A Detours & Diversions piece on the Palace Hotel in Kalgoorlie, WA, a truly great Australian Pub
Great Australian Pubs
You know the type: great service, nice rooms, incredible food, yesteryear prices – the kind of place where you can spend the night, leave the next day and say: THAT . . . was a Great Australian Pub.
137 Hannan St, Kalgoorlie, WA
By Chris Pritchard
I didn’t fall in love in with a barmaid – perhaps I’m not US Presidential material.
Amid Kalgoorlie’s many historic and ornate pubs, a two storey sprawl named “the Palace” reigns supreme. A few months after opening in 1897, it welcomed a 22-year-old US mining engineer called Herbert Hoover. Based in the remote goldfields, Hoover checked in at the Palace whenever he had time off – and fell in love with a barmaid. Accounts of this relationship vary, with her identity slipping into obscurity. After a year, he left.
He pined for his barmaid, shipping her a gigantic gift which she donated to her employers. Beneath a grand staircase, Hoover’s gift survives: a heavy mirror in an elaborately carved frame. Alongside, a smaller frame holds a poem the future politician penned for the object of his desire. It reads in part:
“And I spent my soul in kisses, crushed upon your scarlet mouth / Oh! My red-lipped, sun-browned sweetheart, dark-eyed daughter of the south . . .”
Hoover wrote to his brother, “The barmaids are entrancing.”
The Palace habitué became US President during the Great Depression of 1929-1933. He overcame his down under crush, marrying an American sweetheart. These days, Palace barmaids hail from all over; they’re still pretty and friendly, trading banter with regulars and visitors. (Am I imagining it, or do some customers wear the wistful gaze of the lovestruck?) The Palace shuns “skimpies” – Kalgoorlie’s iconic if skimpily dressed barmaids who serve drinks across the street beyond the Wild West-style swing doors of the same management’s Exchange Hotel.
BEST COUNTER MEAL: An aroma of cooking wafts from the Balcony Restaurant, where meals are served rather than at downstairs bars. Kalgoorlie isn’t a cheap eats destination, but a vast and succulent peppercorn-crusted prime eye fillet proves a splendid splurge at $29.
GOINGS ON: A band’s classic rock pulsates in the Corner Bar each Friday night, before and after locally popular karaoke. On other evenings, a Billy Joel-influenced piano man tinkles more tunefully.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE: More a couples’ pub than many in Kalgoorlie, the Palace draws a cross-section of youthful and mature age residents and out-of-towners. The Corner Bar is busiest, while the adjoining Tart ’n’ Miner, with TAB, is predominantly male. The Shaft nightclub pulls a young crowd. Families head for the Balcony where visitors drop in for a drink, too.
LEVEL OF MENACE: Without overbearing security, management preserves a laidback ambience contrasting with some of the town’s rougher pubs. On numerous visits, I’ve seen no brawls.
SLEEP WELL? Forty-six well kept rooms supply a wide choice, from balcony-facing doubles with ensuites (plus TV, in-house movies, refrigerators and aircon) at $120, balcony-facing singles at $90, standard doubles at $80, standard singles at $60 and a male only backpacker section with shared bathrooms at $35 (single) or $45 (double).
SERVE ME: The mood is welcoming and unthreatening. Kalgoorlie is a tourist town, but at the Palace locals outnumber visitors.
YARDSTICK: Beers on tap cost from $2.80, with Swan, XXXX and Carlton Midstrength most favoured.
CONTACT: (08) 9021 2788 or www.palacehotel.com.au.