Thursday, 30 October 2014

JPGNGV - Jean Paul Gaultier at the National Gallery of Victoria

Ok ... Jean Paul I love you ... but you're getting me down!! In the throes of somewhat debilitating depression, I look at this very slim snapshot of fashion's enfant terrible's career and think about what I've never accomplished in comparison, and its a deep and very dark hole I peer into.

However, lets look away for an instant and momentarily beguile our senses with the high costumery drama that is the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The ticket was a lovely and thoughtful present from good friends of mine so we scheduled a date for a recent Saturday afternoon. Arriving a little earlier (i.e. on time as its the done thing to be fashionably late!) than scheduled we plonked ourselves out front and watched the fashionistas go by. Some people made an effort, including a lucite-heeled rock chic glamourpuss in clear metallic sheen with her equally tousled and sequined boyfriend. And then there were a truckload of breton stripes ... please don't!

The exhibition is split into a number of sections and themes, but you are immediately confronted by the animated faces on some of the mannequins as you first walk in. I'm guessing these are projected and its a nice, unusual, and slightly creepy touch. It gives new meaning to the phrase "and the eyes follow you round the room".

The first section houses my favourite of all the tabelaus: the Virgins (or Madonnas) collection, full of intricate lacework, ribboning and bodice ripping gothic romance. The sort of haute coutre favoured by eccentrics like Helena Bonham Carter or perhaps even GaGa. And its in this room you meet the Breton stripe in all its glory. Backlit by a curious almost nightbus-UV blue.

Further rooms reveal a calvacade of garments full of intricate detail with a wealth of historical, cultural and global references stitched into fabric and non-fabric alike, reigns firmly wielded by our cheeky, irreverent but highly articulate gallic sailor boy host. 

You'll find corsetry galore in the Boudoir section ...

Anglophile obsession with an explosion of 70s and 80s era punk and new wave influences in the Punk Cancan section ...

The Paris-Glasgow-Dehli catwalk, a revolving belt of outfits paying homage to Paris and its multicultural arrondisements ... 

Bondage and body morphism in the Skin Deep section with some amazing ecorche fabrics, backlit like some seedy underground sex club ...

Take a trip around the world and immerse yourself in the colour and intricacies of traditional craft in the Urban Jungle section - take your time here and look carefully as the devil is in the details ...

And to finish off, Muses gives you antipodean celebrity overload - all the star-studded touchpoints are here, with the Souffle as worn by Nicole Kidman being my favourite.

The exhibition continues into February next year so you have plenty of time. But don't miss it!! Be prepared for the comedown though ... life seems rather colourless and unremarkable after spending time so very close to all this heightened glamour.

And here's my little slice of the JPG cake which sadly I don't fit into anymore ...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Bittersweet Beckonings at Brooks in Melbourne

Ok ... isn't it funny how people are there for you in words and intentions only, but very rarely in action?? There's nothing like a personal setback to show how much of an obligation you can be to others. And how perfunctory the response in come cases. This is the reason why I have only a small coterie of friends, because I value honesty and true compassion, traits that are very rarely found in the human race these days. Also, I am at a lost to understand how friendships can be broken over an isolated but honest emotional response that in itself is adjunct to the fundamental issue concerned. Did all the many many years past mean absolutely nothing? All the trials and tribulations, and the good and the bad times? All of that so easily come to naught without even an opportunity to apologise and obtain some closure!! People never cease to amaze me. I now appreciate the draw of a hermitic life. And I stand on that cliff edge right now staring into uncertainty but knowing very well that I have a stronger core than this, and that one day I will sit back and reflect with easy notalgia and without punity.

Right deep breaths everyone! Why this maudlin dose of literary reflection? Well its because a recent work lunch at Brooks Restaurant in Melbourne was the very last company hurrah! And I am still missing the camaraderie and the congeniality that took so very long to build and so very little to dismantle.

When we scraped the barrel that was petty cash to see how much we could spend on our mid-year function (i.e. an excuse to drink good wine and eat great food), what we came up with was certainly not on par with halcyon days gone by. Still those were our parameters so we started working our way through restaurant wishlists, concentrating on lunch specials that would leave us a little over for another 2 drinks each at least.

Settling on Brooks (from my personal wishlist) we opted for a latish lunch which meant that we ended up being the only table for that afternoon. A bit of a buzz kill but we soldiered on.

