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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Crab racing at The Court House Hotel Newtown

"I believe that children are the fuuuuu-ture... teach them well and leeeeet them lead the way... "

Deny, the race caller, holds the tiny hermit crab aloft, convinced that his earnest croonings and Shirley Bassey's hopeful lyrics (yes, she recorded it well before Whitney) will coax the hermit crab out of its shell.

After our liberal dousing with water during crab racing at Glebe's Friend in Hand Hotel, I wasn't sure whether crustacean spectator sport was the right one for me. The Punter drags me to the Court House Hotel in Newtown anyway, determined to show me that crab racing does not always involve water jets, hula hooping and drunken uni students.

Chorizo in a roll $9

The Court House is a dishevelled but beloved institution in Newtown. Out the back, the courtyard is open and airy with wooden picnic style tables with a large open deck above. The front bar room, however, stays true to its blue collar roots, a dim and dank saloon usually filled with old locals slowly downing beer after beer.

Steak sandwich $7

On crab racing night, it's a bit of a different story, with a noticeably younger crowd that trickles in from the street or the courtyard as 7.30pm draws near. We grab a quick bite to eat from the outdoor barbecue area, simple but delicious steaks on turkish bread and seared chorizo slices on a toasted bun. A real bloke's kinda meal, when you have dinner in one hand, beer in the other.

Chorizo on a plate $5

And then it's on for the crab racing. The atmosphere is noticeably different, a more relaxed approach where the crabs are on display for all to see, and we get to choose which crab we'd like to "buy". The Punter is almost dancing with excitement as we approach what he calls "the saddling enclosure", an opportunity to closely scrutinise each crab's size, form and general liveliness.

The active crabs--the ones that are scuttling with fervour--go first, two dollars handed over for temporary ownership and naming rights. I put my money on a big 'un, and can't resist naming it Spicy Softshell, yet again.

The race is held over four heats, five crabs per heat. Deny croons to each of them as he gently places them on the track. The first crab to the edge of the black circle wins the heat and goes through the grand final. The winner and runner-up in the final earn bar tab vouchers.

It's a fun and entertaining evening, mostly due to the warm, effusive and camped-up personality of Deny. In-between heats, there are spectator competitions of heads or tails. I even win a $10 bar voucher. Score!

And you know an event has its fans when they dress up in crab-themed t-shirts just for the occasion. Deny is beside himself with laughter and open envy.

Spicy Soft Shell doesn't win his heat. He doesn't do well in the next race either. But it doesn't really matter. "Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier... Let the children's laughter... remind us how it uuuuused to be."

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The Court House Hotel
202 Australia Street, Newtown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9519 8273

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10am-midnight
Sunday 10am-10pm

Crab racing every Thursday from 7.30pm

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Crab racing at the Friend in Hand Hotel, Glebe

Other crab racing nights at:
Scubar beneath Sydney Central YHA (Mondays)
The Alfred Hotel, Camperdown (Tuesdays)

More GrabYourFork posts:
Newtown -- Bank Hotel
Newtown -- Carlisle Castle
Newtown -- Chocolate Dog (closed)
Newtown -- Corelli's Cafe
Newtown -- Gourmet Viking
Newtown -- Guzman y Gomez
Newtown -- Mickey's
Newtown -- Oscillate Wildly (Feb 06), (Oct 05), (Jan 05)
Newtown -- Rowda Ya Habibi (Mar07) and (Jul04)
Newtown -- South
Newtown -- Sumalee Thai
Newtown -- Wedgetail Pizza
11 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/06/2009 12:02:00 am


  • At 1/06/2009 9:12 am, Blogger Miss Honey said…

    I much prefer miniature crab racing to the cane toad racing that I came across in Cairns... So much cuter lol.

  • At 1/06/2009 9:12 am, Blogger kelpenhagen said…

    wow - last time I went to the courthouse to eat (about 18 months ago) I swore I would never order any food from there again (prefer to duck up to the Carlisle for dinner, and then head back to Courthouse for a drink - but not eat.) But it looks like they may have got their act together again!

  • At 1/06/2009 2:15 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    We quite enjoy an evening beer at the Courty, but have not been for crab racing yet! May have to try it!

  • At 1/06/2009 2:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this looks like fun, but i still prefer the water squirting, wet tshirt contest... wait a minute, I thought this is a foodblog! Helen, norty gal!

  • At 1/06/2009 8:32 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    This sounds great. I have been to Cane Toad racing in Queensland but had never heard of Crab racing! Only in Australia...

  • At 1/06/2009 8:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh looks like heaps of fun indeed! Hee hee Spicy Soft Shell ^^! such an awesome name hee hee!

  • At 1/07/2009 12:07 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Miss Honey - Ooh I still haven't seen a cane toad up close. I remember the first time I went crab racing I didn't realise the crabs would be so small!

    Hi Kelly - The bistro has recently had a major renovation but I haven't had a chance to try it out yet. Maybe worth another go?

    Hi Annie - It's a fun night for locals and blow-ins. Good clean entertainment for all the family :)

    Hi Billy - Hey, there was food! And I reserve the right to blog about whatever I want, anyway :) I think the water squirting is preferable in summer but it's particularly worrying when you're holding a camera and trying to take photos!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - Yup I think that crab racing is definitely an Aussie tradition. I'm not sure how the crabs feel but hopefully they all get a nice massage at the end of it! And not one of salt and pepper!

    Hi FFichiban - It's a fun night indeed. You should try it! And everyone has much mirth trying to think up funny names. Lots are rude, others are just bizarre.

  • At 1/07/2009 2:13 pm, Blogger Y said…

    hehe Helen, this is certainly a new way to enjoy your surf 'n' turf ;)

  • At 1/07/2009 8:07 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - lol. It's a fun evening. It might've been better with some seafood though :)

  • At 1/08/2009 10:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Grrr if i have to hear about "inigo" one more time or see that hideous shirt, or hear how fabulous it would be at my bar im going to find myself a crab shell to hibernate in... Well i'll give it points for creativity! The Punter... by name, and nature thats for sure.

  • At 1/08/2009 11:03 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Alexandra - lol. I can totally empathise! Deny really did like that shirt though!


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