New American sports bar, Hale + Mary, has been open for a few weeks replacing what used to be San Lucia Trattoria in Kingston. It’s been very popular since opening with massive HD TV screens streaming all sorts of sports games – grand prix, footy, rugby, basketball and more. There are seats along the bar, stools along a counter looking out into the street as well as a mix of tables inside and outside. I’ve found that the tables book out very quickly.
The menu offers typical pub food with a slight American twist with items such as Kansas chicken wings, South Beach fish tacos, and Memphis style smokey BBQ ribs. For the mains, there are six different burgers to choose from, three steaks, vegetarian options and a dessert menu. There are also eight beers on tap.
A group of us headed there one Friday night (the boys to check out a game and me to check out the food). Most tables were already reserved but we found one in the corner that had no cutlery or reserve sign. Score. However, we were later told by staff that the table was actually reserved and that the cutlery hadn’t been placed onto the table yet. As it was only 5pm, we asked if we could sit at a table that wasn’t reserved until 8pm, but this wasn’t allowed. Luckily a group of people got up to leave and we quickly snatched their table.
Table service was provided and we were asked for our drinks order. I asked if they could do a mocktail and the waitress was certain the barman could make something up. I asked for a minty berry like mocktail while J ordered a beer. Out came a strawberry, lime and mint mocktail (I’m not sure of the price). I loved the chunky cuts of strawberry which I picked out and ate after I finished the drink. A satisfying minty and sweet drink.
We were asked a few times by staff whether we were ready to order food yet, but since we were still waiting for other people to arrive, we weren’t ready. A while later, I started us off with the popcorn chicken ($13) which came with a choice of three sauces. Our waitress mentioned the ranch sauce would be punchier so I chose that. I found the popcorn chicken too soft in that there was no crunchy aspect to the outside of the chicken. So to me, it wasn’t really ‘popcorn’ chicken as there were no breadcrumbs nor had it been fried. However the chicken itself was very soft and tender and I did love the mildly spicy coating. Sadly the ranch sauce was too mild and didn’t have any punch to it.
We also tried the Kansas wings ($14) which had been smoked and came with a choice of three sauces. The chicken wings had been cooked to perfection – juicy and tender. They were basic tasty BBQ chicken wings, however we couldn’t taste any smokiness.
For my main, I chose the Hale + Mary burger ($22) which came with a double beef pattie, bacon and tater tots, cheese, pickles, onion relish and aioli. All burgers came with a choice of bun – sourdough, charcoal or corn bread, and a side of chips. I chose the safer option of sourdough. I thought the patties had been overcooked and just didn’t have that juicy beef aspect. But I liked the addition of tater tots inside the burger. The chips weren’t crunchy or seasoned well, so I didn’t eat much of those. But I must admit I’m just picky with my chips – I like them crunchy outside and fluffy inside. The meal was very filling and I didn’t finish it all – a bit too much meat for me.
J and most of the others ordered the Memphis style smokey BBQ ribs ($34) with house slaw and tater tots. There were eight ribs provided which were smothered in a tangy BBQ sauce. The meat was tender with a generous serve of slaw. I kept picking at the tater tots on the side, wishing my burger had come with a side of tater tots rather than chips! The boys thought the ribs were okay.
Another friend ordered the vegetarian nachos ($14) with tomatoes, capscium, walnuts, onion, capers with cheese, sour cream, sweet chilli and corn chips with the addition of beef ($3). My friend mentioned the nachos had far too much onion, it was too sweet from the sweet chilli and that the corn chips weren’t actually corn chips, more of a sweet lavosh cracker so she didn’t enjoy the meal.
I wanted to check out Hale + Mary for breakfast secretly hoping there would be some American style pancakes on the menu. Sadly no pancakes. Apart from the banana bread French toast with bacon, I thought the other items on the menu were pretty standard breakfast items on most menus. I started off with one of the freshly squeezed juices, the Mint Vitamin C Hit ($7) with beetroot, orange, lemon and ginger. Hale + Mary also serves Ona coffee so I also ordered a soy mocha (not sure of price).
I decided to try the breakfast burrito ($17) filled with scrambled eggs, smoked maple bacon, chunks of chipolata, potato gems, chipotle aioli and BBQ sauce, The burrito was stuffed full with all of the fillings. There were plenty of chunks of bacon and chipolata. I love the idea of stuffing potato gems inside the burrito but there weren’t enough of them.
The burrito was surprisingly spicy giving a nice kick after each bite. My friends say this is great hangover food. A whole one of these is very filling and rich, and I didn’t end up finishing it all. I think the burrito lacked a freshness element – some salad on the plate to cut through the richness. Other than that, I did enjoy it.
Tables book out very quickly in the evenings and I’ve found the space to be quite small when it fills up on a Friday night. If you don’t have a table, you have to awkwardly stand in between the bar and the dining area which blocks the view of the TV screens for people at the table. The best seats in the house are the back table where you have a clear view of three TV screens or the two seats at the bar that have unobstructed views of the TV screens behind the bar (not in front of the taps).
There is table service which the boys were happy about but beers took about 15 minutes to arrive and they found it was faster to just order at the bar. We found there was a big push in ordering food if you have a table with multiple waitresses asking if we wanted to order food. In saying that, it only took about 15-20 minutes for our food to arrive. After making bookings for State of Origin and other games, the boys tell me there isn’t a system in place for booking specific tables yet. The breakfast service is much more relaxed as it’s far less crowded.
Hale + Mary has been open about a month and there are some service issues to work out as can be expected. The food wasn’t the American style food I was expecting so I was a little disappointed about that. A sports bar isn’t exactly my scene but it does have some pretty cool large HD TVs screening all sorts of games for you sports fans. Oh and there’s usually one non-sports channel which was what I was watching!
Hale + Mary is located at 15 Tench Street in Kingston (Green Square area). Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bookings can be made online (highly recommend especially during the evening).
No scoring as it’s still early days.
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