Taste of Ireland down under
PINT glasses of Guinness chinked in a welcome toast as we squeezed around the beer-barrel table in the public bar.
To our right, a jovial group of regulars with mostly Irish accents had gathered for their Saturday night ritual – their voices growing louder in competition with the U2 song playing through the pub PA.
When they saw two familiar faces with us, handshakes and introductions flowed as quickly as the beer being pulled by the busy barmaid above the solid timber counter.
Although our entire group was of Scottish descent, we were invited into the Irish shenanigans like long-lost relatives.
We could have been anywhere in Ireland, but instead we were in suburban Melbourne.
It's an odds-on bet that The Quiet Man Irish Pub in Flemington is anything but quiet most nights.
Maybe that's because the pub has 12 local and international beers on tap, plus an extensive wine list.
But mostly it's because of the humble but homely surrounds and genuinely friendly ambience.
While visitors come from all around Australia and overseas to have a drink here, The Quiet Man is simply the “local” for the diverse mix of residents who live in or near Racecourse Road, only a short canter from the home of the Melbourne Cup.
The pub is their social hub. Their club. A place to unwind after a long day and where staff and customers are on a first-name basis.
A place that sponsors gaelic football and its own social golf society and cricket team, and where you wouldn't miss buying tickets in the weekly raffle.
A place where celebrations such as Christmas and St Patrick's Day are shared among friends.
They say The Quiet Man is a little slice of Ireland transported to Australia, and that's true quite literally.
The pub was designed and built in Dublin and shipped out in pieces, to be rebuilt on site – opening its doors in 1998.
But there's much more to this authentic Irish pub than just four walls and a few curios.
Head chef Michael Lynch, for example, hails from County Limerick and served his apprenticeship in Dromoland Castle Hotel in Country Clare, Ireland.
Plenty of traditional Irish foods are among the menu offerings including stew, fish, poultry, steak, vegetarian and seafood.
After a hearty meal of Buncranna's Bangers And Mash (Irish pork sausages nestled on a bed of creamy mashed potato topped with a rasher of bacon and a rich tomato and onion gravy, $17.90) and An Steak Beag (200g of certified Angus Porterhouse steak cooked to your liking, served with chunky chips, chef's salad and choice of sauce, $18.90), we were lured willingly back to the public bar by the rollicking tunes from an Irish two-piece band.
Our little holiday in Ireland only cost us the return cab fare from the Melbourne CBD. That's enough to make anyone do a little Irish jig.