The Gin Palace is a small bar tucked away on Russell Place, off Little Collins Street. The entrance is quite discreet; one diamond sign with a border of muted lights over an unmarked door. The interior is haphazard pillars, multiple floor levels, odd nooks and corners, which makes it endlessly fascinating, bit like drinking in an Escher drawing. Mrs Bishop took me there before she escaped back to Thailand. She is fond of the décor, which is more than understandable. Enormous deep armchairs! Decadent couches! Cozy little alcove seating!
Being as neither of us are drinkers, the only sensible course of action was to have a cocktail each, on an empty stomach. Chrysanthanum Club, sour-tart and thick. Tulip Fix, sour-sweet and refreshing. Could not taste the alcohol in either. I'm in love with the name of "Luis Bunuel's 'Surrealist' martini", in which all ingredients and utensils are allegedly frozen for at least two days prior to creation. From the sound of it, it is frozen gin. With gin. And some gin poured over the top. And also, some gin. And once it has warmed up, is disgusting. Being just gin.
We risked ordering food. I wasn't expecting much, regardless of how slick the place was. $10 for a toasted chicken sandwich a $8 for a bowl of Parmesan crackers is a lot of money for bar food. At the time, they were flat out with Friday night fallout, and the only two staff on were overwhelmed, had given up all pretense of smooth professional service and were reduced to dumping drinks and fleeing before the glasses had settled. It took maybe an hour and a half for the sandwich to arrive, by which time it was far too late to use as a liquor pillow.
It was also the best toasted chicken sandwich I have ever had. Holy crap. Totally worth the wait, and even worth $10. Fabulous bread, perfectly crisped and warm, and the chicken was mixed with mayo, chives and lemon, and was appalling spectacular. I'd go back just for the sandwich, to be honest.
The fact that the crackers came out another half hour after the sandwich was perplexing at first. How long does it take to open the packet and pour them in a bowl? Not long. However, they weren't those sort of crackers. They were fresh-made and fresh-baked and came straight out of the oven, hot and stupefying.
It was a great evening, sitting in a cubby hole and generally giggling too much.
My partner in crime at work, who shares the office pod with me, was deeply envious of this excursion, and after realising that we've been in a Mon-Fri job for five months and have not had after work drinks to date, the only sensible course of action open to us was to go to the Gin Palace and have a cocktail each, on an empty stomach. Southside, basically a mojita, and very very strong. Whoops.
This time, I furthered my exploration of the bar, and went to the toilet.
Men and womens differentiated by gilt framed photos of Jack Nicholas and Shelley Duvall from The Shining, him doing his manic grin, her doing her terrified scream. Turned out, it was an appropriate warning. The toilets were clean, really freshly amazingly clean for a drinking hole, but oh me, oh my, the smell.
Did you dissect a rat in high school? Do you remember the smell that rose out of the innards? Think of that smell. But bigger. It smelled like someone had gut a goat in there. A big goat with bad eating habits and bad personal hygiene and bad badness to boot.
One person said hairdressers, specifically perming solution. Three out of four voted for the goat. If I may, I'd like to introduce this phrase into your terminology, for the next time you are in a social but work-related situation. When you need to excuse yourself, simply inform them that you are "going to smell the goat".
There was a lot of giggling involved here too, which got me thinking about the power of history. There are plenty of places around that memory has coloured with heavier meaning than I necessarily want. Connotations and associations that exist in public places which carry on despite your own personal earthquakes. I tend to return to such places and try to override them by creating other memories, and so strip them of their history. Usually it works, at least, to a point. Heavy memories have a contradictory habit of rising to the surface, but the layering of other times and other moments blunts their appearance. Some places I've reclaimed entirely.
Two for two the Gin Palace has been saturated with a damn good time. I wonder, is it possible to return and still have a good time? Expectations are now fully cocked and loaded. An okay time, and alright time, these would be layers working in the other direction. Possibly I should never return, and so despite being a public place, it will remain, in my private world, the perfect place to enjoy a drink, a comfy seat, and deliciously silly company.
As a totally unconnected tangent: has Melbourne been showing off her finest fogs lately, or did I fall into a game of Silent Hill? When I walk to the station in the morning I can see the shadows of power lines cutting through the haze of street lights, and I can't see the station at all. My hair is soaked from the stroll. When I'm finally within the city I cannot see it, all the towers and buildings are swallowed and sleeping. It's lovely.