Greenhouse Perth

Tasting plate @ Greenhouse

So if you’ve just finding out about Greenhouse for the first time via my website, you can consider yourself a little slow to the party.
Not that that’s a bad thing of course. I’ve always considered myself 80% tortoise and 20% hare. That you get there in the end is all the really matters, and any restaurant owner will tell you it’s the long term regulars that make the business worth being in, not us fly by nighters who swagger in on opening night, never to be seen again.

So Greenhouse is/was the most interesting place to hit Perth in quite a while. The concept first started in Melbourne as a temporary installation in Federation Square, constructed in 14 days primarily from recyclable materials. I could warble on about the idea of the place for a while, but I’d really only be restating what’s already been said, so here is something directly from the Greenhouse Perth website (which has lots of background info) about what they’re trying to achieve.

The Greenhouse is about designing and operating better places for people. Places that let us touch natural materials, understand where everyday things come from and taste fresh food straight from the garden

All the features of the Greenhouse are carefully considered first for their practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost. By putting each decision through this rigorous process, it is hoped that the Greenhouse can provide information and examples to builders, designers, restaurateurs and the public, regarding their daily choices of materials, ingredients, and practices.

*Jar SaladThe tasting plateEmilyGreenStrawberry fields forever**Menu @ Greenhouse Perth***Pour @ GreenhouseAndy Mac with the gun show99 bottles of booze on a string...Man loveMatt Stone plates up at GreenhouseEscabeche of Fremantle SardinesSkirt steak, green papaya saladSlow cooked lamb neck, chickpeasWood oven @ GreenhouseFrehs limes at GreenhouseMatt surveys the passMullet on flatbread with avocadoHouse baked breadWinelist @ GreenhouseInterior @ GreenhouseQuealy Pobblebonk

What this means practically is that the insulation is straw, the flooring in places is former milk crates, the tables and chairs are recycled timber, and smart little touches have been made around the place to make the construction simpler, and the overall sustainability of the place high.

Now all of that is nice and interesting, and I think a great approach to take to designing spaces that are environmentally efficient and use less resources. But no matter the concept, if the food is bad, I’ll be leaving it to the hippies to enjoy on their own.

Fortunately for Greenhouse, the food is not bad. In fact it’s very good. The kitchen is headed up by Matt Stone, former sous chef at Star Anise, and briefly at Pata Negra before irreconcilable differences meant he looked elsewhere. The boy knows how to cook. The food at Greenhouse is considered without being pretentious and the back to basics produce driven approach is a lovely natural way to eat that definitely fits the Greenhouse agenda.

Skirt steak, papaya & herb salad

On previous visits I’ve tried the “bits and pieces” board featured cheeses, meat balls, salami, salads, and pickled vegetables, as well as an outstanding skirt steak with green papaya salad, and slow cooked lamb necks. The food is not overworked, it’s simply but beautifully plated and tastes great. Bread is house made using Eden Valley Biodynamic flour from Dumbleyung in the Wheatbelt (who are also members and supporters of Slow Food Perth. I love the focus they have on seasonal ingredients and I think it’s the kind of food more people should be cooking.

Greenhouse Perth is split into two levels, with a restaurant and bar downstairs and a separate bar overlooking St Georges Tce upstairs, surrounded by a fairly extensive garden growing all manner of herbs and vegetables, and the whole place trapped inside walls of strawberry plants. According to Matt, not all the herbs they use come from the garden (simply due to the quantity needed and timing) but where possible as much produce as they can grow themselves is used in the food they serve.

Greenhouse is part owned and managed by Paul Aron. He’s had a background in cocktail making and the wine trade, and that shows when you take a look at the booze selection and the wine list. It’s extensive, interesting, and whilst it’s not parochially West Australian, all the best we have to offer are represented.

For me, Greenhouse is a little view into the future of restaurants and the way things could go. The compromise to comfort and style is minimal and the food, service, and atmosphere are great. I hope it’s not just seen as a novelty venue, because the thing I like the most is that thought has gone into all levels of the design. Where conventional choices of bulding material and design are involved, much of the decisions are made already, but in places like Greenhouse, right down to how the toilets work, there is a considerable amount of time spent thinking about how the right balance of function and efficiency can be achieved.

If this considered approach to design and food can be continued in other venues then you can wrap me up in chicken wire and roll me on down to the next one.

