Varsity Bar

Varsity Bar, which has taken the place of Basement on Broadway, which took the place of KK’s before that, is a student bar located just beyond the reaches of the UWA campus and in its current incarnation is an American themed bar with all sorts of unhealthy delights to fill your tummies at entirely reasonable prices.  My housemates and I fronted up there a few weeks ago to top off a weekend of drinking and debauchery with one last final blowout.

Walking in, you are presented with TV screens in every which direction playing every sort of sport.  Football, cricket, hockey, you name it – if its happening somewhere in the world, it’s probably on here. American number plates line the bar in all their colourful, tacky glory, sitting in a place of pride above a american flag styled bunting. There is red, white and blue everywhere, which I know is the colour of our flag and many others, but just feels so damn American!

It happened to be Pabst blue ribbon Sunday, which meant tall cans of American beer came in at a respectable $5 – the light, tasty beverage was perfect for washing down all the heavy food we were about to consume. There is a variety of specials throughout the week to cater to the needs of your inner student, including $5 burger night which I have an inkling I might be returning for!

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We started off in the only place that was appropriate – with a healthy dose of chicken wings ($12). They came with some celery sticks, which was possibly some sort of attempt to make you feel like this starter wasn’t entirely unhealthy? I don’t like celery so I can’t tell you whether it accompanied the wings well, but I can tell you that the blue cheese sauce (optional, $2) certainly did!  The sauce on the wings was part sweet chilli, part tomato, part tabasco and all around delicious.  With crispy batter and plenty of meat on these bones, we chowed down on these.  It was a good thing we were all pretty comfortable with each other though, as this was definitely not first date food – I think I went through about 10 napkins in the process of eating these! I should mention that there is an option on the menu for ‘death wings’ with super hot sauce – we didn’t go there though as I have been advised to proceed with extreme caution in doing so!

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Next up was the dish I was most excited about – that traditional Harlem soul food dish, fried chicken and waffles ($26).  Fried chicken at breakfast has had somewhat of a revolution in Perth (think: Mary Street Bakery and the Merrywell), but I remember visiting some not so desirable neighbourhoods in L.A. many years ago and experiencing chicken and waffles and endless filter coffee for under $10.  Eaten here or there, it is a satisfying comfort food, and in this particular dish the tantalising combination of sweet and sour was really bought out by the suitably spiced chicken seasoned with some sweet chilli sauce, and the ample maple syrup drizzled over this decadent dish. The batter was crispy and had a satisfying crunch as you bit in, giving way to perfectly cooked moist chicken and the waffles were light and fluffy, with refreshing lemon and thyme flavours.  If you think it sounds odd, I challenge you to go and try it – I would be surprised if you didn’t enjoy it!

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Next was a monster of a burger, a double bacon deluxe ($19), and although I only had a bite it was quickly destroyed by Ollie.  No room for fancy brioche here, this was served on a traditional bun with some perfectly melted cheese, the crispiest of bacon, 2 generous sized meat patties and a token piece of lettuce.  Accompanied by crunchy beer battered chips that were in no way friendly to the arteries, this is a burger that demanded to be taken pretty damn seriously.

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And then we get to the serious stuff. Mac and Cheese. Carbohydrates and protein.  There are some pretty amazing combinations of flavours in this world, but when it comes to comfort food, the food that you want to eat when you have had a really awful day and just want feel better, this one takes the cake (although if there is cake, I’ll have that too!).  This incarnation ($16) was a good one, although it was listed on the menu as being with truffle oil and toasted brioche crumbs, the first of which I couldn’t taste and the second of which I definitely did not spot.  Despite this, the swiss cheese shone through to make this dish a winner, and the honey cornbread was out-of-this-world amazing! Seriously, even though I was almost bursting to the seams by the time I finished my waffles I ate so much of this!

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And just as I talk about bursting at the seams, there is yet more food – ribs, ribs and more ribs.  Kansas style pork ribs to be precise ($30), with char grilled corn, durty slaw and the aforementioned artery clogging beer battered fries.  I had one of the corn cobs – a charitable act to assist a full housemate – and it had that satisfying pop that fresh corn does, where you risk spraying juice all over the people sitting around you.  There was a decent amount of meat on those bones, and it was slathered with a delicious smoky barbeque sauce.

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Despite the uncomfortable feeling growing in our tummies, we reminded ourselves of our second dessert tummies, and soldiered on to share a little bit of the sweet stuff between the four of us.  Despite wanting  the s’mores, I lost out, but losing was still a pretty sweet deal , as it resulted in a chocolate brownie with peanut butter caramel ($12) and key lime pie with toasted coconut, candied lime and whipped cream ($10). Both were awesome dishes, although being the chocolate freak I was the rich warm brownie with the creamy vanilla ice-cream melting on top was a definitely winner.  The key lime pie was a bit too creamy – it could have been improved a little if the filling had been a little bit tarter.  Having said that, the candied lime on top had a great citrus-y punch and gave the dessert most of what it needed.

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Ollie and I shared a Rekorderlig for dessert, and although I am not usually a fan of this super sweet cider, the strawberry lime flavour has a nice tang to it and was a great accompaniment to the brownie, and a nice way to finish off the night.

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With its food guaranteed to satisfy your tastebuds and shock your arteries, ping pong tables and sport on TV in every direction you look, Varsity Bar is the place to be if you want a seriously filling meal at a student friendly price.

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