Pub makes Excellence finals
FRESH, local supplies and a friendly atmosphere are two reasons the Eltham Hotel is so well-loved by its customers - and so well regarded within the industry, its owners believe.
"We aim to provide service the way it used to be," says Lucy Black, who runs the pub with her husband, Toby. "Our staff are long-standing, which makes it a friendly place. There's a great rapport between staff and customers."
The Blacks have run the Eltham for three years and took over the management of its restaurant two years ago.
"As managers, we're very hands- on compared with a lot of pubs, and very open to the feedback from our customers," Mr Black said
"Our customers are a very loyal crowd of locals," he said. "People like macca farmers who have been in the area for a very long time."
As well, the "restaurant crowd", has increased, with an upsurge in visitors from Tweed and the Gold Coast calling in to dine.
The hotel is a finalist in three categories of the Australian Hotels Association statewide Awards for Excellence for 2011 - Best Family Friendly Hotel, Best Casual Dining Venue (Country) and Best Pub Style Accommodation (Country). It was in the last category in 2010.
"The Eltham is pretty unique," Ms Black said. "We're close to Lismore but we have that out-of-the-way feel.
Her husband said just being in the finals was "great - especially considering we're up against a lot of pubs, many of them well known".
The couple have been making the Eltham more of a destination - and the quality of their restaurant is an important factor in that.
"It's been a challenge to overcome the GFC, where people haven't been able to go out and spend," Mr Black said. "But we're looking to provide nice food at pub prices, so you can enjoy a good meal without breaking the bank."
Since July they have had local man Graeme Stockdale as their chef, and they believe his "insider" knowledge has been a real bonus.
"Graeme works closely with local suppliers and farmers and has a good rapport with them," Mr Black said. "It's seasonal and 95% local - which we're proud of.'"
Growers - who are often also bar customers - drop in regularly with their products. Also regulars are the backpackers from the buses that pull in three times a day.
The AHA Award winners will be announced on November 28.