Saturday, October 12, 2013

Discovery XLIII: the SFD

At the end of August, a Special Family Discovery (SFD) was organised to celebrate two birthdays and an impro performance.

A couple of us began the evening with the traditional North Melbourne stopover for coffee and Coopers at Prudence, a very nice bar handily situated between the Peel Street tram stop and Errol Street.

Three Crowns
The Three Crowns

Continuing our journey to Errol Street, we received notice of a last minute relocation from the Town Hall to Three Crowns. The family converged from various directions at the corner of Errol and Victoria Streets, ready to cross the great divide into West Melbourne. The glow of late afternoon sunlight reassured us that we were indeed in the right suburb.

We had the spacious dining area to ourselves, with a lovely big square table just the right size to seat everybody comfortably. After gift presentations and birthday greetings to Mr 29 and Ms 83, who share the same birthday, we settled in for our meals.

Although I'd made risotto for dinner the night before, and I'm not usually a fan of ordering risotto in a restaurant as I find it can provide a rather one-dimensional dining experience, I decided to order the risotto, mainly because it was the only vegetarian option on the menu. This one wasn't bad however; it had a good variety of vegetables, albeit rather too much pumpkin, which Mr 31 was happy to finish off for me. The rest of the party seemed happy with their parmas and steaks, particularly as Wednesday is steak special night.

Steak special
Steak special

After dinner we crossed back to a lane in North Melbourne and Club Voltaire, where we crammed into the tiny upstairs space to watch the very last Impro Box performance of 'The Family', featuring (might I say starring?) Roland Lewis and a bunch of other talented young performers. This was a fun way to end our SFD.

The family
The family

The trip back to the sedate city of Boroondara was accomplished swiftly by car rather than by the usual more sedate tram/trains combo, thanks to a thoughtful and obliging cousin. She was rewarded with a large bag of kitty litter for her trouble. That's what families are for.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Discovery XLII

Our final discovery for July was once again in the newly discovered territory of Flemington - or perhaps Kensington, as the business addresses on the south side of Racecourse Road seem to fluctuate from one to the other. But first there was the traditional stop at the legendary Diksteins. As I slid open the door to the cosy bar and stepped in from the cold of a midwinter Melbourne evening, the barman greeted me with one welcoming word: "VB?" Nothing has changed after all! (other than my choice of beverage).

Once the city worker had escaped from the office and joined me at Diksteins for a quick cider, we walked up to Flagstaff Station, bound for the Crazyburn train to Newmarket. The train arrived promptly but then spoiled the effect by dawdling all the way to North Melbourne. After finally reaching Newmarket we arrived rather late at Boris's table at The Abyssinian. Mr 31 and Mr 28 were already sampling the Harar, so we lost no time in joining them.

Hara beer at The Abyssinian
Hurrah for Hara!

We decided on the easy option with one vegetarian combo and one meat and fish combo to share. While waiting for our meals, we endeared ourselves to the staff by expressing our appreciation of the pleasant selection of Ethiopian music.

Our dishes soon arrived covered with the traditional straw hats, which were removed to display an array of goodies set out on large wheels of injera. The picture below is of the vegetarian combo, some way into its demolition.

Vegetarian combination
Vegetarian combination

Although each platter looked like an enormous amount of food for two, we managed to get through most of it, helped along with some more Harar. There was a nice combination of flavours and textures in the vegetarian combo, with our favourite being the 'tumtummo' (spicy lentils). The combo also included cabbage and carrots; large cubes of pumpkin; spiced chickpeas and a green salad. The meat combo contained many of the vego favourites with added fish, goat and chicken options.

By the time we had finished our early feast, the restaurant was starting to become busy. The two musicians of our party betook themselves to the Ascot Vale Hotel for open mic night, while the remaining two jumped aboard a handy passing 57 tram, which took us on a scenic tour of North Melbourne before arriving at Melbourne Central. By the magic of Metro trains we were soon back home in the peaceful city of Boroondara, the lights and bustle of Racecourse Road just a distant memory.

The Abyssinian on Urbanspoon


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Discovery XLI

On a cold dark July evening I settled into the cosy warmth of Diksteins in Bank Place. This has long been a favourite of mine, and although naturally it has changed over the years, and I lament the loss of my friend the waiter who would hand me a Little Creatures as I walked in the door, it's still a pretty nice place to be. This is a view from the tiny bar, looking out into Bank Place.
Soon I was joined by the city and Docklands workers, and we set off up Little Collins to McKillop Street and Hardware Lane, dodging the restaurant spruikers on the way, to our destination near the corner of Lonsdale and Exhibition Streets.
Up the wooden stairs we climbed, to Seamstress. Although we had opted to dine at the early hour of 6.30, the place was already buzzing. We met our fourth discoverer, were divested of our coats and escorted to a table at the back of the long room. We admired the ceiling swathed in swatches of cloth, which concealed the subdued but not too dim lighting, and the bent wire coat hangers from which bottles of artificial white flowers were suspended.

