Monday, April 5, 2010

The Argyle

We have to preface our review of the third card out of the pack with this fact: we are both complete dribbling suckers for sandstone buildings and cobblestone streets. With this in mind, The Argyle was off to a great start. We also came to a very telling conclusion by the end of our visit, clues to which are scattered throughout this review like hot blokes in our bedrooms. Cough.

Everything's big at The Argyle. Except Lorin.

BRICKS AND MORTAR Walking through the entrance into the (massive) courtyard, we were greeted by the largest red lamps in the existence of man*, and travelling a little further, we entered the (massive) bar. Imagine a two-level barn purpose-built for really big cows and tractors. Now add some leather booths, quirky lighting, raw wood, incongruous plasma screens (even livestock need to know what’s happening on Fashion TV) and a long, chunky bar. Better take the cows and tractors out, though, because it’s getting a bit confusing. And maybe suspend a perspex DJ booth over the whole lot – perhaps just above where the chickens were in the original imaginary barn, and you’re pretty much there. Big, is what we’re saying. Big and sandstoney and cobble-stoney – made sense, as we were in The Rocks, home to the oldest bricks in Australia. CLUE ONE: The Rocks.

You can see the DJ's box quite clearly from this angle.

ALL THE YOUNG DUDES We visited on a relatively quiet Thursday night, but the friendly bar staff insisted that on Friday and Saturday nights, the place is jammed. CLUE TWO: Staff think clientele prefer to drink with hundreds and hundreds of other people. We checked out the tens of people who were there at the time, and one thing stood out – every different person had a different accent. For example, I think the glassie who told Lorin she couldn’t stand on the table to take a photo was Scottish. CLUE THREE: It’s a small world after all.

VAL-DERIE, VAL-DERA Then it clicked. Backpackers. The Argyle may be one of the fanciest backpacker bars on the planet, but it would be difficult to argue that it isn’t one. To be honest, once we’d pigeon-holed the place, we felt better about it. Lorin even stopped feeling like she was at schoolies week. Every crowd needs a bar that caters to them (backpackers deserve that privilege too, no matter how fungal their toenails are), and The Argyle caters bloody well. Music was loungey and non-offensive, treading gently on trebly disco’s toes later in the evening. The soles of the DJ’s shoes were impeccably clean, too. Thank you for asking.

THAT SINKING FEELING There are two phrases we very rarely use in life, yet both of them apply to The Argyle. The first is “That’s just too big”. The second is “Dude. You totally have to check out the toilets”. Just like the rest of the bar, the communal loos are gigantic. These aren’t toilets. This is a lavatorium. There are four Things Of Note in these toilets:

1. The communal hand-washing area. A long illuminated basin hovers under water pipes that drop, stalactite-like, from the ceiling. A single drawback: bugger me if we could work the thing. MAKE THE WATER COME OUT, UNIVERSE!**

Lorin's so drunk she think's she's on a train.

2. The cubicles. There’s something thrilling about only having a sheet of frosted glass between you and the other punters. Individual cubicles marked ‘W’ or ‘M’ ring the room, and you could see vague shapes moving behind the occupied ones. If you were looking. Which we… weren’t.

3. The alien-egg urinals. Extreme privacy is not as high a priority as awesome novelty at The Argyle. At the end of the communal area, what first appear to be back-lit alien cocoons turn out to be urinals upon closer inspection.***

For demonstration purposes only.

4. This vending machine sells shoes to walk home in. I know, right?

There should be another one for hats.

DRINKY DRINKY: LORIN When I asked for my vodka dry, I was not asked what kind of vodka I would like, but I’ll let that slide. Their average customer probably wouldn’t give a shit, so why should I? I couldn’t tell what vodka was used as it was under the bar, but it tasted standard. The tumblers were nice, a fair amount of ice and a squeezed lime, all was looking good. Except the colour. Once again I am faced with what looks like bad drinking water, so I’m a little hesitant, and what do you know? It tasted like overpriced crap. Come on people, how hard is it to add a decent amount of mixer?

Her whole body hangs off those cheekbones.

The cocktail: Now bartenders, when someone asks you what your specialty is, say something, anything, make it up, I don’t care, but don’t say you don’t have one. What kind of confidence is that going to instil in your customers? Sell yourself! So I ended up with a strawberry and lemon martini concoction with Galliano and vodka. The bartender tested it with a straw first and seemed happy with it, and I thought that maybe she was being modest when she didn’t sell herself and she had the great ability to fly by the seat of her pants... I was wrong. After cleaning her utensils before giving me my cocktail (wtf?) I was a little unhappy. It looked great, but it was just overly sweet for my liking, and tasted a little like the medicine you’re given as a child. Once again, I felt like I had been transported back to schoolies and was drinking lolly water, or as Jo put it “it’s the drink you have right before losing your virginity... in Queensland”.
The bartender must have seen my face back at the table and came over and asked if I would like it put into a chilled glass, and went and did so. Big points for trying to please the customers, but I’ll have to take some of those back as it did nothing to improve the taste.

DRINKY DRINKY: JO Punctual service swiftly delivered me a fine gin & tonic. It was fine. Amount of gin – fine. Amount of ice – fine. Flavour – fine. I loved the tumbler it was in, though – it’s just like one I happen to have at home now. Let’s move on.

I'm so classy even my ideas have lampshades.

For my cocktail, I told the bartender I liked things dry, and asked her to suggest something. “Dry Martini?” she asked, not sure if I was playing a word association game or not. I ended up requesting a dry, dirty gin martini (I just wanted to use more words than she did), and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m suitably chastened in that I didn’t expect a thoroughly decent martini to come out of an upmarket tourist barn, made by a girl who stores her bottle-opener in a sweat-band on her wrist. Well chilled, seductively cloudy, with two fat, unpitted olives = Jo happy. It also worked perfectly in getting rid of the taste of Lorin’s cocktail when I had a sip. Double win.
Not pictured: tennis racquet.

Basically, The Argyle is a place that’s made to appeal to a hugely broad spectrum of people, and you’d be hard-pressed to find nothing appealing there. Varied, eclectic d├ęcor, attentive service, curious idiosyncrasies and major cobblestone action all get nods. By the same token, though, it stops short of impressive, perhaps because it lacks a bit of warmth, soul or direction. Except for the shoe vending machine and the big red lamps. That shit is obviously awesome.

We’re giving it two big red lamps out of five.

*We don’t really have anything to base this statement on, but we think it’s true.
**Mum, we washed our hands in another basin. Honest.
***Mum, nobody was using the urinals when we inspected them. Anyway, we apologised to him.


shellity said...

I'm not going to comment about the tumbler that you now have at home. So... um... hi.

Jo said...

I did NOT steal that tumbler.

On this visit.