It is good to have finally made it to the wrong side of the tracks. I feel that the eateries over here in South Newtown will be more interesting and exotic than the ones we have been visiting lately. I am optimistic – which is a bit of a strange experience for me.
The Townie is a pub’s pub, and it’s not trying to be anything else. It’s not trying to be fashionable, or hip, or Irish. In fact it is barely trying to be a pub. It’s a bit grungy and down at heel, and it attracts a crowd that is less shiny and monied than those across the tracks at the Bank. The Townie is the student-group-house-living-room of pubs. You suspect that most of the patrons at the Townie have a bit of a soft spot for heavy metal bands and playstations.
It has all the usual pub things: screens, bars, TAB, smokers’ terrace, 70s movie posters and a slot car track. What more could you ask for? Well, some food, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Townie, it is the sort of pub where the stranger at the next urinal will engage you in conversation about the etiquette of talking to other blokes at the urinal. “These young blokes don’t get it,” he says as he zips up and makes his way back to the bar. “They think it’s strange. Freaks ‘em out.” I note that he hasn’t bothered to wash his hands and resolve to avoid shaking his hand if the situation should arise later in the evening.
The Stropolina and I are the first to arrive and we nab a table upstairs near the Bistro. The barmaid is very pleasant if a bit eccentric. She doesn’t talk directly to you, instead providing a real-time commentary on the transaction as it proceeds. “Oh another Coopers Pale, what a surprise. And crisps? Chicken and lime? Too exotic, ha. That’ll be twelve dollars. Weekend prices hey, what’s that about.” Most of the time I had no idea what she was talking about. I just smiled and nodded, and handed over a twenty. Later she came around collecting empties and said, “Ooh look, you’ve made bowls,” (commenting on the way our family open crisp packets by tearing a hole in the side to create a bowl shaped receptacle that allows easy and efficient access to the crisps), “My lab partner taught me how to do that, I’d never seen it before.” She was gone before any witty responses had time to bubble to the surface, so we just kind of smiled and said “Who is she?” and, “What is that accent?”
When Strop arrived the conversation moved on to holidays and the Stropolina’s experiences in Morocco when she was on her first-year-out-of-school-overseas-adventure. Strop and I heard about her encounter with a group of local lads, who invited the Stropolina and her friends back to their apartment. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t mentioned this bit to us before, and luckily they turned out not to be white-slavers, but tagine cookers. They took the girls out around the markets buying ingredients for a slap-up tagine prepared back at the apartment. She didn’t go into what happened after the tagine was eaten. Strop and I like a bit of cous-cous, so maybe we should go to Morocco too, but in the meantime all this talk of food has us hungry. Time to get on with ordering some food of our own.
We are at a pub and that means the burger wars are back on. The menu is a big wall mounted affair featuring all the usual pub offerings. There are pizzas, schnitzels, and steaks, but surprisingly, only two burgers. One is the Townhall Beef Burger, and the other is a schnitzel and bacon burger. I note that there is also a schnitzel and bacon pizza – something of a theme developing there. I choose the eponymous Townhall Burger as does the Stropolina but she is adding cheese to hers, and Strop goes for the schnitzel and bacon burger. There is also a bowl of salt and pepper squid to share.
Having ordered the food, Strop goes to get another round of drinks, returning with three schooners and the news that “She’s the best barmaid in the world, but I don’t want to sleep with her.” It takes me a moment to realise that this is a reference to my experience with the barmaid at the Bank. She then informs us that the barmaid’s hard to place accent, is Israeli. So there’s that mystery solved.
It was only when I saw a collection of burgers lined up on the counter that I noticed that we didn’t seem to have a buzzer or a table number or anything to connect us to the food that we had paid for. Apparently the young woman taking orders had forgotten to give Strop a buzzer, so it was just lucky that my stomach had been getting my eyes to pay attention. Napkins were another absence. Strop eventually ducked behind the counter and helped herself to a handful for the table.
The burgers came in the open position, which always intrigues me. Do they think we’re going to eat a burger with a knife and fork, or is it just to make the application of tomato sauce easier? Assembling the burgers required a bit of manual deftness to avoid spillage, as I soon discover. Strop came a real cropper when her first bite resulted in her burger disassembling itself, and landing in her lap. “Bacon from arsehole to breakfast,” she commented, putting the napkins to good use, scraping aioli off her clothes.
The beef burgers are the traditional burger size (i.e. not too big) which I think is a good thing, and they come with pineapple, beetroot and the now ubiquitous aioli. But they haven’t been made with love, and unfortunately the burger experience is less than the sum of its parts. The chips were disappointing too, and for the first time in living memory I did not finish mine. None of us did.
The Townie has me conflicted. I enjoy the fact that they are not trying too hard, and are happy to just be a pub, but it would be great if they tried a bit harder on the food front. You can still be quirky and laid back, while putting a bit of love into the food you are offering.
Next stop is the Cafe Newtown, which is as close to the exotic temptress that is Enmore Road as we are going to get – for the moment anyway.