Friday, December 18, 2009
Gluttony or Gourmand delight - a very busy week eating in Melbourne
“In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.” Benjamin Franklin.
It is, I think, the last day of a very long and large week of eating out across Melbourne; by Monday I will presume that I will be linking my belt one hole back! And it is on this day that I sit here in my study sipping a glass of sparkling wine (I was supposed to go to the gym!) while thousands of service professionals snake their way through tightly set tables serving the corporate professionals lunch on the busiest service of the year. Please do not think I am making light of their endeavour, but I do not miss it one bit!
For far too long now I have been the one who has been doing the serving of wine and food to the endless conga line of Christmas lunch and dinners. Now that I am on the other side of the bookings book, it has been my great pleasure this week to find myself pondering over wine lists and menus, and apologising to the wait staff for taking my sweet precious time.
For me it started on Monday with a lunch that turns into an all nighter. It was the annual Australian Sommeliers Association Christmas lunch at Mahjong in St. Kilda. On arrival I was greeted with a crisp and cold flute of Pommery Brut Royal (a little donation of six bottles for the thirsty sommeliers) and a catch up with thirty or so wine professionals from some of Melbourne’s best restaurants. David and Quentin from Vue de Monde, Sally from Cutler & Co, Lincoln and Penny from Taxi and a smattering of wine reps from JHL Wines, Yabby Lake and Russel Gehring Wines there for the usual trade talk – me included now. It was a set course of plates being dropped off at the tables with dumplings, spring rolls and sticky rice making up some of the delicacies. The highlight for me however was the Peking duck pancakes; melt in the mouth perfection!
After many more bottles of Champagne and other wine blow ins, we headed off down Fitzroy Street and over The Esplanade to The Stoke House bar downstairs. Here we drank more Champagne, wine and beer (and yes, a little bit of water too) and continued on our general stream of bullshit for the day. It was getting a little busy and crowded so the decision was made to head up to Circa, The Prince bar – so off we headed again. More beers and wine and also a good catch up with Travis from Coda, who I never got too play pool with downstairs even though I said I was going to, and Virginia from Cumulus Inc. After far too many beverages it was time to close my account and head home – at 11.30pm!!
With a sore head the next morning (very sore!) I headed in to work to regale Cameron with all the witty anecdotes and try and remember who I spoke with; it took a while let me just say that. With not much on the horizon but a few calls and emails, Cameron and I headed up Burke Road in Camberwell and settled at The Tea House on Burke, a little Chinese place that needs a bit of work on the interior but definitely not in t he kitchen. Another serve of Peking duck and even better selection of dumplings was washed down by some Pinot Noir from Geelong and Mornington Peninsula. Can you believe I had to go back to the office and do some work after the bill – sheesh!!
Wednesday saw the arrival of Jon from Sydney who is the NSW Sales Manager for Vranken-Pommery, and it was at Rockpool Bar & Grill where I joined up with Jon and Cameron. Along the way I had a little catch up with David and also bumped in to Michael Dhillon of Bindi Wine Growers. After a couple of beers at the bar we headed to our table in the wine bar where there is only one thing to order – the Wagyu Burger and onion rings; three all round of course. This burger has got to be one of the best in Melbourne I tell ya! Another glass of Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir – The Oceans 8, and we were back to the office to discuss strategy over some more Champagne.
We were now in a taxi and headed for Matteo’s on Brunswick Street Fitzroy (the clean end) where we sat down with three bottles of Champagne – The Cuvée Louise Rosé 1999, Pommery Blanc de Blanc and Pommery Blanc de Noir. There was a little more wagyu beef as an appetiser - bresola air dried; I know it is supposed to be oysters with Champagne, but it is summer and you should never order an oyster if the month has an ‘r’ in it! All wines were fantastic, but the Louise 1999 dropped away pretty fast unfortunately – we picked the wrong bottle with that one, I guess.
These guys get two hats for a reason. The food was absolutely fantastic. It was just the two courses for me – I’m not really a dessert person I must say – with the Japanese plate of smoked eel, confit salmon and sashimi King Fish. BRILLIANT!! This was hard to match, but the suckling pig was just as good if not better!!! I rolled out of my chair (full, not drunk) at about 11pm and headed home to a very jealous Erin who wanted to know all about it; I just wanted to know all about my pillow.
The next morning I picked up Jon from his Hotel in Carlton and headed in to the CBD to give him a walking tour of some of our better restaurants. We started at Vue de monde where we had a coffee at the cafe and headed down over to Syracuse, Gills Diner and through to the coffee precinct around Degraves Lane. After another stop we headed up Flinders Lane past Mo Vida, Coda and yet another coffee, this time at Cumulus Inc before walking past Verge, Becco, Gingerboy, Bottega and Grossi Florentino and hopping in to the car for the short ride to Cutler & Co for a hello with Adam Cash and a super glass of Felton Road Central Otago Dry Riesling 2008.
We were again in the car out to Camberwell and in the office just before the heavens opened up. Some more strategising and it was time for lunch – again. With our walk cleverly timed between two rain periods, we headed up to Gohan-Ya Japanese Bento Cafe on Camberwell Road. With about 12 seats, this place is always full and if it had a few more seats and maybe a liquor license would be jamming every day. I once again gave in to my smoked eel addiction and the obligatory serve of gyoza dumplings; I was once again truly full!
The week duly finished today with a lovely impromptu lunch with my lovely Erin and the boy Henry as well at Gertrude Street Enoteca in Fitzroy. A serve of pork and duck terrine for me and a goat’s cheese and sorrel tart for Erin and all was well - they even struck a deal in Copenhagen I over-heard someone say there.
With all this done all I could do was to go and pick Imogen up from her very last day ever of daycare and whip down to get her favourite dinner – Fish and Chips! It’s always good.
With the children now asleep and Erin and me down here relaxing in the kitchen area, it was time to open something nice up to celebrate not only Imogen’s last ever day of daycare before she starts prep next month but also the fact that Erin secured some more consultancy work. So to wind up a massive week we sit here sipping the Pommery Cuvée Louise 1998 Grand Marque Champagne – absolutely gorgeous. Have I told you that I don’t miss the restaurant floor?