Greenhouse Perth
100 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Phone: (08) 9481 8333
www.greenhouseperth.com

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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

+39 calabrese+39 pumpkin pizza+39 pizza+39 pizzas+39 menu wall

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.

Kenyan Wamugump @ BBBUbiquitous chair shot @ Brother Baba BudanPastries @ BBBClover pour @ BBBClover spout @ BBBSteaming clover puck @ BBB

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.

Romain savoursEd, Matt, JessDeconstructed parmigianapork chop, apple / fennel / potato saladMarie-AgnesCandles holderFrite loverA man for all timesJeff HopeWolsely Pinot NoirClaire & IRepentant but unforgivenInside the Grace Darling

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.

The Black Pearl - boozeageddonThe Fog CutterLighting @ The Black PearlThe barThe Black Pearlan exercise in inkinside the black pearlI love lamp...

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.

Market LaReflectBig red doorJenHu Tong Dumpling BarHu Tong cutleryPan fried dumplings @ Hu TongXiao Long Bao @ Hu TiongBraised beef and dumpling claypot @ Hu TongClaypot / chilli / squid

Seven Seeds

Munitions cutley box @ Seven SeedsFlat white @ Seven SeedsA moment of solaceCupping lab @ Seven SeedsThe bar @ Seven seedsSeven Seeds table settingbike wall @ Seven SeedsSeven Seeds : Speciality Coffee

Attica

Bride to beAttica : chutney / olives / almonds / butter / saltAttica : savoury madeleine amuse bouchAttlca : Craggy range chardonnayAttica : NegroniAttica : prawns, pork floss, dill pickle, coconut milk, flowersAttica: first course responseAttica: asparagus, morels, house made goats curd, rosemary flowerswarpedLaguiole : worlds sexiest knives ?Attica: Slow roasted hapuka, spinach, crispy potatoswirlAttica: Veal, young leek with hazlenut & garlic, sour flowerradiatec'est moi part deuxAttica: cognac ice cream, candied mandarin, fresh mandarin, fresh mango, sesame pralineAttica: chefs table menuAttica: finbride warsBecause two is better than onec'est moi

Charcoal Lane

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Gertrude St Enoteca & Bahn Mi on Smith St

....Bahn Mi

Cutler & Co

.............Suckling Pig, Cutler&Co.....Hendricks Gin & Tonic from Cutler&Co...

Cumulus Inc

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St Ali Outpost

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Rockpool Bar & Grill

................Rockpool...........

St Ali

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Von Haus

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Gingerboy

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Seamstress & Siglo

Rob sparks upScenes from Siglo.........Birthday Negroni @ Seamstress

Mr Tulk & Dali Exhibition

NGVNGV ceilingRomainMA & DaliMr Tulk eggs and baconThe plan makerMr Tulk breakfast

High Vibes @ Northcote & Supper Inn

Supper InnExitNot without my stylusJenDisdainly tiredNorthcote remnantsThe kidsNorthcote Social ClubFrenchies like rockgig photographers bewareMarie Agnes

Movida

.lamb cutlets, chorizo, pestochickpeaspork loin wrapped in pork belly demi secwagyu bresola poached egg, truffle, potato foamwagyu bresola poached egg, truffle, potato foamsome kinda musselsspanish cidersmoked mackeral, some kinda sorbetscallops, potato foamcroquettesjamon iberico, bread sticksortiz anchovy, tomato basil sorbetbread

Bar Lourinha

Pedro Ximenez so thick it felt like motor oilCreme catalan with blood orange caramelRabbit and blood sausageBar LourinhaMy only dining companionVeal tongueKingfish PancettaHalf a very nice bottle of wine

The Stanley

The Stanley Cape Goose GSM

In a city where it’s all too easy to lose your faith in good service, who would have thought that a couple of lapsed Catholics would restore mine ? Such is the quality of character of the men behind the bar at The Stanley, Wembley’s best and brightest small bar.

The Stanley is the brainchild of Paul Fowler and his partner in crime Gerry Shields, Stanley being the namesake of the bar and the name Paul’s alter ego when he was a rowdy youngster out hitting the turps a little too hard at Uni. None of that in this establishment however. The Stanley is all about quiet sophisticated charm in relaxed surroundings.

The main room gives a doff of it’s cap towards a British era that I can never actually identify, but likely ends with “ian” (Victorian, Edwardian, Elizabethian… you get the drift), it features an eclectic collection of leather and suede bound furniture that all cry out to be lounged on… and would be the perfect place to smoke a cigar if such things were permitted. Of course they’re not, but you can do so in a little courtyard at the back with tardis like proportions that stretches down and around the building.

