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Wednesday Schnitzel Club

If I really, really think about it Australians love schnitzels more than Germans.

This is a modern truth and the bitter border war between South Australia and Victoria over whether the cheese and tomato topping is parmi or parma shows the fierce affection in which this dish is held. Of course every linguist would tell you the abbreviated form of parmigiana is parmi.

Like the best traditions this one evolved without planning or strategy. One night Chrisso rang to see if I’d like to dine Wednesday evening at the Purple Parrot on Brighton Road (long gone) and it went from there as we asked other largely Kapunda High alumni to join us. Over four years we went to the pub 159 times and more often than not, had schnitzel.

We kept a 96 page exercise book (courtesy of Marryatville High) and took turns recording the details of these Wednesday nights. Here’s five entries from the diary.

7/5/97 Kensington Hotel Attendance- Nick, Mickey and Chris

  • a fantastic discovery. Somewhat secreted and little discussed but very good
  • Stout Season officially launched. Nick and Chris worked their way through a solid thicket of black n tans
  • impressive jukebox in the front bar- Dylam, Doors etc. No techno or dolphin-waxing shite
  • C and N had such a lovely time that they were unable to recollect next week’s venue

4/6/97 Brompton Park Attendance- Chris, Nick, Paul, Greg and Mickey

  • another gem
  • “no colours, patches, parrots or pirates”
  • good draught beer on tap
  • substantial schnitzels and Puggy’s frail, 98-pound weakling physique evoked considerable sympathy from the cook and so she force-fed him two schnitzels
  • local lads provided tunes via a jam session

27/5/98 Cumberland Arms, Waymouth Street Attendance- Stephen, Bobby, Nick, Mickey

  • Dean Jones has retired
  • Deano and cauliflower out; spinach and Potato Twins (chip + mash) in
  • crusty bread- played rodeo clown role- skilled, dangerous and highly valued but largely misunderstood and unappreciated
  • schnitzels were butchers’ gold- quite magnificent
  • innkeeper and stove staff were hospitable and jovial folk
  • Nick suggested a beer and video evening watching Slapshot

24/6/98 Producers Hotel Attendance- Bobby, Stephen, Nick, Mickey

  • false start as only breakfast and heroin for sale
  • moved to the Griffins Head
  • don’t touch it- couldn’t get a proper black n tan because inept management didn’t know how to handle the electronic cash register
  • 20 cents for tomato sauce
  • food average so adjourned to the Crown and Anchor to talk about Uncle Greg

21/8/98 British Hotel, North Adelaide Attendance- Bobby, Nick, Chrisso, Mickey, Woodsy, Lukey, RP, Crackshot, Stephen, Abba, GS Chappell

  • 100th pub visit
  • then went to the Exeter and PJ O’Briens
  • hint- pints of sparkling ale may be injurious to your health
  • adjourned to Club Dimora (Nick’s townhouse) for nightcaps, poopsticks, spa maintenance and a coma
  • called into the Austral at 11am for a quick beer (1 at 11, or 11 at 1)
  • retired hurt
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Pub Review: Glorious in Excelsior, Today-o

In June I chronicled our first pub visit in 92 days, and now I describe our final pub experience for, well, dunno.

Back then it was at the Broady in Glenelg South, and on this occasion circumstances allowed us to swing by the Excelsior in the inner suburb of Brompton.

The government’s lunchtime press conference saw our lockdown outlined, and so, with a singular wish, we made a booking.

I’d last frequented the Excelsior about twenty years ago as part of a loose, but committed collective which attempted to visit every hotel in Adelaide under the cross of a Wednesday Schnitzel Club. Back then the pub’s interior design was Phantom-themed as in the ghost who walks, man who can not die. I’ve since discovered this connects to Marvel comics hero Stan Lee’s lifelong catchcry- excelsior.

Now, this motif has been retired and the pub is a little more anonymous with standard boozer carpet and taupe walls and a circa 1998 Triple M soundtrack. But, its location is trendy Coglin Street and the mise en scène as we alighted our cars was suggestive of Melbourne’s Fitzroy given the proximity to the CBD, and aspirational and artsy population.

The service was friendly and the staff were certainly approachable. There was no gloomy subtext which in their position would’ve been fair. Ordering a Big Shed American Ale the advice was, “It’s highly drinkable and quite fruity.”

Claire opted for an entrée of parmi (not parma) bread and this got our last supper underway in a fashion of which JC may have nodded his Neoplatonist approval. It was a warm evening, but C’s glass of red was both generous and pleasant in that luxurious, midweek way.

Despite the swirling uncertainty in our city-state the pub patrons appeared calm and accepting. Nearby, a family with three young girls coloured in their books in functional silence. Even their pigtails were cooperative, laying still on their narrow shoulders. Thinking of the boys at their age, I shuddered at the likely fiscal and psychological tolls of a similarly modest mealtime.

My beef burger was satisfactory although I’m constantly dismayed at the absence of beetroot in these. Surely, its inclusion is as Australian as pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza. My chips came in one of those petite wire baskets about which I have reservations. Still, they’re better than suffocating them beneath a schnitzel which must soon enjoy a Royal Commission.

Claire’s salad was plentiful and enjoyed. The roast capsicum, red onion, baby bocconcini, and bacon all played their roles like a young Meryl Streep, whatever this means.

Strolling out into the early evening a clot of lads was settling in for the night on their apartment balcony and judging by the hollering were each about five beers deep.

We were all on the cusp of lockdown, but I remember that excelsior means upward and I nodded to myself and glanced again at the balcony.

Their approach seemed impeccable.