Trip Report: The Mary Poppins of Bars

Poker players can be a bit prickly when it comes to discussing cash games, and not just when they lose.  If anything, the poker players I encounter are more secretive about the lucrative cash games they find than their losing sessions. I never quite understood the argument that, if you find a profitably cash game with lots of fish, you shouldn’t tell good people about it. That is, I didn’t understand it until last night.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I should share what happened.  Do I want to protect my little honey pot and make sure no other visiting poker people corrupt my Shangri-La?

In the end, I decided this place deserves a space in this blog.  It is too magical and too special not to, for, my friends, I have found the perfect bar.

I’m not kidding, this place is the Mary Poppins of bars. It is like I carefully hand-wrote a list of characteristics I want my ideal bar to have, sang a ditty in a British accent, then had my militant father crumple it in a ball, throw it in the fire, and tell me never to speak of such ridiculousness ever again only to have this bar float down from the ether via magic umbrella.  Then this bar unloaded a carpet bag full of drunken wonder, all for me.

My friend Tim and I stumbled upon this place earlier in our stay when looking for a place to grab lunch.  Wandering down the river, we stopped to glance at the menu and were immediately won over.  We got inside at ten to 3pm and the waitress regretfully informed us we only had a couple of minutes to order off the lunch menu, otherwise all that would be available was the “Bar Snack” section of the menu.

We were bummed, as the menu looked rather tasty. Then we actually glanced at the bar snacks menu.

“Well Tim,” I said with a sigh. “Looks like we’ll have to settle for your standard bar fare. Think I’ll get the polenta chips and the slow roasted pork belly squares.”

Tim settled for lamb cutlets.  Tough break missing out on the “real” food and having to settle for bar fare.  We enjoyed our meal, but what I enjoyed even more was the Bulmer’s Pear Cider on tap. I’ve been a big cider fan (read: girl) for a long time and Tim was similarly pleased, as his general requirements for  beverages are typically two fold: 1. Fruit 2. Whipped cream.

The place was pretty empty, which got Tim and I wondering what their night scene was like.  

We had a chance to find out last night.  We were fortunate enough to finish up our work at Crown Casino around 10pm, recruited our friend Brett to join us, and headed for what I thought would be a quiet drink.

As we walked down the river, the noise of a raucous Saturday night seemed to be coming from the opposite side of the river.  We neared closer to our destination and I started looking around, fearing our seemingly cool bar was actually lame and unattended at night.

We rounded the final corner and Tim summed it up. “Oh we have come to the right place.”

The place was crowded, but not packed. Half of the bar was being used as a dance floor, but there were still plenty of tables away from DJ and music. As I gently bopped my head to 80s classic Madonna, we ordered a round and grabbed seats in the quieter section of the bar.

If there was one thing about the night I would change, it would be this.  I later realized we wanted to be in the middle of the action, though our seats did allow us to people watch just about everyone in the dance area.  The DJ rotation of 80s tunes continued as we admired an Aussie Rules Football game on a nearby TV.  As I tried to explain the rules, Tim and Brett seemed fairly incredulous that I truly understood this game.

“And if you get the ball through the center posts, that is a goal.  The official, who is dressed in a sassy hat then gives the player the double wink and gun,” I say.

They laughed and refused to believe me. Before I continue with the story of the Disneyworld of bars, let me pause briefly to enter this into the evidence. Exhibit A:


The DJ made his exit around 11 and two young men with acoustic guitars set up on a small stage by the dance floor.  They proceeded to play a series of nostalgic tunes of my youth acoustic-style.  The crowd (and us) were into it and enjoying it, but the grand finale they put on blew the rest of the show out of the water.

I didn’t even realize what was happening, but Tim did.  

“Is that…” He strained to hear harder and was struck by the telling hum. “Yeah. That is ‘No Diggity.’”

No doubt.

Thing is, they weren’t just playing a white and nerdy acoustic cover of “No Diggity.”  Oh no. They were doing the white and nerdy acoustic megamix seamlessly making their way through a good 15 iconic hip hop songs like “California Love”, “Shake That Ass for Me” and “Jump Around.”

As I scanned the crowd, who was singing as loudly and earnestly as I was, I had a very important realization, not to mention a life first:

I was not even in the bottom half of the whitest, nerdiest people at this bar.

These were my people.  This was my home. No diggity, no doubt.  

Even the guys in the bar were exuberantly dancing, white man’s overbite a blazing.  One guy was especially entertaining, often running a large circle around the dance floor before diving back in.  It only got better though.  One of his friends appeared with a new piece of headwear.  I shit you not, it was a scarecrow hat, just like this one:


Oh..pardon the frightening Halloween Glamour Shot, but you get the idea. The scarecrow hat made its rounds around the dance floor as Brett, Tim, and I watched with envy, pondering what kind of Oceans 11-like caper it would take to steal it. It looked like I had an opportunity as the Aussies gathered in a circle to sing some sort of inspirational early 90s Aussie pop song to one another, but as I neared closer, I realized the object on the table was just a pointy purse. Before I could locate the hat, the lights came on. It was time to go. The jubliant dance floor participants seemed as reluctant as us to depart, but the waitress told us this happens eveyr weekend and this week was actually less busy than usual. She thought the good weather might’ve kept people at the beach instead of the bar. As we walked back to our hotel, we were doing that postmodern Millenial thing where we reminisce about stuff that happened just an hour prior, as if we might never remember or experence it again.

I feared it would be a fairy tale or something like Brigadoon, where this magical bar appears but once every 40 years to make every aging pop culture nerd like myself feel special, like I have something to live for.  As I wondered if this was all a dream, the flames in front of the Crown Complex started going off.  

“This is OZ, the great and powerful country,” they called to me.  It was real.  

“It was real,” I screamed out.  "You were there Brett.  You too Tim!“ I turned back to the bar and yelled, "And you too, Scarecrow! You were all there!”

This is the thing about Australia I have noticed so far.  There is a familiarity here for me as an American.  Pieces of it feel like home, but others feel as foreign as the Yellow Brick Road.  It is a mystically real place.  People go about their day to day business as we do, but there is always a spark, be it the literal sparks of the Crown flames or the one that comes from a group of blissfully happy nerds singing along to the familiar chords of Snoop Dogg songs.  


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