Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise
In different cities I passed by various incarnations of Hard Rock Cafe but never had an opportunity to visit one of them. I ended that streak of misfortune through sheer willpower (and lack of other plans) in Gold Coast where we visited the local version of that cafe chain. The place was strategically located on the corner of two main pedestrian thoroughfares: Cavill Avenue and Surfers Paradise Boulevard. During our stay in Gold Coast we passed it several times, with the amplitude of our oscillations steadily decreasing, until eventually we got sucked into it.
The cafe occupied two levels, with the reception and the gift shop on the ground floor, and all the interesting activity – eating, drinking and singing – one level higher. The evening was warm so we occupied a table on the open balcony which overlooked the teeming Cavill Avenue, and started that mandatory newcomer’s routine – studying the menu. I always envied people who would come to a drinking hole, snap their fingers and say “Hey, Fred, my usual stuff, please!” No uncomfortable soul-searching and torturous decision-making. Simple. On the other hand, I am not sure that I’d like to have “usual stuff” that I could drink any day of the week. As they say, variety is the spice of life, so I put on an imaginary pince-nez, made a smart face and opened a new page in my cocktail experience.
I was looking for a potion with some dark spirit in it (sounds sinister, eh?) and the only one I could find was – guess what – another Old Fashioned. Olga also didn’t try anything fancy and opted for the nearest approximation of her favourite Strawberry Daiquiri, known locally as Berrylicious. I went to the bar and for some time tried to attract attention of a bartender who could deliver the drinks of our choice. Despite my steady gaze and determined look I wasn’t able to make eye contact with any IBA member, to say nothing about actually placing the order, until a passing staffer asked me if I was being served. I guess it was a rhetorical question, as by that time desperation (and thirst) was written all over my face. But I wasn’t the one to miss an opportunity when it knocked on my door, so not only I acknowledged being sorely neglected but also rapidly blurted out the gist of my solicitation. The guy muttered something, turned his back on me and departed.
I wasn’t sure if what just had happened constituted placement of the order, so I continued my efforts to engage in a meaningful conversation with bartenders. At that time I was distracted by a guitar-toting youth who asked me how he could find anyone who could help him with the sound equipment. I replied that it was my first time at that place, that I spent there only 5 minutes and was the least qualified person to answer his question. The guy looked at me incredulously and wondered if I seriously wasn’t aware of the open mike night that was about to happen. All I could do was repeat that it was my first time at the place, I spent there only 5 minutes and 10 seconds during which he was the first person to enlighten me as to the impending cultural event. My interlocutor gave me a funny look, turned his back on me and departed. I thought I started seeing a trend…
I was sure that the strange encounter completely ruined my cocktail-ordering campaign, but then one of the bartenders finally looked at me and asked if I was still waiting to order. I quickly started enumerating the drinks on my wish list only to be interrupted by another guy who brought a tray with my cocktails! It appeared that the first person who talked to me about the order actually took it and it was being prepared while I was admitting my complete incompetence in hard rock matters to the aspiring shredder. Mightily pleased (this under-promise/over-deliver trick works every time even if you know it), I grabbed the drinks and returned to the balcony.
My Old Fashioned cocktail had a North-American twist – maple syrup instead of the usual sugar cube – and bacon as a garnish. Yes, there was a big, well-fried strip of bacon dipped into the liquid. That was the first time I saw bacon used as a drink decoration, but, come to think of it, it was just natural. If champagne comes with a strawberry because it matches its taste, why wouldn’t bourbon come with something that goes well with it? The bartender who invented Maple Old-Fashioned truly understood man’s simple needs.
I found the cocktail too sweet to my taste, but that wouldn’t be hard to fix if I ordered another one. Because cocktails are made to order, I could tell the barman to go easy on the Canadian stuff and adjust the sugar content to the satisfactory level. Besides, the savoury bacon acted as an outrigger which balanced the drink’s dessert quality.
Olga’s Berrylicious cocktail lived up to its name 110%. A big hurricane glass was filled with bright red mass which was protruding above the edges. I didn’t dare to try it but according to the witness’s testimony the cocktail had more intense strawberry taste than strawberry itself. She had an opportunity to compare as the unprocessed fruit was attached to the edge as a garnish.
When I was a kid, I could eat any number of apples and could never have enough of them, until I visited an orchard. I guess, everyone has this kind of experience – discovering that there can be too much of a good thing. For most kids it is ice-cream, for adults – alcohol, for Olga it was strawberry. For half an hour she heroically worked her way through the depths of the cocktail vessel until complete exhaustion of both the glass’s content and her taste-buds. In the next few days she avoided eating strawberries and winced every time I mentioned them. I guess Berrylicious can be used as a litmus test which shows if a person likes strawberries, or fanatically, unconditionally and wholeheartedly loves them.
Interestingly, Olga got a prize for her trouble. Anyone who ordered Berrylicious was entitled to receive a free hurricane glass with Hard Rock Cafe emblem. They say that one picture is worth a hundred words, but I won’t publish its photo as I have a prejudice against empty glasses (probably an early stage of cenosillicaphobia). I’ll make a picture when I find an appropriate cocktail recipe, probably something with strawberries, huh?