Although the place was so busy the service was really friendly and efficient, and we were soon enjoying our drinks and consulting the menu.
First up came a snake bean and sweet potato won ton with green pea and coriander purée, closely followed by the remarkable crispy brussels sprouts with lemon miso and chili. Having done my research I knew we simply had to have these, and we discovered that all the rave reviews were spot on. Next came a lovely dish of eggplant with miso sauce, tofu and sesame seeds. The chunks of eggplant were rich and tender and contrasted very nicely with the crispy tofu. If we had a complaint at all, it would have been that the ratio of tofu to eggplant could have been increased. But that is a small complaint for something so delicious.
Meanwhile some duck rice crêpe money bags and eye fillet with porcini and shiitake pâté and wasabi sweet potato were shared among the carnivores.
Replete after this feast, we had no room for sweets or coffee, although some of us found space for some more of the excellent beer selection. At this stage I will admit that yes, we were encouraged to try Seamstress on account of the special offers from Dimmi and Urbanspoon, but honestly it had been in the back of my mind to try it out some time anyway - it had just taken me a few years to get around to it. We really liked Seamstress and can recommend it any time, special deal or no.
With our coats skilfully retrieved from their perch high above the front window, we were soon on our way to nearby Parliament Station, in good time for the connections to both the east and the inner northwest. The Belgrave train and its attendant shuttle trundled us efficiently back to the dark and gloomy city of Boroondara, where our damp walk from the station was illuminated by this gorgeous flowering wattle.
Seamstress on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 5, 2013

Discovery XL

For our fortieth discovery the regular discoverers were again reduced by half, but we decided to team up with another two family members for a 'taking it to the people' early discovery and car pickup. Our destination: Aangan in West Footscray. Initial contact was made at the Sherlock Holmes, over a Thunder Road Collingwood draught and a cider. The next stop was the 220 bus stop on Queen Street.

While in general I highly recommend you get on the bus, in retrospect I think that taking the train to West Footscray and then walking to Barkly Street would have been more efficient, and probably more fun. But eventually the bus did clear the city snarl and was happily bowling along Footscray Road. From Footscray station it was only a few minutes to our destination.

Aangan is rather bigger than I expected but at 6.00 pm it was still fairly quiet. We had taken the precaution of booking for five in case Mr 31 was able to join us, which meant that we enjoyed a more generously sized table than the standard offering for four, and two sets of pappadums. This was a nice bonus.

Lamb saag was shared among the carnivores, with tawa paneer and dal tadka to keep me happy. Aangan has so many paneer dishes on the menu that I felt obligated to try one. It arrived sizzling on the hot metal tawa, with onion, capsicum and mushroom. The dal was a good contrast: not too rich, nice and runny and pleasantly spicy. We also shared garlic naan (which is OK but I have to say I prefer plain naan, which doesn't interfere with the other flavours) and a filled naan with potato. Quite delicious for a treat, but the crispier texture of the plain or garlic naan would be preferred by many. Next time we should try a parantha perhaps.

Paneer, dal and naan
Paneer, dal and naan

With the meal we enjoyed a Haywards 5000 or two (or three, in my case) making a grand total of 25,000. The girls were sensible and stuck to lassi. And gulab jamun.

The trip back to the sleeping city of Boroondara via the equally quiet streets of Sunshine was uneventful, and we were soon settled happily on the couch. Mr 31 was somewhat unhappy at missing out, as it was his suggestion to try Aangan after he had tasted their food at a street festival. Nevertheless he rang for an update and seemed pleased with our choices. We'll definitely go back as there is so much to choose from: Aangan has a wonderful array of vegetarian dishes. I'd recommend going with at least four people so you can sample a good range of flavours and textures. And Haywards.

Aangan on Urbanspoon


Discovery XXXIX

Discovery was reduced to two on the evening of the first match of the so-called Champions Trophy featuring Australia and New Zealand at Edgbaston. The venue? A familiar couch and comfy chair in front of the Fox sports channel.

Mr 31 arrived bearing the discovery dinner, courtesy of Tandoori Den. More an old family favourite than a new discovery, this long established Camberwell restaurant provides consistently good food and service. For my sister's surprise birthday party a 'few' years ago, we simply took the pots and pans down the road and returned with them full of steaming goodies. We haven't had Tandoori Den takeaway for a while, but back in the day we often ordered dal saag. This was always obligingly provided and we didn't discover until much later that it wasn't actually on the takeaway menu.

