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Mystery Pub: Jimmy’s Bar and Grill

When I worked in the city I walked past it often but dismissed it.

The problem was that I have a stereotypical image of a bar in my head and it’s not entirely complimentary. A bar is pokey and dark and found in Brooklyn and this is great if you happen to be in New York but I’m predisposed to a pub. For me, Jimmy’s Bar and Grill isn’t a label that fills me with curiosity or optimism. So, imagine my joyous surprise when we wandered in last Friday.

There’s something incurably exciting about meeting your wife in the city and being led by the hand up Adelaide’s grand boulevards in the fading autumnal light. There’s a bustling energy and frisson as people wind up their working week and make their escape. There’s mystery and romance and promise to be had on every street corner.

The ground floor room is called Harry’s Bar and it is forgettable. We made our way up the stairs to the Tattersalls Room. It’s remarkable and I was instantly agog. The ceilings are high and ornate while the space is massive and cloaked with history and elegance. There’s blue curtains and big Chesterfields. If Harrison Ford sought hotels and not antiquities this instalment would be called Indiana Jones and the Opulent Pub.

Claire bought a glass of red and a pint of mid-strength for me as I was driving. Mid-strength beers are like hearing the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. but played entirely on kazoo. The melodies you love are there and it works at a fundamental level but ultimately it’s a parody, a mocking of the very thing it seeks to imitate.

We decamped to the balcony bar for our second and final beverage. Down on Grenfell Street the sounds of traffic floated up with an exhilaration that was irresistible while there were loose groups of young people exchanging lively quips and waving their hands about as can happen on the forth chardonnay.

Confronted with a decent walk to the car and then a taxing drive along a clogged arterial, we decided that a loo visit would be sensible, like an elderly aunt’s footwear. It was a comfort stop invested with occasion and theatre. The toilets, no these are not restrooms or bathrooms, were both intimidating and statesmanlike. It felt like I was carrying a terrible responsibility. I hoped I didn’t let anybody down.

As we exited onto the street, the air was already crisp.

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Mystery Pub: Brightstar Brewing

Like a compulsory compensation within the water cycle it needed to happen in Thebarton. The recent closure of both Coke and the West End brewery meant the local refreshment industry required replenishment and last week it occurred with the opening of Brightstar Brewing.

Ahh, the water cycle. I knew being a Year 9 Geography alumnus/survivor would come in handy.

The gentrification of this compelling inner-west suburb continues apace as the old industrial landscape is transformed. Attractively set in the old University of Adelaide building the brewery’s red brick façade is simultaneously modern and emblematic of a sepia generation.

We claimed our booked table on the deck and began working on our beverages: a gin for Claire and a pilsner for me. My beer was fruity (no, not in that way) and approachable as one might expect for 4.45 on a balmy Friday.

Looking down towards the Torrens is a lush lawn functioning as a village green and the owners’ licence extends there. They’ve plans to host live music too and I can already hear a Sunday jazz quartet. A gaggle of high-vis enthusiasts was gathered under a marquee waiting for the nearby barbecue while a steady liquid stream was maintained between bar and grass. A staff member rolled out a couple of colourful picnic blankets by the ancient chimney.

Wine’s a curious omission from the grog menu but there’s beer-based cocktails for the suitably brash. Across this fetching scene they pump plenty of sixties British music and this adds appreciably to the festive feel. I hear two Rolling Stones’ songs and this always enhances my current cup.

Inside are more generous tables and a swanky bar that’s imposing and inviting. There’s fresh paint and energy and we’re told a chef will soon take charge of the kitchen. Of course, a rack of souvenir t-shirts and hoodies waits in the corner.

Later, in search of the euphemism we see that the building’s other spaces are ready for conferences and artisans and start-ups. It’s exciting. Oh, to be a twenty-something entrepreneur with pants rolled up well north of my ankles.

I also learn that those on the beer taps have completed the Cicerone Certification Program which ‘elevates the beer experience.’ I’m sure it does and my session ale is also zesty fun and straw of hue. Investigating the CCP I note that a point of instruction is defining a clean glass as being free from ‘soil and oil.’ This factoid is pleasing but a little voice tells me that regardless of international beverage pouring education, it should be a given. To my knowledge the pints down at the Broady have never housed any ‘Bay of Biscay’ or Castrol.

On the deck Claire and I speculate on the future of this part of town and conclude that being proximate to the tram and CBD and with an array of eclectic architecture ripe for apartment conversion it’ll hold increasing appeal. Brightstar Brewing will exaggerate this.

And with our Year 9 Geography homework done (Claire- A+, me- C: it was always thus) we point our motor at South Road.

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Mystery Pub: Brighton Metro

The sixteenth edition of Mystery Pub was underway.

Claire was this month’s pilot and we flew down Tapleys Hill Road and as always neither Tapley nor his/her hill were anywhere in sight. Still, the hill was alive with the sound of Friday afternoon. As always I had no idea where we might be destined. It’s a intoxicating concept.

Being within a particular demographic Escape to the Country holds a curious appeal and we’re often flopped on the couch on a Saturday evening taking in this perennial property porn. In each episode the couple are shown three houses in their county of choice (rarely Shropshire) and the final one is always described by the smug host as the ‘mystery house.’ And most weeks, I’m sure to Claire’s silent dismay, I holler at the screen, ‘Great. The mystery house. Aren’t they all mystery fecking houses?’

