Underground CBD pub - food was 43 points below average.Our rating:
One of my close colleagues has recently decided to move on to greener pastures and for her last day at work she booked a leaving lunch at 43 Below on the corner of Hay and Barrack Street in The CBD. I'd been there once before but didn't realise it until I was at the bottom of the stairs and it was at that point that I remembered why I hadn't remembered it. With the name like 43 Below, you'd expect something exotic, or at least a bit different, unfortunately it's not, it's a fairly average pub located one story below street level.
Just about everything in the pub looks quite aged, which can work quite well in some cases but in this case it didn't. Being one floor below street level means there is very little natural light which doesn't do much to help the ageing look of the place.
Things didn't start off well at all, I went to the bar and ordered a bundy and coke (I didn't quite feel like a beer and somehow this has now become my default non-beer beverage). I was given a pint of coke and once I'd had a sip I told the bartender that I ordered a bundy not a pint of coke. Not only did she give me the stink eye, she replied "No, you ordered a pint of coke", like the possibility of her stuffing up an order was unfathomable. After a moment of awkward silence she finally said if I drank some of the coke she'd put some bundy in it. Brilliant I thought, she realised that she stuffed up my drink order and was willing to rectify it. Unfortunately I was wrong, as I walked away with my over diluted drink, I was called back and told that I needed to pay for the 'extra' bundy. So I ended up paying $14 for a pint of coke and a shot of arguably one of the bar's cheapest (and dirtiest) rums.
The sheer incompetence of the lady behind the bar did not set a good tone for the rest of the afternoon. The 15 of us sat down for lunch in a room near the back of the bar. As we had preordered the food, it came out pretty fast. I decided to go for a healthy option and ordered the chicken salad. This choice turned out to be the worst I'd made all week, four tiny pieces of chicken sat atop one of the most uninspiring looking salads I've ever seen. There were so many things wrong with this meal I don't know where to start; the small amount of chicken was way overcooked, the 'char-grilled' veggies (3 bits of zucchini and a chunk of eggplant) were cold and basically raw, with a few token char marks to give you a false sense of hope. Possibly the worst part was the massive slab of barely-cooked eggplant that was dry on the outside and tougher to chew than an old pair of boots. The rest of the table were a bit wiser and ordered standard pub meals, parmies, steak sangas etc but even they were decent at best.
We stayed for a few more beers to round out the afternoon and once the miserable bartender had vacated, getting another round of drinks became a lot more pleasant. Despite the bundy fiasco and the food I wouldn't serve to my worst enemy, I still think 43 Below is an ok place for a drink in the city, pints of Carlton draught were $7.50 which is quite a bargain these days and they had a good selection of beers on tap. Food is also reasonably priced but for good reason. I probably won't be back in any hurry, unless I get an unexplainable craving for raw veggies.