you walk through the doors of The Durham, you’re equal, and everyone is treated the same.”

READ ALSO How to create a grazing platter to match your favourite wines

While The Durham turns 33 this month, the site has been a pub since 1972. Before it was The Durham Castle Arms, it was the Oaks & Attic, and before that, the Boot & Flogger was a famous Canberra landmark known for its live music.

“We still get people in here reminiscing about the music at the Boot & Flogger,” Adrian says.

Live music has become a part of the pub’s DNA. According to Adrian, it hit its stride in the early 90s and late 2000s but took a hit during COVID-19. Now it’s approaching a Renaissance, with regular local live music acts.

To celebrate its 33rd birthday on Saturday, 23 March, DJ Sue, known as “everyone’s favourite DJing grandma” of Australia’s Got Talent fame, will be hitting the decks.

man pouring beers

Adrian Moran started at Durham 19 years ago, working the hotdog stand. In 2018, he became the owner. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The local theme carries through to the food and beverage. The pub has long supported local and Australian brewers and winemakers and recently became the official ale house for the Ale Mary Brewing Co in Fyshwick.

“Given we’re a meeting place for locals, it makes sense that we support local,” Adrian says.

“We pride ourselves on serving really good pub meals, and there are so many fantastic suppliers right here like Claystone Meats who supply the meat for our burgers and chicken parmesans – pub classics that are always crowd pleasers.

“One of the reasons we try to offer really high-quality products is to ensure we maintain that ‘meeting place’ status. Even if people are meeting online more these days, they still need a date venue … and you can always pick out the Tinder dates when they come in. Sometimes, I wonder if one day in the future, they’ll come back in to celebrate a wedding anniversary!”

The Durham Castle Arms is located at Kingston Shops, L1/52 Jardine Street, Kingston, and is open Monday to Thursday from 12 pm to 1 am, Friday from 12 pm to 12 am, and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 1 am.

Keep an eye on the website and Facebook for the launch of members night soon, with giveaways, prizes, raffles, discounted drinks and entry to events.


Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.