After a brief stop to check my bags into the Shakespeare Hotel, we (Luke, me and the car) head off to the iconic Galbraiths Ale House on Mount Eden Road. It is a former public library (and linedancing nightclub) but people seem to enjoy it far more as the fine pub it is. Nestled amongst his fiercely loyal regulars, owner and brewer Keith Galbraith is already luxuriating at the bar, though in all fairness he was waiting for us (Luke, me and Chris but not the car)..
On the first round, I immediately commit a major faux pas (French for “a fake fox”) when I order my beloved Bitter and Twisted while all the brewers are having the Bohemian Pilsner. It’s not that I regret driking the smooth and full B&T – far from it – but the mantra “always drink what the brewers are drinking” was politely introduced to me.
Attempting to right the wrong, for the next round I confidently order a smooth and quaffable Bohemian Pilsner only to find everyone else has gone for the Bellringers Best Bitter this time round. Once again, I have broken the golden rule. Once again, I am reminded of this transgression. I was to be reminded some 23 times in all.
Ironically, the beer I am really hanging out to have is the powerful Belgian style Resurrection – my absolute favourite Galbraith libation. However, I fear it is too early and am terrified of committing another social gaffe. As soon as I order a Bellringer (still completely out of sync with the rest) Luke orders a cherished Resurrection. In words of one of Western Civilisations greatest philosopher-poets: “D’oh!”
Keith, the consummate host, either sense my frustration or hears my exclamation and immediately procures a round of Resurrections (Resurrecti???) in the special glasses – branded glasses complete with a regular’s name on the base. I wish to publicly assure Mr Neale that I took fine care of his magnificent goblet.
Of course, now that he has started drinking properly, Luke’s ubiquitous digital camera appears like magic. He takes a large number of his signature shot – extreme close-ups of beer – and then tries a number of times to get a shot of Keith without a hand in front of his face. He fails. He then catches a rare photo of me having a beer. I am surprised. I’m even more surprised it is actually not a bad photo given the subject matter. I do need a hair cut though. The illusion of handsomeness is shattered when Luke informs me the next day that the photos are virtually all “a little fuzzy”. Strange, because they looked so sharp and focused at the time…
The mutton pie was a long time ago and our minds turn to food. I had scouted out this menu too on the internet but to my distress my desired Scotch Egg and Pork Pie are both gone on the grounds they “are bad for you”. Scottish cuisine? Crikey. Plus the internet lied to me. This is a day of revelations. We go for a communal feast of platters which turn out to be a fine idea.
There is a plate of cheese (camembert, blue cheese and a good cheddar) and bread. There is something that appeals to me about the decadence of having a slice of gooey camembert on a crunchy slice of garlic bread. There is a smoked fish platter with mussels and salad. This is fiercely guarded by Luke but I manage to liberate a forkful of the fish (flavoursome and moist) and a smoked mussel in the shell (smoky and juicy). There are also some delightful calamari rings in a light batter with a simple sauce. The calamari is excellent and not at all chewy. I use the remaining garlic bread to mop up the sauce. A very hot garlic loaf with butter finishes off the spread nicely.
The brewers (Keith, Luke and Chris – who has had to postpone his flight due to the mind-boggling Auckland traffic delays) are settling in when I announce at 8pm that I must depart. It has been a long day and there are several long days ahead. I was of course roundly and rightly mocked for this early departure. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I could even be mocked by text hours later!
After a cab ride back to the Shakespeare, I had a night cap in the upstairs bar. I had a 15-person couch to myself and so lounged there languidly as I sipped down a Pucks Ale and finished reading the newspaper. The barmaid thought I was brave for having the hearty 11.1% Pucks but it was a perfect digestif. I was not brave, I was happy. I had been a great day and there was the prospect of two more to come!