Paul Fowler the bar @ The Stanley

The front room features a long wooden bar and sturdy bar stools with a row of lights slung casually above, and quirky touches around the place point to Paul and Gerry’s sacrilegious sense of humour. The thing I like about The Stanley though, is that it’s not complicated. It isn’t staffed by a team of young hipsters mixing the latest trend in cocktails, and it doesn’t necessarily attract the in crowd. It’s a great suburban bar that everyone can feel welcome in without worrying about pomp or pretence.

The wine list is short but done very well. There’s some excellent choices to suit very discerning palates (Cherubino Riesling, Cape Goose GSM, Millbrook Viognier) and Paul has made an effort not to take the piss over bottle prices, with what I’d call some of the lowest markups around on full bottle prices.
There’s also a decent list of international beers and Becks on tap for the diehard pint lovers.

The other great thing about The Stanley is it’s symbiotic relationship with Flipside burgers next door. Order your burger and ask them to deliver it next door, then go in and relax with a drink and wait for the burger to arrive. It’s a partnership that just makes sense and an irresistible option when thinking about a quick weeknight meal. Just wait for McDonalds to cotton onto it…

Millbrook ViognierJesus reminds youThe Stanley menuPaul poursOpen Hours of The StanleyStanley himselfFurniture @ The Stanleyoutdoors @ The StanleyJesus and/or MaryMenu @ The StanleyFlying ducksTasting plate @ The StanleyPaul Fowlerthe bar @ The StanleyElbows love barsCape Goose GSMBulmers CiderThe Stanley

So the next time you’re wandering the suburbs of Perth thinking about heading out for a quiet drink (or 5), you now have somewhere to go.

The Stanley
294 Cambridge St
Wembley
Phone: (08) 9387 4481

The Stanley on Urbanspoon

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Land of the long white cloud – II

Cloudy Bay vines

We arrived in Blenheim somewhere in the early evening and checked into a motel (somewhere in between seedy and luxurious). A spot of twitter and internet searching later and we’d discovered a decent sounding restaurant called the Hotel D’Urville. It certainly looked the part in a vintage building with fancy looking furniture, polished surfaces, dim lighting and well adorned staff. Sadly it all went downhill from there. The service was unwarrantably snooty, the food even worse. Everything tasted as if it had come straight out of a fridge. Bland lifeless salmon on top of pasta was a particular low light, as was the salmon mousse with pumpernickel amuse bouche, that did not amuse any bouches.

The only high point in the entire meal was opening the bottle of the 2005 Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet we’d purchased earlier in the day. A wine of great length and substance. It’s fortunate that credit card bills take a long time to come through, thus the sting of actually having to pay a substantial amount for blatant mediocrity was less severe than handing over cold hard cash.

The night was due to pick up though. I’d been in contact earlier in the day with Aaron, winemaker and internet marketer extraordinaire for family owned label Fiasco Wines. Aaron’s family had planted some of the first vines in the Marlborough region, and he was now taking the finest of them to make wine of his own. But the reality of the situation for Aaron is that whilst making your own wine is a labour of love that you hope will pay off eventually, you need some money to pay the bills in the meantime.

So in the evenings Aaron is a contract wine maker at a facility on the outskirts of Blenheim and makes wine for labels of epic proportions. We’d been in touch via Twitter and Aaron kindly offered to give Jon and I a tour of the facility.

Marlborough Sauvignon BlancFamous NZ Sauvignon Blanc in grape juice form

I had no real idea what I was in for when we got there actually, but to call the wine industry in Marlborough in any way boutique would be a complete misnomer once you’ve encountered this kind of operation. We sat in slightly bewildered awe as swollen trucks dumped tonne upon tonne of grapes into hungry hoppers. Then we were slowly guided by Aaron through the entire process as it was crushed, pulped, fermented and hit the holding tanks. Getting a chance to try one of NZ’s most popular export wines (no guessing) as a rather tart grape juice.

Apparently this one facility produces up to 15% of all of the wine in NZ… and can store millions of litres of wine in it’s tanks. I was torn between being fascinated and being disturbed by the scale of it all, but Aaron is no nonsense kind of guy and did his best to keep things real whilst showing us around, something I have a lot of respect for. Wine can be a very glamour focused industry, so seeing the scale of this was a great way to put things in perspective next time you hit the bottle shops.

