My Melbourne Birthday

Suckling Pig from Cutler & Co

So last year I passed a small milestone. I turned 30. Not one to generally pay attention to the whole passing of time thing, I figured I was mostly immune from any sort of anxiety or insecurity at having reached a new notch on the belt of life. I leave that kind of thing to women with ticking biological clocks and guys hoping to be millionaires by the time they’re 40 who’ve realised they have bugger all chance of that ever happening. So with neither a hormonal imbalance I’m aware of, nor a particular desire to achieve anything, I thought I was in the clear.

That was of course, until I awoke on the morning of my birthday, looked into the streaky mirror of my windowless room in Melbourne’s crappiest hotel and noticed a crease right between my eyes that I swear was not there the day before.

With the panic of my diminishing youthful beauty starting to kick in, I managed to remind myself that perhaps the lead up I’d had to that morning was not the most skin rejuvenating way to approach such a milestone. But then I figured if it was going to happen, it was going to happen in style. So after finishing the bag of salt and vinegar chips, that had seemed like such a good idea the night before, I dragged myself out of bed and lurched into my future…

As a way of making it possible for me to even contemplate writing this up, and to keep the casual reader entertained whilst reading what can only be described as one man’s quest to develop gout as quickly as possible, I’ll try and concisely recount the events of the week I spent in Melbourne for my birthday.

This is going to be a work in progress post, so I’ll go back and update details for each place I’ve mentioned when I get a chance, and when prompted by the hordes of Melbournites looking for details on each one :) For now i’ve just included the names of each restaurant / cafe I went to and the photos I took at the time.

So it goes a little something like this…

Fly in Monday 14th of September at some ridiculous hour. Head to Hotel Enterprize (yes, it’s spelled with a Z) on Spencer St, henceforth known as The Crappiest Hotel in Melbourne (TCHIM). Drop my bags into a windowless box of a room next to an air vent, and head out looking for coffee. Along with me were Ben and Jen, long time sufferers of my gourmet wankery and fellow birthday road trippers (BRT’s), as Jen’s birthday is around the same time.

So I had a relatively forgettable flat white at The Dancing Goat (looked nice, but pulled too long and had a funk to it), then met up with the Frenchies for extremely good value pizza at +39. I loved the menu and even the excessive number of business people didn’t dampen the bustling vibe. Everything looked and tasted great, particularly liked the calabrese and pumpkin varieties. Let just say $12 pizzas look a lot different where I come from.

+39

Brother Baba Budan

Then it was over to Brother Baba Budan for coffee. If you haven’t heard of this place then I’m not sure where you’ve been. BBB was the second cafe opened by the godfather of the Melbourne speciality coffee scene, Mark Dundon. It’s tiny, ridiculously cramped, and consistently has a line out the door. I tried a Kenyan Wamugump through the Clover and recall it tasting delicate and fruity.

Caboose

A little more wandering around and with a lingering thirst, I stopped by Caboose on Swanston St for a glass of wine, although apparently I was in entirely the wrong place and should totally have gone to La Vita Buona (according to That Jess Ho), which is way better. Regardless the petit chablis and rose du provence went down nicely and imbued my adventuring spirit. The fit out is done like an old timey train carriage, which more or less works. Though sitting outside and swatting a billion little flies away from my wine glass meant most of it was lost on me.

wine at Caboose

The Grace Darling

And so to my first meetup with some of the Melbourne Food blogging Mafia (Ed, Jess, Claire). I’d done some pre-arranging and Jess decided that The Grace Darling in Collingwood might be a decent spot to catch up with a few people for a casual drink and something to eat. With the Frenchies and BRT’s in tow we navigated the trams and made it there early. The Grace Darling apparently used to be quite a dive until it was done up recently, and I quite liked it for the most part. My pork chop with apple and fennel salad was tasty and stealing Ed’s chips from his deconstructed parmiagana was entertaining. Like poking a bear with a stick. After a bottle or two of the Wolseley Pinot Noir and a whole bunch of lame food talk, we did what any self respecting food bloggers should, and went for more drinks.

The Black Pearl

This would become a faithful friend during the short week I was in Melbourne, and the end point to a number of big nights. The bar tender Chris Hysted has a huge reputation in Melbourne, and the greater Fitzroy area as a cocktail master, as his recent awards would attest, though apparently noone elses agrees with me that he looks like Johnny Depp. Ed seems to favour a drink called the “fog cutter”, which to me tasted like pure alcohol poured into a tiki mug. Fortunately there were plenty of other things to my liking, and requests for virtually any drink were met with keen interest and a historical breakdown of all methodologies for making it.
The other great thing about the Black Pearl is that it’s open late virtually every night of the week. Meaning you get a bunch of hospitality crew hanging out there after work, and would explain why we ran into Teague Ezard (Not the last name I’ll drop) and some of his staff from Gingerboy there. Awesome place.

