It’s been 7 years since I reneged on a promise to my teenage self that I’d never live anywhere other than the inner city and moved to Geelong. Eventually living close to the coast, the lack of traffic and my cute little cottage that I could actually afford to buy made me realise that I’d made the right decision. But in all of the time that I’ve lived here I’ve never taken part in a quintessential Geelong experience; a night at the Rheingold. Tell someone in Geelong that you are going down those concrete stairs and their eyes cloud over and they being to chant, zigga zagga, zigga zagga oi oi oi. All will be explained.
It did not seem to be a good idea to descend into the basement of a 140 year old building which houses The Rheingold Cellar Restaurant on a humid Friday night but fans kept the air moving and it wasn’t as unpleasant as I feared it would be. The room appeared to be decorated with left over point of sale posters from a 1980’s German supermarket along with random souvenir pieces from the same era. The fake wood panelling is the same as in my parent’s lounge room and I know Dad got that for free. There are a few more private side rooms off the main room, which have the original bluestone walls, but this just brings to mind a German horror movie.
First things first we headed to the bar, paid up the $30 for the unlimited drinks deal which included tap beer, wine and sparkling and got our hands stamped. That red stamp would serve as a sorry reminder on Saturday morning.
Starter was a trio of soups served on the tables in soup terrines and ladled into bowls by the customers. The soups, beef and cabbage, vegetable and sausage and creamy vegetable all taste heavy with Vegeta, but Vegeta is a magic condiment that makes everything taste delicious. I made a conscious effort to stop myself and saved room for the coming feast.
The owner of the Rhiengold is Eric and he is somewhat of a legend in Geelong, mainly for what comes next. A few members of the crowd are chosen to carry the pigs, an illustrious and highly skilled duty. Eric announces the number of the pig as it is paraded with gusto by the chosen ones. Our pigs were around the 4980th pigs roasted in this institution. The pigs were wearing German hats and sunglasses, adorned with sparklers and had teddy bears dressed in the Australian Flag riding on their roasted crackle back. The lights were dimmed and the pigs were somehow manoeuvred through the tightly packed tables while the crowd chanted “Zigga Zagga Zigga Zagga Oi Oi Oi” with abandon. Thankfully the very generous all you can drink deal had well and truly kicked in by this stage of the night and the worship of the pigs seemed to make perfect sense.
While food produced in large quantities for buffets is often nothing to get excited about the food at the Reingold was surprisingly good. A request for more roasted pork was met with excitement from Eric the owner and my husband found his plate piled high with meat and enough cracking to induce a heart attack. One tip for first timers, go for the red sauerkraut. It’s much spicer and more flavoursome than the white cabbage variety.
The night degenerated into a show of macho bravado with arm wrestling competitions breaking out after dessert. And there was plenty of dancing to kitsch covers played on an electric keyboard. I can’t believe that I waited 7 years for a night at the Rheingold.