After checking out the red wine area, where apparently you can quite easily die if you stick your head too far into a vat of fermenting grapes (note to self: too much C02 == bad), it was time to hand back our fluorescent safety vests and head back into town. Aaron very kindly gave me a bottle of his 2008 Tall Story Sauvignon Blanc, that went down a treat upon my return to Australia.

So the next day was all about Marlborough. We started the day completely by accident at CPR (Coffee Premium Roasters). My keen coffee sensing skills must have been on overdrive because we just happened to walk into this place and then noticed a roaster out the back. A quick chat to the girl managing and turns out we were in Blenheims only boutique coffee roaster, who also happen to hold coffee appreciation classes and tasting sessions. Score.
A quick test of the coffee via a flat white and an espresso proved that indeed they did know their stuff.

A breakfast of champions at a nearby restaurant fueled us for the day ahead and it was off to the vineyards. We sampled wines from Lawsons Dry Hills, Cloudy Bay, Fromm, Huia, Allan Scott, and Nautilus. Beer from Moa kept Jon’s palate refreshed and I almost started contemplating getting into some myself as the gooseberryesque Sauvignon Blanc that the region is famous for began to take it’s toll. Crisp, herbaceous, and refreshing in it’s best incarnations, bitingly acidic and grassy in it’s worst. I can see why it’s a contentious little varietal at the moment.

I did however get right into a lot of the Gewurztraminer of the area. It’s a lovely aromatic varietal traditionally grown in the Alsace region of France, and produces some delightful wines. Everyone in NZ seems to be very specific on letting you know the level of residual sugar in their white wines, so you can be quite certain as to the level of apparent sweetness before trying anything. Something I think makes a lot of sense when it comes to comparing wines of the same variety made in different styles.

I tended to prefer the off dry, spicy Gewurz such as that from Huia and Lawsons Dry Hills. Both of which I bought, and added to a small but growing collection.

Soon though it was time to keep on moving. We bid farewell to Blenheim and surrounds and headed on towards Nelson, passing through Havelock, supposedly the home of the NZ green lipped mussel. It being near lunchtime and with only cheese and crackers from various wineries in our bellies so far, we decided we’d better stop and sample the local delicacy. So it was off to The Mussel Pot we went.

I probably should have guessed it wasn’t going to be great from the gaudy tourist look of the place on the way in, but we figured we’d try it anyway. I ordered a pot of mussels with a thai style sauce (lemongrass, coconut milk, chilli), and Jon ordered something that had blue cheese in it. The flavours of the sauces aside, the mussels are just not good. NZ green lipped mussels are huge, chewy, horrible things, that spoiled any hope of my falling in love with them. Especially when I found a tiny crab living inside one… A basket of stale bread and a packet of butter didn’t go any futher towards sweetening the deal wither. Lets just say that this day the magic of NZ did not quite live up to what we were hoping.

So back into the car we headed, and other stunning drive from Havelock to Nelson up and down and around hills and mountains and lakes. I had never been through this part of NZ as a child, and so it was all quite amazing to see. The only problem being that New Zealand was beginning to become too beautiful. We’d stop at the top of a hill, take photos and gaze out across the distance, then drive around the corner and over another hill, and want to do the same thing all over again. Quickly becoming fairly blaise about the wonder of nature all around us as it blurred past us at 120km/hr.

We stopped briefly in Nelson, which itself is a very boutique little city. It’s becoming built up quite a bit, but still retains an edgy facade of coolness. With more local coffee roasters and enough decent sounding pubs and restaurants to keep the relatively discerning locals and tourists happy. But instead of lingering we decided it would be best to keep on driving down towards the west coast. Ending up for the night in Murchison, and old gold mining town that’s now a hub for whitewater rafters. Sadly nothing particularly adventurous was open when we arrived though, and the best we could do for dinner that night was a roast dinner at the local pub. Oh to have brought my camera with me, as a veritable feast of microwaved meats and formerly crisp vegetables was presented with a spattering of gravy. Memories of boarding school came flooding back with the stewed peaches and ice cream for dessert, and we left satisfied if not entirely fulfilled.

We had a nice example of kiwi hospitality as the lady motel owner handed us the keys without taking down any of our details or asking for any money, and a bottle of Nautilus Pinot Noir provided a very relaxing end to a full day.

