26 April 2010

A tale of two pubs

It was a long weekend so Megan and I took off to the Bowral. Nice hotel, romantic weekend: the sort of thing that’s sold in tourist guides and supported by mega-industries and booked by wives. Actually, it was quite nice: swank, superb gardens with statues and fountains and box hedges and mature trees, Victorian artwork and older antiques, a car park full of Mercs and Porches, and dutiful but not obsequious servants. But we’ve got a bit of the worker in our genes, so we got off to the pub in the neighbouring town, Mittagong, and it was a wonderfully entertaining, friendly and authentic evening.

The Mittagong Pub is locally called the Top Pub. It’s an earthy affair: footy, horses, the TAB, but also courteous barmen and women who respond to a smile and give a bit of Aussie cheek, a bistro that serves an unexpected mix of foods: steaks, Chinese, tapas, and a piano man in the corner. Jim Wallett plays weekly at the pub, and also around town at clubs and weddings and the like. He ranges in style from Scott Joplin through the standards to Billy Joel. My request was Stella by Starlight, and he jumped at the opportunity. Jim opined that there’s not much jazz around Mittagong, but I was pleased with Jim in the corner. Mostly ignored by the eaters, but happy to chat about jazz if interrupted.

Back to the business end of town, the dinners were more formal and the music was canned although of quality. I noticed some nicely arranged jazz, circa 1950s, perhaps Oliver Nelson, and a quartet with vibes, perhaps MJQ, and horn melodies and chamber music, and Edith Piaf over dinner. Nice stuff, but not live, not like the Jim at the Top Pub.

We live a rich life these days, with opportunities for all sorts of experiences, and some indulgent ones if you have the money. But it doesn’t take money to enjoy yourself, or even to hear some decent music from Jim or his ilk. Thanks to Jim Wallett at the Top. BTW, excuse the poor pic of Jim. I had to make do with a mobile phone camera.

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