When i first arrived in Perth, I made my intentions clear. In my own mind first and then in a piece for The West. I would not become a whingeing Pom. By putting it in print it was licence for friends and family to pull me up should I start to opine negatively on aspects of Perth life. I stray from time to time but pull myself back into line and give myself a mental slap. A hard one.
I’m keeping up my attempt at positive over negative, celebrating the great rather than skewering the poor and inept. It lacks a cynical edge that i feel lurks in every Brit but so far, so good; I think. There is of course a difference between a whinge and genuine criticism and I reserve the right of fair and balanced critique, as opposed to a soul sucking whingey tirade. I do find that far from the whingeing Pom, there’s a dissatisfaction amongst the Aussies I know about aspects of Perth life. Whether that’s prices, service, politics, development, you name it. The expats and even eastern state incomers I meet are upbeat and see the positives of life here. We came here by concious choice of course.
Perhaps those raised in Perth see that something has been lost? That expansion and wealth has changed aspects of the City and the State? That Perth will be indistinguisahable from other cities? That parts of what they love will be lost to change – be that good or bad.
I don’t know – maybe you can tell me?
So my point? I think that Perth is a city coming into its own. Changed since I first visited not too many years ago. The hospitality scene grows, imitates and now innovates. There’s a growing confidence that I think will only lead to great things. Speaking to Mechanics Institute bar manager and champion bartender, Ben Tua, the other day it’s clear we are on the cusp. He heads off to Amsterdam as Bols Champion Bartender for Australia and New Zealand. In the last rounds of that comp, 4 contenders were from Perth. He’s up against global competition to bring home the title of Bols World Champ – who knows he may get a statue in Northbridge if he does. He pointed out that Perth 4 years ago was unloved by parts of the drinks industry. Now: “they wouldn’t think of not coming to Perth”. The mushroom cloud that is the small bar scene has doubtless been a main feature of this change. It’s one example repeated. The success of events like the Hawkers Night Market and the Gourmet Escape being others at different levels – feel free to fill the gaps in the comments. So, we should challenge and champion, banish the whinger in us all and see where this take us.
Asked for my perfect pub – is there such a thing? – I’ve got my go to list of almosts that tick numerous imaginary boxes, but in recent weeks I’ve been faced with the ultimate challenge. To find the perfect pub for a wedding reception. My wedding reception. This may explain my New Year blogging splurge followed by a sharp drop. The pressure is on.
I’m in the throes of speaking to people, asking questions and making judgements. I’ve aimlessly walked the streets of London over the last weeks, looking at pubs and uncommonly for me discounted many without even a half to make it worth the trek. Lou will say that we should at least look inside but I shake my head. I’m becoming adept at first impressions. The painted words “Sky Sports” “Big Screen TV” and “Good Food” are usually enough for me to turn at heel and move on but the sense is being honed to a greater degree. Stood outside a pub the sight of faded menus, overflowing cigarette bins and flags of all kinds are added to the turn at heel list which seems to be growing ever larger.
Then comes the most important first impression. That of the staff themselves. If i’m fobbed off, flannelled or otherwise get the idea that they’d be rather doing anything else than talk to me, it’s an immediate mental red mark. I don’t expect trumpets to sound and a red carpet to unfurl but a little interest is surely key to me possibly spending thousands in their establishment? I don’t know, maybe I don’t understand the whole relationship here?
I find myself developing a system of strikes for details both big and small. When i’ve just explained that ages of guests are likely to be 4 to 95, nodding that is fine and mentioning Jager-Bombs in the next breath is liable to earn you a first strike. Hastily thrown together emails barely answering the enquiry, will earn you a strike; as will referring to craft beer as “difficult to come by”. Having doubled your original estimate, asking for a £1000 deposit and sending me a booking form, without sending any menu’s earns an immediate and irrevocable three strikes.
I’m sure anyone whose ever been on either side of these conversations would see these as unoriginal observations but all the same they are what seem to be occupying much of my time of late. It’s not all doom and gloom though. I’ve had some great conversations with people who know how things should be done; but invariably they are already booked well in advance. So the search continues and who knows maybe we’ll just have to get a bit more creative. This i’m sure won’t be the last mention of the impending nuptials but if Pub Diaries starts to verge on a wedding blog written by some rampaging Groomzilla, please, with my permission give me a verbal slap. For those of you who regularly share a drink with me – buy me another – followed by a slap.
I have eagerly awaited a visit to Mason & Taylor since hearing that the folks behind The Duke of Wellington were opening on Bethnal Green Road. The Duke in Dalston was at one time just around the corner and quickly became a firm favourite. It has it all. Great staff, great beer, great food. It is as you may have guessed Great.
I was willing Mason & Taylor to be on a par with the Duke as I don’t live around the corner from the latter anymore but I do work nearby Bethnal Green Road. A first attempted visit had been thwrated by their Christmas Party but undetered and in fact more eager I headed to Mason & Taylor the next day. I won’t leave you hanging. It is in fact also… Great. The décor is stripped back concrete and canteen chairs. It bucks the trend of filling the space with kitch which more often than not looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. The staff are, as with The Duke, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. The food is small plates for sharing; a British tapas I suppose. The York ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce and a rarebit were my particular favourites. As for the beer there is a wide choice with around 12 ales and beers on draught as well as a seasonal bottled list. I had my first pint of Brodies, Redemption and Wandle at The Duke and Mason & Taylor continue the trend with an introduction to the Camden Town Brewery and their American style, Camden Pale Ale and the helles style Camden Hells Lager. Judging by the empties which soon pile up you can say it went down well.
In my post on the Owl and the Pussycat I pondered if it would only ever be a fallback. On the form of Mason & Taylor I don’t see that a fallback would even be needed.
After my high praise for SE1 as the pub destination I thought I was onto a sure-fire winner with the Garrison on Bermondsey Street. It’s been a few years since my last visit but it seemed like the perfect place for a December Supper Club (albeit Sunday lunch) and another tick for SE1. This unfortunately wasn’t to be the case with an experience that is truly frustrating. There are aspects that I would rave about and others that ultimately had us walking away disappointed.
So in the interest of fairness the positives. Firstly the food. We all agreed that it was very good. Cockles going as far rating as one of the beat roasts he’s had in years. Then there’s the little things; those nice touches that stick in the mind and ultimately should bring you back. The barman volunteering a small taster of the beer was a good start and the Garrison jam recipes with the bill should have bookended a great Sunday lunch experience.
Without even stepping through the door things had already taken a turn for the worst. Despite having booked a month previous a confirmation call the day before told us that our leisurely lunch would be curtailed with just 90 minutes available for our table. I fully understand the rationale in turning tables but to find out with less than 24 hours notice gives you little choices to change. Throw in Transport for London and Gio’s Italian time keeping and 90 minutes isn’t a great deal of time. Add the service at a snails pace and things don’t look good. On this occasion any hope of getting a drink at the bar without waving your arms was unlikely. Once seated with the clock ticking starters are off the menu and we move to the mains; a shame as we all have something in mind; and the point of the Supper Club is indulgence, when thoughts of cost and fat content are forgotten. The mains as said are great and as the plates are cleared the dessert menu is offered. At this point there may be enough time but it doesn’t materialise for 15 minutes at which point we are told to order quickly as the table is booked. To me, in fact to all of us, this was a final disappointing act which left the bill as four mains plus drinks. Service was excluded and when explaining why it hardly seemed to register. The website boasts Michelin recommended which for the main course stands up. I obviously cannot comment on starter or dessert, but service needs to take a huge leap forward. Perhaps Supper Club will next reconvene North of the river.