Proceedings started very well indeed with a bottle of Eminence's The Assembly Sparkling from Whitlands, Victoria ($88). This is not an easy bottle to track down as the Vineyard does not have a cellar door, and they mainly supply restaurants and a select number of wine outlets. However if you are in the vicinity of Seddon, head to Seddon Wine Store and hopefully Clare (from the Assembly family) is on shift and she can possibly assist. But grab the opportunity to taste this if you can. As it is with other artisanal champagne (terroir be damned) offerings, this tastes like a combination of cider/whisky/sparkling white! Heaven!!

We opted for the 3 course lunch special at $48 a pop. Your other choices being a 2 course for $33pp or a degustation 5 course number for $95pp. The menu consists of a triumvirate of choices - so 3 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts.

For whatever reason I ended up surfing the waves with my choices, starting with the Cured snapper, yoghurt, oyster cream, dill. Dramatically presented with a ring of dill jus round the plate, the snapper was cured to perfection, but the Oyster cream did overpower slightly. If you were an afficianado of the taste of the sea with all its briny metalicness on the palate, then this would have delighted. I, on the other hand, could be unguardedly critical and say that it did tend to taste a little too fishy (oh yes the irony!).

Some of my companions ordered the Nic’s souvenir of Laguiole; Meli Melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers. So many unpronounceable words; so many needing translation; so many colours on the plate; so many taste sensations ... have a look at the photo - even with my nonexisting shutter skills this looks so inviting and exciting and other sundry feels!

A dish like this is an event. All those gel blobs and purees and unguents and half of Nanna's garden border on a plate. It was fun trying to decipher the different flavours and picking combinations to savour. My final word on this though is that Daisies are simply not edible!!

For mains, I chose another seafood number - Fish, ink and verbena, cos lettuce, romanesco. Again high drama with that intense blob of ink on the plate. As with my entree the fish was cooked to perfection; lovingly browned on the outside and meaty flesh with just the right amount of give within. The romanesco looking like something from the little shop of horrors was surprisingly gentle in flavour and the cauliflower and garlic puree set everything else off nicely. I'll skip the wilted cos lettuce as its one culinary method I fail to understand.

Oh and definitely have the Aligot - cheesy mash ($16) as a side. You won't regret it! Its served rather theatrically at the table by your friendly waitstaff. Two forks go in and a portion is twirled in mid-air before being plonked on your plate. Drama!

And now we come to dessert!! Sadly the "forest floor" Brooks is famous for was not on the lunchtime menu, but something equally as intriguing and bombastic was the Artichoke ice cream, chocolate, hazelnut, candied milk skin, pork crackling.

When it comes to blending savoury with sweet I'm not the most adventorous, but curiosity got the better of me, and I was more inclined to take the risk especially since I wasn't paying. The trick with dishes like these is not to have a scientific approach and sample each component separately. You need to combine the lot to fully appreciate its synchronicity.

Still there was alot of tentative chewing going on at the table. And I'm not sure everyone was entirely sold. I think more pleasure was derived from the sense of achievement of having actually eaten the damn thing in the first place. The milk skin in itself could have gone horribly wrong. As it was, the artichoke ice cream was slightly anaemic in flavour, so it needed the chocolate sponge and the hazelnut and yes! the pork crackling to bump it up. Now that I've tried it, does it bear repeating? That is indeed the question.

Just like our little lunch group was soon to implode, rumour has it that Brooks now has new owners. What direction this underground space will take next remains to be seen. I suspect that the quality of the food may suffer a little during this transition period, but I think the lunch specials are reasonably priced and the food is exciting and different. Try and check it out soon.

Brooks on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Don't You know your Queen, cracked, peeling - Perfume Genius!

Ok ... so this year's musical offerings have been lacklustre to say the least. Nothing really stands out in my mind as being trully remarkable. Perfume Genius' latest release Too Bright is unlikely to change the landscape that much. It is however great to have a bit of glamour and camp injected into proceedings.

My signed copy - in Gold Vinyl

Apart from the subtle influences afforded by the involvement of both Adrian Utley (Portishead) and John Parish (PJ Harvey), nothing has really changed in Mike Hadreas' insular close mic'd world.

There are still the keyboard based confessionals, opening number I Decline being a case in point, and then there are flashes of the jolly reprobate trying to break out some Xiu Xiu badness with the wailing banshee chorus (Grid) and the vibrato heavy guitar riffs (Queen).

And if you listen closely, you may pick up on the rumbly parping of a bass clarinet giving some of the songs gravelly organic gravitas.

All in all, its an album in the true sense of the word, with songs, videos, album cover all interconnected in one glorious golden thrust of a release ... well, in as far as the self depecrating and wickedly funny Hadreas can push!

