Mystery Pub: The Curious Case of the King William Hotel


‘What’s this King William pub?’ I hear you inquire. As Daryl Somers used to remark, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The CBD has a new boozer but is it just the old Ambassadors tarted up and rebadged? We were about to find out.


I’ve limited recollection of the former tavern but know it was one patronised by our old school friend Davo when he wasn’t wading through an elongated Friday lunch at The Griffins Head. Come to think of it, not a traditional culinary meal as I’m confident Davo doesn’t eat food.


Claire suffered a morning blowout on her acutely heeled shoe and like the Better Home and Gardens craft-segment host she secretly aspires to be, taped it up with clandestine assistance from some borrowed office supplies. It was fortunate that we only needed a brisk stroll from her Light Square workplace and so the only victim was the reduced opportunity for mystery to build for Mystery Pub (a key ingredient), but like Tom and Daisy in The Great Gatsby, neither of us cared.


Aggregated on the wooden bar were three softly glowing lamps offering contribution to the ambiance. Adelaide pubs are over lit (fluoro the darkest crime, ironically) and could learn from the moody atmospherics of hotels in Melbourne’s Fitzroy. Once, inside two evenings I visited ten of these for research purposes although the resultant scientific paper remains troublingly unpublished or even peer reviewed.


Featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I lately read ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’ and wondered what the Londoner sleuths would make of the pub’s beer situation. I probed, ‘Why don’t you have Coopers Pale Ale on tap?’ Mine host retorted, ‘We’re having trouble getting any.’ Peculiar, I thought, doffing my woollen cap, and extracting a pipe from the pocket of my houndstooth jacket. Noticing my appearance in the barroom mirror I was baffled to observe that in the hour since leaving my employment I’d grown a dapper, entirely Edwardian, moustache.


Safely in the beer garden there was however a sharp smell of fresh paint and utilising my detective skills I rapidly deduced that a person or persons had applied tint to the walls, probably during this past day. Inspecting the exposed bricks and decorative ladders which added to the interior design, we procured a table and during our two-drink sojourn, multitudes of Crows fans arrived with sunny expectation upon their faces, and this proved, of course, to be wholly without logic or reward.


The relationship between text and context is at its most fascinating when the boundary between these is indistinguishable. If the pub was our text and the context was our discourse, I then relished that fantastic experience of the immediate surroundings essentially vanishing as Claire recounted several items from her day. This was a delight.


A rotund troubadour then commenced a set of songs on his guitar to which he added his unexceptional singing. He played Vance Joy’s ubiquitous ‘Riptide’ and later, ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ by the Beatles. While it incorporates splendid sitar moments from George Harrison, I newly learnt that my wife finds little value in this tune and admit that it wouldn’t make my top fifty of the Liverpudlians. Their number one? ‘And Your Bird Can Sing.’


Our scrumptious but wretchedly delayed potato dinner devoured, we farewelled the ghastly paint and the visible bricks and the now vanished musician and the ghostly lamps and the lack of kegged Coopers beer and ventured once more into the pulsing, discordant Friday city.


Alighting onto the footpath I said to Claire, ‘Careful in those shoes.’



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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. I stayed in the old Ambassador on a footy trip. Twice, in fact.

  2. Mickey Randall says

    You certainly explored Adelaide thoroughly on those trips! The constant rebadging and renovation of pubs now moves to Glenelg with what most recently was The Jetty Bar having changed names to The Colley Hotel (despite its location not being Colley Terrace). There’ll be a balcony bar and new facility on the previously under-used first floor. Opening inside a couple months, we’ll doubtless wander in!

    Thanks Smokie.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Hopefully Holmes and Watson can solve the baffling case of the lack of Coopers Pale. Love a Daryl Somers reference!

  4. Scratches head searching through faded files of a misspent youth. Which one was the Ambassadors again? Consults Google Maps finding it to be the one opposite the long gone Majestic which had the finest balcony with multiple poll tables back in the 70’s. We drank mostly at the Tattersals next to the Pancake Parlour and the art house/dirty movie theatre in the lane at the start of Hindley Street. Our work team was unbeatable at basketball with a 6pm start. Time for just one. 9pm was good as we could go home for a meal first. 7 or 8 oclock games we were starting 6 pints/points down.
    Memory says the Ambassadors was the preferred bolt hole for The Advertiser’s finest researching tomorrow’s headline. Those were the days. Thank god.

  5. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Luke. I reckon I’ve spied Mrs McGillicuddy sneaking into the pokies down at The Broady. Tried the new Coopers Botanic on the weekend and enjoyed it. A fruitier Sparkling Ale!

  6. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks PB. Your mention of 9pm basketball games reminds me of playing squash on Monday nights. With its rotating structure, I recall those 9.30pm matches which often lead to me being still awake well after midnight! Reckon the ‘Tiser folk now drink at The Union on Waymouth Street, across from the Murdoch Mansion of Misery.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Still to try a Coopers Botanic, it’s next on the list!

  8. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks Mickey. Always enjoy your Pub rambles.
    A good pub has both “atmosphere” and beer. The old Ambassadors possessed both. The Jetty Bar (your comment) or whatever it is called is, in my opinion, sadly lacking in at least one of these commodities. It is to pubs as Great Northern is to beer.
    The lack of Coopers on tap is an indictment of the Hotel industry.
    I am in total agreement with you re And Your Bird Can Sing.

  9. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Peter. I reckon give the King William a month or so to sort itself out. Might be fine.

    I like to see a bar with a wide variety of beer taps, even better if one or two are new to me. However, it does remind me of buying the paper on a Saturday morning in England when there’d be a dozen or more to pick from, all bursting with enticing sections and colour supplements, and I’d scrutinise each before getting the same one as always, being The Guardian.

    I see it as a great indicator that my local (spiritually if not geographically) the Broady, has only got a (very basic and static) website up and running in the last year. This reassures me about its clientele and offerings.

  10. Rick Kane says

    Excellent MR (except for some wobbly Beatles logic, but I’ll return to that).

    Loved your ADC tone and manner in describing your outing and your good self, you nailed it.

    A wonderful vivid picture painted of the Ambassador – sounds like two drinks was more than enough.

    When next in Melbourne, if you haven’t been there already, may I suggest the Union hotel in Brunswick of a late Saturday afternoon, with a band playing, to add to your pub peer-review project.

    Now, about NW not making someone’s Beatles Top 50! I’m gob smacked. Tell em their dreamin.


  11. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Rick. ADC was terrific fun. The language use was engaging and wonderfully immersive. I reckon Holmes’ insights into human behaviour are the highlight of the novel. Be a great text for psychology students.

    Norwegian Wood is a song I appreciate but just don’t especially enjoy. I’ve made a Beatles playlist that I often pop on, typically on Thursdays or Fridays during the mornings to enhance the end of week anticipation. NW seems to diminish that, so I removed it!

    Thanks for the pub tip. Melbourne bats deep!

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