We received a query through our website (or was it Facebook?) regarding a question in The Southland Times' New Year's printed quiz.
I am no quiz master. I can hold my own at Trivial Pursuit but that's about as far as it goes. The question was: "What was the nickname of the bar west of the public bar (The Prince of Wales Bar) in the Grand Hotel? (or something similar).
I thought the question was a little ambiguous because during my years at the Grand the staff referred to it as the "Snack Bar". It was also commonly referred to as the "Back Bar". The answer (according to The Southland Times) was the "Wool Bar" as it had sheepskins hanging from the rafters. Interesting! I'm not denying that at some stage during the life of the Grand Old Lady there were rafters in the Prince of Wales bar that did have sheepskin rugs hanging from them, but not on my shift.
During the early 1970s the Grand received a major upgrade. En suites were added to rooms with the old bathroom blocks being transformed into further rooms. The house bar was refurbished as the Flight Deck, the lounge, dining room and private dining room (Plaza Lounge) all upgraded along with the bars on the ground floor. Part of the upgrade was the placement of false ceilings throughout the entire building with the exception of the small bar behind the bottle store on the east end of the public bar, where rafters were added.
On these rafters were hung sheepskin rugs with false wool bale ends around the front of the bar and other areas printed with the names of many well-known Southland sheep stations.
The small bar to the west of the public bar I remember well, more so when mine host George Mertz opened the doors at 11am on the October 30, 1971, to greet me and buy my first legal drink on licensed premises in this country and that bar was called the Wool Bar, which remained a popular watering hole for many over the years.
Back to the Prince of Wales bar - this was at the west end of the public bar, or as we knew it, the Snack Bar where economical lunchtime meals were extremely popular with workers around the inner city area, especially those from the railyards.
The menu was simple; from the top of my head Dutch onion stew, tripe and onions, fish pie, lambs fry and bacon, mince stew and the odd roast were all very popular. Not dissimilar to the type of meals we as a family enjoyed in Harvey St.
Times have changed and a mince stew was just that back then, but today it tends to be more of a sauteed mince dish with a somewhat better meat content than the watery version we enjoyed back in the early 70s.
This week let's have a look at a modern-day mince stew.
500gm lean quality mark beef mince
1 good-sized onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp Bovril (I would normally use 2-3 of Marmite but since it's unavailable!)
1 tsp flour
cup tomato sauce
1 cups water
1 good-sized golden kumara, peeled and diced
3 cups chuckwagon corn
Method: Place the oil in a large heavy based frying pan, add the onions and the beef mince and saute for 4-5 minutes or until the onion has softened and the mince has browned.
Break up the mince with a spoon or fork as you go, taking care that you have sufficient heat so the mince browns rather than stews.
In a jug mix together the water, Bovril, tomato sauce and flour and pour over the mince and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Now add the kumara and cover the pan, allowing it to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the kumara is almost cooked. Add the corn and stir to mix.
Cover and simmer for a further 8-10 minutes then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Note: this is great served alongside a crispy baguette or toasted bread with a fresh green salad.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
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