Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eating Melbourne

The best way to start the day in Melbourne is with a strong coffee in one of the atmospheric inner city lane way cafes.  This morning we had the added joy of being able to listen to a busker playing some ethereal pieces on his cello for the whole time we were drinking coffee and planning our day.
We met up with Rob's old friend David and his Vanessa for lunch at a little (very long and narrow) hole in the wall Thai restaurant on Victoria Road in Richmond. David ordered all his favourites for us: green papaya salad, steamed salmon green curry, whole snapper, Tom Yum, seafood fried rice...the most delicious fresh food.
We've caught up with David and Van twice this year, once in Canberra and this time in Melbourne. We're making up making for some lost time!
We walked up Victoria Road after, to catch one of the free city trams on La Trobe Street, and we both thought we would love to buy this neo-Classical style terrace as our Melbourne "pad"....but only if the current owners agree to leave that Rover Thomas painting above the fireplace.
We celebrated our last night in Melbourne tonight with another wonderful meal out with friends of Maxie and Rod's at Maha, Shane Delia's celebrated Middle East inspired restaurant, just around the corner from our hotel, in Bath Street.

We chose a four course set menu which included some amazing dishes like ketalfi oysters with sour onion hummus with pomegranate, duck and fig bastilla, beef short ribs, 2 hour roasted lamb shoulder and some desserts to die for. We  all loved the Turkish delight filled doughnuts with rosewater honey, but this halva parfait with yoghurt icecream and sesame tuille was very yummy too..... was this Pedro Ximenez cake, and olive oil icecream (again) with rosemary and candied fennel (and chocolate soil).

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Melbourne - day two

Our day started with breakfast at Madamimadam (Madam I'm Adam), in one of our favourite Melbourne lane ways off Collins Street, before heading up to the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square to see the "200 Years of Australian Fashion" exhibition. 

All of us enjoyed seeing this comprehensive collection of clothing from the earliest days of the colony right up to the present, including pieces from the most recent Melbourne Fashion week.

Our favourites were the exuberant fashions of the 80s - when a really distinctive Australian aesthetic started to be evident - especially in the fabulous creations of Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson et al.
.....and the wonderful designs of Akira Isogawa whose Japanese inspired aesthetic is a dominant theme in all the current collections. 

Afterwards, while we were still in the mood for fashion we took ourselves off to Cose Ipanema at the Paris end of Collins Street, on Jeremy's recommendation. A big thrill here was seeing an inspiring collection of Kate Durham's jewellery. We didn't buy anything at this high end store but rewarded ourselves all the same afterwards with a pot of Cloudy Wheat Beer from Young & Jackson (home of the iconic Chloe) on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street.

We met Fiona W. and Elizabeth for an early meal at Mamacita on Collins Street tonight. Mamacita is a small but very popular contemporary inner city Mexican restaurant - beautiful fresh flavoursome food but wildly crowded and noisy - even at 5.30pm in the evening. There was already a long queue waiting for tables as we left the restaurant around 7.00pm.

With the night still young we made our way up to the 34th floor of the quietly opulent Sofitel Hotel for a drink and a chat and a chance to admire the sumptuous surroundings.

This pic below of Fiona and Maxie was taken in the Ladies loos - with one of the best views you'll find in the CBD - overlooking Fitzroy Gardens out towards the Dandenong Ranges.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Perfect Melbourne

We enjoyed breakfast in the stimulating communal spaces at Studio Schaller - the carefully curated collections are displayed so invitingly - it would really be a fun space to spend hours in!!
 But we were on our way to Melbourne today!! 

After an easy drive down the highway and an even easier run into the city we were able to drop our cases off at the Rendezvous Hotel on Flinders Street and make our way South of the CBD to the Royal Botanic Gardens in time for lunch.

We wanted to try the food at Jardin Tan - the beautiful contemporary Vietnamese cafe adjacent to the Garden's Visitor Centre. We loved their fresh and delicately flavoured Pho and fragrant salads - although we missed out on the setting under the fig tree today!
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the National Gallery of Victoria - at the amazing Ai Wei Wei - Andy Warhol exhibition. There are over 300 pieces of art work of every size shape and media in this exhibition...enough to look at, think about and learn from for at least a week...but we took in as much as we could over two hours or so!

The curators had done a wonderful (and surprising) job of drawing the parallels and intersections between the work of these two iconic was a very thought provoking exhibition!
Ai Wei Wei has shocked a lot of us with what he has done with priceless Han dynasty and Neolithic era pottery (which is nothing compared to what happened in the Cultural Revolution).
 And this work was constructed from Lego!!

Andy Warhol has played around a lot with making art out of everyday materials and imagery (among other things) to surprise us too!
Flowers and seeds figure a lot in Ai We Wei's recent works - but used in very powerful contexts as a means of protest.  He used the bunch of fresh flowers image in his bike basket every day for two years or so (for the benefit of the surveillance cameras) as a protest against the loss of his passport to the Chinese authorities.

 and Andy Warhol worked with flowers too!

