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I grew up riding horses. Not pretty little ponies, but real, gritty, working mans horses. Ok, well maybe not working men, but men who have things to do and places to be, and no time for fancy shenanigans. We grew up in New Zealand riding the family horse Pinky, who was a former pacer (racing name: Inky Pinky Parlez Vous). Pinky was a good horse, but a crazy horse… She would at random and unknown times decide to switch from running forwards, to running sideways, and when you’re riding bareback (because you don’t own a saddle), that can be a problem. Dad decided it would be a good idea for me to start learning to ride her by myself when I was about 4… possibly one of the scariest moments in my life up until that point, but after the bruises healed, it soon cemented my love of horses.
Skip forward a few years and we find ourselves in Australia, horseless… Though it doesn’t take Dad long to find a local crazy called Joe who had plenty of crazy horses but no time to ride them. Joe lived on the outskirts out town and had amassed himself a huge junkyard of old cars and machinery, and (inexplicably) a small herd of Welsh Mountain Ponies.
One of these Welsh Mountain Ponies was named Rocky… and was every bit the battler of his famous namesake (Marciano not Balboa). He was of course a stallion, and prone to choosing his own course of action whilst galloping through a forest at high speed… which always made for an interesting ride. Rocky was not the most stable horse to ride… Dad had broken him in (along with the other horses there), and trained him to accept having someone ride him… but there were times when he conveniently forgot about all that and just did his own thing. In some ways that’s why I liked him so much… he was his own horse… he just let me sit on his back sometimes.
The pony club on the other hand, stood for everything that I wasn’t. Privileged, polished, and perfectionist, and all the pluck and courage in the world did not stop Rocky (and I) drawing the scorn of the primped and plaited members of the pony club brigade. I despised them… Their perfect little ponies prancing around in circles with ribbons in their tails and plaited manes… They were the bourgeois and I was the proletariat. My rugged little pony and I would gallop through the bush jumping logs, tree stumps, fences, and generally causing mischief. I didn’t have a helmet, a crop, jodhpurs, riding boots. I had a hard head, a stick, some old jeans, and a pair of well holed K-mart special Traxx.
Every year the local agricultural show would happen, and the pony club girls would get their parents to help them groom and ready their ponies, load them into a horse float, and drive them into town. I would ride my bike out to Joe’s place, saddle up Rocky, and ride him the few kilometres into town myself.
We competed well, but the judges seemed to be less interested in how fast I could ride and how high we could jump than they were at how nicely you can post whilst trotting around in a circle, and at exactly which angle you hold your feet in the stirrups. So sadly my technique for holding the reins that I’d developed from the need to jump off in a hurry before Rocky went crazy, didn’t win any votes. Still, we did manage to come away with the award for champion pony stallion under 14 hands, of which he was the only entrant…
Such is my experience with the ilk of the pony club… Elitist and over privileged, with little respect for what they’ve got.
What the hell does that have to do with food you say ?? Well nothing… but it does set the scene for the main attraction… My restaurant review of “Pony Club”.
Pony Club is a new tapas restaurant in Mt Lawley, where Infusion Noodle Bar used to be. The layout is basically the same as it was in the Infusion days, with a little more of a plush intimate feel coming from the use of a few velvety curtains here and there. The fit out is stylish and refined and the lighting dark (I have a feeling it actually got darker as the night went on). It looks and feels like it’s going to be a classy kind of place, and this is where my rant begins.
Tapas are bar snacks ! This is how they started off, this is how they should be. They are a brilliant idea. Bring out lots of tasty little dishes and charge next to nothing for them so people can happily snack away all night whilst consuming large quantities of wine and beer, before perhaps moving on to somewhere more substantial for dinner later. The moment they spread out into their own themed restaurants, things started to go down hill.
Now I’ll admit, I was once enamoured with the idea of the tapas restaurant. What a great concept it seemed. Lots of different flavours and tastes combining to make a meal. Easy to share with large groups of people who can happily graze over dish after dish of sumptuous Spanish delicacies.
Not so !
The reality is that most of these places are massively over priced and serve up minuscule dishes that everyone on the table fights for a piece of, before forgetting was it even was two seconds later. This is what we ordered at Pony Club:
Chorizo Stew (look for my version coming soon),
I would have thought that would have been a decent meal for two people… but $100 and less than an hour later it was all over and we went home still hungry. Now even if you aren’t blessed with my tank-like physique and uncanny eating abilities, I’d challenge anyone to be truly satisfied after getting a few bites of any one thing.
The food itself was nice, but uninspiring. Having made or tasted something similar to most of what was on the menu I was singularly unimpressed by all of it. And at around $14 per dish… they were far from worth it in my book.
The tiny wine list had some nice looking entries on it, but with only 3 available by the glass, and my eventual choice of a glass of Tempranillo setting me back a cool $9, I would have much rather been at home with a bottle from my small but growing collection of Spanish wines soothing my gourmet nerves.
So in the end… a revelation occurred. Fancy tapas restaurants are not for me, and until I have sampled and written off every tapas bar in Spain, I will be weary about any place that makes it seem like I should expect to pay top dollar for glorified bar snacks. To be fair, there is a “main meal” section of the menu, but we weren’t ordering from that, so I really can’t comment on how good it was. The girls next to us seemed to enjoy their Moroccan Chicken Salad.. however strange it’s appearance on the menu was.
I’m sure some people will like this place, it may even turn out to be very popular, but just remember that you heard it here first… Yo no quiero tus tapas !
The Pony Club
620 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley 6050
Tel: (08) 9228 8801