Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Brown study: Bobeche

My friend had not arrived. I knew this because I had the bar to myself. This was a problem. Not the absence of my friend but the fact that the bar was empty and that meant that I was spoilt for choice about which cosy lamplit nook I should occupy. And not just which nook but which Chesterfield sofa. I decided on the one closest to the door, the two sofas separated by a tall lamp and overlooked by a large mural. The space with the rococo-design occasional table. That space.

I had braved the wind-tunnel that is St George’s Terrace, rediscovered the non-descript staircase to the basement, and pushed through the doors that give nothing away about what lies beyond them. I was back at Bobeche.

I had the bar to myself and, therefore, a bar-tender to myself also. I knew what I wanted because I’d had it before – a classic negroni made with The West Winds Cutlass gin. I put my credit card behind the bar in case I needed another negroni later (as it happened, I did) and took in the quiet.

I say ‘quiet’ – perhaps that’s the wrong word. There was music, heavy on the jazz and swing of the 30s and 40s, but not so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. I found myself tapping my foot in time to the beat as I settled back into the depths of the Chesterfield. Not for the first time, I promised myself that when I grow up, I will have a Chesterfield of my own.
Chesterfield of my dreams
Bobeche is a surprisingly large underground space, yet there are little ‘nests’ set up around the bar – you can be as public or as private as you like.  Bobeche is as brown as Red Door is red and this contributes to the feeling of being in a cosy burrow. The d├ęcor is a mix of chocolate and cream, ivory and gold, lit by the glow of the lamps. The speak-easy vibe is immediate and intentional.

Classic negroni - rococo table.
My negroni was a work of art – the traditional twist of orange peel sat on a huge single hand-cut ice cube. I liked the attention to detail and presentation. Of course, it smelled and tasted amazing, beginning with a noseful of orange oil molecules, and then working down to the feisty Cutlass botanicals. I am no gin expert so I can’t claim to distinguish the extra coriander seed or the bush tomato that is used in the Cutlass. All I know is that I’ve had it before and I love it. The extra 10% ABV (Cutlass has a impressive 50% ABV) pushed me deeper into the soft leather of my seat.

A few more customers entered the bar, and one of them was my friend, Nick. I hadn’t seen him in over three years and Bobeche made for a good place to catch-up on all our news. He wasn’t drinking cocktails, but there is a respectable choice of beer and he was able to get draft Peroni.  There was complimentary popcorn too which was brought to our table and made a nice, lighter, change from beer nuts or pretzels.

Drinks and conversation with wonderful friends.
We settled in for an evening of drinking and chatting. After a while, and some confusion, our other friend, Luke, joined us. I had given him directions over the phone but he still had problems finding Bobeche. I was secretly pleased by this – I want it to stay hidden.
In the words of Flanagan and Allen, it's "underneath the arches".
The service was efficient yet unobtrusive. The bar-staff are happy to talk with you if talking is what you want or they will give you your privacy and work around you to clear your glasses, offer more drinks, make suggestions. When I felt that a third negroni would be excessive, I asked for ‘a good shiraz’ and trusted the bar-tender to deliver on this, which he did. I also remember from the last time I was at Bobeche that you can even order and pay (cash or EFTPOS) from your seat, so you don’t have to constantly get up to go to the bar – this is a Good Thing. You can stay in your Chesterfield for as long as you like and the drinks will come to you.
Good shiraz. Very good shiraz.
When the evening was over, we opened the door onto the dark Terrace and to a heavy rain-storm. We had been so sheltered (literally and figuratively) that we hadn’t even realised it was raining.

We only had one umbrella between the three of us and we had to make a run for it. With one last backward glance at the comfy sofa, I hung on to my umbrella and to my friends as we dashed out of Bobeche and into the rainy night.