Food News

Now open: Matt Moran’s country pub, with a restaurant and boutique hotel to follow

The beloved chef has family ties to the small town of Rockley, and the pub’s reopening yesterday marks the first stage of his ambitious plan to revitalise the area.

Photo: supplied

Once you’ve driven the three hours from Sydney to Bathurst, get out of the car, stretch your legs, and top up on fuel. Because then it’s another half-hour drive through the Central Tablelands to get to the village of Rockley, a little hamlet with a population of just under 200 people.

Rockley has 10 streets, two churches, a guesthouse, and a pub. And since mid-way through 2021, that pub has been owned by celebrity chef Matt Moran.

On face value, it seems a world away from Moran’s other venues in Sydney – the lush gardens of Chiswick in well-heeled Woollahra; the fine diner at the Art Gallery of NSW; his upscale seaside fish’n’chipper North Bondi Fish; and Opera Bar, Barangaroo House, and Aria Sydney, with their views out over the glittering harbour. But reconfiguring and relaunching Rockley Pub might just be Moran’s most personal project yet.

Steak and chips at the Rockley pub.

(Photo: supplied)

Moran grew up in the country, and his great-grandparents were married in Rockley. He and his dad run Moran Family Farm, which is a short drive out of town. So last year he leapt at the opportunity to purchase Rockley’s historic pub. The pub represents the first stage of his wider plan to reinvigorate the town, and he reopened the doors to its front bar yesterday.

The beers on tap are mostly classic lagers, with a couple of craftier options. And there’s a tight roster of wines by the glass and bottle too. The food menu, meanwhile, is all about showcasing the Bathurst region. Don’t call this a gastropub: the dishes are all pub counter classics, from a cheeseburger served with fat-cut chips; a chicken schnitzel; fish and chips; and rump steak or dry-aged sirloin. Some meat even comes from Moran Family Farm – including the salami on the ploughman’s plate.

“I’m excited to reopen the pub for the locals of Rockley and the region,” said Moran in a release. “This is just the start of our plans for the Rockley pub.”

Those plans include a capacious beer garden, to open later this year, with a wood-fire oven for pizzas. A 90-seat restaurant and bar at the pub, with a more refined menu, is also still to come. Upstairs, the on-site accommodation will be given a boutique upgrade, and there are plans to build a guesthouse, too.

The Rockley pub was built in 1875.

(Photo: supplied)

Moran is serious about revitalising Rockley: a general store and a bakery are in the pipeline, with more details to be announced soon. And from the end of March, a $10 bus service from Bathurst to Rockley will operate several times a day, allowing people from throughout the Central Tablelands to experience the new things happening in town.

“This is going to be a project that I will work on for years to come,” Moran said. “And hopefully it gives a bit back to this part of Australia that I love so much.”

The Rockley Pub

2 Budden St, Rockley, NSW

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