Pub Review: The Pretoria, Mannum

From my first classroom to the Wudinna Club was an Adam Saliba drop punt.

 

To get there and enjoy a crisp week’s end, West End Draught was a brisk, brief-case in hand, walk across the tennis courts. Despite its brevity it was a fabled journey because I had often heard about how it was conducted by the school’s former headmaster, Brian.

 

I didn’t meet him until years later, but he was a man of significant proportions and even broader mythology. My boss Richard had told me of the conversations that he’d have with Brian on Fridays at about four bells.

 

A man with a thirst you could photograph, Brian would say, “Right. Where shall we go? Pub or the club?” In Wudinna there were two options. Life there sometimes seemed to consist of simple binaries.

 

Brian would then often bark. “Club. There’s no phones. No-one can get at you. Let’s go.” He’d then instruct, “Cross the courts.”

 

Cross the courts.

 

School, tennis courts, gravel car park by town oval and in the door of the club. About three minutes.

 

What an amusing phrase this is; a synecdoche representing my entire West Coast lifestyle. It was a code and an invitation and the motto of a rich, tiny society. Even now, decades on, if I bump into someone from that part of the world, we nod at each other and say gruffly, “Cross the courts!”

 

On my first ever visit to Mannum I was reminded of all this as the Club and the Pretoria Hotel are neighbours on the western bank of the Murray. Both are handsome holdings with balcony views over the broad, watery expanse. Here was the old choice: club or pub?

 

Earlier we’d gone over to Murray Bridge to see the Bunyip in Sturt Reserve. It’s a rite of passage and the boys enjoyed its crude charm and rustic theatre. I hadn’t been to Murray Bridge since my dear friend’s 21st. The Bunyip used to cost twenty cents and is now free, so I may return before another thirty years have suddenly lapsed.

 

Given the late-afternoon velociraptor hunger of our boys we choose the Pretoria as its kitchen opens half an hour earlier than the club’s.

 

Happy Hour at the Pretoria is from 5 until 6pm so not wanting to appear overly eager we strolled in at 5.03. Juggling Pale Ale and lemonade we ventured outside. The warm July afternoon was more Maroochydore than Mannum.

 

Sitting on the back deck, a brisk five-minute walk from our digs at the caravan park, there’s an immaculate lawn, ghostly gum trees and a Bali hut in an alluring space that would excite any of the current televisual plague of landscape designers.

 

Having spent much of the afternoon writing Ben Folds/ Wiggles/ Frank Zappa-esque songs in their exercise books (“Cabbage at Your Door” and my favourite, “Pig, No Chin”) the boys then commenced a WWE tournament on the blue grass. We then went inside and ate.

 

Surely an indicator of a successful meal is when it gives rise to not one, but two philosophical questions.

 

Firstly: we can all identify a bad schnitzel, but what, exactly, differentiates a great from a good one?

 

Secondly: how magnificent is unexpected beetroot?

 

Salad bars can be like Rolling Stones’ albums. You go into each one with high anticipation, but the results vary. With delicious rice salad, crunchy coleslaw, a jaunty pasta number, and the tour de force, beetroot in a bowl, the offerings were more Beggars Banquet than Dirty Work.

 

There’s few mornings during our lap of the sun when I awake and think, “Today, I will enjoy some beetroot.” But when it appears at a barbeque, in a burger (please, no pineapple) or sits seductively on the ice within an otherwise modest salad bar, my world is instantly much brighter.

 

And yes, whole is preferred over sliced.

 

We worked through our meals in the spacious and convivial bistro. Over towards the front bar a fireplace crackled while the flames leapt.

 

It had been an excellent hour or so.

 

My sole disappointment was learning upon pay-waving the bill that happy hour didn’t apply in the bistro. “Why not?” I asked.

 

“Because the happy hour is only in the front bar.”

 

“So, because we’re eating in the bistro and spending good money here, I’m penalised?” I asked.

 

The bar-keep blinked back.

