The Wandi Pub is as cosy as a hug from your Nanna – easy, warm and familiar.
Located just six k's down the road from Bright in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Alpine suburb of Wandiligong, this casual clubhouse is guarded by publicans Tim Heuchan and Paddy Subacius, who in 2015 bought the Wandi after five years of snowboarding and beer research up in Victoria’s ski fields. They dusted off the dorky beer paraphernalia, spit-shined the menu and made the Wandi what it is today: a friendly home for Alpine wanderers.
There are still flashes from the old days, including the huge Mountain View Hotel sign that sits above the building’s hot tin roof. But it’s the shabby wood panel with ‘Wandi Pub’ scribbled on it in black marker that hangs from the verandah that better reflects the current vibe of this 150-year-old establishment.
Inside, the bar is a big timber number that serves your ale with a cheeky smile from the staff. Near the pool table there’s one flatscreen with the footy on, but it’s clear no one’s here to watch the game. Wander outside towards the huge beer garden where wooden tables are overflowing with punters shooting the shit beside an outdoor stage occupied every Sunday with a roster of folk crooners. A massive overhanging tree provides shade in the summer, and acts as a nice heat catcher when the temperature dips.
The food hugs your insides too. Pub traditionalists can tuck into the best parma in regional Victoria (we won’t hear a word otherwise) that is thick and juicy and paired with fat yellow chips. Less pubby fare comes by way of a flavoursome roast pumpkin and chickpea dahl, and a slow-cooked lamb served on a bed of butter bean purée. It’s like a Mediterranean take on a Sunday roast, but the gravy’s replaced by tangy olive tapenade, a sprinkling of feta and grilled zucchini slices. While it’s tempting to stick to the hot dishes – especially in the dead of winter – don’t pass up the fresh smoked Harrietville trout salad, served with soba noodles, sesame kewpie mayo, heirloom carrots and a quail egg (fried in olive oil and served with a soft gooey yolk). You’ll pay a little more for the quality but it’s worth it.
Bar two bottles of bubbles from France, the entire wine list is hyper local. Nary a drop strays from Victoria’s northeast, including merlot from Gapsted, chardonnay from Porepunkah, and the tasty Bush Track cab sav from the Alpine Valley that is a perfect match for a juicy Porterhouse.
The Wandi Pub could face off with any of the big boys in Melbourne, but its regional charm is what makes it so good. They’ll lull you into a cosy stupor with their hospitality and make you forget what day of the week it is. Lifting a finger is fruitless; just sit back, dig in and abandon the 9 to 5.