We stayed until the gallery closed this afternoon - still a long way short of seeing everything this amazing exhibition offers. But what an experience!

We returned to the Rendezvous - a very grand old Melbourne Hotel in the old style - but very well preserved and maintained now. We are very happy to be here!

Finding Marilyn

We're in the middle of a road trip - through Yass, Gundagai, Albury and Wodonga on Saturday - with a long, late lunch at the Bridge Road Brewers at Beechworth and then an overnight stay at sleepy Rutherglen, in the middle of one of Victoria's great wine producing areas.

We missed our chance to do breakfast at The Pickled sisters Cafe at Cofield Winery yesterday morning (they were closed for a private function) so made do at the very satisfactory Doc Yarrum Cafe in Corowa instead.

We paid our respects to the region through a visit to the nearby picturesque Pfeiffer Wines on Distillery Road in Wahgunyah. 

It felt too early in the day to taste their renowned Muscats and Topaques so we tried their dry crisp Riesling and a sparky Tempranillo. 
We loved the setting of Pfeiffer's, with its historic old cellars and acres of old vines set on the banks of beautiful Sunday Creek, a tributary of the Murray River. Rob was excited to see his first native platypus swimming just below the old timber bridge (but we missed it) and we all saw dozens of turtles and schools of oversize carp in the mirror smooth water.

We made it to Bendigo yesterday afternoon just in time to book into our funky Art Series Hotel - The Schaller Studio - and walk (briskly) to the Bendigo Art Gallery by 3.00pm - our pre-booked timed entry into the gallery's big ticket Marilyn Munroe exhibition (in collaboration with twentieth century Fox). 

The exhibition includes her iconic costumes, studio portraits, fabulous film material, personal items and letters. Fabulous, talented and beautiful Marilyn was evident in all her glory in the exhibition - but what remained an enigma was the tragic Norma Jean who created her. Marilyn's star shone brightly for barely a decade, but what a gorgeous (though fragile) creature she was!

We mused over all this at the historic old Rifle Brigade Hotel opposite the gallery on View Street as we downed some pots of locally brewed Southern Ocean Pale Ale.
We love our funky Schaller Studio hotel. There is original art work, superb design and stimulating spaces everywhere we look. It would be fun to spend a longer time here - and with some good eating and drinking places close by too.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lobster lunch *****

The Canberra Day long weekend means it is time for our much anticipated annual lobster lunch at the L. family's beach house at gorgeous Rosedale.

We've been doing this for many years now and love to follow the same customs each year. The first bottle of Majella is opened at midday and we all know the fun is about to begin. Jennie says it is like travelling to a different place on Earth (where the company, environment, food and wine are perfect, and we don't have to do any of the cooking or cleaning up).

Chefs Jane and Louise are a class act. If they were based in a city they'd be celebrity chefs by now. They cook with great passion and integrity and are absolutely dedicated to the quality local produce of the South Coast. They are pretty adamant that they want to slow down a bit and so will/may not be able to do our lobster lunch again. We're all aware we need to make the most of this lobster lunch experience this year.

Appetizers this year are: chicken liver pate with lilli pilli jelly, blue cheese tartlets and a fresh corn flavoured amuse bouche (it's a French theme this year).
There must be no better setting for eating fresh lobster anywhere in the world! Despite the trees growing so well over the past decade - you can still see (and hear) the waves breaking on to Rosedale Beach from this deck (as well as all the local bird life).
It's all the small details that count - the beautiful sour dough bread from Bermagui and the hand made cultured butter from Tilba Tilba cows (Australian River Cottage country)..........
 ......the Clyde River oysters (my favourite dressing was the lemon and cracked pepper granita  (thank you Judy for these pics of the oysters and lobster) .....
 ..and of course the magnificent South Coast lobsters (this year with a Pernod dressing!)
 ...and that tangy potato salad too with so many unexpected ingredients....
 and my favourite smoked eggplant and lentil salad - all served with some world
 beating Rieslings.....
It is our tradition to finish off our annual lobster feast with the current Jane & Louise version of  Bombe Alaska..........they are always magnificent......and must be so complex to make!
Jurgen has had the most recent big occasion birthday so he had the fun of cutting the Bombe...
before Jane and Louise did their wonderful magic with the flames, the brandy and the figs - YUM!
As the sun gets lower the local bird population starts to feast too: they're remarkably unafraid of our presence so close to their source of seeds.

After a wonderful long lunch those of us who have to, return to Canberra (the grapes are ripening fast on Bush's lane) while those of us able to stay try to walk off some of our feast around the spectacular rocky headlands and sandy bays of Rosedale Beach.

We are all determined to keep the essence of these lobster lunches alive in the future ...while realising we have all been so lucky to have had this connection with the brilliant Jane and Louise for all these years - long may they bring so much magic to the South Coast foodie scene!