Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tour of the Empire Comes to a Close

The South Alabama British Car Club's world tour came to an end Saturday with the final stop taking place in the UK.

For the last three years, the club has enjoyed a series of dinner events with the theme being the Tour of Empire where we "visit" the various nations of the former British Empire by dining at local restaurants serving the cuisine of those countries. To date, we've had our passports stamped in Hong Kong, India, Jamaica and Australia. The tour has introduced SABCC'ers to flavors many of them have never tried with occasionally mixed results. 

Not so this last stop. 

The club was warmly welcomed by the Shamrock, Rose & Thistle, a British-themed gastro pub  tucked away in a leafy spot off Old Shell Road in toney Springhill. Proprietor Bill McGinnis pulled out all the stops to make sure that the club members had a perfect experience and it began with a special parking arrangement that had us placed inside the fenced cottage garden under the abundant shade of mature oak trees. 

It was easy to find the spot on busy Old Shell Road as Bill had engaged the red double deck London bus operated by the OK Bicycle Shop (a downtown watering hole) that also appears at British Car Festival. The restaurant is set back far enough from the road that a few us required a little extra waving and pointing to find it. The early arrivals enjoyed the garden from under the shade of umbrella-covered tables and spent time answering questions from the staff and diners. 

We arranged the cars so that a mini version of British Car Festival was on display in the garden and we had an abundance of Jaguars (three E-Types and an XJS!) and MGBs. Cecil and Nancy Pugh wafted in their Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, much to the delight of the onlookers. In all, thirteen classic British cars were present delivering 25 hungry diners.         

We were led to the pub room where we were seated in the memorabilia-laden, cypress-walled area of the old house that is the restaurant. Our drink orders were immediately seen to with yours truly breaking his diet to enjoy a Murphy's Stout. Several members ordered tea from the extensive list.

The menu carried a number of British pub favorites including curry, bangers and mash, fish and chips and cottage pie. In a nod to the various tastes, the Shamrock Rose & Thistle's menu also includes hamburgers, quiches and other delights. The missus ordered the cottage pie and pronounced it "excellent."  

We did what we do best - enjoyed the company of our friends and fellow British car enthusiasts while we sampled the excellent cuisine on offer. The servers were attentive and knowledgeable and we didn't want for a thing during our visit. A number of SABCC'ers remarked that they didn't know of the restaurant before the event, but that they would put it on their list to return often. 

After lunch, the group wandered back to the garden to chat about work done (or needing to be done) on their cars and compare notes. Some of the gang found the quiet shaded area so delightful that they spent time under the trees catching up on news about each other.

Before the day was over it was announced that British Car Festival had another supporting sponsor; Shamrock Rose & Thistle signed on to sponsor the day! 

South Alabama British Car Club sincerely thanks Bill and everyone at Shamrock Rose & Thistle for their fantastic hospitality on the day. We had a lovely time and look forward to coming back  soon.

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