 

Then I remembered I was in the Pretoria. A certain history of apartheid separation and inequality is not unexpected, even if only of the beverage variety.

 

However, it’s a terrific pub, on the nearly magnificently-named Randell Street, in a robust town offering good holiday diversions.

 

Next time though I reckon we should try out the club.

 

 

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About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton. Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony. McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music. I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. A wonderful review / yarn, Mickey.
    Sounds like a pub worth visiting.

    I also enjoy beetroot, and have taken to roasting them (wrapped in foil) in the Beefeater when doing a lamb roast

  2. Thanks Smokie. Finally, beetroot gets some attention on this site! Cheers for the cooking tip too. Eating beetroot is like having brussel sprouts: tasty and you instantly know they’re doing you good!

  3. Beetroot is superb. So long as it does not come from a can. Next pub up river at Swan Reach is highly recommended. Eastern side of the river so you get “on the punt” to visit. Picked apricots there back in the day. Kerls has a shack there – from memory.

  4. Kerls lives at Walkers Flat nowadays, having left Adelaide some time ago. Local yabbies are perpetually anxious.

    One summer my sister and I picked apricots near Waikerie for a couple weeks. I had grand visions of what I’d do with all the money I was going to earn. The first day- a long day- I made $20 which is what I’d make in my usual gig at a Kapunda servo in two hours. I then made the not invaluable observation that the whole physical labour thing wasn’t for me and decided to complete my degree.

    Like train travel there’s something in taking a punt across the Murray, something we did twice on this trip. Not only does it connect you to the other side of the river, but to a nostalgic past; a simpler time.

    Thanks PB.

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Where is Adam Saliba these days? Has any 3 game AFL player ever left as big a legacy as A.Saliba has?

    Like Smokie, I like to roast my beetroot, especially when I’ve grown it myself.

    Loved the line about strolling in at 5.03 as to not appear too eager for happy hour!

  6. A quick glance suggests that following his illustrious AFL career and his time with the 19-on-the-field bottom to a grand final North Adelaide Roosters Adam became that most celebrated of footballers: the journeyman, and seems to have had a kick with a host of clubs including Menigie.

    He also earned State of Origin honours too playing a couple games.

    With the early to mid 90’s Crows featuring Group 1 mullets on the bonces of the Weed and G. Anderson, Saliba’s completed a memorable triumviriate. His, photos suggest, was a real roadie for Poison/ apprentice tyre-fitter model.

    Thanks Luke. Well done to your Magpies. Heady days.

  7. Here’s Mike Sexton’s fine piece on Neil Kerley. https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/the-prehistory-of-neil-kerley/

  8. Edgy, Mickey.

  9. “cross the courts”
    love it Mickey.

    LOL-ed at your 5:03 arrival.
    (no beetroot for me).

  10. Thanks JTH. I loved re-visiting Mike’s fine piece and especially the idea that at 5.30 each afternoon Neil and Barb sit on the front deck of their river-front home and solve the world’s problems. Unlikely, but there’s a podcast in this.

    Cheers, Er. If at a future Footy Almanac lunch you’re served beetroot, sling it my way!

  11. Peter Crossing says:

    Enjoyable read Mickey.
    Memories of many country towns – the courts and the pub with or without the club.
    Seems there is an archaic rule about the Happy Hour also.
    I agree with the roast beetroot sentiment.

  12. Sounds pretty good, Mickey. Named during the Boer Wars perhaps? I love it when you object to the arbitrary stupidity of rules and the enforcer gives no indication that they understand your gripe or even considered the issue at hand (minimum of three buttons done up on your shirt to get into the SACA members is one of my favourites… it can be any three).

    I’m a fan of beetroot in most of its forms although borscht is a bit of a stretch.

  13. Thanks Peter and Dave. My local, the Broady, has a digital clock over the archway along the front bar, I suspect to silently govern happy hour start and finish times.

    I remember years ago an old mate who was bravely trying to expand his culinary skill-set trying his hand at borscht. Unfortunately he made it using tinned beetroot which rendered it, I’m told, inedible.

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