The spiciest cocktail menu in town is trapped inside a lovely old pub
There's a small room between the side dining section and the beer garden of the Crown and Sceptre that is plastered, floor to ceiling, in band posters. J Mascis, Machine Translations and many others are collected here, each proudly displaying the C&S name; in the mid-to-late 1990s, this was the heart of Adelaide's small, but active, music community. It's good to see that the Sceptre is happily displaying its heritage, even as it has undergone considerable change over the last decade.
The band room itself has been completely renovated. It now has a real stage - it’s huge - with crazy-big speakers and a permanent desk for mixers and DJs. Along the side of this room are booths and couches, some of the most comfortable in town, with tall windows overlooking the beer garden. The garden is small but lovely; there are also tables out the front for the smokers among us. The front bar is the least changed from the Sceptre of long ago: it retains the pool table and the chalkboards across the walls, and keeps the beautiful wooden furniture that houses the glass fridges behind the bar.
The tone of the Sceptre has gone from obscure and unwashed to a lighter, more affluent touch. The Sceptre now acts as the home to Adelaide's funk community, with bands and DJs. It has a great selection of local and imported beers on tap, including both McLaren Vale Ale and McLaren Vale IPA, two of the absolute best beers to come out of South Australia. The wine list is very sturdy. And the Crown and Sceptre boasts the largest cocktail menu in the city.
This largesse is both a blessing and a curse - fridges have to be stacked with a wide array of ingredients (chopped mandarin, for example) and staff are beholden to the cheat sheets, for no person's memory could possibly keep all these recipes in place. The drinks are carefully prepared. The Mai Tai, which the menu claims is the best way to tell the quality of the bar, is subtle and enduring. The Mandarin and Chilli Collins, for a less traditional option, is sweet and delicious.
Stacked right in the middle of Adelaide's various courts and legal chambers, the Crown and Sceptre now often hosts besuited young things, taking advantage of cocktail variety and the really strong bistro menu. It's still a great Adelaide venue that never rests on its laurels.