Settlers has it all, from top-level pub food to a killer wine list to the best of live music. You haven’t been to Margaret River until you’ve been to Settlers Tavern.
Margaret River’s beloved Settlers Tavern started life in 1977 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 12–2pm and 6–8pm. 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 a dozen 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, upcycled, 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, in 2004. More than a little progressive, we say.
The extensive food offering tracks through some familiar pub options, but chef Giovanni Scomazzon turns each out with a rare level of detail and uses ingredients of impeccable provenance, serving only Australian sustainable seafood, local line-caught fish, as well as local meats and produce. He also fires up a 1.5-ton Frontiersman Yoder barbecue – the first of its type in the country, direct from Kansas – every day to smoke meats low and slow. And if you happen to be vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, they’ve got you covered, too.