Salmon mousse 'amuse'The best thing about this restaurant was the wine I brought myself*Lamb Rack with mash and dolmadesThe worlds most tasteless salmonThe whirly bit makes the grapes go somewhereFamous NZ Sauvignon Blanc in grape juice formBubbly goodnessMarlborough Sauvignon Blanc25,000 kg per loadCaution: Person In PressThe vats... they twinklea journey into the nightThe best stuff happens at nightAaron of Fiasco WinesA vat of pinot noirCPR: Coffee Premium RoastersCPR: Coffee Premium RoastersEspresso from CPR BlenheimBreakfast at Raupo : BlenheimThe best days start with a well poached egg.Cloudy Bay vinesChampagne fancierThe rowsHuia : Late Picked ReislingMoa NoirHuia : Marlborough Pinot NoirHuia : The lineupIf she didnt hate me then, she will nowlunchtime anticipationbread baskets & pNZ Green Lip MusselsThe best thing about the musselsAnatomy of a musselOk, so we still ate them.*Nautilus: Marlborough Pinot NoirFromm : Marlborough La Strada Pinot NoirMotel refinement

Land of the long white cloud – I

Fields of dandelions

Aotearoa, New Zealand, Home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to the land that bore me. I would love to say 20 years to the day I left, but I have neither the organisational skills, nor the flair for melodrama to manufacture something quite so grandiose. Still, I left when i was 9 years old and came back for only the second time when I was 29, so there’s got to be some poetic license in there somewhere.

The occasion this time around (not that there needed to be one of course) was my grandmothers 80th birthday. She is my sole surviving grandparent and matriarch to an ever expanding (except on my behalf) army of grand and great grand children. Having had 9 children of her own, she tends to take things a little easier these days, though she’s no less feisty than I remember as a small child, trying to raid her cupboards for girl guide biscuits, making forts in her hedges,áand generally causing mischief.

Before I reached the party, and as a way of reacquainting myself the country, I decided it’d be a good idea to hire a car and drive around. Reminiscing at former holiday spots, revisiting the scenes of near tragedies, seeking out wine regions and food haunts, and generally soaking up as much as New Zealand was willing to give. With my travel companion and apprentice wine sampler Jon as co-pilot, we did perhaps the fastest circumnavigation of the South Island possible in a Toyota Corolla. Which went a little something like this:

Day 1: Dinner in Christchurch at Le Cafe. We tried to get into “Cook’n with Gas”, which despite the name and the giant gas flame burner out the front of the restaurant, did look quite nice and had good reviews. Instead we ended up at Le Cafe, not my first pick, but a cute waitress and a glass of wine will do wonders to your expectations. The food was actually not bad, pork and fennel meatballs fueled our appetites and a slow cooked beef shin finished the job. I could have done without the 3 whole chillies chopped up and strewn through my ‘hot and sour’ salad, but all in all the meal was good. Added novelty when the lights were turned off for earth hour and we all got candles on our tables. Not the first or last time Jon and I would get confused for a romantic couple.

Moa BeerLe Cafe, ChristchurchFennel and Pork Meatballsslow cooked beef shin with hot and sour salad and riceDoneEarth Hour in ChristchurchA man of distinctionEveryone looks more poignant during Earth HourOutside Le CafeEarth Hour fire twirler

Big points go to the barista who looked like he knew his stuff, and convinced me it was worth trying a coffee. They were using Burtons (who are one of New Zealand’s main green bean importers, but also roast), and it was actually quite good. Latte art going out on every cup I could see and my espresso was very tasty, pulled as a short double with . All I could hope is that it was a sign of things to come.

Day 2: The starts slowly. A warm bed and a cold morning will do that to you. But soon we’re on the road and heading from Christchurch to Blenheim. A quick chat and a look at the road map says we’ll be heading through Waipara, one of New Zealand’s newest wine regions.

The main idea of the whole trip was to reacquaint myself with the country I grew up in,áyet know so little about in a modern context. New Zealand is seen by the rest of the world as a wonderland of organic produce and down to earth producers so I aimed to find as many of them as possible.

Passing through Waipara Jon and I stopped off at Pegaus Bay and Fiddlers Green.á Pegasus Bay is part of the Family of Twelveá, basically a marketing initiative to group together some of the founding wineries that are still family owned.á The homestead looked like a French chateau of grandiose proportions and a dark musky room for tastings decorated with vintage Premier Cru wine bottles as lighting.á I found it instantly likeable and despite the lack of personal service because the tasting guy was run off his feet, we found plenty of the winesáextremely palatable.á áTrying mostly Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer,áandáa stunning Merlot Cabernet that was swiftly purchased.

