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Pub Review: The Palais, Semaphore

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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

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a biscuit, a pie and a lost tooth

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When I was a boy there was a holy trinity of biscuits.

Bush Biscuits were summer afternoons at the Kapunda Swimming Pool. Skinny and brown as nuts we’d munch these while listening to Australian Crawl on someone’s cassette player. No doubt a TDK C-90 tape. These biscuits were impossibly bland- it was as if scientists had extracted their flavour in a hidden lab. If it rained you could shelter under one for they had the surface area of a picnic blanket. I still don’t know why we held such affection for them.

Then there was the Rolls Royce. The Iced Vo-Vo. Sweet and stylish, with desiccated coconut and pink fondant and strawberry jam these represent those moments of wholesome joy that punctuate childhood. These remain the anti- Milk Arrowroot; the biscuit that shouldn’t exist.

And then there’s the Salada. It’s a plain cracker that’s lasted. Forget the wholemeal or light versions. Go the original. Just as they come, or with butter, or cheese. Best of all, with vegemite, made into a sandwich so you can squeeze them together and make little brown worms. For me these are primary school and sharing these with old mate Greggy at recess before running up to the tiny oval and dobbing the footy.

And in a week of petite milestones, our boys have discovered the Salada. I’m just a little bit pleased and the memories evoked by this dry biscuit, again probably a culinary mystery, have sprinkled my week with nostalgia. When their mum went shopping last Sunday their hysteria was obvious.

“Mum, get Saladas!”

“No! Two packets,” demanded the other.

Later, I pinched one for myself and it was Abba and Grease and the Sturt Footy Club and the Jumbo Prince and Happy Days on the tele.

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While the wife was buying these dry crackers on Sunday the boys and I wandered up to Semaphore. It is a vibrant, eclectic village, possessing the best strip in Adelaide, and we happened upon the Semaphore Bakehouse for lunch. Our next moment of celebration then occurred as we sat at an outside table and devoured our pies.

As the punters and their dogs and the shuffling folks drifted past us boys sat there and worked away at our food and it was fun. How Australian, I thought, to enjoy a steaming pie of a sunny, June morning? As tradition dictates Max removed the lid- he prefers deconstruction as his modus operandi for interrogating his world, while Alex applied himself with messy vigour to the challenge. It was wonderful.

There was but one injury. Burnt roof of mouth to their Dad.

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It was threatening for some time. Then on Thursday it happened. Max lost a front tooth. And with this his face is forever changed, destined to march to an adulthood of deepened voice and hardening cheeks and the loss of innocence that every parent dreads.

Of course it mattered little to him, but he enjoyed the healthy handful of coins left by the Tooth Fairy, and as we set off for school this morning these were clinking away in his pocket.

Winter has rushed upon us this last week. But as we move through our routines these biscuits and pies and a tiny tooth have allowed some golden rays to bend down towards us.

As it’s Friday, I might treat myself to an Iced Vo Vo.

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