Tandoori Den takeaway
Tandoori Den takeaway

But back to discovery. We ate mushroom jal frazi and aloo gobi with rice and naan - plenty for two, with leftovers. We discussed why on Indian restaurant menus, spinach is palak or saag, lentils are dal, potatoes are aloo, cauliflower is gobi, peas are matar but mushrooms are mushrooms. On looking up my favourite Indian vegetarian cookery book by Jack Santa Maria, I discovered that mushrooms are khumbi. So we are no closer to explaining this phenomenon.

New Zealand (especially Daniel Vettori) were looking good, but Australia recovered with some crucial wickets towards the end of the innings. During the slow passages of play we amused ourselves with the social media reaction to Dave Warner's brain fade in 'an Aussie themed bar' in Birmingham. Mr 31 was able to advise from experience that going into a Walkabout bar in the first place was a bigger mistake than the ill-timed off cut (experience of Walkabout, that is, not of ill-timed off cuts. Mr 31 was a handy batsman in his day, as well as an excellent keeper.)

Unfortunately the match was washed out around 1.00 am. Mr 31 headed home in disgust and I went wearily to bed, happy that I would be having Tandoori Den curry for dinner again in a few hours time.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Discovery XXXVIII

"The Laurel Wednesday night for new menu, quiz night (jackpot at $240) and the state of origin on the big screen!"

Such was the suggestion posted on the discovery team's social networking site of choice. Having agreed that the new menu was sufficient qualification for a new discovery, the discoverers were off to The Laurel again. As there is no way I am ever driving across the city in peak hour again (see Discovery XXXVI), the city worker, the Docklands worker and I met in William Street at 5.55 pm, in good time to catch the 5.56 55 tram to Flemington Road. The changeover to the 59 tram was accomplished without incident and we arrived at 289 Mount Alexander Road at the appointed hour.

The Woodies @ The Laurel
The Woodies @ The Laurel

We were greeted by the other half of The Woodies, disappointed to find that there were no tables left in the quiz room. (Boris had obviously forgotten to book.) So we were delighted to discover that a table just outside the doorway, out of the crush but with a good view of the screen, had been reserved for 'Bevan' (not Boris) by pub management (thanks Steve!) for just such a bunch of disorganised discoverers. And so we happily settled in for the quiz and the $15.00 Wednesday special meal.

Our choices were spaghetti with sweet potato, char grilled capsicum and asparagus in creamy garlic sauce; warm Asian inspired beef salad with feta (this from the regular bar menu rather than the specials, but still good value); and porterhouse with salad and chips x 2. Having dined well at The Laurel before (see Discovery XXXVI) I had high expectations. The spaghetti was very good: creamy and rich and well supplied with vegetables. It went very well with a Coopers pale ale.


This is the warm beef salad, which looked quite nice and was readily devoured by one of the carnivores.

Warm beef salad
Warm beef salad

While we were eating, the quiz got underway. It took The Woodies team a while to settle into the format as none of us had ever been to an electronic quiz before. But we soon got the hang of it and were proud to be actually ahead of the bunch in the third round. We also won a prize of a bottle of bubbles when Mr 'quick fingers' 31 was first to place the correct answer to one of the music questions. We would have been happy to accept a podium finish, but were slightly chagrined to come fourth over all. As Steve behind the bar dryly remarked: "What colour medal do you get for coming fourth?".

Leaving the boys to mingle with the crowd and watch the end of the State of Origin, we jumped aboard a passing 59 tram to Melbourne Central, where we managed to just miss the Alamein connection. So our return to the leafy and dripping city of Boroondara was via a 15 minute wait and a walk down the back lanes of East Camberwell.

And yes, the Bodleian Library is in Oxford. How odd that the only team to know the answer to this question was the one containing two librarians!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Discovery XXXVII

Discovery was rather erratic over April and May, with various discoverers interstate, busy with deadlines or otherwise engaged. After the fractured Cafe Lagenda/Laurel episode (see Discovery XXXVI), it was some weeks before the discoverers (minus 1) were able to reconvene.

The venue this time was Agraba in Errol Street North Melbourne. Agraba was chosen somewhat randomly but turned out to be an extremely pleasant place with above average Middle Eastern food, so I can recommend it if you would like to give it a try. You could eat there before (or after) catching a performance of Impro Box at Club Voltaire, perhaps. It's easy to get to, with tram 57 stopping virtually at the door. This is a good thing as there is no way I am ever attempting to cross the city by car in the evening peak again, after the Anzac eve debacle (see Discovery XXXVI). And it's a relatively easy walk from North Melbourne to Flemington, as Mr 30 can attest.

