20 May 2024

Right Royal welcome for first overnight guests after Bungendore hotel's four-year transformation

| Tenele Conway
Exterior of pub

It took four years to fix up the rundown ”top pub”. Photos: Martin Conway.

Sitting in the newly renovated Royal Hotel in front of a roaring fire with a wine in hand, it’s hard to believe that Bungendore’s beloved “top pub” was all but gutted over the past few years.

The purchase and renovation of the town’s historic 1886 pub wasn’t without small-town controversy, but the new owners have skilfully blended the building’s original charm with modern architectural features.

In 2020, the owners of the Lake George (the only other pub in town) bought the Royal before closing and gutting it, leading to fears that Bungendore had lost a beloved local watering hole.

Newly renovated bar at pub

The old front and back bars have been combined in the renovation.

Yet behind those closed doors, new owners Richard and Isabel Harry were reconstructing a building that had been in a steady decline and was a series of crumbling rooms, bad plumbing and rotting floors. The process took longer than expected but it opened in mid-December 2023.

“While the process to restore the pub took four years, there was an upside in that it really allowed Isabel to curate the look and feel of the pub,” Richard told Region.

“We found an original stone wall hidden behind a 1970s fireplace that we were able to make a feature of and we dug up sporting memorabilia that had been stored in back sheds, including local rodeo photos, trophies and records of local sporting achievements. Placing these inside the finished pub allowed us to embed the pub back into the community.”

Two dishes of food next to fireplace

Cassoulet, pasta and burgers can be enjoyed by the fire.

The original front-bar/back-bar layout so common in country pubs has been replaced with an integrated setting. Half-metre-thick exposed-stone walls sit beside modern skylights that bring much-needed natural light into the pub’s deeper spaces. The bistro has been placed in what was a series of higgledy-piggledy extensions with new high-raked ceilings, bifold doors and ceiling fans. And the new hydronic heating keeps the place warm while the blazing wood fires take care of the ambience.

READ ALSO Enjoy fabulous pub fare in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere at Murrumbateman Pub

The locals are well and truly on board with the new fitout.

“The feeling of seeing so many people turn out for our big opening came with a huge sense of relief,” Richard said.

”We genuinely love that pub: it’s a part of our DNA now. And it was so nice to have the community back in there.”

Two bar staff at a pub

Bar staff Jodie Potter and Oliver Mudge are a key part of the pub’s country town hospitality.

Part of this success comes down to the staff. If you frequent the pub a few times, managers Jodie Potter and Oliver Mudge will know your name and your drinks and are always up for an entertaining chat at the bar.

It’s the kind of touch you hope to find in a country town.

“The staff are what bring a pub and a town together, they make it all happen, and it was important to us to find good people,” Richard said with a smile.

READ ALSO LEGO lands at Questacon with an exhibition that’s so much fun kids won’t even know they’re learning

The bistro menu straddles pub favourites and country classics that sit well with the season. The osso buco is rich, hearty and warming, a dish made to be eaten by the fire. Reasonably priced pasta, burgers and parmies have the whole family covered and for a touch of country charm, the duck cassoulet delivers tender confit duck, creamy cannellini beans and smoked pork hock. Sundays feature a full roast menu for lunch and dinner, just like Grandma would have made.

Three musicians playing and singing on stage at pub

Goulburn band Leaving Reality playing at the pub.

Now that the Royal has had time to settle into its renovation, the next stage of the project has just launched with the opening of the fully renovated upstairs rooms. These once-dusty, tired rooms have been given the “Isabel touch” with a tonal palette of greys and whites, and much-needed private bathrooms have been installed.

“We see the Royal becoming a base for visitors from both Canberra and further afield,” Isabel said.

”It’s the ideal country getaway. We’ve got cosy rooms, it’s a great base to visit the region’s wineries, enjoy our Saturday night live music and to experience the dining offerings at the Royal and the George.”

Interior of hotel room with fireplace

The newly renovated accommodation, with private bathrooms, has also been unveiled.

The Royal Hotel is at 34 Gibraltar Street, Bungendore, NSW. It is open from 11 am to 10 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, from 11 am until 11.30 pm on Friday and Saturday, and from 11 am to 9 pm on Sunday.
Follow The Royal on Facebook or Instagram.

Original Article published by Tenele Conway on About Regional.

Weekly Wrap

Canberra is renowned for its restaurants, bars, arts and culture. If you want to know what's going on in and around the nation's capital, sign up for our weekly newsletter and have all the best of the Canberra community delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.