Almanac Pub Review: Magpie and Stump, Clare Valley


Geometrically, I think the lawn’s a trapezium but I might be wrong.


Either way, it’s a Clare Valley garden, which just happens to come with its own pub!


There’s slate tables on the grass; umbrellas on bases- although the spring breeze means these are tethered lest they launch toward an unsuspecting vineyard or throbbing Harley; and two fire buckets embedded in imposing circular structures as if they’ve come from a Brutalist 1970s playground, or a Texan mechanic’s barbecue.


Last year we sulked pubward suffering afresh from the Crows’ Grand Final defeat, hoping schnitzel might sooth our spirits. Spooked, Mozz uttered, “It’s quiet. Too quiet.”


The pub was shut.


And had been for some months.


But in 2018 new owners have flung open the doors – this sudden change in fortune is called peripeteia by the Greeks- and I’m thrilled. Shaking mine host Paul’s hand, he explains he’s expecting seventy for lunch. He adds that, “We did 700 meals over the June long weekend.” I peek in the kitchen en route to the bar and see four chefs: all busier than a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition.



Our entourage takes up residence at a generous garden table. Having consulted the pub’s website, I know $15 jugs of Coopers Session Ale are waiting. At my urgings Bazz and Mozz enlist. “Go on,” I say, “it’ll be funny.”


The bar-keep seems unimpressed by my digital espionage but honours the offer. There’s wine and cider for the others and raspberry for the young fellas so we sit in the sun and speak of many people and places.


It’s perfect.


Most opt for the Stump burger, a challenging treat with meaty patties the size of small, beefy UFOs. The chips are crisp and tasty- this isn’t always a given- and come in those miniature wire baskets that could’ve been hocked from a Lilliputian fish shop.


Kath has salt ‘n’ pepper squid but it needs additional NaCl dusting. Flopping about with their iPods and assorted devices our male progeny orders nuggets. These are breathed in, instantly.


Post-lunch, the entertainment’s on under the veranda: a guitar and keyboard duo. Looking like an older Jack White the vocalist announces, “I’m Paul and this is Andy. Together, we’re known as Paul and Andy.”


They provide an afternoon of agreeable covers including our request for “Sweet Caroline.” Given the comprehensive demographic of the audience they ignore our plea for Frank Zappa and his 25-minute magnus opus, “Billy the Mountain.”


The pub staff are also congenial, even when one of our crew, Bazz attempting to assist, drops five glasses onto the table’s unforgiving slate. Disappointingly, only four break but the employee with upturned trouser cuffs laughs throughout his dustpan deed.


As the sun dips in the western sky we each get out three coins to engage in a few rounds of spoofy – known by my old mate Whitey as, “the free beer game.” Your correspondent enjoys complimentary cups.


We leave with some newly-minted stubby holders. However, these look better on display behind the bar as rolling them about in our mits, they’re, as Ian Chappell used to say, a bit thin. The cover of an old National Geographic would provide similar beverage insulation.


But it’d been a terrific Sunday in this fetching garden and despite intermittent outages over the decades, the Magpie and Stump again powers on.


I urge you to enjoy its lawn soon.


About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Big fan of a fire bucket. Though not the greatest thing for the lawn.

    A pub re-opening and coming back to life is one of nature’s treats, like Autumn rain on barren ground.
    Keep the reviews coming Mickey!

  2. Loved this, Mickey.
    It sounds just grand.

  3. Fire buckets and lawn, just like Mad Monday and the St Kilda FC, don’t mix. The two are outlawed at my humble dwelling.

    When pubs are closing like D. Trump fan clubs that one formerly ripping boozer is resurrected is excellent. This one enjoys considerable affection as it was the first time- and I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned this- that I heard a publican say at the commencement of a new round, “Another cup of tea, Vicar?” Yes, this shouldn’t amuse me as much as it does.

    Thanks Smokie. I’m sure you’d go round there under par.

  4. Mark Duffett says

    This reinforces my resolve to ride the Riesling Trail one of these years. Cheers, Mickey.

  5. Mark- an excellent aspiration. Every year on our joyous pilgrimmage I remark on what a wonderful undertaking this would be. As Bill Bryson would comment, it’s a fetching location.

  6. Clare Valley weekenders in the 70’s. Races at Easter and Oaks Day. Drop in at the magnificent Sevenhilll Monastery on the way up. “Oh God whose will divides our way; give us winners here today.” Never did. Probably trying to tell me something.
    But there were other compensations. Cut my teeth on Tim Knappstein’s Enterprise Riesling. You could still buy Roley Birks reds at the Wendouree cellar door. Now its a mailing list and (deservedly) a kings ransom.
    Sunday was a consoling day trip east to Mintaro and the Magpie and Stump. Dirt road? Mintaro Slate that graced a thousand billiard tables. And magnificent Martindale Hall that was the school in Pat Lovell’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. Built in the 19th century by an English gent to entice his beloved to join him in the colonies. 32 rooms. 7 cellars. Boating lake. Cricket pitch. Polo ground. Racetrack. She never came. Love a good folly. At least he had plenty of consolations. Sounds like he would have been a dab hand at Spoofy in the local.
    Life makes fools of all of us. The trick is to keep laughing……………….
    The Trip to Clare? You can be Coogan. I’ll do Brydon. My people will be in touch with your people.

  7. The trapezoidal ground is a great place to kick a footy around with your mates.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You should team up with Tony Robinson and produce a TV series on these pubs Mickey. Pitch it to Netflix or Channel Boss

  9. Had the pleasure of visiting the lovely town of Mintaro on Sunday, where it’s runoured some of my forebears in the Kelly family gave refuge to infamous Bushranger Ned.

    Glad to see the Magpie and Stump back open for business, when it closed and there was no certainty to reopen, one of the former owners and I called in tipped our hats and played Danny Boy to mourn the loss of another country pub.

    But great to see it back up and running!

  10. Thanks PB. If Coogan and Bryan keep going they’ll actually get to Clare eventually. The Trip to Whyalla could be interesting. Mintaro Winery makes an excellent sparkling shiraz- Anastasia. Worth a look.

    Rabid Dog- with all the garden furniture at the Magpie and Stump there’s now only room for some close criss-cross handball drills.

    Swish- with the exponential growth of food programming and indeed, dedicated food channels, by 2025 everyone will star in their own food show. At least according to Andy Warhol.

    Years ago some liked- mindeds and I formed a loose club and went to a different pub every Wednesday for a schnitzel. We kept a diary and reviewed each pub and many said we should put out a book. Unfortunately we were pipped by well-known literati, Bruce Abernathy and Chris Dittmar with their Every Pub coffee-table publication.

    James Lang- Ned Kelly spent time in Mintaro? Hope he went the burger and not the fish! Agree that it’s great it has re-opened as once they shut it’s rare that they come back!

    Thanks for the comments.

  11. Mickey love the one legged chef and Paul and Andy lines excellent as always

  12. A Mintaro local by the name of Martin Smith can tell the story better than most. My late grandmother whose mother was a Kelly used to tell me that the story was that her cousins in Mintaro hid Ned for a short while.

    Incidentally Martin Smith’s daughter and son in law used to own the Magpie and Stump—where-did-he-go

  13. Thanks Rulebook.

    James- thanks for the link. That’s a great yarn, made more compelling by the fact that it can’t be authenticated. If an Irish bushranger was to go to ground I imagine he’d do it somewhere that reminded him of home, and the Clare Valley does look decidedly Irish in winter with its rolling green hills. In a hot, dry summer it looks entirely unIrish but I guess Ned didn’t mind!

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