Errol Street was fairly quiet early on a cool late autumn evening. We were pleased to be seated next to the cosy (imitation) wood fire, with a choice of cushioned benches or chairs. Pavement dining would be a nice option in the warmer months.

Although the menu is small it is easy to put together a varied selection and there are lots of vegetarian options. We chose a few dishes to share: haloumi; baba ghanoush (which came with a basket of both crisp and soft pita bread); lamb with rice; cauliflower and broccoli with taratour; and falafel with pickles. The falafel were excellent - nearly up to the Abbatengelo family standard, which can never be surpassed. The pickles were great, particularly the lovely bright pink turnip pickles, although the green chilies were pretty good too. Just a pity that one of us doesn't like pickles at all. Well maybe not such a pity - all the more for Mr 30 and me!

Sadly I omitted to take any photos on the night. The interior of Agraba is quite dark and mysterious and my photos would probably not have done the food justice. Perhaps you could have a look at this blog post from off the spork - it's a very fair review of the banquet menu, with lots of excellent pictures.

The trip back to the dark and sleepy city of Boroondara was achieved quite efficiently by way of the 57 tram and a train from Melbourne Central. I found myself wishing that Burke Road could somehow miraculously be transmogrified into Errol Street, but I suspect that this is not going to happen in my lifetime.

The discovery continues.

Agraba on Urbanspoon



Discovery XXXVI

Discovery XXXVI fell on the eve of Anzac Day. The plan was to have early tea at Chef Lagenda in Flemington before heading to the Laurel to watch The Woodies in their special Anzac Day eve performance.

The Woodies
Anzac Day eve special

In the late afternoon the discovery of a suspicious object caused trains to cease running between the city and Essendon. No matter: I'd already decided to drive to Flemington by way of the city. The trip into town was as usual fairly congested and just a little slower than I expected, but I was confident that an hour would be ample time to drive the short distance up William Street and Flemington Road to Pinoak Crescent, even on the eve of a public holiday with an unscheduled train stoppage. But alas, traffic in Peel Street and Flemington Road was either stopped or at a slow crawl all the way, and it took an hour and a half to drive about five kilometres. We should have walked, which is what many people were obliged to do, as the trams in Flemington Road were so overcrowded they were impossible to board.

And so it was that we arrived at Pinoak Crescent, in the dark and rain, just as Mr 30 and Mr 28 were leaving Cafe Lagenda after their laksa. We decided it was easier to keep driving directly to the Laurel. After some unpleasant experiences with a roundabout, a car without headlights and the Dan Murphy's car park, we found a nice spot in a quiet side street and at last were embraced by the warmth and conviviality of the Laurel. The horrors of the last two and a half hours were quickly forgotten.

We settled into the bistro and ordered veal scallopine and the roasted vegetable stack. And beer and cider to cheer us after our harrowing journey. This is the vegetable stack. It was elegantly presented on a large rectangular white plate and quite delicious, each vegetable with its own individual flavour and texture blending into a harmonious medley.

Roasted vegetable stack
Roasted vegetable stack

In the interest of editorial balance, a picture of the veal scallopine is also included.

Veal scallopine
Veal scallopine

After dinner we repaired to the sports bar. Friends and family mingled with the locals to enjoy a great selection of originals and covers by The Woodies. The crowd favourite was Wonderwall, but for some reason I just love the Johnny Cash classic Ring of fire. The Johnny Cash original is obviously the best, but I also love Eric Burdon and The Animals' soulful rendition. But the latest and greatest version has to be the beautiful harmonies of The Woodies. Thank you Woodies!

The Woodies
The Woodies in the sports bar


Friday, April 26, 2013

Discovery XXXV

Inspired by a '50% off sensational waterside dining' deal, the discovery support vehicle was despatched to Beach Street Port Melbourne via Collins Street, a round trip of over one hour. Our destination: Boat.

The other two discoverers who had sensibly approached on foot and by tram were already seated at the bar, sharing a beer (the last available bottle of their chosen variety). Soon we were seated at our table with a nice sparkly view of the Spirit of Tasmania departing from Station Pier. Although there were only a few other diners we were left quite alone for some time and had to call attention to the waiting staff to order our drinks and entrées.

After another quite long wait we were served our wine and Peroni, and then after another decent interval our starters arrived. We were quite impressed with the generous serves of crunchy zucchini chips, saganaki and calamari.

