Sometimes in life you get an offer that’s too good to resist, so when I received and invitation for and afternoon of croquet at the Forrest Park Croquet club followed by dinner at Clarence’s on saturday, what else could a fella do but hastily accept? Shaking off the effects of Friday’s overindulgence I breezed in to the croquet club (located just a few blocks back from Beaufort St) and proceeded to pleasantly wile away the next two hours with what I’ve found out to be an entirely underrated activity. Bowls clubs have long been known as great places to enjoy a few drinks and a chin wag under the false pretence of playing sport (especially after the movie Crackerjack), but croquet allows just as much opportunityfor consumption and chatter with the added bonus of actually being quite a tactical and vindictive game (you spend a lot of time purposely ruining your opponents’ shots by knocking their balls out of the way). That somewhat suspect turn of phrase also conveniently leads me to another point, which is that croquet may in fact be the most innuendo laden game ever invented, especially once you’ve had a few, and before you know it you’ll be gripping things by the shaft, swinging them between your legs and knocking people’s balls all over the joint. Anyway, my infantile sense of humour aside, it turns out I’m actually quite good, and my partner and I won the first game convincingly and had come from behind to hold a commanding lead in the second before rain interrupted play and forced us back to the clubroom for a few glasses of red (oh what a terrible fate!). The folks down at the club are fantastic, friendly types that are all about spreading the croquet love, so if you think that it might be for you then use this link to contact them and arrange an Introduction to Croquet Course.
The sport done and dusted it was on the serious business of eating and drinking the rest of the evening away at Clarence’s. Nestled right in the heart of Mt Lawley’s oh-so-funky Beaufort Street, it is exactly what you’d expect; a tasteful, trendy bar/restaurant serving quality food and drink to the movers and shakers endemic to the area. Being a Saturday night, the place had a great buzzy atmosphere, but being that it is a bar too I would personally avoid if you were looking for a more intimate, one-on-one dining experience. Given that there were nine of us it wasn’t an issue at all and was the perfect vibe for the occasion.
While we were waiting for the stragglers to arrive I took the liberty of ordering the table two serves each of the fresh baguette and cultured butter ($5), chorizo and lemon ($8), spiced chips ($8) and a kilo of the chicken wings and chipotle sauce ($16). Although initially a little irked by the miniscule bread portions (which is a particular pet hate of mine. There is no reason to stinge on bread people!) thankfully the rest of the starters redeemed things, with the chunky slices of delicious chorizo, heaped bowls of chips and crispy chicken wings with decadent creamy chipotle sauce being more than enough to tide us over while we had a few drinks and perused the menu. This generally high standard was carried on in the mains too. Feeling particularly decadent, I opted for the 300 day grain fed tasmanian skirt steak, foie gras & oyster mushrooms ($35), with others going for the cassoulet of confit duck leg, contecchio sausage and cannelini beans ($33), the roasted organic chicken, bacon and mushrooms & red wine sauce ($30) and the steak sandwich with scotch fillet and tomato relish ($18) amongst other things. Top marks have to be given all round, with the devilish foie gras melting over the tasty steak and the delicious smokeyness of the cassoulet being particular standouts for me. A couple of the girls had opted for a salad in order to be able to fit in dessert, and thus ordered the chocolate pot with toasted marshmallow ($12) and the brownie & frangelico milkshake ($14). Both were brilliant, if a little on the rich side (but that’s to be expected when you order that much chocolate I suppose), and their tastiness was only outdone by the cuteness of their presentation.
I suppose the only things left to cover are the service, drinks and special offers really, so here goes. The service was good, if not a little timid and sometimes hard to get a hold of, but a small mistake and delay in getting me my meal was well handled and they were good at topping up our water regularly, so overall they get a pass from me. Drinks wise they have a great range, ciders especially, and the house was a good spicy, soft-yet-full-bodied number that went well with the food, but then again for $45 a bottle you’d hope it would be. Their weeknight specials are also pretty attractive, with Mondays being chicken parma and chips for $15 and pints of Boags for $5, Tuesdays are mussels, frittes and aoli with white wine or beer for $25, and Wednesdays lamb shank and glass of Shiraz for $25. The Sunday Cider Session appeals to me most however, with a good range of ciders at reduced prices, including pints of Weston’s Stowford Press for $6. Dangerous!