What a top spot! We’re sitting on the veranda of the ‘Tumby Pub’, as the Tumbulgum Tavern is affectionately known, looking out at the Tweed River as we order our lunch.
To me, the place holds memories of water ski heaven; very early weekend mornings when, just out of my teens, I would skim across the surface of the water, my ski almost slipping on the glass-like surface. Later the breeze would rise, as it has now, the camphor laurel branches waving to the ripples moving along the water in little waves.
One of the first settlements in the area, Tumbulgum lies at a junction where the Rous River meets the Tweed, hence the town’s aboriginal name, meaning ‘the meeting place of the waters’. A few months ago we’d journeyed up the Rous on a pontoon boat, The Lady Austra Tatiana, with Michael Simmons of Mount Warning Tours learning the history of the area. It’s part of Australia’s Green Cauldron, the rivers running through an ancient volcano, an area rich in vegetation and primary production.
Today we’re relaxing on a site which from 1887 onwards was the epicentre of the timber town’s commerce: the pub. Although the ‘grog shanty’ was initially unlicensed, no doubt many a deal was struck over a pint or two.
The tavern sits on the river bank, looking past some old camphor laurels up the Rous River. If only those old trees could talk, they could tell us some tales! The fish mounted on the veranda tells a tale true enough, a half-size model of the 800lb groper caught in this river in 1828 using the hind of a cow as bait!
It’s late on a weekend morning. Oblivious to surrounding activity, punters sit outside the TAB, relaxing over a beer with friends. On the other side of the tavern, the bistro staff prepare for the onslaught, the 60 or so alfresco seats already reserved for lunch, as well some of the indoor dining. The tavern is popular with walking and service groups from Murwillumbah to the Tweed using it for functions; one of the few places where you can enjoy a two course set menu of calibre with a view for $24.50.
With a new owner, Josh McCarthy has returned as the tavern’s Head Chef, and our meals turn out to be a treat. Somehow it seems right to order seafood as we overlook water: Summer Prawn Salad, a Thai-styled salad of greens and fruit brimming with large prawns, dressed in a citrus chilli lime dressing ($22); as well as a Seafood Platter of local prawns, oysters, smoked salmon and a large Moreton Bay Bug ($25). It’s gorgeous fresh Australasian seafood, plump and firm, having never been frozen.
Seafood and steak are the mainstay of the bistro’s new menu, some great comfort dishes, all very reasonably priced, with some choices to please gourmet diners as well. Besides nightly specials, diners’ favourites include: Prawn and avo bake, Thai beef salad and Gravalax stack using house-cured salmon.
Sitting in the cool shade with a backdrop of green mountains, we reflect that it’s a slower pace of life in Tumbulgum as the river ambles by; a very relaxing day’s drive away from the coast.
Whether you come to the Tweed to dine, spend time cruising the river, do a drive crawl to take in the Tweed Gallery and other arts and craft shops and galleries, bush walk, motor bike ride or scenic drive, it’s well worth the time to stop in at the Tumby for a meal.
136 Riverside Drive, Tumbulgum, NSW Ph: 02 6676 6202
Note: Photo of the jetty is attributed to Michael Simmons.