Our friend Billy is visiting, so last night we decided to drop into our local bar (it’s walking distance) for pizza.
On previous visits we’ve been charmed by it’s quirky hole-in-the-wall feel; the friendly staff; the hot, crisp and tasty pizzas and the reasonable wine list.
The drinks menu even featured an apple martini. I didn’t ever try this, but I knew it probably meant Marty (barkeep) could mix a drink. I took him up on this and had an acceptable gin martini one evening.
But last night was a different story. As sometimes happens when a venue changes hands it goes into some sort of death spiral.
I spotted a bottle of Bombay on the counter and after a couple of domestics earlier at home, I was in the groove and thought “Hell, why not, I’ll have a martini while we wait for the pizzas.” I knew things were not going well when the barkeep went into the tiny kitchen and came back with a jar of kalamatas.
Ms barkeep took the lid off the jar and her, the new manager and the pizza cook all had a good long sniff of the olives. It was obvious at that point that they had no stuffed, green olives. I’ve had a martini with black olives before and I don’t recommend it. But it is weird and hard to believe that a number of otherwise fine drinking establishments around town don’t keep a decent supply of the proper olives on hand. It’s happened to me in flash Sydney hotels, not just dives.
Anyway, I called out “Don’t put those in my drink, have you got lemon?” Ms barkeep said “Yes,” so I asked for a twist. She then held up the lemon in front of me and made a twisting motion. I think she said something along the lines of “You want me to twist like this, the peel in the glass?”
I nodded, thinking we were getting somewhere. But no, Ms barkeep’s next move totally stunned me.
She took a martini-shaped glass down from the rack and poured straight into it a cup full of vermouth. Of course, the label on the vermouth bottle read “Martini”.
I groaned, looked at Billy and said “Forfcu&’sake.” At that point I called a halt to all martini-related shennanigans and ordered an Oyster Bay sav-blanc. But the pain and humiliation didn’t stop there.
When our take-away order arrived – two pizzas for the boys and a lasagna for Moac – we were in for more unwelcome surprises.
The pizzas were awful. I distinctly remember telling Billy “No tandoori chicken, that’s a bastard topping and does not belong on a pizza.” He concurred, so we got two pizzas from the menu – those with the most meat. One had “sweet mustard dressing” which I wouldn’t normally want on pizza, but went along with because the rest of it sounded pretty good.
Alas, the dressing was from a Pam’s squeeze bottle and the other pizza had tandoori chicken (which had never been inside a tandoor oven) and some awful sweet, dreadful brown stuff that Billy reckoned was chutney. I’m not so sure that it wasn’t something much more awful.
Moac’s lasagna was nearly cold when we arrived at the house – two minutes after leaving the bar.
All up that awful experience cost $77.00. Billy thinks we were given the wrong order, I’m not so sure. At one point the pizza cook grabbed $5 from the till and was obviously on his way to buy something for the kitchen. He had a hurried conversation with manager-dude, put the note back in the till and went back into the kitchen. I reckon he was told: “Whatever you’re out of, don’t worry, put whatever shit you like on the pizzas, these guys have already paid.” It sure tasted like it when we got them home.
I come not to praise Cesar’s but to bury the corpse of a once fine local bar.