Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Barcelona - Quiet Contemplation at the Mies Van de Rohe Pavillion - knowing it will never be this way for me!

Ok ... please indulge me a little.

I started the year with good intentions. It was one of my new year's resolutions to document the European trip we took in 2013. And I was determined to wrestle apathy to the ground and continue to be a contributing and productive member of the blogosphere. But fate had something completely different in mind.

Yes it would have been better to have started as soon as we got back, while the memories were still fresh, but shit got very real soon after that!

As a result of having nothing more pressing to do, I'm now trawling through half scribbled notes in old diaries, and barely legible jottings on discarded receipts and about a million photos on flash drives galore to try and capture the essence of what it was like stepping out into the Iberian air at the start of a well deserved break from the routine of old.

So perhaps I'll eschew the manic Gaudi grandeur, the crowded streets of Barri Gotic and the tourist traps round L'Rhamblas and start with the sleek, quiet contemplation of the Mies van de Rohe pavilion in Barcelona.

The Pavillion was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition and dismantled the following year. It was then reconstructed to exact specifications and re-opened in 1986. All steel, glass and marble, the misleading simplicity of its design and geometry is reflected in much of modern day architecture that we see today. Its almost mind boggling how very contemporary it all looks considering it was developed more than 80 years ago.

Ever the slave to fashion and trends, I was caught up in the brief fascination with designer furniture in the early noughties, but never quite had the financial nous to trully indulge such a passion. So there was a certain anthropological thrill at seeing the Barcelona chair in its original habitat.

There was a time you could walk the grounds and only had to pay an entrance fee if you wanted to enter the building. These days its 5EUR for the lot. So if you're up for some quiet contemplation in amongst the bustle of this busy city, spare a half hour or so and have a wander.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Brother Nancy - The other other side of Essex Street

Ok ... lets try and keep this one short and sharp at least! But not before waxing lyrical about the community spirit inherent in WeFo and its environs ... well thats if you have kids! Or a local business, or work in the community. More of this later on.

My first visit to Brother Nancy was brief. Quick enough to order a takeaway coffee and finish three quarters of it a table on the footpath. My initial impression was not promising. I couldn't believe I was actually drinking a Proud Mary roast! Still the main purpose that day was to go for a walk (Essex Street is delightful btw) and to instagram (please to follow me - temasek68 - do it! do it!!). So 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Second visit was for brunch with M! My first gripe was that brekkie cuts out at a certain time! Which I don't really get, considering that there is hot food options to be had for both the Morning and the Midday sections, which means that the kitchen would have had to be used regardless.

Anyhoo, moving right along, its a Melbourne cafe, so it has all the standard design touches. It has the perfect location with the bus stop being right outside. I'm sure the morning takeaway business is brisk. This side of Essex Street is decidedly residential, but seeing the renos around here, I'm sure its the right dynamic for a brunch spot! 

Going back to my take on the WeFo community spirit, the camaraderie was in full swing when we sat down, but being offsiders, service seemed to us a little perfunctory, or perhaps slightly distracted.

Still the coffee this time round was great. And our Fish and Chip burger ($14.50) was a delight. I'm a big chip sandwich fan, and this was exactly that in a brioche bun with a lovely aioli to boot.

I think along with the Sandwich at POD, this is going to be one of my goto lunch dishes when I'm craving simple and honest flavours with just a touch of gastro glam. (Gastro ... what a word!) But is it really that hard to pit olives in a salad? Or at least give your punters fair warning? We're not all spring chickens with perfect teeth round here!

We were slightly dissappointed at not being able to order from the Morning menu as the breakfast options looked really interesting on paper. But I guess there's the excuse for a repeat visit which hopefully will happen soon. So in summary, I think Brother Nancy is still finding its feet, but it certainly is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and in an odd way it is like a little tucked away oasis in what is a surprisingly busy and hectic suburb.

Brother Nancy on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 20 November 2014

CBA Friday at The Hyde Street Hotel Yarraville

Ok ... so when it comes to food posts I'm not a fan of combining more than one review into a single post - I'm of the school of essay writing where each paragraph should posit a singular idea or proposition. So coming up is a series of short sharp and quick reviews of places we have eaten in over the last few months. By the way, I'm listening to Curtis Mayfield while I write this, so forgive me if I go a little vintage ghetto on your ass!!

Starting with Watermelon!! As in I've been drinking ...

I'm not a natural born beer drinker. I don't dislike the taste, but I do worry ... now don't laugh ... about the middle aged beer paunch!! The fear is real people, so don't mock me! Also, I've never been a fan of highly carbonated drinks in any form ... having said that I rarely turn down a good G &T! 

So I completely surprised myself at how much I enjoyed my glass of Moondog Brewing's "Bjorn to Boogie" beer. This is what they call a Heffeweizen (a german style wheat beer) - and yes I can't keep up with all this new fanglery ... I still go all Miranda Hart when someone orders a piccolo in my near vicinity! Its watermelon based and has a clear and slightly fruity taste ... on its way towards meady but taking a sharp detour to the tropics! Loved it!!

