Thursday, May 17, 2012
Cletus's awfully big Melbourne adventure
Saigon in ’75. In my case not fleeing the PAV but to escape this smothering culture of whining self-pity, which seems increasingly pervasive in this little community of hospitality people apparently unaccustomed to having their work critiqued.
So I landed in Melbs late and made my way to the part of the town where I am most at ease, the inner city north. Staying at my friend’s house was a wise choice as it offered a soothing balm to the mania of Melbourne, though not in the league of say, a Mexico City but a culture shock of sorts from the ten car main-drag of downtown Cygnet.
The next morn and immediately at ease having been offered a Ute to get around in I went around the corner to Pope Joan for a take-away coffee. Thus sufficiently caffeined, I slinked around my old ‘hood with the breezy nonchalance of someone with a fat wallet and three days of R and R ahead.
My journey around town took in the amazing amount of hospo-businesses that seemed to have flourished since my last visit like mushies after a good rain. It really was staggering as each precinct and lane in which I curiously ventured, unearthed more gems, large, small and in-between. Heading over to where my Dad lives I passed through Camberwell, which, for the briefest of moments, held in its paws, the mantle of foodie progressiveness in the form of re-developed Chocolate Box and unfortunately traded on this for the next 20 years. These days however inner-city edginess, more boat-shoe than Brothel-creeper mind you, has skulked into the municipality while it was having a Nanna nap. I caught up with Paul Mathis at Coffeehead and he gave me his overview of the Melbourne Food Scene (MFS) Mathis, arguably one of the more influential arbiters of the MFS was upbeat but I can only imagine the stresses involved operating multiple venues when I struggle with one.
Skulling another coffee I read an interesting text from a Hobart mate who alerted me to the follow-up Mercury story about the recent John Lethlean review of the Mill. This became a touchstone for the visit and popped-up in many subsequent conversations over the next few days. Turns out, a ‘Mainlander’ came over and slagged off one of our Tassie businesses, a business which incidentally was awarded ‘Best new restaurant’ in the recent THA awards. The fact that theses awards are self-nominated and said restaurant was the only one in the category was evidently lost on the zealots who had declared a Fatwa on Lethlean and were fizzing at the mouth with the injustice of it all.
That evening, like a moth, I made my way to the white hot light that is the Double Chin(Chin Chin, geddit?) where @thatjessho had just finished her shift and we went to Pei Modern to catch up then it was off to dinner with friends at home, chatting well into the early hours.
The next morning after school drop offs, it was off to Prahran. Greville St has always seemed like a ‘holding-pen’ of sorts to me, a place where people from Fitzroy or Collingwood can acclimatise before they head to St Kilda or Elwood.
Had a coffee and a pastry at St Edmunds just around the corner from Greville St which bore little resemblance the Greville St that I used to frequent in my winkle pickers and zoot suit. The one remaining motif of my youth, Greville St records was still there and even the posters in the window looked the same. Now I know Melbourne is one cool cucumber, wall to wall hipsters, fixies, and beards-and that’s just the girls but seriously, is it too much to get a ‘hello’ and a smile from staff?
Funnily enough whilst supping a latte my mate Carrie read the Epicure and noted the irony of the lead story, Chefs n tatts. ‘Didn’t you write something about this a while back on your blog?’ she enquired? Amazed that she read my blog I was about to say, when she said it for me’
‘It’s not right that they use copy from bloggers without any acknowledgement’ but cut herself short, laughing and jabbing a finger at the lead paragraph which had just made a liar of her’. What made the moment more piquant was the irony that although my original piece was taking-the-Mickey, I had subsequently joined the ‘Just-Inked’ club. Then I caught up with my friend @stickifingers whose council I’m always seeking in matters unravelling the dark arts of advertising, PR and spin. She never ceases to amaze me with her over-arching understanding of the bigger picture.
Later that night went to a Social Media Event (SME) at a restaurant with @Essjayeff, @tomatom. @tammois @stickifingers and things went up a gear considerably. It was great to catch up with people I clicked with at the Floggers fest. I was very appreciative of my invite so I don’t want to sound ungrateful but my gut was telling me that once the canapés and champers dried up, very few of the crowd here would return to spend their hard-earned. Whilst the canapés were very tasty, pretty and a la mode, they seemed at odds with the geography of the setting, the heart of the CBD and surely business lunch territory with business lunch tastes? Then again I could be talking out of my date as usual.
Then it was off to the hot new kid on the block, Casa Ciuccio. Incidentally it was reviewed in Epicure that day (which was to unconsciously influence yet another visit later that evening) We were joined by @thatjessho and settled into a manic night of laughs, food and merriment. Briefly caught up with @hilarymcnevin and noted that Simon Denton was also eating there. Down the back of Casa I checked out the ‘must-have’ cooking appliance du jour, the ‘Coal-Pit’. Think old-school Charcoal Chicken Bar (CCB) minus the chooks and the chicken salt.
Off to the revamped Builders Arms (another old haunt). The dining room, I'm told is yet to be officially opened, is a statement in white. Think Distressed French Provincial (DFP) with a hint of Cool Scandinavian Aesthetic (CSA) as I like to refer to it. The only thing that wobbled my ‘O Oh” antenna was naming the dining room after one of George Orwell’s most revered pieces, ‘Moon under water’, might court with unrequited expectations. Just saying…Oh and they have a Coal Pit as well. Hmm, maybe the world is ready for my Multi Spinning Yiros (MSY) idea after all?
Around the corner, at The Everleigh, I loved the Victorian Era Railway Carriage/Steam-punk fit out, with faux gas lamps, cosseting booths and moody dark panelling. This bar was also reviewed in the paper that day so we probably looked like sad-arsed, hard-core groupies, which we’re most definitely, err…not.
Cabbed it home and I sat outside in the back yard looking up at the stars, as the city around, quietened down like an over-tired toddler crying himself to sleep.
Next morn, dragged myself up and Public transported myself over to Ashburton and dragged Dad out to Chaddy under the ruse that we were going to see Prometheus. Nearly three hours of being aurally and visually assaulted by The Avengers, he couldn’t get the smile off his face. ‘That wasn’t bloody Prometheus’ he said, ‘but it was a good romp’.
Then back on Public transport across town in peak hour, this I don’t miss about Melbs. My flight arrived back home after nine but it took 20 mins in the queue to pay my parking ticket. So it was a drive home in Tony Delroy and Phillip Adams timeslots, in the deep darkness. I arrived home to a sleeping house with only Nelly coming out to see who it was that disturbed her sleep.