The ANZAC Day commemoration and holiday fell on a Friday this year, making for a short week and creating that unusual experience known as a Fantom Friday (Phantom Phriday?). So, an intrepid band of Tawa locals decided to break with tradition and visited their local pub, The Roundabout, on a Thursday (Thirstday?) night.
While Kapiti Coast commuters and long weekend escapees battled the 90-minute delays on State Highway 1 from Raumati South northward, the tight band of cavaliers sauntered off to the local pub in Tawa. Rumour had it that gypsy music was being played at The Roundabout on a Thursday night, and adventure might be in store. The team anticipated an evening of bright kerchiefs, ear-rings, horse-drawn waggons, campfires, and pumped accordions with patrons being pumped for spare silver sovereigns by dangerous-looking dudes with drooping moustachios.
The pub was doing a steady trade when we arrived, but not too crowded. A pleasant mix of drinkers and diners, the tele flickering away overhead. Tables were turning over at a steady rate, with the odd reserved sign being whisked away as Tawa’s organised fraternity came and went. The management and staff were friendly and polite and the food and bar service was nicely prompt and efficient.
Around 7 o’clock the musicians turned up and set themselves up at one end of the bar and began to play. Unexpectedly, the duo began emitting pleasant blues music that complemented the relaxed atmosphere rather than competing with it. Conversation continued flowing at the tables, and there was no need to raise our voices to compete with the musical caterwauling that is often the case at pubs that provide musical entertainment. Polite applause fluttered across the bar at intervals, and the conversation rippled back and forth while the music ebbed and flowed.
Such a pleasant surprise to find musical entertainment that enhanced the evening out instead of dominating it.
The local media magnate and operator of WorldFM (world famous in Tawa) was quizzed about the possibility of doing a future live broadcast of the blues duo, but discussion subsided when dinner arrived. The subject was a touchy one in any case, as some members of the team thought he had committed a programming error causing us to expect gypsy music to be played. It turns out that the gypsy element of the performance relates more to the identity of the performers rather than the style of the music.
The Roundabout has changed its menu again – the latest beast is a slimmer version of previous offerings, and I was heartbroken when I couldn’t find a spelling misteak – I must speak to the management about that.
The menu offers mains priced in the mid-20s, including a fish, chicken and steak dish. The blackboard features a couple of items which vary according to supply. On this occasion the fish was trumpeter – a species that I’d never heard of before. In my ignorance I assumed it was the remnants of the previous Thursday’s performer who hadn’t. Ever keen to learn about such things I have since ackled the keyboard to find that trumpeter is not a brassy fish. Apparently it lurks about the New Zealand and Australian coasts and is known to Maori as kohikohi. It gets its name from its puckered lips which resemble a trumpeter’s. So refreshing to learn that the establishment doesn’t subscribe to the Sweeney Todd method of staff management.
The Roundabout has kept a couple of menu offerings for those of us who like a bit of pub grub on a night out. The separate bar menu now offers finger foods such as a hot dog or that old classic cheerios – hopefully served with lashings of tomato sauce (known locally as train smash).
The cheeseburger has been retained to satisfy us die-hard pub-grubbers and was highly rated by members of the tasting panel. Even so, a vigorous debate fired up over the merits of adding a wheel or two of beetroot and the ever-popular egg to a burger. I, like Mrs Slocombe, was unanimous in my opinion, but the rest of the party weren’t, and we conceded by declaring a draw as we prepared to waddle out the door for a relaxed walk home in Wellington’s autumnal airs.
Just as the The Roundabout has fitted into its community without fuss, noise or disruption, the Thursday night blues duo fitted into the evening without dominating the atmosphere of the bar. But that’s what we expected. After all, it is our local.