A touch of the larrikin, hearty meals and a resident ghost – there’s something for everyone at the Goomalling Tavern in Western Australia’s wheat belt.

Story By Bart McGann

On the western edge of the West Australian wheat belt, Goomalling is like so many towns with a heritage built on grain and sheep. The type of town where you don’t just wipe your boots when you get to the door, you kick the dust off as well.
The sweeping corner hotel in the middle of town was built in 1904 and now presents as much as a museum as a pub. The front bar is long and inviting and publican Barry Gooch stands behind the taps. “Friday nights are our busiest night here, but if there is an AFL game on in Perth the numbers drop off a bit,” he says.
The clientele is mostly local but at this time of year the Dowerin field day, the biggest machinery show in WA, fills out the accommodation and there is a lot of through traffic from the “wildflower crowd”.
Initially Barry comes across as a no-nonsense kind of guy but talk to him for a while and you will discover a skill for spinning a yarn and a grin that gives away the larrikin within. This larrikin nature can be seen in the old wooden street signs that had been “appropriated” from across town now hanging above the bar.
It seems what goes around comes around. “Someone pinched my beer tap the other day,” Barry says. “I needed it for the Dowerin Field Day and I let it be known I didn’t care who did it, I wanted my bloody beer tap back! The next day it appeared again with a bar runner they knicked as well – no one owned up and I didn’t ask.”
The kitchen has been significantly upgraded since Barry’s mum Shirley fed a packed bar from a two-door, wood-burning Metters stove 30 years ago, but the menu hasn’t changed much since then. It hasn’t needed to. Hearty CWA fare is what people want and formally trained chef, Mel Styles, says although the pub offers a variety of dishes and will make meals to customers’ wishes, it’s meat, meat and more meat, that they seem to want.
“The most popular meal here is scotch fillet – they all like their meat,” Mel says. “I have tried a few salad dishes but it doesn’t quite work.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #56

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2008