On a Friday night Kalangadoo Hotel is packed with locals and tourists and one accidentally hired gourmet chef.

Story Ian Glover Photos John Denman

The lights are on in town, but no one’s home because practically everyone is at Kalangadoo Hotel. It’s Friday night and the place is buzzing. Billy Joel’s Piano Man cranks at full-bore from the jukebox while a bartender frantically serves drinks and the publican Jenny Haggett is everywhere at once, making sure everyone’s having a good time. ‘Coops’ the rouseabout circulates, collecting empty glasses, “I couldn’t survive without him,” Jenny shouts. Friday nights here are BIG.
“What’s the prize in the raffle this time?” somebody asks. It could be a meat tray, a case of beer, a few bottles of wine, maybe port or spirits. “It’s not the bloody Pollywaffle, is it?” It’s the prize everyone loves someone else to win.
‘Warm and hospitable’ sums up the atmosphere of the hotel at Kalangadoo, north of Mount Gambier in South Australia, and not just because of the massive slow combustion stove warming up the front bar area. Originally from Naracoorte, Jenny Hagget has worked in hotels for 15 years and she knows what makes a good one.
Happy Hour starts at 6.30 and the drinks will be cheap again when the footy (AFL) is on later. While the game is on you only pay schooner prices for pints of Carlton Draught. Some nights the pub also hosts live bands and Jenny says a gig can draw in up to 150 punters.
Jenny often cooks up a special but says the pub is known for its steaks, “The Kalangadoo Eater’s Steak costs $19.50 and consists of rump, mushrooms, gravy, bacon, eggs and chips – if you can get through it, you’re doing well!” she says. On Thursday nights the pub strays from its usual gourmet fare, keeping things simple with pizza and take-away meals.
“My chef Heath Telford, is locally renowned,” she says, “He was featured in a cookbook on great South Australian restaurants when he was head chef at the Poplars Restaurant at Chardonnay Lodge. He made the front cover of the book and was covered over three pages, all with his own recipes, so I grabbed a great chef there!” she says.
However Heath’s appointment as chef was quite accidental, “He wanted to get out and have a break from cooking, and he called in here to have a drink,” Jenny says. “I asked if he could help me out until I found a chef – that was 15 months ago – and he’s still here and loving it. It’s so different from a hob-nob restaurant, this is a good old-fashioned pub kitchen, serving great meals.” Jenny uses the back dining rooms to host functions, and Heath helps out with the catering.

This story excerpt is from Issue #55

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2007