The tap at Newtown Social Club that used to bring forth the darkly fragrant Dogbolter, now spews out my current favourite seasonal froth: Mountain Goat Summer Ale. Truly we live in the best of all possible worlds.
I know this because I have stopped off on my way to Arabella for a beer. I am running late because I lingered too long at the office. So time is short, but my need is great.
Fortified by a Summer Ale that barely touched the sides, I am even later by the time I leave the pub. And, unfortunately, Arabella turns out to be further away, and on the other side of the road, from where my imagination has misplaced it, so I end up crossing King Street twice, and walking faster than is becoming in a man of my advancing decrepitude. All this untethering of the odd and even street numbers down this end of King Street is very confusing.
When I arrive at Arabella, there is no sign of the other members of the party, which is a bit of a relief. Even more of a relief is the waitress’ immediate acknowledgement of Strop’s booking of a table for nine. Without having to refer to any paperwork, she directs me to a large and empty table in the middle of the restaurant. I have only had time to choose a seat (middle of the table facing the street), and contemplate a cocktail (leaning towards a mojito), when the unmistakeable silhouette of Jill appears on the threshold. “There you are Andy,” she exclaims, “We’re all down at the wine bar.” And before I can process this statement, let alone think of a response, she’s gone again. Hmm… just a scouting party then, I think, wondering if there’ll be time for that mojito.
No, apparently not. In less time than it would take to crush a bunch of limes, Jill is back, this time with Monica and Karen. The vanguard. The main horde is still finishing its drinks apparently. (Please excuse the turn of phrase; reading John Birmingham’s Emergence, a jolly underworld romp involving plenty of arcane militaristic jibbering, has unduly influenced me.)
The Horde consists of the last remaining international over-stayers from the Tom&Chloe, nuptials. For the past two weeks they have been killing time, driving all over the state, participating in our national day rituals, and observing our sporting prowess, just waiting for their appointment with King Street. Obviously this was the real reason they are visiting Australia, well that and the lowly Australian dollar. Soon they will go home for a good rest, but before then there is some eating to be done. Roy and Jill (parents of the groom) are the hosting Susan, Monica and Joe, (the aunts and uncle of the groom), and Karen and Brian (the cousins of the groom). Roy is also the coach-driver-elect to the Horde.
Strop is running even later than usual, so when the waitress asks “Who is in charge?” Joe points at me. The waitress looks as doubtful as Susan at this turn of events, but hands me a menu and says something about banquets. A banquet? “Yes please.” Strop doesn’t usually allow banquets, but as she is still negotiating traffic on Alice Street…
With the food issues sorted I move on to the much more important, in fact now verging on quite urgent, issue of the drinks menu. “Pinot Grigio?” I say consulting the table at large, “All those in favour?” Roy nodded, I think. “Right, we’ll have a brace of those please.” Sorted. Women make this whole being in charge thing look much harder than it really is.
As if summoned by this heretical thought, Strop arrives, steaming up the footpath with a determined look on her face. When we realise that she has no idea where she is going, and is about to walk straight past Arabella, we all start shouting at once. Give her credit, Strop doesn’t miss a beat, without breaking stride she executes a stylish left-wheel through the door, and plants a big smile on her dial. Now we are complete.
I had thought that the food situation was sorted. But while I was busy defending the honour of my book from Joe’s critical literary analysis, Strop, Susan and Jill, re-opened the case for Banquet.Sorted, and began re-examining the evidence. Having admitted that Banquet.Sorted was the correct solution, they weren’t convinced that it was quite intricate enough. So on the basis that no one at the table was actually vegetarian, they opted for a mixture of vegetarian and meat-lovers banquets. The waitress took this womanly need for over-complication in her stride. She had to, being a woman and all.
Dips and tabouli were the first to arrive. Babaganoush. In the immortal words of the legendary Molly, do yourself the proverbial. Smokey, silky and yummy.
The potato and mushroom one – quickly checks the online menu, can’t find any mention of the dips – was nice too. The white one was good too, might have been called labneh. The tabouli was excellent, as was the Fattoush.
I think more wine arrived around here.
Fried cauliflower (Strop’s favourite) – excellent, gozleme – spicy and cinnamony. There were falafel, samosas?? (I know, but they would have been samosas if we were in an Indian restaurant) and spring-rolly things, that were cheesey. I think Strop called them lady fingers, but I don’t know if she was referring to the food or just to how it was being served.
It was around this time that the gentle rivalry that had been bubbling along between the two ends of the table (No, don’t pass them the hummus, they’ve got one of their own. Is that their fattoush or ours?), broke out into open hostility. Some of us noticed that They had samosas, while We had spring-rolly things. Luckily negotiations began and hostages were exchanged. In the end the only ones to suffer were the samosas and the spring-rolly things. They all got cut in half.
Then it was meat time – it might have been two-more-bottles-of-wine time too. This was what Brian had been waiting all night for, and it was easy to understand why. Grilled lamb, chicken and sausage things – all with a bit of char and dripping juices. Yumm.
It was soon after this that I decided I was full. Well, that I would be, once I had downed a couple of coffees and a Turkish delight, and some baklava. Then I was full.
So, in summary, we had a bloody good night out. I’m pretty sure that you will too.
Karen also pointed out that my reviews (her term not mine) do not mention accessibility, but that Arabella is wheelchair accessible, including the loos. She is right of course, I should know better, and from now on I am going to include the issue of accessibility. Well done, Arabella.
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