As you enter the historic town of Penola on the State’s Limestone Coast, the historic Royal Oak Hotel is there to greet you – an impressive country pub with a very proud pedigree.
Publican John Rymill freely admits to spending plenty of time here as a lad growing up in the Penola district. But he really cut his business teeth just up the road at the Rymill Winery. The family sold up several years ago, leaving John Rymill with a quandary: what to do next? It’s almost as if fate drew him to this historic hotel, given its connection to the district and the man who helped establish it – John’s great-grandfather, John Riddoch.
The wineries straddling the Riddoch Highway are a testament to the vision of those who gathered in this hotel almost 130 years ago. But for John, owning the Royal Oak is part of a new and exciting chapter, one he’s embraced with business partner and well-known foodie Kirby Shearing.
You’ll often find Kirby at Petticoat Lane’s herb garden sourcing produce for the Royal Oak’s menu, but not before making a community contribution –a few coins in an honesty box.
Kirby’s well known for his adventurous approach and love of bush tucker. So a visit to the heritage garden with its array of native herbs is a must.
Back at the pub, Kirby puts on a quick courtyard cooking demonstration. For publican John Rymill, the partnership with Kirby is all about adding another chapter to the story of a pub steeped in history.
The Royal Oak Hotel is located in the main street of Penola. The town’s a good three-and-a-half-hour’s drive from Adelaide. For details on accommodation and food offerings, head to their website.