Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Nice places to have drinks in

I like a drink or two and I have been drinking on and off for many years now. But I wonder if I would have ever got into the healthy and enervating practice of drinking if it hadn't been for pubs? I like a pub, too. They look like a nice place to do things, to drink things in, to be in. They're attractive. Sometimes when I'm in a pub I half think I'm actually there to appreciate the place rather than the drinks. And maybe I half am.

There's a couple of iconic artworks of Australian pubs out there that have stuck in my memory ever since I was a kid, such as this -
Moody's Pub, by Russell Drysdale. Now that, it seems to me, is what a good pub looks like. There are elegant windows and there is a door where a door should be, but just as importantly, it has a balcony (with tres fashionable iron lace), so you can stand upon it and take in the evening air while you converse pleasantly with your elegant and strangely elongated companions in the quiet country town. The less said about the Ettamogah Pub the better, but while we're on the subject, even it has a balcony. Do you know how hard it is to find a proper pub with a balcony still in use? Did previous mischievous patrons tip half-pints of fermented beverages onto unfortunate passers-by?

I can't actually recall the first Melbourne pub I drank in; it was one of the numerous Fitzroy backstreet pubs, perhaps the solefully-titled Marquis of Lorne on a long afternoon early in the year. If it was the Marquis, it's had several paint jobs since then, but I recall it having a pleasant dusty wooden atmosphere, like all the best pubs. It had a rickety wooden stair leading to an uninhabited second storey, and a small shabby pool room where you could retire and sit around on these voluminous couches.

Melbourne was something of a stronghold for temperance politicians - as you can see in the slightly desperate names for some of our early 20th century pubs, such as The Perseverance Hotel. Perhaps reflecting this, a lot of our early wealth from the gold rushes was spent on extravagances such as the Victoria Markets - market stalls being literally blocked in permanently to the rest of the city. Pubs and bars haven't had the same privilege, so it is reassuring to come across the occasional bar that seems to have become one with the city. Two come to mind; the Charles Dickens Tavern and the cosy Sherlock Holmes Inn, both bars where you have to walk below street level. I especially like the Sherlock Holmes Inn, with a variety of British brews on tap and cosy little ingles to cosily mingle in.

My favoured watering hole is the Dan O'Connell Hotel, not so much for my drinking habit, or my architecture habit, but for my slightly less reputable poetry habit. When I first started going there it was a solidly Carlton and Guinness pub, with one weird cider on tap (actually, it was probably Bulmers). It had a nice bar along the middle of the room and comfortable big red chairs, with a painting of their namesake on the wall. The chairs have, alas, since been refurbished, and the bar has been relocated allowing for free movement between the pool room and the main room, but the painting has stayed. It's an Irish pub but has never, thank heavens, succumbed to the full horror of green paint, four leaf clover images, and - *shudder* - backpackers. In fact they do have a four leaf clover stainglass above a door behind the bar, but it looks oddly incongruous with the rest of the surroundings and, consequently, is rather charming. And just look at their lovely turret, the fancy font with which they announce their name, and the - what do you call that sort of decoration? I'll guess I'll just go with 'decoration' - above the name.

I have also noticed a peculiar characteristic when sitting within this pub and drinking and admiring its noble edifices. Though situated on the corner of the quiet Canning Street and the noisy Alexandra Parade, the noise of the Parade never seems to irritate you while you listen to the poetry or the music or the bubbles in the beer singing their own soft melodious song. Perhaps it is just the magic of the building. Or the drinking. Or possibly soundproof lining on the windows and doors, though I'm going with the magic. It is a wholly lovely place to have a drink in.

Here ends my succession of ponderings about nice looking Melbourne pubs. Perhaps one of these days I could organise a little tour to admire the architecture of many Melbourne pubs in one day. And perhaps have a drink in them to admire their architecture more. It could be called a pub.... a pub.... give me a second, I'm sure a good name will come to me....
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