The Federal Hotel is one of Bellingen's most imposing old buildings. First opened for business in 1901, its name celebrates the Federation of Australia in the same year. It's been a mainstay of the Bellingen community as it grew from its origins as a sleepy little logging and farming village and through the growing pains of the 1970s as the hippies flowed in. It's still a key part of the town today with its very polished but casual dining experience.
The Federal Hotel has the traditional front bar leading onto a huge dining room. A spacious deck stretches along the laneway and around the back of the building. It's perfect to sit around for a drink or two with delicious food and friends in the generally fine weather (when it's not raining). Luxurious accommodation is also available upstairs if you want to stay a while in the heart of town.
The menu is a modern Australian offering pub classics and specials like schnitzels and steaks. There's always plenty of options to choose from. Adventurous souls might like to try the nobby snapper wings or the Salmon and Wakame Terrine.
I have to be honest and say the terrine is an odd dish. I think you're meant to smear the terrine on the toast and sprinkle it with pickled fennel and rocket - that's when it creates an interesting and tasty morsel. We also tried the Pork and Prawn hand-rolled spring rolls. The big rolls are very juicy and packed with a delicious filling. The wrapping is a little thick but still very crispy.
The slow-braised beef cheeks with black garlic, carrot puree, mash, beans and jus come with a steak knife. You won't need it though because the meat falls apart beautifully. It's a hearty and rich meal.
Pan-seared and baked Atlantic Salmon is a staple dish at modern pubs these days but good pubs, like the Federal, serve good salmon and cook it skillfully. The beetroot and sweet potato puree is sweet and fresh while the polenta chips are crisp and fluffy. The broccolini adds crunch and the lemon/olive oil dressing works with it all.
Many things stay the same no matter what the world brings. The team at the Federal work hard to accommodate the crowds who arrive for meals every day.
Bellingen is a hive of modern activity but retains a warm old-school vibe. The main street offers plenty to see and do for everyone. The Federal Hotel is in the centre of it all at 73 Hyde Street – call to book on (02) 6655 1003 for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Get the most up to date information about the Federal Hotel here.