“Hey, Mr Andy,” Mark said, following me as I got off the train at St Peters, with my Opal card held tightly in my hot little hand, intent on getting to the scanners before the crowd. St Peters is a very popular station, lots of people get off the train there, but I think we were the only two on that train who were going to the Botany View.
It’s going to be a big night, lots of guest appearances. Strop who handles the bookings and general socialising, is expecting upwards of 15 Quest veterans, and possibly a few noobs, because the Botany View is really the last opportunity to get a reasonable sized crowd together. From here on, until St Peters it’s just a couple of cafes and a small pizza joint. So tonight is a bit of a celebration of the Quest, and of friendship. Or possibly acquaintanceship. Anyway we’ve got people coming from far afield just for the occasion. Uncle Carl will be dropping in from Brisvegas courtesy of Quaint-arse, and Jude is coming from Canberra courtesy of Murray’s and free WiFi. I am feeling a bit of trepidation at the thought of so many guests, because I am not very good at paying attention to what is going on and taking notes, particularly after the second round of drinks.
I am quite fond of the front bar at the Botany View (I like its chaotic pubiness and lack of pretence, but Mark is not so keen – probably due to his latent hipster tendencies), but I have never ventured upstairs to the dining room before. Tonight when we arrive Strop is already ensconced at the centre of a huge table, beer to hand, ready to greet all comers. Once drinks are obtained we start telling Mark about the play we saw the night before: The Dog/The Cat. Two plays really, different writers, but about relationships and pets. Excellent theatre. Strop has been soc-meding it up all day, “I even got re-tweeted by Brendan Cowell,” she exclaims.
Talk of pets, naturally leads on to Mark’s current and lamentable, dog-less status. And something about the RSPCA. Mark notes my attempts to take notes and wonders “What are you writing? No one’s said anything interesting yet.” If I waited for that I wouldn’t get anything down. He suggests that I mention the Botany View’s total lack of a view of anything other than a carpark. Seems like a bit of a cheap shot to me though
We are soon joined by Jude and her friend Debra, and Uncle Carl straight from the airport, on time. Naturally all the locals are running late. The new arrivals trigger off another round of drinks and a halt to my attempts to take notes. Even if I had tapped out more notes it probably wouldn’t have helped. My last entry is QAnya’s tales, and no, I have no idea either. Thank you Mr Autocorrect. Eventually the locals arrive, Wendy, Keren and James, Linda and Matilda, and last but not least Rebecca and Duncan. A few prospects have pulled out at the last minute so we are a total of thirteen. Obviously a lucky number. We set one of the tables adrift as there are plenty of other punters looking for somewhere to park their plates, and squeeze up nice and close. It’s talking time. Quite loud talking, including lots of “And how do you know them?” discussions. Despite the disparate nature of the group everyone gets on alarmingly well. There might have been some more drinks. Every time I turned around there seemed to be more wine bottles on the table.
At some point food was suggested. I started talking about a burger but Strop interrupted me. “It’s a named restaurant at a pub! No burgers are necessary.” Really? Yes, she’s right, we are at the Darley Street Bistro apparently, so the Burger Wars are cancelled. We haven’t had a named pub restaurant since Animal at the Newtown Hotel, which was quite a long time ago.
Despite having a name the arrangements are all very pub: you order at the kitchen and get buzzed when the food is ready. There are acres of blackboard menus covering the walls, so you have plenty to read as you queue up to order. Strop and I timed our run to hit the peak, when the queue stretched halfway up the stairs. But that was okay, we weren’t in a hurry, we had plenty of chatting and drinking to do. The menus start out with pub staples (burgers, snags, etc) and get more exotic (and expensive) as you approach the kitchen. I was sorely tempted by the beef shoulder wrapped in pancetta, but finally settled on the salmon with scallops. Everything sounded good and looked good too. One of the advantages of the queue is you get a good view of everyone else’s food as they squeeze past with their orders. Strop went for the Orecchiette (pasta – I had to ask), with Swiss Brown mushrooms. We were nearly the last of our table to order, so we were able to keep drinking while they were getting stuck in. Linda and Matilda must have been disappointed by my lack of note taking because they started doing it for me, and emailed it to Strop.
A bit presumptuous I think you’ll agree, but here you go, this is what they thought:
Chicken breast w rosemary and celeriac mash. Delicious. The beans were cooked to perfection, as was the chicken – moist with crispy skin. OMG
Pork belly w crispy crackling, yummy cabbage stuff and celeriac mash. Oh my. And very tidily presented. Neatest parcel of pork belly I’ve ever seen! I don’t even remember them collecting my plate.. Maybe I ate it 😐
Fish and chips. “It’s good but not amazing.”
Orecchiette “very tasty and creative. A bit too oily but great flavours and very yummy crumb”.
Barramundi quesadilla – tex mex with a twist. Lovely, wouldn’t say it’s mind blowing but I blame Matilda for suggesting that it might be. Now onto the duck pasta thingie….
Duck farfalle – looks better than it tastes – it looks like a bad hair day and it tastes like a bolognese. It’s more complex than first thought. Something crunchy (hazelnuts?) gives it a few extra points.
The sticky date pudding came with a drunken date. Do I need to say the rest? Very nice – salty caramel and just yum.
The last crumble in Newtown is hot and once my tongue has recovered I will tell you if it tastes any good. Quince crumble. Officially delicious according to James.
41 years of relationship mistakes and we’re still going says Cath who let Andy choose the sticky date pudding while she was left with some cheesecakie thing that was less than perfectly satisfying…
I think I am just going to leave that last bit alone – except to say that the quince crumble had been my first choice, but unfortunately Keren and James nabbed the last one. I would have been cross with them, except that James recommended that I try an excellent hipster stout. Which I did, a couple of times, just to be sure. This may explain to the next day’s paracetamol consumption.
On the food front I will add that the salmon was probably worthy of a double yum and that Mark wouldn’t shut up about how good the beef shoulder was.
All in all it was a wonderful evening which only ended when the staff requested that the last of us vacate the dining room. Duncan and Rebecca stumbled on to a conveniently timed bus, Carl tottered off down Union Street to visit a friend, while Strop, Mark and I wended our weary way home along King Street. Just as it should be.