Pub grub’s cooking at the coast

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Flathead and chips… lovely and light, with piping hot chunky chips. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON braved the crowds on the June long weekend and headed to Cobargo Hotel for pub fare and to support the small community.

“Regardless of the pressure, most in hospitality managed to maintain a sense of humour, with one female bar person declaring: ‘This is the first time I’ve poured a beer in two months and it feels soooo good!’”

THERE was no mistaking that Canberrans wanted to see the sea, feel the sand and breathe in salty air on the June long weekend, and the timing was perfect with COVID-19 restrictions easing.

Cobargo pub front signage. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

While hospitality workers welcomed the hustle and bustle, some likely collapsed at the end of the three days, having served thousands of customers. At one point I counted more than 30 people lined up outside a local fish and chip shop. One restaurant owner told me that the pace was so great they would likely run out of food and be forced to close Monday.

Some restaurants weren’t coping with calls and so took their phones off the hook. Others wisely popped messages up on social media to help control demand.

We opted to drive to Cobargo, in part to support the small community hit so badly by the fires, and now the pandemic. The sign out the front of the Cobargo Hotel, an historic watering hole for sure, told patrons to sign in with their phone number and practice social distancing. Bottles of hand sanitiser lined the bar.

The hotel bistro’s menu celebrates pub grub, including burgers, parmis, schnitties, pizzas, and fish and chips.

The flathead was my choice, with the batter on the three pieces of fish lovely and light and chunky chips piping hot ($20). I squeezed fresh lemon over the fish and dipped pieces into the tangy tartare sauce. The side salad was fresh and the dressing creamy with some zing.

Pork schnitzel… the biggest schnitty we’d ever seen, moist and packed a punch on flavour. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

My friend’s pork schnitzel made my dish look petite. It was the biggest schnitty we’d ever seen, taking up three-quarters of the plate. It was exceptionally moist and packed a punch on flavour.

Cobargo Hotel is selling supplies, given the grocery store in town is still closed. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Before leaving, I bought a dozen eggs, with the hotel supporting locals by selling staples given the grocery store in town is still closed.

Part of the pressure was that not all south coast eateries opened. For some it’s still not commercially viable and several we spotted had started renovating during the pandemic, with work not yet finished.

Regardless of the pressure, most in hospitality managed to maintain a sense of humour, with one female bar person declaring: “This is the first time I’ve poured a beer in two months and it feels soooo good!”.

To maximise returns, some eateries understandably restricted their menus. The Catalina Club in the Bay, for example, only offered pizza in its restaurant.

Others encouraged patrons to understand the need to flip tables often on social media. Here’s how The Bayview Hotel politely put it:

“Warning: Bars need your help. We can only open at one-third of our capacity. Those who cannot drink for three are kindly asked to leave their place to the professionals.”

Cobargo Hotel, 41 Princes Hwy, Cobargo, NSW. Call 6493 6423

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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