Mystery Pub: Fat Cat Goes to Bed






In April a spoken sentence by Claire included this clause, ‘and to make Mystery Pub a real celebration we should have hot chips.’ Thinking this a most appealing idea I nodded, then likely added, ‘I love me a chip’ and with this the matter was immediately and forever decided.

But sometimes, despite the early enthusiasms of all participants, some traditions splutter and stall. Our monthly hot chip ritual ended with its streak at one. Perhaps it was rash and reckless. And then this happened.

The Royal Oak on North Adelaide’s O’Connell Street does a tidy line in share plates. Enhancing the mandatory mystery but forsaking chips, Claire clandestinely ordered a serve of honey-roasted carrots and lamb sausage rolls. Both were minor key triumphs although about the carrots there was a faint suggestion of hot carnival doughnuts. Chips were now dead.

Beyond the CBD, North Adelaide’s our finest suburb for pubs, with The Kentish, Queen’s Head, and The Wellington all at Group 1 level. The Royal Oak holds its own as a confident, independent pub.

Inside, it’s the aesthetic inverse of all those cavernous and charisma-free supermarket pubs. The interior functions as a contemporary art gallery, and we could be in one of MONA’s G-rated colonnades (there aren’t many). In the dining room various constructed lobster hang off the walls, in an intriguing tangling of text and context. Their meaning is that they are devoid of any meaning, but this renders them intriguing.

TV screens often reflect a pub’s heart. Boozers with monitors crowding every wall, multiple Medusas tempting with horseracing odds and assorted sports inducements. However, the Royal Oak’s home to old B&W television sets. In a dark nook, one has silent static racing across the curved glass. High in the front bar another shows a test pattern. Had we lingered until 7pm we could’ve seen Jane Riley and (forever mute) Fat Cat urging us to bed with a mellow, ‘Good night, girls and boys.’

An additional consideration is the pub soundtrack and tonight, we have the blues. Professor Longhair. Dr. John. A highlight is, ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ by Louis Jordon as featured (ironically) in The Blues Brothers. This swampy music triggers conversation about Claire’s four musician brothers (Don, Geoff, Brian, and Matt) and their bands such as The Sensational Bodgies, The Tremolo Men, and Lost Romaldo Groove.

A blackboard’s advertising upcoming musical acts and there’s a modest stage by another fireplace. An awkward tuba, confident trumpet, and other brass instruments jut from the walls as a commemorative tableau to performers both local and distant. Fairy lights are festooned on wagon wheels and across doorways.

A young bar staffer lowers a log into the glowing fireplace. There’s an easing, murmuring momentum in the bar. Maybe this unhurriedness suits the solstice with today being the true beginning of winter (for those of us who value science and enlightened thinking).

Our second and concluding drink comes courtesy of table service (in a pub, I know!) with a green cocktail named for the Mississippi (it’s New Orleans night in here) for Claire, and a Pale Ale for me. I’ve eschewed the craft beer offerings for the metronomic safety of a Coopers. But then for my wife, the cocktail aficionado’s dilemma: drink as is and preserve the pretty appearance or stir and ruin the visual art but agitate the beverage to achieve its intended palate.

The Royal Oak’s an exquisite environment in which to devote a Friday hour. I’m most pleased we did.



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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Fat Cat goes Sophisti Cat. Delightful. A pub for mind and soul as much as stomach.
    From memory the Royal Oak is just down the road from Ch9’s Tynte Street Studios. Are they still there? Were Ernie Sigley, Glenys O’Brien, Kevin Crease and Humphrey B Bear (incognito) want to slip down to quieten the nerves before (or after) performing. Not Pam Western surely? She’d have been tucked up at home with a Milo.
    If only those B&W TV’s could talk – what a tale they’d have to tell.

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Nice one Mickey. I’m surprised the lamb sausage rolls didn’t get the full review treatment. I often walk past after the footy or cricket and think I’d like to call in for some live music. An interesting little pub it is.

  3. Good one, Mickey.

    I agree that North Adelaide is particularly blessed in terms of pubs.

  4. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks for reading and commenting. It is a most excellent pub.

    Currently in Bali and after a big day we put on the TV and caught the last ten minutes of the Bombers and Magpies on the Australia Network. In a minor blessing Roaming Brian then began and mere seconds later it cut to The World with Bev O’Connor. Possibly as a result, all slept well!

  5. Rulebook says

    Excellent Micky loved the fat cat line !

  6. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Rulebook. Talk of Fat Cat reminds me of Justin Westhoff’s nickname (he’s the nephew of a school mate) which, I’m sure you know, is Humphrey because he’s a quiet chap.

    Looking forward to checking on the Glenelg and Eagles score today; not so much the Crows and Lions.

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