Once upon a time in a not so far away land…
I feel like I have fallen into a rabbit hole, and found myself drinking a mysterious potion called the Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice at this cosy tavern in Wollombi. Will this Jungle Juice make me grow bigger or smaller, I wonder? And who is Dr Jurd? He is certainly not a fictitious character created by Theodor Seuss Geisel.
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The Pom just got himself a spanking new wheels recently, thus we decided to take it for a spin and head off to the Hunter Valley region to meet up with Big D for lunch. Most people who come to Hunter Valley will usually come through the freeway and only visit the wineries in Pokolbin, and seldom take the back way through the old convict trail now called the Great North Road. Unless you are a bikie or sport cars hobbyist, this serene winding scenic route is one of the best drive you could have ever asked for through the historic Wollombi Valley that remains shy away from the public.
Wollombi is a very small but picturesque historic rural village in Australia’s lower Hunter Valley, 142 km north of Sydney. The valley is surrounded by fruit orchards, and you will be able to stop over at the local fruit barns and pick up a few bargains along the way. The Wollombi Tavern, is the gateway to Australia’s famous Hunter Valley Wine Country. It is located at the T-junction in town centre right on the Great North Road and it remains a favoured spot for travellers to and from the tourist destinations in the Hunter Valley’s wine districts. The row of motorbikes parking outside indicates it is still very popular with those wishing to take the Sunday bike ride or drive into the country around Sydney. You simply can’t miss it.
But most importantly, it is the home of the infamous Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice.
An old bush remedy by mixing double nip of port with a nip of brandy was just the shot for a sick tummy. This concoction called “Jungle Juice” is rather popular with the soldiers who served in the tropics during World War II. Mel Jurd, the owner of Wollombi Wine Saloon back in 1957 was a smart man. By keeping costs down and revenues up, he saved all the leftovers from the night before and pour them into a single container. After many experiments with leftover of port, brandy and wine; the drinkable Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice was created.
The Jungle Juice is free for tasting at the bar, or $3.00 for a normal glass if you like it. You can also bring it home in three different sizes, $6.20 for the small bottle, $15.50 for a 750ml port bottle, or fancy a huge dose of the remedy at $26.00 in a 2 litre bottle.
I go for the Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice, while the Pom is the designated driver and opt for Coke, Big D is a ‘alcoholic free zone’ and ordered himself a lemon lime bitters. The Jungle Juice is served chilled in a tumbler glass. On the first sip, the Jungle Juice is actually very sweet just like port, or perhaps a cheap sweet fruity red wine; then the alcohol kicks in and slowly burning my lungs from inside out. Phwoar…. it is strong! The Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice is actually very drinkable and found myself liking it alot. I asked Big D to go and check out the alcohol percentage on his way back for the second round of ordering, and he comes back to confirm that the Jungle Juice is just actually 14% alcohol, just like any red wine.
The Wollombi Tavern has a dining kitchen next to the pub for those who are looking for a bite. You can either enjoy your meal on the verandah, or the picnic area at the back, overlooking Wollombi Brook Creek. The tavern is already packed with tourists and bikies, so we decided to sit outside in the picnic area with our two little pooches.
Our lunch at the Wollombi Tavern is a very casual affair of pub grub. The pom got himself a giant beef burger, which is always a good sign when you can see juices trickle down his hands and dripping all over the wrapper. Me and Big D have the steak sandwiches, very shabby looking piece of steak and caramelised sauteed onions with bbq sauce, sandwiched in 2 slices of soft white bread. We also ordered a side of potato wedges to share, it is always a nice extra to sum up a moreish afternoon lunch.
I definitely will get that 2 litre jar of Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice next time I am in Wollombi again.
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The Wollombi Tavern Old North Road Wollombi NSW 2325 Australia Phone: (02) 4998 3261