How to kill a pub: The British Hotel

We’ve been in Adelaide now for nearly a year – it’s been a great year of discovering new restaurants, wines, wineries, pubs and cafés.

One of the first places we stumbled upon in North Adelaide (not far from home) was a lovely old pub called The British Hotel. One of its claims to fame is it has one of the oldest licences in the city, and has been an operating pub since 1838. You can feel the age when you walk in, which is something amazing after 171 years have elapsed. It had a wonderful cosy feel split into four sections – a classic ‘front’ pub for the daggier crowd, a small back bench pub with open fire for a casual pint, a lounge with also with a hearth and a large back room pub restaurant with standard (rather tasty) pub fare. You can even cook your own steak on the central barby!

And we loved it. At the time, the Little Dictator would take a little pre-dinner kip around 17.00, which was a perfect time to walk her in the pram from our house to the pub when Foodie didn’t feel like cooking. LD would fall fast asleep during the walk across the park, we’d arrive at The British, have a quick pint of Guinness (Mother’s Milk) to whet the appetite, and then typically have steaks or roo with a glass of wine. Now, the Guinness was good (as usual), the steaks typically cooked perfectly, the roo was tender and they served these great, probably sinful, crispy crispy roast potatoes to boot.  There were tellys, but they were small and tucked up high and although they might be turned on, they were for the most part unobtrusive.

Three major disappointments were the wine selection – absolutely shocking for an (comparatively ancient) Adelaide food establishment. There’s really no excuse in this part of the world. And the salads were woeful (too much onion and the tomatoes tasted like nothing, much to Foodie’s chagrin; see her comment about her quest for a good tomato in the Sparrow post). And they had this funny little area in the restaurant that was sort of outside-ish, closed in by plastic sheets where they let people smoke, but if you were sitting next to that area it was just like the smoker was sitting right next to you blowing their smoke in your face.  However, for a quick night out in a cosy setting that was baby friendly, a warm fire in the winter or cool and dim in the summer and full of (mainly) courteous staff, we couldn’t really complain.

The real problems started in late winter/early spring 2008 when we returned from some overseas trips – we discovered to our shock and horror that each and every room of our lovely little old pub was fitted with horrible, huge, flat-screen televisions that cast a sickly blue glow over evey thing and sucked your unwilling eyes upon them without fail. They even installed the biggest one of all in the restaurant!  Foodie is still in shock about this one.  Who puts a television in a restaurant?  It was henceforth impossible to enjoy our little Sunday night or weeknight getaway in peace. Now, we’re fans of a good rugby game now and again in the pub when the time is right, but being bombarded by relentlessly mind-numbing rubbish on televisions that blared silently in the background while eating is totally unacceptable. The place turned from a classic and beautiful old pub into a something that was trying to be a ‘sport’ bar with as much character as John Howard at a CHOGM.

Almost worse still was the fact that our Guinness pints shot up by nearly $1.50 overnight, as did most things on the menu – the result? Our quiet little Sunday dinner with the sleeping baby ended up costing over $100 for two people FOR PUB FOOD, while we were subjected to the horrible flickering, brain-numbing stupidity of the television programs surrounding us.  Which was the last time we went there.

Bloody hell – to all decent publicans out there – don’t let this happen to your pub!

Groggy and Foodie

P.S. We noticed recently that the pub is for sale. May the gods choose a worthy publican!

P.P.S.  Please let us know about your favourite lovely old pub.  We are in the market for a new one.


~ by Groggy on 07/02/2009.

3 Responses to “How to kill a pub: The British Hotel”

  1. Hello Groggy and Foodie, The British used to be our favourite as well until it all went a little pear shaped with management and all. The meats were so good!

    Our favourite pub is The Colonist (cnr Sydneham Rd and Parade in Nowood) owned by the Sauternos. They are a bit of a hospitality institution, starting out with the Booze Brothers and now moving more into food. At the Col there’s a great vibe any night of the week. It’s a bit retro and quirky but tasteful. The crowd is mixed with professionals, locals, some older folk and trendy kids.

    Like yourselves, I think there is nothing more hideous than going out and having to watch massive screens of sport and there are tvs, but they are really very discreet.

    Food is sensational for the price point offering a la carte and bar menues. Drinks list has a few interesting wines and beers to keep your palate entertained, which can be a necessary evil when you go a few time a week like we do. Service is knowledgeable, snappy, friendly and all round great bunch of people. Nothing is too difficult.

    These guys also do a great breakfast on the weekends – but I wouldn’t have their coffee.


  2. We used to live 54 steps from the front door of The British. Our house before that was 39 steps from The Daniel O’Connell on Tynte Street (I’ve counted steps since I was a small boy – it keeps the other OCD symptoms at bay). I agree with everything you’ve said, plus one other thing. I address this to who ever buys The British: PUT A SCHNITZEL ON THE BAR MENU. It’s unthinkable in a way akin to the crap wine list – a pub in SA without a schnitzel is an abomination; a pub anathema on a scale barely understood by humanity. At least by this one six and a half billionth of humanity.

    Marty aka ‘Schnitzel Boy’

  3. Hi Zamina,

    Thanks for the advice. We just checked out The Colonist and will definitely give it some time. We only had a quick beer (check out tomorrow afternoon’s post), but are keen to try the food. Seemed a bit trendy and not as ‘pubby’ as we may have liked, but we’re definitely willing to give it a go. Watch F&G for a review in the next few weeks.

    Thanks again for your comments – we really appreciate the feedback.


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