What’s so cool about the old Hope and Anchor Tavern? Go up, up and find out!
I was heading out with a crazy friend, who has decided his latest look is a John McEnroe bandanna tied around a volcano of white-bleached locks that erupt from his head in a frizz. And even though he’s an ever-youthful 50 or so, I found his enthusiasm for the Hope And Anchor Tavern mystifying.
I’ve had drinks there a few times – pleasant enough but nothing to sing about. And at times the service can range from okay to appalling. There are bits of design in the renovation that have been discarded – there’s an Oyster Bar which slumps in despair, unattended, near the dining entrance. And we followed signs to a “courtyard” which was a disappointment to say the least, being neither a yard nor courtly.
But our hardy team noticed young waitresses ferrying food from an upstairs kitchen. We climbed a beautiful old set of stairs, and suddenly were transported into another era. This is grand. Chandeliered, but empty, the rooms sport more British and Scottish memorabilia than I’ve seen in a long while.
Deer heads sprout from walls, swords and artifacts from other times hang in gay profusion and the antiques are worth the climb alone. If you’re into ancient weaponry, this is an enthusiast’s paradise.
The tavern’s upstairs is huge – containing at least three function rooms I could see. Crystal glasses gleamed on the tables, and one could be forgiven for feeling transported back to a fine old Scottish castle, and wanting to toast.
“Here’s tae us, who’ers like us, and the divil be in ye,” was something my father toasted every Hogmanay (New Year), without fail. Inspection almost over, I noticed a very harassed looking chef dishing out food from an open kitchen that opened onto the empty function rooms. Rather odd, but I guess the layout was something the new owners were stuck with. A logistical nightmare.
We headed downstairs and decided to eat. What the hell? How bad can it be? Well, not so bad after all, we found out. Again, we faced a huge menu that spanned brunch, lunch, snacks, burgers and dinner. Crikey! No wonder the chef upstairs looked frazzled.
Will people who run food places stop trying to be all things to all people? Give me a small menu with limited choice, guaranteeing freshness and seasonality. Please!!
And when the waitress informed us that all dishes were available, we nearly fell backwards. That chef must feel like he’s trying to swim the English Channel every flipping shift.
The food’s sort of trying to be upmarket pub food. But never really quite gets there. McEnroe ordered beef cheeks and trilled their virtues. The others had fish and chips, two large slabs of battered flathead, with chips and salad, which at $12, with table service, was the bargain of the century!
And they were adequate, if not inspiring. My pie, on top of mash and green stuff, was stodgy and tired. Rather like the chef, I’d guess. Neighbours at another table had a dish that they, ‘wouldn’t really recommend’. Enough said. The bar food at a nominal $10 or so, is okay, and cheap.
So the Hope and Anchor Tavern is not a food destination, but worth a side trip to climb those stairs, and breathe in some history.
And if you do spy McEnroe wolfing down some beef cheeks, say hello from me. Just leave the courtyard, and the pie, alone.
Has the hope from the Hope and Anchor Tavern left the building? Not quite, but some things need to change before the pub lives up to its name.