Tuesday, February 10, 2009

O'Donoghue's CRAP review

O’Donoghue’s Irish Tavern, Emu Plains, NSW

Well, I guess this is the start of it all. Even though this is just a little shake down trip, I may as well set down a standard for my Crawling Round Australia Pub (C.R.A.P.) Review! Get a few guidelines in place to keep comparing apples with apples (or schooners with schooners, as the case may be!).

First port of call has been O’Donoghues Irish Tavern in Emu Plains near Penrith, New South Wales, and boy, has the bar been set high! While most people here probably consider themselves out in the country, this is still the city as far as I’m concerned, with the trains, traffic and huge shopping centres. 3 sets of lights within 200 metres? It’s a city.

So O’Donoghue’s is like an oasis. As country a city pub as any I’ve seen, and more Irish than quite a few, too. Relaxed atmosphere, family friendly, good food, cold beer and decent prices. The beer garden is excellent, with fans and water sprays for the heat, and heaters when cold. Play area for the kids, with inside play toys for the adults. Weekends see regular live bands performing, so if you’re after a quiet meal I’d avoid these nights, or eat a bit early. There’s also the regular pub gigs like trivia and karaoke. I’d say this is the social centre of Emu Plains!

It was 42’ the first day there, so the beer felt frosty cold. It could have been served at 10’ and still tasted bloody cold! But repeat trips to the bar over the next couple of days confirmed a nice drinking temperature. Cold glasses, icy beer. Good range of tap beers, with enough old being pulled to keep it fresh in the lines for traditionalists.

Price was average for NSW, $3.90 a schooner. Good news is there are plenty of happy hours, with 12pm to 5.30 on a Saturday costing $2.60, and 3 to 5 weekdays costing $2.50! That’s genuine 1990 prices! Not many places you can sit back now and enjoy a few beers for ten bucks!
Staff were friendly, but no more than the job entailed. No more conversation than was required to get the order, but done with a smile. Here was the real difference between a country hotel and a city pub. There wasn’t even a comment about the mid 40’s heat outside, a conversation starter if ever there was one!

Atmosphere of the place was nice, with plenty of old posters and tools on the wall, big timber tables, old polished bar and pokies hidden away out the back somewhere. The focus of the place seemed to be the undercover outdoor beer garden, which was quite pleasant for lunch and a slow afternoon where the kids could play in the old locomotive that has been converted to a play area. There was a stipulation that kids had to be out of this area by 9pm, however, and I’d want to be out of there a lot earlier on a Friday and Saturday anyway.

The place is nice and clean, at the bar, bistro and toilets. Not one issue with dirty glasses, plates, or cutlery. Staff got around quite regularly clearing and wiping down tables.

Typing of bistro, food was nice. Simple fair, but good servings. Nice steaks, good chips. The gravy was brown. SWMBO’s vegetarian needs weren’t really taken care of, but she’s easier to get along with after a feed of meat, so no real complaints! And average prices, but the specials were great value. $6 lunches, choice of steak, schnitzel or fish, with chips and salad. 400gram T-bone steak with chips and salad for $9.50 on a Thursday! $8 for a half chicken and chips. Pretty good value, all in all.

So, in summary, a pretty good pub. It scored a 7.6 on my CRAP Rating. That’s going to be pretty hard to beat, so any pub that rates a 7 is going to be worth a visit, and anything getting an 8 or more is definitely a pub of note. You’ll find me chained to the bar anywhere that scores a 9.

Nepean River Holiday Village

Nepean River Holiday Village, Emu Plains.
We stayed 7nights in Feb 2009. $30 a night for a powered site.

Not too many choices around the area. Good facilities, certainly nothing to complain about there! but has a crowded, boring, blah feel. Certainly handy to Syndey and the Blue Mountains though.
Overall- 2+half stars.

Location- 5/10. Right near the train station (trains run straight past!). Near one good pub restaurant. Only a few minutes drive to Penrith Shopping Centre and not far from Blue Mountains etc. Nothing else special and nothing within walking distance.

Sites- 4/10. Small. No shade. Massive power lines overhead.

Bathrooms- 6/10. Modern and clean. Large shower cubicles with good shelves and hooks etc. Stupid 5min shower timers with preset temperature that is too hot.

Laundry- 6/10. Large laundry and clothes line area. $1 a dryer load, $3 a wash.

Shop- 5/10. Good kiosk- with milk, bread, drinks, chips and chocolates etc. LPG gas, ice.

Pool- 7/10. Shaded pool with toddler section. Grassed surrounds.

BBQ area- 7/10. Two separate areas- Main BBQ area near the pool is a large open undercover area with two free BBQs and picnic tables. Also a communal fridge and microwave. Another smaller BBQ area down near the camping flats.

Playground- 5/10. standard playground castle for young children.

Other- Internet WiFi connection available.

shake down cruise

we are midway through our shake down cruise to Sydney and back. Time to get the bugs sorted and see what we need to do/change/fix/pack before we head off for good.

A few little things... all sorts of issues with our internet connection. We signed on to Telstra Next G (only company with remote coverage) but if we had a choice i'd go someplace else. They were deadset useless to deal with and made an absolute mess of things. I hate to see my mobile phone bill after the multiple phone calls and hours waiting for them to fix it. I hear that Westnet will soon have wireless internet but we've had to sign up for a three year package with Telstra. If you are thinking of travelling make a phone call to Westnet!!!!

Our 12volt is not working so when we get back we'll have to sort that out.

We got an innerspring mattress for the rear bed from the Jayco dealer here. Wanted one for the front bed but they gave us the wrong size and after a second trip back to the showroom they could not figure out why their computer system had no information on the size of mattress we needed.... ??? So we'll try another Jayco dealership as we head up the coast. I would have liked to have used Made to Measure Mattresses but they never phone back when they say they will and can't tell me if they can make it to suit our van or not.

But we've had a range of temps here from 44'C for a few days to hail last night and lots of rain! And the air con worked rather well and the van bed ends don't leak so we're happy with that. The fridge struggled a bit so we'll fit those fans that other Expanda owners have talked about.

I've wanted to get out and go for a walk to practice some of my photography lessons but it's either been waaaaay to hot or sprinkling (now) so i've not had a chance. I'm itching to do it though!

With all the rain up north we are not sure of our travel plans. We'll wait and see until late March but instead of crossing through the the NT gulf we might need to drop down to Cloncurry and head in that way. Which would be a shame cos it would mean missing Lorella Springs. Got an email from them last night and we could have worked there for the tourist season too but we have already made arrangements with Litchfield so.... next year maybe!!