After Waipara we headed north and towards the coast up to Kaikoura, snapping photos out of the window and generally being amazed at how even mundane little towns were full of wonderful things.

Kaikoura is a tiny fishing village in between Christchurch and Picton on the east coast of the south island… and home to a big crayfish industry. The Maori name ‘Kaikoura’ translates to ‘meal of crayfish’ (‘kai’ = food/meal, ‘koura’ = crayfish) . So you would have thought we’d try some wouldn’t you ?

That would have been the case except for when we arrived at the beach side shack selling crayfish they wanted about $60 each for a tiny one… which was sadly more cash than I was willing to part with whilst sitting on plastic chairs and drinking out of styrofoam cups.

Whitebait fritter sandwich

Whitebait fritters on the other hand, were much more affordable, and are another famous Kiwi dish of much repute. I can’t say I had a taste for them as a kid, but things have changed a lot since the last time I was here. This was delicious.

Pegasus Bay  Merlot CabernetA fairly expensive approach to finding lighting fixturesInside Pegasus BayPegasus Bay dining roomSomeones been raiding the cellar*Sunscreen for vinesStrike a poseContemplating the tidesKaikouraKaikouraWhitebait fritter sandwichShots from moving carsShots from moving cars

After a brief stop for photos and some reflection on the beauty of nature, it was back into the car for more high speed rural action. Fording river and valley and all that was in our path on the way to Blenheim, and the heart of Marlborough.

continued…

Bar 399

The bar at 399 Bloody Mary @ 399

Small bars, small bars, small bars.

Perth is awash with them of late. You’d almost think they’d sprung up overnight in a flurry of activity caused by the state government lovingly embracing the community and doling out liquor licenses like they were sewing corn into a big fertile paddock.

Of course the reality of the situation is pretty different. Most of the small bars that have opened in Perth recently have been a long time in the making. Legislation changes that were supposed to make it easier to apply for and be granted a small bar license, and thus be able stay open til midnight during the week and to serve drinks without food, have not exactly come to fruition the way the general public would have expected.

It’s been a long and often arduous road for the majority of these venues to get off the ground, jumping through hoops like training monkeys hoping not to have their bananas confiscated. Only to be rewarded with yet more trials and ordeals. I for one, however, am glad that those people persist in the face of inexplicable bureaucracy, or we wouldn’t have such interesting new venues like Bar 399 to tickle our collective fancies.

It’s situated at the top end of William Street next to one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, in a fairly nondescript location, that’s slowly building in potential for educated winers and diners out for a good time. The concept is simple, a small space with a bar down one side, booths down the other. A regularly changing wine list that isn’t based on any one distributor, bespoke cocktails from a group of experienced bar tenders, and a nightly meal of just one selection.

ECM ReflectionsNat serving at 399Havana Club at 399The bar at 399399 manager NatEspresso at 399Cheshire AlexNorthbridge styleratiHavana, where jazz musicans congregateBen n Jen at 399Bloody Mary @ 399Bloody Mary @ 399

The hook that got me in however was the master stroke of bacon and egg rolls and Bloody Marys served on a Sunday morning. $15 for a thick roll filled with lashings of bacon and a fried egg or two, and a peppery but piquant Bloody Mary is as fine a way to start a day as I can think of… A classy hair of the dog that even temporarily took the place of my dim sum ritual, which is a formidable opponent to almost everything.

I think it’s time to start rediscovering your city through the eyes of some of these venues. Perth is not, and will probably never be… Melbourne, but the more venues like this that open up, and the more people who start to build a following behind them, the better off we’ll all be.

Bar 399
399 William St, Northbridge

www.399bar.com

399 Bar on Urbanspoon

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Paris Days

C˘te de boeuf, gratin dauphinois, marrow!

Most days it seems like it didn’t happen. It was an aeon ago and I was a different person then. So many things have changed now. I had grand schemes of coming home and writing up my adventures in luscious flowing prose that would transport you all to the exact cafe I was standing in when I ordered my first coffee, or to the crepe vendor who rolled my first real Parisian crepe. Picturing the look of intense fascination on my face as nimble hands carefully poured a thin layer of batter to the hot plate, smoothed it over, flipped it gently, and applied a generous helping of nutella before folding corner over corner and handing it to me without pomp or ceremony. Imparting the feeling that it was truly something special, not because it was the most amazing thing I’d ever eaten, but because for once I wasn’t living someone else’s experiences. It was me, and I was there.

