When I read in The Sun-Herald that the bar Will & Toby’s is to re-locate to the top two floors of the Oxford Hotel, I knew it was time to move on.
With visions of overdressed, underfed wankers infesting my former favourite pub, I fled west. Surely there must be another Golden Mile somewhere, a place with natural charm and room for improvement. Well, after a tour through Explorer Country, I think we might have found it.
Grenfell, about 400km west of Sydney, has a population of about 2,000, which swells on weekends with grey nomads and men to whom antique is a verb.
The town provides adequate attractions, namely a main street (called Main Street) lined with 19th century architecture. Lots of iron lacework and wide verandas. And pubs.
Sensing promise, the boyfriend and I embark on a pub crawl. Our first stop is the Albion, official venue of the Grenfell Goannas rugby team.
After ordering schooners, we sit by the open fire and scan the room. My Gaydar bleeps unconvincingly at a flannie-wearing bloke, but it’s the chunk behind the bar who has my attention.
I take a mental note that only a boofy straight guy can get away with wearing his polo shirt collar up. Verdict: this is Grenfell’s Brighton Hotel.
By now fog has descended and the town looks like a velvet painting.
We cross the street and enter the Exchange, where we are greeted by a throng of loud young things -“ girls wearing their boyfriends’ footy jumpers, boys wearing expressions of bored contempt.
There’s a huge screen playing bad music videos and all I can think is Stonewall. We down our beers and head to the Royal.
This is definitely Grenfell’s Shift. There’s a dancefloor with a mirror ball and plenty of old blokes. Instead of drag, there’s a drunken woman dancing on the pool table. With her six-year-old daughter.
Pondering the child’s future, we hit our final destination (and accommodation for the night), the Railway Hotel.
Blessed with pressed-metal ceilings (albeit defiled by fluorescent-tube lighting) and other olde worlde flourishes, it has a cosy atmosphere.
Out the back is a dining room that hosts live entertainment -“ in our case, a guitarist-singer playing requests.
As I watch an old couple getting down to Englebert Humperdinck it strikes me that Oxford Street has nothing like this.
More’s the pity.