It was the most Antarctic of days and the first song played was that most summery number, Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy”. But this is no seasonal jingle, only tolerated on high rotation, for a brief window, before being shelved for another twelve months. It’s an exquisite, year-round Christmas narrative, and the guitarist in Adelaide’s Duke of York pub lends it his kind, engaging voice although he drifts occasionally into nasally Kath ‘n’ Kim suburbia.
As Billy Joel didn’t quite note, it’s a pretty quiet crowd for a Thursday, and a regular crowd hasn’t shuffled in. However, the bar bloke is charismatic and helpful, talking us through the drinks and food offerings in a way that’s more barbeque banter than sales pitch.
Accommodatingly, for those of us who remain numerically, if not monetarily bewildered, all main menu items are $12.90 (or 12.9 as modern minimalism has it) and this egalitarianism is excellent. My dining partner has the Angel Hair Pasta w Roast Pumpkin, Broccoli & Eggplant in an Argentinian Pesto.
While I find Eggplant, or indeed, eggplant, like a Morrison government cabinet member, entirely devoid of charisma and indigestible, it’s met with approval although the pesto, while inspired by Buenos Aires, is more rumour than admissible evidence.
There are countless culinary crimes in our cosy first world lives, but burying chips beneath a schnitzel, like a careless mobster in a shallow grave, is inexcusable. I’m happy to be a vigilante and even a mercenary, but should not have to rescue my own fried potato chunks. Won’t somebody think of the chips?
In the Duke’s defence (the pub, not John Wayne) tonight this is a minor offence and my meal is otherwise terrific. In the happy manner of a mum serving at a country footy canteen the bar keep even asks me if I’d like some gravy to accompany my chips. This alone guarantees the sentence is only a good behaviour bond.
As we dine and the rain lashes the city we note on the wall a patchwork print of a bespectacled cat. This, of course, is fiction and nonsense, for cats are entirely self-absorbed and take no interest in others or the world, and so have no need for improved vision. I say this in full knowledge of August 8 being International Cat Day, and August 7 being International Cats Eating Bananas Day. Only last week one of the boys said he’d like a cat for Christmas. I was planning to do a turkey, but if it keeps ‘em happy…
With a nirvana of happy hours spread across the week, the Duke is eager to placate here too. Some ridicule Carlsberg for being European VB, but I fancy a glass of it when opportunity arrives. So I do, and a tenner for an imperial pint (as opposed to our decidedly un-regal standard pint) is crisp value, while Claire selects a red wine and finds it generous and warming (personally, if not globally).
The guitarist (is it illegal for those playing inner-city pubs to not sport a beanie?) moves onto English wunderkind George Ezra and his catchy toon, “Budapest” and it’s a cordial track for a bleak night. He then tackles Paul Kelly’s omnipresent, “To Her Door” which, according to the lyricist, could very well star the protagonist from, “How to Make Gravy.”
I love some early August intertextuality, as we nod our thanks to the strumming soul and head to the Festival Theatre for the Book of Mormon, and critiques of cultural colonialism and healthy doses of hysterical dysentery.