Almanac Pub Review: The Palais, Semaphore

The police officer was uninterested.


“It’s likely no-one will claim it. You might as well keep it. Buy your kids something.” I imagined people I know- my parents, old bosses, footy coaches- nodding at my choice so I disagreed and said, “I think I’d prefer to bring it in.”


Earlier I’d found some money on the footpath by Semaphore’s Palais pub, and on my way home I rang to get advice.


With my local beach-side police station closed on the weekend (most convenient that crime and problems only occur during business hours) I called in a few days’ later, and this constable also urged me to keep the cash. The paperwork’s clearly a menace.


I wondered what might’ve happened when I was a boy, and I prefer this old world when the gruff, local copper would’ve taken the money from across a big desk and said, “Why did you take so long to bring this in? The person who lost it is probably worried sick.” I’d have been sent scurrying with no thanks or praise, but a clip under my ear.


Surely, we need our police to be the most moral members of society.


I was last at the Palais during the previous millennium, and now the interior’s all light and white and Gatsby-like in style. Claire and I meet in the Beach Bar and there’s cheery clusters of punters about.


I see a sign promising happy hour pints from $5, but my pulse stabilises glumly when I learn this only applies to XXXX Gold. Still, my pale ale and Claire’s red are agreeable and we find our table.


My fish ‘n’ chips arrive all boy-scout proud and substantial. The salad is coleslaw although it’s labelled as red cabbage slaw, and I’m reminded of when my childhood idols Sherbet changed their name to The Sherbs. I cared not for this and only wanted to hear Ripper ’76 and its opening song, “Howzat” blasting on the Pye 3-in-1.


Happily, The Slaw was zesty while my chips were golden and crunchy. I initially left about ten on my plate for reasons of personal health, but Shaun of the Dead-like ate them all with little awareness of my autonomous hand shovelling them into my yawning gob. This happens to me often. The CCTV video footage would be incriminatory.


Dwelling more upon coleslaw I pondered if it weren’t the CD player of the salad world, neither sexily retro nor fashionable among hipsters, with potato salad the resurgent vinyl record, and quinoa and feta the trendy streaming service.


Let’s not leave cabbage out in the cold.


On yet another cloudless winter’s day we saw the sky grow pink and orange across the gulf and discussed how this is both a delight and a worry.


Courtesy of the $14 daily special Claire’s burger was impressive in size and flavour despite the accompanying river of mayo. She also found her mound of chips a midweek treat. It’d been an excellent visit.


The Palais is spectacularly located on the esplanade just north of the jetty, and climate and contagion permitting, would be worth a return fixture as spring slides into view.






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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Do the Schultz’s still run the Palais? I somehow doubt it.

    What about their overseas incarnation as “Highway”?

    I’d kill for a pub chip.

  2. Thanks Swish. Unsure about the ownership. Could be Woollies!

    Sherbet as Highway. I refused to say the word! I’m always astonished that post-Sherbet and pre-Horses, Dazza had to take a council job. What happened to the coin?

    I’m getting in for my pub chip/chop while I can. It might soon disappear.

  3. roger lowrey says


    I am highly envious of your ability to eat out at hotels at all.

    Over the past two months I have eaten at quite a few pubs partly playing catch up for the first pub lock down and partly preparing for what I feared was going to happen as the second pub lock down. At midnight last night my prescience sadly proved to be well founded. With apologies to Mike Williamson “I tipped it Butch!”

    Be that as it may – and on a subject partly relevant to your narrative – my biggest bugbear during these recent pub feasts has been salad dressing.

    The meals themselves have ranged from the blandly pedestrian to the surprisingly tasty. However, an unfortunately common practice has been how a succession of kitchens have insisted on drowning what may otherwise be a quite edible salad with an overpowering concoction of liquid substances which make it totally inedible.

    I have now taken to ordering “chips and salad” but with no salad dressing. You wouldn’t want to know it but on two occasions even this request was ignored thereby necessitating a follow up request for a naked version. On other occasions I have eschewed the chips & salad option altogether and gone for veggies especially if the primary source evidence on the plates on nearby diners suggests this is worth doing.

    For the record, when making a standard sort of salad at home I just drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over it and top with some freshly cracked pepper.

  4. Thanks Roger. No salad dressing should be easy, but it would seem not. Is aoili just garlic mayo?

    Maggie Beer tells the story of how her dried plum tart always sells better than a prune tart. Prunes are not quite friendless, but close.

    Wishing all Victorian readers the best.

  5. Kevin Densley says

    An enjoyable read, Mickey. You certainly made me hungry for a good quality pub meal; indeed, almost, a pub meal of any kind. Here in Victoria such things won’t be available for some time, I suppose, and I missed out on getting to a hotel during our recent “window of opportunity.” Also, the hotel you reviewed is just down the street from a pub that my great-great-grandfather, Henry Reynolds, ran during the first decade of the twentieth century, the Semaphore Hotel, though I have no idea what that pub is like these days.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, who was bigger in SA, Sherbert/The Sherbs or Skyhooks? It does seem incongruous that Dazza had to spend time leaning on a shovel post his mega stardom years.

    Coleslaw and cabbage are some of the very rare foods I’ve never been able to take to, despite acknowledging they probably go well at times. The Michael Clarke of the salad world.

  7. Damn, I miss going to the pub. Any pub. But in the meantime I will live vicariously through your reviews, Mickey.

    Braithwaite never made coin from Sherbet because Garth Porter and Tony Mitchell wrote most of the songs. As John Lennon said “The money’s in the royalties, man!”

  8. Kevin- thanks for this. The Semaphore is still trading which is not a given these days. Not as grand or appealing as its neighbour The Federal but it always has a few punters in there when I pass on foot.

    Luke- The Michael Clarke of the salad world! Richie Benaud surely a Niçoise salad if I can flip my metaphors.

    Smokie- hang in there! Imagine if every souped-up Spring Carnival attendee had to pay royalties when burbling along to Horses! Always strikes me as such an unlikely song to have been co-written by Walter Becker. Seems anti-Steely Dan.

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    Nice read Mickey. With no intention of rubbing it in to our friends in the SE, I had a quite marvelous pub meal with a couple of mates last Saturday before taking in a local game of footy. Three nice pieces of battered yellowfin whiting with a (slightly ruined) coleslaw but the chips were magnificent. I’m a beetroot fan myself.

  10. Daryl- pub, whiting, chips, local footy, mates. Superb.

    But beetroot! Beetroot is like ELO’s Livin’ Thing. I rarely seek it out but sometimes it’s suddenly just there and I’m reminded of how good it is and I devour it.


  11. Enjoyable read as always,Mickey

  12. Thanks Rulebook. Big game for your Legs today.

  13. I’ll add my voice to the chorus hanging out for a good pub meal (with the trifecta of cold tap beer and robust conversation!).

    If Benaud was the Niçoise salad, surely there’d be merit in offering a mid-week special of “Two for $22”?

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