Obey the Rumble: Shakespeare Hotel
I know it’s not the swankiest of places. I know that the once famous and well-cherished $10 meals are no more (it’s $12.50 these days) but you know what? I don’t care. Some Sundays just call for an early dinner at the Shakespeare. A comforting plate of filling food, a few cheeky wines, that cosy carpet and those slightly unnerving paintings guiding you upstairs...the place has character. I also enjoy the easy-going, ‘I don’t give a shit attitude’ that seems to pervade the place, leaving me totally guiltless in ordering that fourth whisky and heading outside for a cigarette even though its work tomorrow and I said I’d have an early one.
New discovery: get to the Shakey at 5:30 on a Sunday and you'll have the entire upstairs to yourself. Waft through the rooms, skirts swishing. Take photos of brocaded armchairs and low-lying chandeliers and filter the shit out of them. Black & white will make it look like you’re spending Sunday night in an eccentrically furnished haunted house. Chat to the friendly (slightly bored) barman upstairs about the last gig you saw and about how you are considering becoming a nun. Chuckle chuckle.
Then for the food. There’s something on the menu for everyone. Standard options like burgers and steaks and then the fancier suggestions involving squid, haloumi and healthy salad stuff. This time around we weren’t in the mood to experiment and so played safe with tried-and-tasted favourites. Also, both of us required meals that involved their amazing chips. So crunchy. So shiny with oil. My companion ordered the hangover-curing Chicken Parmigiana: massive, hearty and burp-inducingly satisfying, taking up the majority of a plate in a way that reminded me of a mutant Weiner schnitzel I once encountered in Austria. I plumped for the vegetarian lasagne that is surprisingly free of stodge, just a nourishing rectangle of Mediterranean vegetables including some beautifully cooked eggplant (the skin had that slightly chewy, caramelized texture). Both of us flew through those naughty chips – not even requiring ketchup as we dunked them in our respective sauces - and left our green salads till last, enjoying the clean taste of the peppery leaves sprinkled with tangy, balsamic dressing.
An ice-cold Peroni turned out to be the ideal accompaniment to the Chicken Parma. The house chardonnay proved an adequate companion for my lasagne – although next time I’d probably pay more for something a little bit nicer. After a couple of hours nibbling and nattering upstairs, fanned by the warm breeze wafting through our private window, we felt prepared for the week ahead. All we needed was a calming digestive cigarette to cap off the weekend– so the night ended with us outside, wines and ciders propped up on the ledge, fingers on a plaintive hunt for a lighter (seriously, does no one in Surry Hills smoke anymore? Ridiculous) which was eventually fruitful.
Afterwards we contemplated walking to Messina for gelato. But the prospect of the inevitable queues threatened to destroy our newly acquired Sunday night Zen, so instead it was a bloated walk down Elizabeth Street for a convenience store ice cream. Which is still a beautiful thing. Which I may or may not have spilt all over myself during the journey home.
- Lucy McNabb
The Shakespeare Hotel, 200 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9319 6883 www.shakespearehotel.com.au