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Pub Review: The Exeter, Semaphore

While it would be an exaggeration to say it’s a hot August night it’s at least a delightfully mild August evening in Semaphore when I pull into the Exeter’s carpark.

Pie and wine night for C

Inside I gaze about and think it’s a pub that straddles the fuzzy line between olden working men’s boozer and a more inclusive family venue. Maybe it’s both, or neither.

I’m early and in this situation would usually take a wander about the salad bar and form a plan of attack. Potato salad? Possibly. Coleslaw? Nup, not enough carrot and too much cabbage. Pea and corn? Arrh, now here’s a treat. Takes me back to the Kimba Cricket Club barbecues after training on Thursdays when there’d be seven blue ice-cream containers, each complete with a tin of peas and a tin of corn, lovingly upended by seven bachelors as they rushed (or not) to the town nets by the oval.

No, not nearly as nice as this

But, of course, the pandemic means salad bars are barred, possibly even at country cricket clubs.

I have a Session Ale and Claire settles upon a house red. It comes from a large, stainless steel dispenser that could’ve once smothered sticky-fingered and faced toddlers with soft-serve ice-cream in a Pizza Hut. The bar staff member simply pushes a button and deep red plonk eases into Claire’s glass! Sadly, the spectacle outstrips the shiraz, but still, it was a diverting eight seconds.

Subconsciously designating tonight a Neil Diamond tribute I think about the Greek Theatre and so order the seafood duo which comes with calamari, so beloved on Santorini if not in Croydon.

Claire decides upon the pie, mash and peas, noting that pies are notoriously difficult to destroy. And, of course, she’s right. Serve up a steak and everybody’s got a view. Too tough! Too stringy! Should only be eaten medium-rare! Take the same meat and stick it under the comforting cloak of pastry and there’s only happy, munching silence.

We eat on the lower floor not far from the indoor playground which has attracted running, boisterous kids. That’s the problem with having an indoor playground in a pub: the kids treat it like an indoor playground. I know. My boys bloodied themselves here a few years’ ago.

seafood: yes, I hope you can
LNP operative

The upper floor has sport on screens everywhere, but there’s only one near us and it’s showing an A-League final. Remember back in April when sport across the entire planet stopped apart from the Belarus Premier League? Now, to my shame I couldn’t tell you how Torpedo Zhodino FC is travelling.

Claire’s pie is a treat and my seafood duo is excellent. My salad comes with cherry tomatoes. Sometimes these can be a watery disappointment, like a Backstreet Boys song, but mine are zesty little bombs.

Pubs around the land are showing the Horn v Tszyu fight from Townsville, but I head home to watch Micallef with the childish hope that Darius Horsham will call the host, “an economic girlie-man.”

The Exeter’s lower dining deck
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Fourteen Notes on the Fed on Semaphore

fed photo

  1. The Alfresco Bistro is undercover.
  2. Our bartender is from Mt Isa where she suggests there are 36-degree winter days. This is better than Mt Iso where life is decidedly grim.
  3. When Claire orders our meals the bartender displays excellent up-selling skills asking, “Shall I add another red on your bill for later?”
  4. It’s Happy Hour with all beers $6.50. However, XXXX Gold is $6.60 which is more than the necessary disincentive.
  5. Two beardy lads are playing pool. A pool table is rare in my pub travels.
  6. Claire asks for a house red and the bartender brings three bottles for her to choose from – a Coonawarra, a Langhorne Creek and a Barossa Valley.
  7. We meet our dear friend Chris (also Kapunda High class of 1983) who works at the Osborne Naval Shipyard.
  8. Chris has been to Spain for work many times. Once in the south of Spain he asked a local, “What’s that big island over there?” The local replied, “Africa.”
  9. His trip to the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed has been cancelled. With his refund Chris will buy a beer-making kit so he can brew ESB.
  10. Two guitars hang on the wall. No labels identify these so I assume they were lost property.
  11. Chris and I both order the fish and the fillets are most generous.
  12. Claire takes much of her (vegetarian) pizza home and finishes it for lunch on Thursday.
  13. Our meals come with petite bread rolls. Pleasingly, these are warm and not, as many I have had, fresh from the fridge and colder than the beer.
  14. The Happy Hour blackboard advertises an Alien Brain Annihilation. This seems optimistic. I have never seen an alien, not even in Semaphore.

bar

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Pub Review: The Palais, Semaphore

palais 2

The police officer was uninterested.

“It’s likely no-one will claim it. You might as well keep it. Buy your kids something.” I imagined people I know- my parents, old bosses, footy coaches- nodding at my choice so I disagreed and said, “I think I’d prefer to bring it in.”

Earlier I’d found some money on the footpath by Semaphore’s Palais pub, and on my way home I rang to get advice.

With my local beach-side police station closed on the weekend (most convenient that crime and problems only occur during business hours) I called in a few days’ later, and this constable also urged me to keep the cash. The paperwork’s clearly a menace.

I wondered what might’ve happened when I was a boy, and I prefer this old world when the gruff, local copper would’ve taken the money from across a big desk and said, “Why did you take so long to bring this in? The person who lost it is probably worried sick.” I’d have been sent scurrying with no thanks or praise, but a clip under my ear.

Surely, we need our police to be the most moral members of society.

Palais

I was last at the Palais during the previous millennium, and now the interior’s all light and white and Gatsby-like in style. Claire and I meet in the Beach Bar and there’s cheery clusters of punters about.

I see a sign promising happy hour pints from $5, but my pulse stabilises glumly when I learn this only applies to XXXX Gold. Still, my pale ale and Claire’s red are agreeable and we find our table.

My fish ‘n’ chips arrive all boy-scout proud and substantial. The salad is coleslaw although it’s labelled as red cabbage slaw, and I’m reminded of when my childhood idols Sherbet changed their name to The Sherbs. I cared not for this and only wanted to hear Ripper ’76 and its opening song, “Howzat” blasting on the Pye 3-in-1.

Happily, The Slaw was zesty while my chips were golden and crunchy. I initially left about ten on my plate for reasons of personal health, but Shaun of the Dead-like ate them all with little awareness of my autonomous hand shovelling them into my yawning gob. This happens to me often. The CCTV video footage would be incriminatory.

Dwelling more upon coleslaw I pondered if it weren’t the CD player of the salad world, neither sexily retro nor fashionable among hipsters, with potato salad the resurgent vinyl record, and quinoa and feta the trendy streaming service.

Let’s not leave cabbage out in the cold.

On yet another cloudless winter’s day we saw the sky grow pink and orange across the gulf and discussed how this is both a delight and a worry.

Courtesy of the $14 daily special Claire’s burger was impressive in size and flavour despite the accompanying river of mayo. She also found her mound of chips a midweek treat. It’d been an excellent visit.

The Palais is spectacularly located on the esplanade just north of the jetty, and climate and contagion permitting, would be worth a return fixture as spring slides into view.

CB