A tiny town on the Murrumbidgee, somewhere between Melbourne and Sydney, there was never much reason to stop in Jugiong. That all changed about ten years ago however when Juliet Robb and her husband Hew opened a charming café and food store, the Long Track Pantry . Jugiong quickly became the perfect pit stop for coffee or lunch on the big drive between two of Australia’s major cities.
Now, there is even more reason to stop through this historic riverside town. The reason being, the recently reopened Sir George Hotel . Driving 5+ hours north of Melbourne along the Hume, in our comfy Golf Comfortline, we arrived in Jugiong after a quick coffee stop in Wangaratta.
Forever the most dominating and impressive building in this quaint riverside town, the Sir.
George Hotel was built on the banks of the Murrumbidgee by Irish immigrant John Philip Sheahan back in 1845. The great flood of 1852 washed the hotel away, but it was rebuilt shortly thereafter by stonemasons who Sheahan brought over from Ireland, and it is the same sandstone building that still stands today.
Full of history and charm, the Sir George was taken over by mother and daughter duo Kate Hufton and Liz Prater in late 2015, who spent the next two years lovingly restoring and redeveloping every corner. Not just your average country pub, the Sir George is now home to a wisteria-draped pottery and homewares shop, an artisan bakery in the adjoining historic Ben Hall Cottage, a children’s playground, and beautiful, boutique accommodation. The Sir George Hotel is now very much a destination of its own.
In terms of the food offering, it was Liz’s partner, Kim Gamble, a hospitality pro from Perth, who crafted the wine list and menu. With a passion for locally-sourced ingredients, the menu showcases fresh produce from the Rivierina. Kim enlisted chef Nick Williams to head up the kitchen, and it is Nick who has had the pub’s Spanish Mibrasa charcoal oven (just one of 10 in Australia), running hot ever since. The food is excellent. We loved our steak, so perfectly charred and sea-salted. The wines are mostly from NSW, and many local (including from nearby Gundagai). A philosophy of simplicity and authenticity underpins everything that is done at The Sir George.
It was a Thursday night when we visited, which also just happened to coincide with the pub’s monthly trivia night. Jam-packed full of locals and passers-through alike, the pub was buzzing. We were just a small table of two (compared to big groups of 10+ on the other tables), but we were lucky to have Kim join us, and help us with the tonnes of questions we couldn’t answer on our own! A ripping bloke from WA, Kim shared with us stories of his new home of Jugiong, and the passion he has for artisan bread. Having run the bakery on Perth’s “Rotto” Island for a couple of years, he has continued his love for real-deal sourdough on the east side of Oz with Bakers Lane Bread – the artisan bread made out of the historic Ben Hall Cottage (named after the successful grazier turned infamous bushranger) next to the pub. From Jugiong’s first-ever artisan bakery, Kim produces various loaves, focaccias and 90 second pizzas to replicate those in Naples. He even had a baker from Milan arriving the day after we left.
We spent a night in one of the restored 1845 Stone Stables (of which there are three) - carefully restored by stonemasons, with a floor that has been laid with one hundred year old oak floorboards. These heritage listed structures were cosy and charming, with luxurious and thoughtful interiors. We especially loved the flax linen bedding, and the bath products by Melbourne brand, Hunter.
We loved the little breakfast basked that was left in our room come evening – freshly-baked bread, butter, and preserves. There was also delicious teas and Nespresso coffee to be enjoyed.
The other accommodation offering – the Black Barns – are more contemporary, and have the stunning charred black wood finish we love so much. This traditional Japanese method, known as shou sugi ban, involves charring the wood surface to render it a deep charcoal-black. The barns look out over the manicured gardens and sculptures.
It is a delightful place to stay.
We were sad to leave after only one night at the Sir George, but were so happy to have discovered this beautiful new one-stop destination.
We quietly drove off in our Golf Comfortline, stopping into the Long Track Pantry quickly to pick up a coffee for the road, and a few of their hand-made relishes and jams.
This quaint riverside village is now a perfectly lovely destination in its own right, and not just a pit stop. Add Jugiong to your Australia east coast road trip list.