As someone who’s suckled schnitzels from childhood I was tempted to visit Tommy’s Beer Café ever since it opened several months back. Located on Glebe Point Road (down the Broadway end near the primary school), this looks like your typical schnitzel joint – wooden tables, benches and plenty of stein glasses. However, there is a difference – instead of being German, this has more of a Czech and Slovakian influence, as shown by the beer and spirit selection.
The reason I didn’t go until now is that it looks too bright and social for me – I prefer dark bars where I can loiter in corners or on bar stools (where I belong), whereas this is more of a restaurant where you’d want to be with company. However, when my svelte lady friend, her skinhead brother and their entourage popped into town and asked me to join them, I forced myself to leave my beloved cat and venture into the world. The promise of schnitzel helped.
Tommy’s has a range of Czech, German and Belgian beers, as well as the Golden Pheasant from the Slovak Republic, but their main one seems to be the Czech Bernard Lager and Bernard Dark (which isn’t a world away from Guinness in terms of colour and taste).
I, however, like the Czech Cut ($7.90 for half a litre) the most. This is a blend of dark Bernard and the normal Bernard Lager that results in an easy to drink beer with nutty malt flavours. It also reminds of the the Black and Tan beers I used to drink in the US.
We order pretzels (which I’m glad to say are soft, freshly made and not overly salted), pork crackling (which I’m not impressed with – I think they have little taste and have the consistency of rock candy, although the skinhead loves them) and I resist the schnitzel’s lure so I can order the goulash soup instead ($12), which is spicy and hits the spot nicely.
Tommy’s also has a surprisingly good absinthe selection, so at the svelte lady friend’s request we order the Lemercier ($15.50), a high quality French absinthe (although the menu incorrectly says it’s Swiss) that’s served with the traditional ice water fountain.
They also serve Becherovka ($6.50), a light brown herbal Czech spirit that combines anise, clove and cinnamon flavours. It’s unusual and I like its sweet bitterness – although I’m not sure I’d order it again in a hurry. I can, however, imagine using it in cocktails.
The service could be better – I need to ask for water three times before it arrives, and in our second round of ordering beers mine doesn’t come until five to ten minutes after everyone else’s does. But they were helpful when I asked about their spirit selection and I also like the ambiance here, with jazz folk playing so quietly that it doesn’t overwhelm conversations.
In short, I might just come back here the next time I feel social. Or like a schnitzel.