Crab racing. A drawcard for pubs around Australia, it involves a bucket of hermit crabs, a sheet of numbered stickers and no end of thirsty and raucous punters.
We're at the Friend in Hand pub in Glebe, tucked away in the backstreets behind Broadway Shopping Centre, for its weekly crab racing night. But first there must be dinner, which we have in the Cesare's No Names bistro off to one side of the pub.
Complimentary bread and butter
A waitress comes to take our order - no menus, just a permanent painted blackboard with chalked daily specials. The pub is noted for its fantastic collection of memorabilia and quirky wall-hangings, and whilst we wait for our meals we take in the assortment of international licence plates, hospital direction signs, street posts and a huge "Tonight Live with Steve Vizard" ticket. Now there's a flashback.
Chicken schnitzel with cheese and sauce $17.50
I stick with the plain and simple, a chicken schnitzel smothered with gooey cheese and a lake of tomato puree sauce. It's not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a huge hearty portion served with boiled (freshly peeled) carrots and a scoop of juicy cooked peas.
Homemade osso buco $17.50
Divedude has the daily special, a serve of osso buco which is deliciously tender and fall-off-the-bone. Two generous slabs of meat are garnished with a mound of mashed potato, carrots and peas.
We adjourn to the bar area for crab racing, admiring the working train set that trundles above the bar. There's also a canoe, a prosthetic leg, a police station sign and a clock perpetually ticking toward six minutes to six.
The race caller sets up the crab track, a circular platform from which the crabs must race from the centre to the edge. Crabs cost $2 each which gives you naming rights - I called mine Spicy Soft Shell. Heat winners progress to the final for a chance to win a drinks voucher or a suggestive crab-joke-related t-shirt.
This isn't high-brow or even dry entertainment. A waterhose gets used at every opportunity, and I mean a waterhose in the high-powered-jet sense of the of the word. The backpackers and uni student crowd lap it up, especially the half-time entertainment which includes eating challenges, hula hoop competitions and a plea for crowd exhibitionism in an event called "show us your six-pack" for both men and women.
It's the relentless spraying of water that freaks us out the most. Amazingly I manage to stay dry the entire evening, even though I'm in the front row. Those that attempt to duck underneath the bar get a hosing regardless. Perhaps I'm getting old but the thought of being drenched is actually quite terrifying.
Go on a hot night or wear something waterproof. Bring a sense of humour and leave the white t-shirts at home.
Cesare's No Names at the Friend in Hand Hotel
58 Cowper St, Glebe, Sydney
Pub open Monday to Tuesday 8am-midnight, Wednesday to Saturday 6am-midnight,
Tel: +61 (02) 9660 2326
Crab racing starts at about 8pm every Wednesday.
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Crab racing at The Court House Hotel, Newtown
You can also enjoy crab racing (without the waterhose) at:
Scubar beneath Sydney Central YHA (Mondays)
The Alfred Hotel, Camperdown (Tuesdays)
The Courthouse Hotel, Newtown (Thursdays)
Other related GrabYourFork posts:
Glebe--Fair Trade Coffee Company
Glebe--Osteria dei Poeti
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10/14/2008 12:37:00 a.m.