For the first time we welcomed guests to accompany us. Old friends and former Kimba residents, Mozz and Kath were in town and had long expressed an interest in the MP notion so we popped them in the back of the motor and before we knew it Claire had skidded to a balletic stop at the Brighton Metro alongside an old Jaguar.

Once we had conquered the maze involving the pokies room, Charlie’s diner, the Sports Bar, Tutankhamen’s tomb, and various other antechambers we burst out, blinking and bordering on dehydration, into the delicious sunlight of Adelaide’s latest beer garden. That it sits on what was once the northern part of the carpark matters not for it’s a big and inviting space and there was a thrilling hub-bub as we claimed a table. It was reserved at 6pm for Bev/Jody/Sue/Matilda or some such as the laminated sign on the table announced.

We had forty minutes. We set to work.

We chatted of folk we knew and as Mozz and Kath have been to the US of A a few times and spectated at pro-golf tournaments they shared stories of encounters with the sport’s elite such as Stuart Appleby and concluded that most were generous and receptive. As you’d hope.

This contrasted sharply with my experience of a former Australian cricket captain who I crossed paths with one morning at Adelaide Oval. It was only he and I and I simply nodded acknowledgement, as decency demands, when he ambled past. I only expected a nod or a quick smile in return. I asked not for an autograph or a tip in Dapto Dogs. Instead, he glared at me as if I’d just done something unspeakable in his shoe. I was aghast. His nickname may have rhymed with ‘Tubby.’

With Mozz sporting a more free-flowing, Woodstock-inspired hairdo and goatee-beard combo talk then moved to who his fashion inspiration might be. I confess it appeared a little unruly and foppish and Kath declared that she calls her husband, ‘Boris.’ Both enjoy a party. Subsequent suggestions included Billy Connelly and a superannuated Dude from The Big Lebowski.

The Happy Hour included beers and wines at $6 and assorted cocktails at reasonable prices. We noted with pleasure that dogs are welcome too and spotted a couple canines perched by the tables. This is emblematic of a pub keen to impress and if I had a choice of buying a Pale Ale for a Golden Retriever or our 39th Test captain, the beer would be poured into a bowl.

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Mystery Pub: The Beer Smells Like A Microphone in John Doe’s Local Bar

The bookshelf’s stocked with crime novels and old Lonely Planets. I’m an incurable bibliophile so have a quick squizz. There’s also a stack of board games including, to my surprise, Twister. This is a tiny bar and I reckon if the plastic, colour-dotted mat is rolled out the writhing tangle of arms and legs might give some sizzle to the meaning of Happy Hour.

John Doe’s Local Bar is a welcome addition to the grog-scape in this southwestern nook of the CBD. It’s home to some great pubs such as The Duke of Brunswick and the Gilbert Street Hotel but provides an appealing contrast for passers-by and residents. I continue to struggle however, with the notion of “local.” Can a bar or pub be anything but local? A remote or distant bar might really squeeze on the drinking handbrake.

On the surrounding footpaths are wine barrels converted to tables with a sprinkling of brave punters bunched about. It’s a frigid spring afternoon so Claire and I sprint inside and secure a spot. Like the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the astronaut Dave Bowman hurtles through a psychedelic rush of things galactic and trippy, there’s much visual stimuli in this cosy boozer.

A quick scan reveals walls of beer coasters; a footy tipping chart; an old technicolor juke box; posters advertising the meat tray raffle on Fridays, live music, comedy nights and above the bar a small TV is set to Sky Racing with the gallopers in the dusk at Scone and Coleraine. My vista could also be a deleted dream scene from the Big Lebowski or an exhibit in the Tate Modern or Hobart’s MONA.

Approaching the bar there’s a man leaning dangerously into his drink and I wonder if he’s, “Makin’ love to his tonic and gin.” He might be making unwise preparations for Twister Night and mumbles something about buying some shots to which I can minister no helpful advice other than, “Good luck with that.”

I order a Prancing Pony Session Ale for me and a white for Claire and then spy a large wine rack under the big TV. All upright, there’s dozens of bottles shoulder-to-shoulder as if they’re ready for some grim but vague battle. It’s a phalanx of Cabernet Franc. At the end of one shelf is that most celebrated vintage: Coopers Sparkling Ale (750ml). Close inspection reveals these are the highly drinkable 2021.

Claire is most smitten because dotted throughout and in the centre of our table are lit candles. These contribute significantly to the bonhomie. The atmosphere is welcoming lounge room and surely, this must be the aspiration of every small bar. Pubs in Melbourne’s Fitzroy do this well but it’s rare in Adelaide.

On the TV screen next to the orangey, dancing fireplace a cricket match flickers green and gold. It’s Australia v India from Mackay and bowling with O’Reilly briskness is Kapunda’s own Darcie Brown. A couple of days’ ago she took 4/33 and became the youngest Australian female or male to grab four wickets in an ODI. Claire and I comment that Darcie looks like her Uncle Paul and grandfather, Bernie.

Three portly chaps have dropped anchor at the bar and appear as if they might be moored in the marina against an approaching storm. The bar does seem to attract folks from neighbouring homes. They could be here for the BBQ that’s soon to a-sizzle on the footpath or maybe there’ll be karaoke later. It’s a busy, ambitious place. I wonder if they have Macrame Mondays or if I’ve missed Sonnet- Writing September. Minimalism isn’t part of the strategic plan here.

Glancing again at these chaps I’m sure one is Paul and a real estate novelist. And his friend is Davy, who’s still in the navy. He probably will be for life.

Or maybe they’re all professional Twister players.