Finally an album to actually get excited about, and an album that is not relegated to the petty confines of the ipod shuffle mode - at least not for me. Mike, see you at The Corner next year! (oh and bitch tell your record label to let me post your song Queen on my youtube page!!)

Me and Mike at Laneway Festival

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Akshaya - a vegertarian revamp in WeFo

Ok ... so much to catch up on! Lets start with a food post from a few months ago. The Braybrook branch of Akshaya's in what some would posit is the middle of nowhere decked out like a celebratory dinner in a bollywood movie circa 1984, left me decidedly warm with its underwhelming promise of traditional South Indian fare. All the usual suspects on that menu but with better versions further up the road, I was never tempted to go back.

Akshaya Mark II is a completely different proposition. Located in WeFo's vibrant Indian enclave on Barkly, its outlook on the street does it no favours. Ineffectual signage and advertising doesn't quite draw the stray punter in. Given the dynamics of the local citizenry in the area, they should be screaming out that they serve delicious, economical vegetarian fare. But there you have it.

It was a particularly uninspiring CBA friday when neither of us could quite articulate what we were in the mood for, so decided to give somewhere new a try. After being seated and given the menu to peruse, it didn't help when I realised everything was vegetarian -  I do like my protein - particularly when I am starving. However the staff were so welcoming and M spotted his favourite Mirchi, so I reluctantly kicked back and went with the flow.

Wise decision! The Mirchi was not its usual heavy grammy mess. It was light, crunchy and very more-ish. And was the perfect starter before the ubiquitous Paper Dosa, which arrived a-tablĂ© suitably thin and crunchy with a distinct lack of greasy oil! Also the accompanying sauces were some of the best I have had in a long while, particularly the red chutney, which had a bit of a kick! And wasn't at all of the skin stripper asofoetida variety.

But the star of the meal was their Thali plates. For the whopping sum of $10.90 you get a plate of rice with three curries, raita and a chutney!! And let me tell you every morsel on that metal plate was delicious, the spicy cauliflower being a particular highlight. All fresh clean flavours that complemented each other perfectly. We left feeling sated and healthy, almost as though we had just gone through some kind of body cleansing regime.

Akshaya gets the Temasek seal of approval - wholeheartedly!

Akshaya on Urbanspoon

Temasek Redux! - A Sordid tale of debt collectors and shoddy lawyers

Ok ... I am sat here in an empty office with the lights all turned on even though its just me! Its my last hurrah in the city after a tumultous few months, which also explains the lack of activity on this blog! (Well, it hopefully absolves me in some orthodox catholic way). I have multiple drafts queued to go but I suspect that I will scrap the lot and start again. But to flaunt any form of overt/covert superstition, let me revamp these hallowed/hollowed pages with a precautionary tale - NEVER EVER get involved in accident with a Taxi!

It all started with a ratty piece of paper addressed to M with the name of a debt collection agency and a mobile number to call. We ignored this but when a similar piece of paper was stuck in the fly screen door the next day, I decided to call and find out what the deelio was.

Needless to say, the man who answered the phone refused to speak to me and only wanted to speak to M. So I said that we would have to leave it at that and refused to give him anymore details.

M had no choice but to call. Apparently he was much less professional this time round, but M can be surprisingly immovable and will dig his heels in especially if he senses any undue aggression.

Turns out the taxi company associated with the taxi M crashed into awhile ago was collecting on what they perceived as outstanding debt on the repairs that were made as a result of the accident.

We of course had done the right thing and made the necessary claim with RACV and forked out $500 excess for our troubles! Although we did think that the list of repairs that the Taxi company sent through amounting to about $10000 was a bit excessive. M's car was pretty much a write off, but there was hardly even a scratch on the Taxi as far as he could tell.

Clearly RACV was of the same opinion as they tried to contact the Taxi company several times to verify the repairs and never received any response.

So there we were emprisoned at home on a Saturday morning waiting for the debt collector to arrive to hand us our summons in person ... and he was every possible shade of lovely, starting with a thinly veiled threat of not calling from a visible phone line if we didn't want him to know our number, and then subsequently yelling at us from the street calling us bloody idiots and professing to be just a courier.

All kinds of shade over here at chez Temasek!

At least this time we had the name of the lawyer and his contact details which we passed onto RACV. We were contacted by legal affairs at RACV who subsequently made it all go away. But surely this is not legal? And surely the Lawyer should have known that this was not a legal process? Its all so shoddy and sordid. I feel like I'm an episode on Today Tonight!! Why are there so many scammers out there? 

Rant over.
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