A TAVERN THROUGH TIME
Parap Village Tavern has been an iconic landmark in Darwin for more
than 80 years, and no family has had a longer association with it than
Four generations of this long standing Darwin family have operated the tavern over the past six decades.
Dowling’s love affair with ‘The Parap’,
which is known as one of Darwin’s “traditionally
favourite hotels”, started in 1947.
was the year George and Evelyn Dowling – who arrived in the
Northern Territory with their four children (George, Mayse, Ted and
Jim), a one-tonne Ford ute and Dodge in 1927 – took over
it’s operations from original owner George Searle.
those days, ‘The Parap’ – which was
actually established in the 1930’s as a private club known as
‘The Palmerston’ – was a classically
tropical, wooden building on stilts.
It was run down after being used as a canteen for RAAF personnel based in Darwin during the war.
during the next 20 years as the town boomed around it, the
Dowling’s made continuous improvements to the hotel,
including building in it’s underneath area and introducing
refrigeration and accommodation.
Both George and Evelyn Dowling passed away in 1954, after which their son Jim took over the operation.
the years, the Dowling’s continued to work on the
hotel’s alterations and by the 1960’s, it had 30
rooms, four bars, a dining room, two beer gardens, six staff rooms and
a drive-in bottle shop.
of it’s clientele came from the nearby railway yards and
single men’s Ross Smith Hostel, while travelers and bush folk
used it’s accommodation.
and his wife Dot continued to operate the hotel through the
1960’s, in conjunction with long time managers Bob and Carmel
and Dot’s son Terry then took over operations of the hotel in
early 1970’s, and ran it through to the 1980’s.
THROUGH THE GENERATION
and Dot’s son Terry took over the hotel in the early 1970s,
and continued to be involved in its operation right throughout the
In 1974, Cyclone Tracy hit, destroying most of Darwin and 70 per cent of the hotel’s original building.
it was not enough to close it down and while accommodation was limited
to just seven rooms and a flat for management to live in, within a very
short period of time, the hotel’s main bar reopened and the
building was re-roofed.
Since then, Terry said he has seen the hotel evolve from a frontier pub to a modern hotel.
I came back from a hotel management school one year, I said to my
father, we need to update this pub,” he said.
was a real man’s pub back then and women had to drink in a
separate lounge called the Virgin’s Parlour.
said to Dad, ‘we need to put in a bistro, where people can
get good wine and good food,’ and he answered
‘what’s wrong with knuckle sandwiches?’
But we went on to make changes and put in Jessie’s Bistro, and it became an icon of the town for 20 years.
while he is still involved in its operation, it is Terry’s
children – Dan, Matt and Luci who run the hotel which is
currently undergoing its fifth round of renovations.
restaurant has since changed names twice, from Montego’s,
under which is took out the NT Gold Plate award for ‘best
bistro’ three times running and an AHA award for best bistro
in Australia, to the Raging Bull Steakhouse, which is what it is known
The Raging Bull has also won the NT Gold Plate award for best public hotel dining twice.
have always had a reputation of running good quality
restaurants,” Terry said. “We are currently
undergoing another renovation to update our bars, and our award winning
bottle shop also carries one of the widest ranges of wines in the
Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern has four bars in all
– the Heroes and Legends sports bar; the Punters and
Collectors bar; Bar Havana, which boasts late-night entertainment,
including live music, karaoke, jam nights, quick and trivia nights an
the hotel’s restaurant; and the Raging Bull Steakhouse, which
seats 130, has a dedicated function room with its own bar facilities,
and a wine cellar with about 100 lines of red, white and sparking wines,
The hotel is open from 10am daily, while the bottle shop is operates until 10pm every day.
All in al, 60 years on and Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern really is still going strong.
Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern boasts a long history in its
own right, the special characters that have worked and played there
over the years have certainly added plenty of color to it. Three
characteristics that have stood out in particular are:
in Larrimah, Elizabeth Lovegrove started work at the Parap Hotel as a
member of the domestic staff long before it belonged to the Dowling
family. She helped raise the Dowling children (who run the pub today),
and described herself as a jack of all trades.
who celebrated 40 years of working at the then ‘Parap
Hotel’ in 1981, saw the building change dramatically over the
told The Advertiser that year that she remembered what the pub looked
like in 1939, and was “rather proud of the way in which the
building stood up to Cyclone Tracy”.
Elizabeth passed away in the late 1980s.
household name in Darwin during the 70s and 80s, Jaffa was the renowned
head chef of Jessie’s Bistro and winner of four Queltaller
Estate Bulletin Awards for the finest steaks in the Territory.
the front-bar of the hotel in 1988, he told the Northern Territory News
that the secret to his fabulous steaks was “the green
alarm clock is the green frog – he wakes me in the morning,
and says ‘work, work, work’,” he said.
must love life and people and work hard every day –
it’s simple. People talk of secret ingredients; there are no
all to do with the experience of life. “The heat of the
charcoals, the smell, the sound, the feel of the steak. And, if you
understand and respect people, you will cook well for them.
was a Malay from Singapore, who after 12 years as an indentured
labourer on pearling boats in the NT, was almost sent home.
more than 20 per cent of the then Darwin population singed a petition
asking the Government to cancel the order, and some 400 rallied in
deportation proceedings were dropped and Jaffa was able stay. He handed
over the reins as head chef to Wivie Bjobij on March 24, 1988.
Jaffa passed away early 2010, aged 84.
Bell was a former employee, who can lay claim to the
‘Jessie’ in the former name of the
hotel’s restaurant ‘Jessie’s
Bistro’. Ms Bell was one of the first barmaids in the
She came to Darwin in the early 1950s and took on a job at the then Parap Hotel.
the time, women were not allowed to work behind bars, but the laws soon
changed and Ms Bell was given the job of being in charge of the
pub’s saloon bar and lounge. Renowned for her uniform of a
‘professional looking’ starched white dress, Ms
Bell did a ‘terrific’ job at the hotel until she
left for Western Australia after Cyclone Tracy.
Dowling family thought so highly of her that when the pub was rebuilt
after the cyclone, they named the bistro after her. Ms Bell died in
2004, aged 89.
Story courtesy of NT News