Pub Review: Mount Mary

Is there anything more lovely than being taken to a mystery location for lunch?

 

The investment another makes in you courtesy of this wish to treat you with singular affection elevates a shared meal into an act of kind-heartedness, and converts a lazy hour or so into a lush, cinematic episode.

 

We left Robertstown (population-248) and headed through Point Pass (population-110), Eudunda (population-828), Sutherlands (population-unsure as no available census data, but clearly very few) and suddenly, when I was most curious about our destination (surely, we’re not going to Morgan?) it appeared on our right.

 

As a Kapunda youth it enjoyed a particular mythical, even ironic status. Set beyond Goyder’s Line among the salt bush it’s a place mostly visited after a day up the river, skiing or fishing.

 

Bounded by a nightmarish plain there’s no mountain at Mount Mary, and despite its population recently doubling from 6 to 12, I’m unsure if there’s even a resident (non-deceased) Mary. The town features ten homes, the pub, and a (possibly working) telephone box. It’s a living pioneer museum.

 

Exiting the Thiele Highway (named for Eudunda author Colin) we took a town tour and saw the former general store which was run nearly a century ago by Claire’s grandparents. Passing multiple cars in the town we almost forge another lasting connection as outside one abandoned house we scarcely avoid an accident. In a town populated by only a dozen persons this might have been tricky on the insurance claim.

 

Strolling into the Mount Mary hotel there’s a sumptuous lawn out front and given the frequent Armageddon winds and rare rain this is to be applauded. It’s an emerald welcome carpet. Although it’s a tick before noon there’s in situ patrons anchored to the bar having settled into an it’s-Friday-so-why-not drinking and conversational rhythm.

 

Coopers on tap is another predictor of bonhomie. Every worthy beer is better on tap apart from Sparkling Ale which finds its lofty peak when enjoyed from a long neck, but as this is the last holiday excursion I relax my rule-book and the host pours me one. Central to her endless research, Claire orders a house red. We repair to a table by the turf and as front-line ambassadors, greet the stream of sunny visitors.

 

Social media offered insight into the pub’s raison d’etre just prior to the November lock-down when mine host Donna urged that there was, “still time to hitch up your goat and get your drink on.” As we all know life is better with goat.

 

Disastrously, most of our regional train lines were torn up decades ago, including the Kapunda to Morgan track. Sitting in our untroubled afternoon we imagined boarding, say, the 9.42 from our former hometown and alighting in Mount Mary to dine and take refreshment! How a-quiver we would’ve been with me wearing a top hat and Claire easing along the platform in a Sigrid Thornton big dress.

 

Sometimes in a suburban pub meals can be bought and then instantly appear as if they’d just been dinged in a microwave. Those with a rapacious appetite might welcome this swiftness, but it has the anticipatory allure of a KFC drive through. Our Mount Mary meals are delivered by the chef forty minutes later which allows time to chat with each other and the publican, Donna, during which we learn about the pub, her husband Craig’s earth-moving business, the local 86-year-old horse rustler and her commitment to the local fauna.

 

Claire’s deconstructed vegetable stack is tasty and the polenta chips are a treat although, as has been noted by many, the non-meat options can seem overpriced. Are these subsidising us carnivores? My beef schnitzel is exquisite. It’s sizeable but not of ridiculous pillow-case dimensions and the vegetables are a wonderful accompaniment; the Hutch to the schnitzel’s Starsky.

 

The pub’s on the Mad Max road to Morgan but is an emerging foodie destination, and we’re told folks visit regularly from places like the Barossa and Waikerie. Sadly, the trains have stopped, but out back, unpowered sites are $9 per person.

 

As always, goats camp free.

 

 

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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. John Butler says

    As always Mickey, many valuable observations to live by. :)

    Cheers

  2. Most enjoyable, Mickey.
    I love Sparkling Ale – and I must try it from a long-neck.

  3. John Butler says

    Mickey, if I were Prime Minister you’d be my cultural attaché. (Sir Les is past it now).

  4. Thanks JB. I love that Sir Les can boast Minister for Inland Drainage and Rodent Control on his CV.

    Smokie- if a 1001 Beer Experiences You Must Have Before You Die book was published a long-neck of Sparkling Ale would surely be pencilled in at #1.

  5. This is like Swish not knowing a Central Districts footballer pre 1990. How could I not have heard of SA’s Mount Mary? The Avenging Eagle will not be happy.
    Grandad worked the susso in the Depression painting the Morgan to Whyalla pipeline. Does it still exist? Did you see any impressionist stretches signed “Frederick Dallas Baulderstone”?
    I hope there is a Thiele-esque novel in you. “Sun on the Stubbie”?

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Lovely piece, Mickey, conveying a pleasantly languid, holiday time in a fine part of the world – ancestors of mine came from the general area, so it must be!

  7. PB- other Thiele adaptations on the BWS reading list include February Flagon, Blue Gin and Dark and Stormy Boy.

    KD- to paraphrase Bill Bryson: I came from Mount Mary. Someone had to. I’m back at work now so all of these places are like a Disney movie.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Daryl Schramm says

    Have travelled that road a few times over the years, but only called into the pub once. Will now call in again when I next pass.

  9. Closer to Eudunda the Sutherlands pub is still trading although on the day we drove past trade appeared slow in there. The Mount Mary schnitzel is the best I’ve ever had. Worth a drive Daryl.

  10. Daryl Schramm says

    Yes. Called into the Sutherlands once a few years ago. My colleague, a managing director of a blue collar establishment at the time couldn’t drink his beers quick enough to get out of there. Somehow the large and prominent Eureka flag hanging inside got the better of him!

  11. Luke Reynolds says

    Mystery trips are wonderful, the annual “mystery bus trip” my footy club would do was always a highlight. Usually involving hotels that sponsored us.

    Mount Mary with no mountain? Must be named after a popular Mary.

  12. roger lowrey says

    Great yarn Mickey but a couple of comments.

    First, how do you get someone to take you to a mystery destination in the first place? You old sly charmer.

    Secondly, how great is it to see a highway named after a writer FFS?! As it happened, I taught Colin Thiele’s Sun On The Stubble to my Year 7 English class at Mildura HS in 1981.

    On other matters as I have commented previously comrade, good to see your diet has emerged beyond the sausage roll stage.

    I have booked flights for Oakbank and will be in Adelaide over Easter. If you are around we.may catch up.

    RDL

  13. Thanks Daryl, Luke and Roger. I wonder if other Australian writers have roads named after them? A Winton Way or a Judith Wright Avenue?

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