Just as Con Christopoulos was almost single-handedly responsible for reclaiming the Paris end of Melbourne’s city from what looked like terminal decline some decades ago, he too is redrawing the borders west of Elizabeth Street. In territory mired in restaurant touts, with menus pitched mainly to a tourist audience, and otherwise populated by city workers…
Margaret River’s beloved Settlers Tavern started life in the 1970s as a haven for surfers, riffraff not considered suitable for the pub that serviced the then 1000 residents of the township of Margaret River. Since then, the population has grown six-fold, and Settler’s Tavern has grown with it, becoming a live music hub, as well as a food and wine destination.
With a license for nearly 800 patrons and 1000 meals leaving the kitchen on a busy day, it’d be easy to make some assumptions about what kind of place Settlers Tavern is, and they’d be both right and very, very wrong. A busy, community minded country pub with live music and family dining, sure, but meshed into that unassuming profile is one of the most thoughtfully conceived and well executed visions that you’re ever likely to see. The current owners, Karen and Rob Gough, took up the lease of the Settlers in 2003, after a decade together in San Francisco. Rob (an American) worked as a sommelier, and Karen (from Margaret River) imported Australian wine, including Leeuwin Estate and Cullen, into California.
“In 2003, you couldn’t buy any wine from outside Margaret River, couldn’t get a decent coffee, couldn’t get a meal outside the hours of 12–2 pm and 6–8 pm. We saw a need. We began with a few wines from other states – and were not too popular for that! But how things have slowly changed,” Karen says.
Today, the wine list stands at 600 plus bins, with over 30 available by the glass, including four premium pours from Coravin. And that list is incredibly broad ranging, even with the challenges of sourcing international wines in their remote location. Local wines are naturally well represented, but not just the big players, with up-and-coming makers heavily featured. Natural wines have been highlighted on the list for over a decade, with symbols indicating biodynamic, organic, zero sulphur and vegan credentials.
Everything at the Settlers is recycled, up-cycled, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Plastic bottles haven’t entered the building since 2003, plastic straws were given the boot in 2010, and it was the first Australian pub to ban smoking indoors. If you happen to be vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, they’ve got you covered, and if you’d prefer an 8-hour cold drip coffee to a pot (sorry, middy) of beer, then that’s fine too. More than a little progressive, we say.