“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





05 October 2014


I missed the fizz and Wendouree in this snap tonight ... it wasna a formal type of thing ... these wines were not on the list ... but the meal at The Lion, as always, was deadly ... if you like true blue steak, like blue, this is the go ... or oysters ... or fancy stuff ... no other pub  does it so good ...  exemplary service ... in spite of many reasons to be frightened by our fierce old lot, our really cool wine waiter handled these specials with respect and alacrity ...  big big recommendation! ... photo Philip White

In Adelaide, getting the fun into
a person is one thing ... letting 
the results leak out is another 

"You know that laneway in Melbourne?" The celebrated rockstar Dave Graney tweeted yesterday. "Paris is like that times 1,000,000,000,000. That's the opine of a grade A hick! Me."

I reckon coming from Kanmantoo makes me a triple-A hick compared to one from Mount Gambier, like the Great Graney, but that's a quibble. I mention it only to stress that when a country boy like me hits town, like for a serious night in the gilded palace of sin, the difference between country and city seems more dramatic.

Like, when I hit Paris, I'm likely to add another three zeroes to that very long number. Romance rules.

Adelaide, it seems, has finally decided to put some little bars in its laneways. This is contrary to the idea of Colonel William Light, who designed Adelaide with wide streets so a coach with horses could do a u-turn without the need for reversing, but very few laneways, which he regarded as an easy escape for cutpurses and pickpockets, both types of people he felt his genteel edge-of-desert burgh could live without.

King William Street Adelaide 1889

Nevertheless, there are a few little lanes here and there, and the Weatherill government has shown some flair in following Melbourne's tendency to continue its conversion of said lanes from cobblestone tracks for the night cart to interesting little trails full of hidey-holes for cutpurses, revelling bibulants and the hungry.

A current Adelaide favourite is Publishers, on the corner of Franklin and Cannon Streets. Cannon Street is almost skinny enough to be a lane. While it's no longer the sort of place you'd find a cutpurse - it was previously a backpacker's joint - I leave this establishment feeling like I'm the thief, so thorough and intelligent is the repletion delivered there.

It's good to hear that Minister Gail Gago is working on freeing-up the restrictions on the playing of music in places like the newly-brushed laneways of the West End. I hear the government is even considering the notion of permitting people to drink standing up without being fined or arrested and the landlord too shunted with a ridiculous conviction. It does seem strange that one can pull tricks, gamble, drink freely (whilst seated) and perhaps even cut the odd purse without capture in a precinct where the playing of your actual music will incur a huge fine if the appropriate forms aren't completed, the proper bureaucrats not consulted and you're not a busker.

Music has been far too long constricted to most un-musical places like the Entertainment Centre and Adelaide's many Houses of God. As the horrid epoch of the doof box seems to be in recline, a little music here and there may chill the wilder carousers and assist diminish violence and crime.

Then, it's still worth paying tribute to some of the older temples of discourse and drink. I find it very hard to visit the city without paying my conversational dues at The Exeter, for example, or risk being mistaken for a retired porn star at, say, The Old Col on The Parade.

Lion Brewery and Hotel, date unknown

Saturday I dined at The Lion, which continues to impress for its remarkable standards. The food is as good as pub tucker gets, anywhere, the staff are polite, patient and painstaking, and the bar is pretty much brilliant. Like if a bloke gets a sudden yearning to drink something precisely clean and refined, he can settle down to a pint of Asahi with a Yamazaki 12 year old malt whiskey, just like that.

Where else can you get a front bar with a fourteen-page drinks list? Where else can you fail to notice the security folks until you realise the big bloke holding the door open just called you Sir?

After dinner, which was too good to write about in this limited space, I resiled to said bar, where people were dancing. Dancing. It felt as cheery as the happy clappers up at Paradise, but without a bossy deity or his bossy reps. It felt really bloody good. I fell in with an alluring catering lass and her companion, a guitar-playing bipolar plumber who'd obviously declared his physical interest in her a little too keenly, but without offence.

The Lion was about to yawn itself off to slumber when I accepted their kind offer of a lift to The Bakery in O'Connell Street. This is where many northern suburb partyers call in for a coffee and some pastry on their way home. It is unlicensed. And it was very busy. It reminded me of the olden days, when no trip to the city was complete without a very late hamburger with the works at the Blue and White Café. It was interesting to learn that cappuccini and croissants have replaced the burgher and Coke for many, and I couldn't help observing how few drunk people there were.

Still, even if you've danced yourself into a slather, like our plumbing mate, a few beers have to find their way out of one eventually, and guess what? Because it's not licensed to sell alcohol, The Bakery has no obligation to provide a toilet.

Which is fair enough. It's a bakery.

Now I'm sure that somewhere in O'Connell Street, there's a public toilet hidden so well away that nobody frequents it for any of the right purposes. But it was strange to be reminded that to take a leak in this day and age, one pretty well has to enter a place where alcohol is sold.   

Alcohol promotes more leaking, you silly duffers. 

In the case of The Lion, its rest rooms are perfectly, frankly palatial, and spotless to match. But that was shut, and it's a fair stretch from The Bakery. Once our plumber was sufficiently busting to wander off down the street to find a discrete culvert, a police wagon pulled across and quietly followed him, waiting for him to commit the crime, at which point they booked him.

I'm no legal eagle, but I thought it was the duty of the police to prevent crime, not watch, waiting for it to be committed. Three grown men, armed and uniformed, spent half an hour interviewing and investigating the poor bugger, who til then had simply overflowed with glee and lust.

 Grenfell Street, 1974 ... photo Philip White

O'Connell Street is certainly wide enough for a coach and horses to do a u-turn, but even those folks were permitted to pee on the rear left hand wheel provided it was parked close against the gutter.

Whilst reconsidering the rights of musicians to play music and contemplating the notion of permitting people to drink whilst standing up, I wonder whether the government might also consider the introduction of the odd unisex pissoir for those caught short when the bars are shut?

The resplendent and witty pissoirs of modern Paris come to mind. They even have music.  

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