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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Steak N’ Chicks Tuesday #5

The road to Steak N' Chicks Tuesday this month was long, rocky, and full of chicanes. Date changes, venue changes, and last minute drop-outs meant that by the time we got it together, the chicks in attendance were gagging for a good feed, a glass or two of something supportive, and the traditional politically-incorrect chinwag.

26th September 2006 – Fringe Bar, Oxford St, Paddington

The Place
A bit of a poop of a day weather-wise prompted us to change venue from the decidedly outdoor Bodhi Bar to the cosier confines of The Fringe Bar at the last minute. The Fringe has gone through a number of overhauls since my first visit, when it was just The Unicorn Hotel and hosted old men with bum-cracks proudly on display, spilling as they were over vinyl stools positioned with a good view of the horsies. A quick wood-based, sanded-back renovation later, and it was my Monday-night-after-uni haunt, being just across the road from my alma mater, and full of beer, food, and stand-up comedians. These days The Fringe seems to have decided that it's been around long enough to establish itself as that nichey-yet-proud phenomenon: The Quirky Bar.
Nobody should be able to (or allowed to) match black-and-white tiles, drippy chandeliers, red velvet curtains, randomly framed celebrity photographs and orange vinyl chairs with this kind of success, but The Fringe does. It has mild undertones of up-its-own-arse, but in a self-aware, aren't-we-groovy kind of way. It's a dark place – almost gloomy, and arranged in rows with a long bare-brick bar hugging one wall, a row of stooly tables, a row of pouffey tables, and a row of boothy tables. The bar was full enough for a comforting conversational buzz, but empty enough for us to have a range of seating options. So we sat.
As usual, mention must be made of the plumbing facilities, and I do love a toilet area in which you can sit down. Wait – that sounds obvious – there are cushioned stools running the length of the mirrors here, which means that the Fringe Bar is fully aware that merely ridding oneself of one's previous drink is only a third of the reason girls visit the loo – it's so nice to have a comfy perch for other necessities like make-up retouching and having a right old bitch. Framed celebrity images were unnecessary but appreciated.

The People
A modest turn-out this month, with two Steak N' Chicks Virgins, Claire and Vanessa, welcomed heartily into the fold. Alex, Erica and myself made up the numbers, with the usually-present Fee off on an interstate jaunt like the jet-setting mogul she is.
Clientele was a Paddingtonesque mix of suities and beauties, with a lot of people doing as we were and taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat pizza deal. The barman was short in stature but tall on charm, and the waitress, who took a while to warm to us, eventually did, and we to her. It's hard not to like someone who keeps bringing you food. Hi, Mum.
Conversation ranged from men, to Australian Idol, to nephews, to festivals, to (inevitably) men again, as is often the case when there's an absence of dangly-style tackle under the table and full, frequently-replenished glasses on top of it. The less said here about Erica-the-trauma-nurse's patient who took a marital aid too far, or the resulting chit-chat regarding scrotums the better. Enough to suggest that nostril-quivering laughter and forehead-smacking horror were expressed in almost equal measure.

The Food
The Fringe Bar has a thing which is a Very Good Thing, which is as much pizza as you can eat for ten dollars. You pay your money, the waitress brings out a plate each and a basket of really-quite-good garlic Turkish bread, and every twenty-five seconds (so it seemed, but some exaggeratory licence is to be expected) she returns with a fresh, shiny new pizza, wedges of which she dutifully trowels onto each plate with delightful regularity.
Due to this specialised arrangement, not all the pizza was as hot as it might have been, and although I accept that there are many different styles of pizza, The Fringe seem to have gone for the Quite Doughy Really option. The concept made up for the minor farinaceous shortcomings, though, because as they say about pizza and… well, some other things, there's No Such Thing As A Bad One. Toppings plopped deftly onto our plates by way of pizza-base were:
1. Antipasto – ample tasty toppings enjoyed by all, and one of the two vegetarian choices available.
2. Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato – according to Vanessa, the chicken was "juicy", however all subsequent comments were obscured by the imbibing of the rest of the slice
3. Barbecue Meat – WAY too much barbecue sauce, but a good smattering of various cooked, sliced animals
4. Chorizo – great fat slices of my favourite smoked meat product, and probably the best pizza of the night. Unlike her personal life, Alex was deprived of ample sausage, and so had to ask for a second, more deli-friendly slice
5. Margherita – not so much the understated traditional version, but tasty nonetheless.

The food was certainly plentiful and constant, causing Vanessa to wonder if she could beat her Pizza Hut record as a sixteen-year-old of 24 slices in one sitting. No such luck. The waitress just kept piling slices onto our plates until I had to do the pizza equivalent of the hand-over-the-glass "no thank you", which means holding up one hand, turning a grease-smeared, puff-cheeked face to the waitress and saying "Mufankoo".

The Summarising Bit
Food isn't the focus here, but it is good enough to make the pizza deal a definite social and budgetary goer. Atmosphere is good, but a little disjointed for some reason (I may have had a bad chandelier experience in a past life, which only specialist hypnotists are qualified to uncover), but the staff are top-notch, and hold up The Fringe's decade-old tradition of Aesthetic Loveliness. All in all a good night out, albeit nothing to write home about. Except perhaps to say "Dear Mum, ate my own weight in bread and cheese products tonight….."


milly said...

Tops piece, Jo - so what were you ladies drinking? I had a quick butcher's at The Fringe woine list (and a perv on the sangria jugs) or was it amber bevs all round?

shellity said...

Farinaceous, eh?
You just have to put something in that says, "Class, get your dictionaries out please..."
Onya. It's very pedetacious of you.