New-look Moonan Flat Hotel is keeping it all in the family



Nestled at the foot of the famous Barrington National Park, Moonan Flat Hotel has recently become a destination unto itself thanks to new owners, new management, and a major refurbishment.


When three friends from Newcastle decided to throw in together and buy a country pub, their trade skills came in more than handy during the process of bringing the popular Moonan Flat Hotel back to life.


After buying the pub in 2021, Richard Claut, Jason Stephen, and Danny Wicks, who all have full-time careers within the building industry, set about giving the pub a facelift while being sure to maintain the unique feel the venue is known for.


Licensee Sonia Marshman, said Claut, Stephen, and Wicks all placed a great deal of care and empathy into carrying out the renovation which was completed in November last year.


“For all three of them making sure the pub was still what people expected when they arrived was key,” she said.


“The overall aim was to improve but not change what it has been known as over the past 120 years.”


“Obviously you need money to keep it going but because of their local connection the ethos of their success is built around providing a hub for the community. That’s what they care about.”

The renovations include a new-look main bar and cellar, interior styling, updated accommodation facilities, the addition of a large pergola, and a complete overall of the restaurant which is now named The Third Wheel.


According to Marshman, the owners also have their own philosophy when it comes to success, which has nothing to do with making money from the pub.


“To them, success isn’t based on the monetary aspect of the venture,” she said.


“One of the boys has family in the area and the other two are avid bike riders, so all three have emotional ties to the pub.


“Obviously you need money to keep it going but because of their local connection the ethos of their success is built around providing a hub for the community. That’s what they care about.”



Sonia Marshman, Andrew Rolfe, Josh Marshman, and Jennifer Buys.

Another unique change to the venue is the management with Marshman’s family all having moved to live at the pub and play a part in the day-to-day running of the venue.


“I had previously been the publican and chef at Graze at Willow Tree Inn among other venues and came with 32 years of experience,” Marshman said.


“My husband Andrew Rolfe is from Merriwa, so for him this is his old stomping ground.


“My son Josh, who was one of Melbourne’s Prominent Young Chefs, is the chef at the newly named Third Wheel and his partner Jennifer Buys runs front-of-house.


“We all live here on site so it’s a real family affair.”


While the remote area of Moonan Flat, which is 30kms from the nearest other watering hole, might not be the place you’d expect to see dishes like a 600g premium rib eye priced at $78, Josh has managed to create a menu with an ideal mix of country pub flavours and prices, with the kind of high-end dishes you might expect to find at a destination venue.


“It was really important that we created a menu that included both ends of the spectrum,” he said.


“I wanted to focus on catering for all visitor demographics from locals, to bike-riders and campers, 4WD tourists, horse stud owners and visitors, winter snow chasers and really anyone who wants to come and visit us.”




Josh has managed to create a menu with an ideal mix of country pub flavours and prices, with the kind of high-end dishes you might expect to find at a destination venue.

Since re-opening late last year, the reception from the local community has been warm, with any concerns for what the pub might look like post-renovation immediately put to bed.


“They love it so far,” Marshman said.


“It always takes a few weeks for locals to get to know a new publican and warm up to a fresh face, but we are completely open and receptive to becoming a big part of this community.


“There is still work going on adding heating to the pergola, an outdoor fire-pit, and eventually there will be more bunkhouse style accommodation out the back as well. It’s a work in progress but everyone has been very accepting of both the renovation and of us.”


And it’s not just the local community who are happy with the new arrangements. The Marshman family are loving their new life at Moonan Flat and have no plans to return to the city any time soon.


“I made a decision to go country after I met my husband,” Marshman said.


“He’s country at heart. Big sky. Big mountains. Ever since moving from the city 13 years ago I love it. I love the atmosphere, I love the stories, and the community here is beautiful.


“We’re really getting involved as a family and doing things like bringing the ANZAC Day march back this year from the pub to the memorial and those are the things that are key for us.


“For me, I think the more people who can find time to come out and appreciate what the country has to offer and see where their food comes from, to see water sources like the Hunter River and such, it really provides a good perspective on life and an opportunity to breathe out.”





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