HuTong Dumpling Bar

It’s the next day now. We’ve woken a tad later than expected and it’s close to midday, and I have dumplings on my mind. There are two schools of thought on the internet as to where to go for dumplings. One is cheap and cheerful Camy, the other is better quality HuTong Dumpling Bar. So HuTong gets the vote and off we go, this time with a couple of extra people in tow who’s taste in “ethnic” food could be described as rudimentary (but should actually be called nonexistent). Arriving outside we find the place is full, and it’ll be a little wait to get in. I peer eagerly inside to the small windowed kitchen with chefs rolling thin dumpling skins and deftly twisting the tops to well formed peaks.

The meal however, does not impress. I’m not sure if it’s that fact that our dining companions ordered sweet and sour pork right off the bat (seriously, why is that even on the menu??) or that they just didn’t like my face (it’s happened before), but the service was rude beyond recognition. Food got dumped unceremoniously on the table, with long gaps in between each, and no explanation of when the next was coming.

The dumplings themselves were good, the soup inside rich and warming, but the skin on the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) tore nearly every time i picked one up, regardless of how delicate I was. I’d probably go back again If i were there and reassess because I love dumplings. But a place that looks as fancy as HuTong, with suited waiters and fancy cutlery, should not be giving back yard dodgy dim sum house service.

Seven Seeds

Attica

Charcoal Lane

Gertrude St Enoteca & Bahn Mi on Smith St

Cutler & Co

Cumulus Inc

St Ali Outpost

Rockpool Bar & Grill

St Ali

Von Haus

Gingerboy

Seamstress & Siglo

Mr Tulk & Dali Exhibition

High Vibes @ Northcote & Supper Inn

Movida

Bar Lourinha

September : The Month that Was

Everlastings

So I am still alive. And in lieu of writing one of those smarmy posts about how busy I’ve been and how I should be posting more but am too tired/lazy/incontinent and how I’ve also been recovering from surgery, mourning my cat that just died, and trying to fix my broken computer… I thought I’d just go back and revisit the month that was September, and a few of the more meaningful events that happened. As always, in pictoral form… because we all know that a pictures worth a thousand words (unless of course you’re an editor, then they’re worth bugger all).

Corrigin Wildflowers

It was back to the country to help my parents out at the 2007 Corrigin Agricultural Society Show. The bouncy castle was getting a severe workout, the arts and crafts and tractor rides were in fine form, and in a little tent on the corner of the football oval, we had a mobile cafe set up churning out countless coffee’s and delectable treats to locals and visiting dignitary’s (Nicky Windmar and (Federal MP and all round hard head) Wilson Tuckey).

After the hectic pace of the show, we took a little time to relax and enjoy the peaceful nothingness that is the wheatbelt in the springtime. A short trip out of town to the dog cemetary for some sombre reflection, before checking out the wildflower drive, which had Sharon nearly hyperventilating in a state of flower induced frenzy.

Birthday Partays

Then it was back to big smoke for party shenanigans. Sharon and I have birthdays which are two days apart. So a semi tradition is forming whereby we group all of our friends into one big basket, and force them to pretend to get along while I drunkenly mingle my way around everyone. This seems to work out pretty well most years, and this year was no different. A great turn out of friends new and old came down to Must Wine Bar (the only wine bar in Perth I would consistently rate) and had a great night of food and drinks and laughs and the occasional puff on a Davidoff cigarillo.

Pre-drinks eating was done at the one and only Suraj, the simplest and best Indian I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a long time (If you haven’t been there before, go soon, he’ll be closing down soon), before moving a few doors down to Must for Yering Station Pinot (thanks Manda), Pandalowie Tempranillo (cheers Christretto), Armagnac (what were you thinking Ben ??), and who knows what else…

Thanks to all the lovely people who came out and made it a great night for both Sharon and I. Boo’s and Hisses to anyone who bailed :)

In other news I may have had another coffee article in the Spring edition of the excellent Spice Magazine (which was in fact excellent before I started writing for it, and I’m not just saying that now because I am, although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt). It’s about the transition from instant coffee drinker, to espresso aficionado. If that kind of thing sounds interesting, please go and pick up a copy, or even better, buy a subscription !

Oh, and I also joined a gym… food blogging is not without it’s pit falls.