We were at the Hyde Street Hotel Pub for a recent CBA Friday. Yet another Gastro Reinvention popping up all over the West. You know the drill, once a dive for the locally soused denizens with $3 pots, now all shiny wood and vaguely sculptural light fittings and please to add a 100% inflationary rate to the bill at the end of the night! Not that I am completely against this tide of gentrification, just as long as it doesn't sweep away all the honest charm that was here in the first place. And lets not forget about having some form of quality control please! 

Firstly, where are the sound technicians slash acoustic engineers in the design process. If you have a large cavernous room and are expecting to seat a hefty number of punters, then spare a thought about sound absorption, especially in the bistro part of your establishment as opposed to out in the open bar area! We would like to not only enjoy our food, but have a proper conversation as well. This is a frustratingly all too common situation amongst revamped pubs. We had to shift tables at a recent visit to the Post Office Hotel in Coburg, which I will post about later, and a birthday celebration was completely ruined at Le Bon Ton for the same reason.

Lets get down to the food. First up its gastro-pub prices so don't bitch!! You know where the door is if you are not happy. Its not like you are not spoilt for choice in this area. As Gastro-pub prices go, this is on the lower end of the scale - i.e. mains are on average between $25 to $30 pp. But there are pizzas to be had and a sizeable list of entrees/shared plates - and they don't all come out of a tin and off a slicer.

Craft beers and locally sourced Artisanal wines permeate the extensive drinks list which should keep both the hop obssessed and the budding viticulturists amongst us suitably engaged. My Tar and Roses Pinot Grigio from the Strathbogie Ranges ($9.5) was a delight and very quaffable.

As the Temasek household is currently on an enforced regime of austerity, we went straight to mains. I ordered the Swordfish with potato croquettes ($26) from the Specials menu. The fish was nicely cooked and the garnish of pea shoots provided a nice textural and earthy note, but the puree of something or other underpinning the whole dish didn't do much to pull all the flavours together. Some great ideas but maybe something was lost in translation in an effort to gastrofy proceedings. Sill there was not much left on the plate at the end of it.

I think M may have fared better with his Roasted lamb rump w’crushed kiplers, green beans and sauce vierge ($30). The Lamb had a nice meaty charred flavour and the beans were simply but beautifully cooked with just the right amount of crunch. Again there wasn't much left on his plate and isn't that the ultimate testament?

By this stage me and M had slyly slipped into date mode and were finding humour in the slightest of hooks, so we decided to hang caution to the wind and have dessert!  We opted for the Pannacotta which came with some citrusy peanuty praline ($10) type garnish. The Pannacotta was well done but there was a soapy flavour amidst the preserved orange which ruined it for me slightly. Still my Bjorn to Boogie was going down nicely.

This odd little pocket of Hyde Street is rather quaint. There's plenty of street parking and I can see potential for celebratory parties here. Its not going to absolutely blow your mind. But there's certainly a steady hand at the helm here at the Hyde Street Hotel! Definitely worth checking out.

PS - woeful menu descriptions were the result of lazy and flawed note-taking and yes this wasn't quite short and sharp! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Hyde Street Hotel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Its Beginning to look a lot like Christmas - The Christmas window at PID WeFo

Ok ... its beginning to look a lot like Christmas now that the shops are festooned with aisles of twinkly baubles, sparkly confectionary, rainbow coloured streamers and led blinkers for days! Oh and the odd dose of lunacy like this giant Lindt ball!

Here at the Temasek household things remain decidedly grim, but spirits must be kept up even as they're kept down to numb the despair.

So showered and changed, I forced myself out down the road to view Jos Van Hulsen's handiwork in the window of Post Industrial Design on Barkly Street, WeFo.

And I'm so glad I did as it was a very welcome distraction! There is something about a Christmas window that brings out the childish curiosity and wonder in all of us. When I was growing up, every other year or so, Dad would put up a Nativity Scene with a Cotton wool wrapped balsa wood frame instead of a Christmas tree. I would sit there and contemplate each figurine animated by the glow of the blinking lights. I'd invent Christmas stories in my head about hidden worlds round fairy lit corners; conjuring firelit rooms peopled by shiny faced toys and festooned with brightly wrapped presents - each an evenly cornered box with ribbons and bows. I don't think I have ever been that happy since.

Over the years Christmas has lost much of its magic and charm. The passing of time has an uncanny ability of wrenching the joy and wonder out of childhood experiences once held so dear. But as with most things (and this is one of the hardest lessons to learn as an adult) in life, you are unaffectedly the only one who can change this. No one is going to do it for you.

So why not try mixing things up a little this Christmas. Focus less on the gift giving and more on the opportunities to celebrate with friends and family. Don't waste money on decking the outside of the house in what will only end up as an exercise in replicating a John Waters pisstake. Spend it on oodles of yummy champagne instead. Don't fuss too much about dustbusting every single nook and cranny of your dwelling, but throw the doors open, and let your loved ones in.

And if you are in the hood, gather kids and pets alike or maybe partner and friends, or even just your very own self and take an evening stroll down Barkly Street to PID and spend a few minutes of wonder in front of Jos and Mary's Christmas window. I hear its even more magical at night when the rest of the shop is closed.
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