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June 12, 2024

Last Drinks At The Pub: Tom McHugo’s Hobart Hotel

In Hobart, everybody knows that “The Pub” means Tom McHugo’s. After nearly eight years operating as a touchstone of the city’s social and cultural life, it’s time for final call.

Film: Sam Davison & Jesse Hunniford

Tom McHugo’s is the heart of Hobart. Since 1842, a pub of varying names has sat at the intersection of Argyle and Macquarie streets. Over 180-odd years it was helmed by numerous memorable publicans, but few have had the impact that Tom Westcott and Whitney Ball have had on the city in just shy of eight years. Together, with Westcott delivering a produce-driven menu from his kitchen, and Ball championing an approach to hospitality that makes a city feel at home in her front bar, they have built a community inside its four walls. Tom McHugo’s is a living room, a place for celebrating, for commiserating and for sharing ideas, company and plates of food. 

As a venue, it quickly became somewhat of a national culinary icon, referred to regularly by those who knew it as “the best pub in Australia”. Pinpointing why that is can be hard for an outsider – its fit-out is classic and familiar, its service style comforting and unpretentious, its kitchen modest and tucked in a back corner. So why has it become a site of pilgrimage for Australia’s food-obsessed, and why are the people of Hobart so devastated that after nearly 400 memorable weeks, Tom McHugo’s Hobart Hotel’s lease won’t be renewed and there is just one more to go.

In its final days, we spoke with those who have been wrapped up in the pub’s orbit to better understand the hole it’s leaving.

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