Of course the natural thing happened. I came home, got back to the reality of work and life in Perth, and besides a few lazy uploads of photos, didn’t ever expand on the great time I had, the people I met, or the scenes of Parisian life I had acted out before me on a daily basis.

Which is indeed a great shame, because as short as my time was in Paris, I feel like I squeezed every little bit out of it that I possibly could. And I still think back very fondly of my time spent wandering aimlessly down Rue’s and Boulevards and trudging through Jardins… Being asked for directions by other hapless travellers and the occasional local, and being laughed at by old ladies who realised I was completely lost.

I could tell you about Berthillon ice cream and sorbet, drinking many a caraf of Provenšal RosÚ, street side crepe vendors of every description, duck confit, tart tartin, roasted Camembert drizzled with honey and slices of apple, steak tartare, bone marrow, cheap but expensive champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower (that I didn’t order), macarons, jamon sandwiches, foie gras shops, wild dogs, being bored out of my mind in the Louvre, loving the Pompidou. Being taken to dinner by famous food writers to 200 year old brasseries.

marrow !C├┤te de BoeufLamb with beansSteak TartareHaricots VerteWhitebaitEscargotThe view from my windowParis metro chicPont Marie MetroFoie Gras storeDo Not Enter with your delicious ice creamCheese !*Crepes MaisonA creamy salute to Notre DameI wish I was a touristEccentricity*Life by the SeineBerthillon Ice creamBerthillon ice creamBBerthillonPont Marie avenuesRumination on the Pont MarieCoq au vinThe Maitre dRose from ProvenceThe place settingLe Regent, BistroJardin du Palais Royal*SplitColonnes de BurenBig TriangleDescent to cultureHermesSome fairly elaborate cornice worklights and shadowsSome painting of a smirking chickThe Hallwaygateways*CaesarAnother magnum worthy shotNaked chicks always draw a crowd*Jules JoffrinNutella Crepe !Nutella Crepe !

I could also go on about the providence and connective powers of the internet. How friends across the other side of the world put me in touch with lovely local dining companions, suggested restaurants for me to try, and showed me some of the hidden sights of this city that holds so much potential.

But really, the images can speak for themselves. So please have a look through my little slice of the life Parisien.

SandraRoast CamembertThumbs up for camembertConfit of Duck with roast potatoesSalad with goats cheeseTart TatinCrepes SucreDimples for milesChocolate fondant cakeUne CaffeWhy you should never let amateurs take photos of you with hot womenHow i eventually hope to spend my daysFuzzyflowerLuxembourg HouseBarges on the SeineGathering gloom over the SeineMemorial de la DeportationMemorial de la DeportationA solemn momentMemorial de la DeportationLouis XIIIA very lovely looking red doorH├┤tel de VilleFountains near H├┤tel de VilleThe PompidouIrresitible escalator shotThe view from the top of the PompidouMaking art relevantBlue abstract tree thingSquiggly caveThis was all actual things stuck to the wallBeware the infinityNail textureAlien invasion wiresBig red rhinoIt took me 5 minutes to get it like thisMy masterpieceCafe Zephyr, rose de provence*Cafe Zephyr, steak & fritesCafe Zephyr, rare steakChocolate fondantCafe Saluna, clouds of smoke from the roasterYadh Elyes inside Cafe SalunaMaking espresso at Cafe SalunaYadh Elyes @ Cafe SalunaJeremy chillin at Cafe SalunaThe roast cools at Cafe SalunaWorlds Best CoffeesSaluna CafeSaluna Cafe menuJeremy in ParisAlto Cafe BaristaAlto CafeAlto Cafe macchiatoAlto Cafe menuParis street fashionBellota BellotaFormidable jamon, cheese, and mustard rollGalleries Lafayette fruitsLaduree MacaronsLa Vigna - vin dispenserSancerre @ La Vigna - ParisChateau Haut-Brion25 euros for a taste, 400 for a bottle.1917 Chateau Le Puy30,000.00 euro a bottle.  bargain********************At L'Homme Tranquil******Cornichon !**********Perhaps the best sandwich ive ever eaten