From grub to gaming: the best pubs named in annual award

Anna Houlahan
Updated May 25 2024 - 5:19pm, first published May 22 2024 - 7:49am

The draught is flowing, chips frying and revellers cheering at vibrant bush pubs across the state but a select few venues in Victoria are a cut above the rest.

The best pubs in the business were honoured in an annual award show by Australian Hotels Association Excellence Awards 2024 on May 20.

The regions are home to some of the country’s oldest watering holes

Gongs were given to the pubs with the best dining areas, menus, drinks lists and atmosphere before the winners and nominees danced the night away at Crown Melbourne.

Overall Regional Hotel of the Year

The Middle Hotel in Korumburra, Gippsland has been named Overall Regional Hotel of the Year at the AHA Excellence Awards 2024.

They went head-to head with favourites Kennington Tavern in Kennington Village and Ballarat's Western Hotel among others to win the top prize.

The Middle Hotel had a successful night at the award ceremony, also taking home the award for Best Parmigiana.

Best Regional Casual Dining

The Royal Hotel Drouin had stiff competition in the category of the best regional pub offering casual dining but they managed to get the win on May 20.

The Royal Hotel Drouin's burger with a glass of red wine. Picture Royal hotel Drouin
The Royal Hotel Drouin's burger with a glass of red wine. Picture Royal hotel Drouin

Entrants were judged on a range of criteria including the hotel's design, ambience, atmosphere as well as seasonal variation in the menu, value for money and presentation of dishes.

What's more casual than a plate of jalapeno poppers served with honey sriracha aioli in front of the crackling fire at the Drouin's Royal Hotel?

Best Family Dining

The Old Town 'N' Country Tavern in Wangaratta, catering to young and old, has won the 2024 AHA Excellence Award for the best family dining offering in Victoria.

The tavern boasts a kids playground, a well-rounded menu with dishes to suit any palate and seniors meal specials every day of the week.

Best Regional Pub Restaurant

With a selection of oysters, charcuterie and steaks, the Victoria Rutherglen has won the coveted Best Regional Pub Restaurant gong at the 2024 State Awards for Excellence.

And no meal in the fortified wine capital of Australia is complete without a sticky glass of Topaque made just down the road.

People's Choice Award

For the second year running the Star Hotel in Sale has taken home the People's Choice Award for most beloved pub.

The team from the Star Hotel thanked their community and those who voted saying "from bistro to bar, open mic nights to santa photos. We feel lucky to be a part of your story".

The team from the Star Hotel, Sale celebrating their award. Picture Instagram
The team from the Star Hotel, Sale celebrating their award. Picture Instagram

"Cheers to everyone who comes in and spends their precious time with us," the team said in a post to social media.

Best Cocktail List of the Year

After winning the Parma of the Year, an AHA Award for excellent service and Best Pub Restaurant award in previous years, the Paradise Valley Hotel in Clematis has taken the title for 2024 Best Cocktails List of the Year.

Order a fruity, frothy Clover Club cocktail over the bar to try the best bartending in the region.

Best Bush Pub of the Year

"There's-a nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear, than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer," Slim Dusty sang in 1957 about the plight of bush pubs.

But it's not a problem faced by the AHA Excellence Award recipient for the Best Bush Pub of the Year, The Commercial Hotel at Woods Point.

Their beloved pub in the tiny town of Woods Point, with a population of 33, near Victoria's Goulburn River is as well-stocked as any.

Best Hotel/Pub-Style Accommodation

Ballarat's Oscar's Hotel and Cafe Bar has been named the best pub accommodation in the state ahead of a number of other serious contenders.

Rooms at the hotel are clean, modern and elegantly renovated with views over the town from Juliet balconies with hanging pots growing flowers.

Anna Houlahan

Anna Houlahan


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