We had made the decision to delay ordering the main course until we had sampled the entrées. This proved to be a mistake because by the time we were able to attract attention again, not only the seafood platter but the fish and chips were no longer available. The waitress obligingly provided the lunch menu to extend our choices, and we settled on chips, 'classic' Greek salad, a bowl of vegetables and prawn risotto.

The chips (actually a rather meagre bowl of shoestring fries) arrived before too long, but there was another lengthy interval before the salad, the vegetables (a small serve of nicely cooked zucchini and broccoli) and finally the risotto arrived. The salad and vegetables were both very good, if not generously sized portions, but the risotto was just that little bit underdone, although tasty and well supplied with prawns, according to those who sampled it. Meanwhile we polished off another bottle of wine and Peroni.

On the boat

Really it should not have taken almost three hours for this dinner to be served and consumed. We were very pleased that the discovery vehicle was on hand to transport us quickly back to the city of Boroondara via the dropoff at Southern Cross station. Mr 30 opted to walk home, which he expected to take an hour and a half - a long walk, but not as long as this discovery dinner.

Boat Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Discovery XXXIV

Discovery XXXIV broke with tradition for the first time since the 2012 Olympics, with the event being held at home to celebrate the new kitchen.

As with all discoveries, no mobile devices were permitted; however we were allowed to watch the footy channel while eating our dessert of strawberry cake and Easter eggs. The strawberry and yoghurt cake is a recipe of Neil Perry's published in The Age. While mixing the ingredients I thought it must have been a mistake that there were no eggs; however I pressed on and the cake turned out very well, with a nice grainy texture from the polenta. But I certainly didn't believe it would take two hours to cook. In fact it was ready in about an hour, but maybe that's just thanks to our lovely new efficient oven.

The previous course was served at the dining table. Nothing too adventurous: dal (my favourite Anna Thomas recipe from her first book, The Vegetarian Epicure, 1972); cabbage dom (another 1970s favourite, copied onto catalogue cards from an unknown source); pilau rice from Jack Santamaria's Indian Vegetarian Cookery; and pappadams with brinjal pickle (Ferns, of course) with a few other condiments.

This is a picture of the preparation area near the new kitchen sink. This was taken before the tiling and painting were completed, but may give you an idea of the space and light that have been opened up by the renovation.

Kitchen sink
Kitchen sink

With the ban on mobile devices no photographs were permitted in the dining room, but here is a picture of the much splattered cabbage dom recipe. Don't be afraid to use too much chili. And if you can't be bothered with the 'curd', ie yoghurt, which in my experience needs mixing with a little arrowroot to prevent its curdling when you mix it with the curry, and may make the dish a little too sour, use coconut milk instead, which adds a nice creamy richness to the simplicity of the potato and cabbage.

Cabbage Dom recipe
Cabbage Dom recipe

You may notice that the cards are of different stock and written with different pens. The recipe was originally written on both sides of the first card (the recto and the verso?) but over the years I got so annoyed with having to turn the card over to check the ingredients that I finally had the bright idea of rewriting the second segment of the recipe onto a separate card. As a new librarian at the time of writing out the original recipe perhaps I should have known better, but my initiation into cataloguing was at St Kilda Library which boasted one of the earliest automated catalogues in Victoria, so I knew little of the technology of catalogue cards. My next job at the Victorian Railways technical library was to remedy this deficiency, but that's a whole 'nother' story, as they say.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Discovery XXXIII

On Wednesday 27 March 2013, the day of the Easter full moon, Discovery resumed its 'taking it to the people' concept, with a trip to Blackburn South to visit two friends who had recently announced their engagement and moved into the area. It was also a homecoming of sorts for me, as I had spent my teenage years just up the road in a 1960s Jennings brick veneer in Holland Road.

The preferred method of travel to the eastern outpost of Sawasdee was by car. Although it is apparently not impossible to get to Canterbury Road by public transport, it involves buses, which are generally best avoided.


Sawasdee proved to be an attractive place with a menu better than your usual local Thai takeaway joint (assuming your usual local Thai takeaway joint is in Camberwell). With a group of six we were able to choose a good variety of dishes, including deep fried tofu triangles, 'money bags' of pork and sweet corn, fish cakes, curry puffs, Singha and sauvignon blanc, and that was just for starters. We followed up with vegetarian green curry and pad thai, cashew chicken and beef pandang.

The restaurant seemed fairly quiet, although we were so busy chatting and catching up that we didn't really notice much beyond the pleasant food and company. The service was good and the Singha was replenished as required - always a good thing when you are dining out and the 'while you're up' rule doesn't apply.

After our meal Mr 28 and Mr 30 went back to their friends' new home, while the remaining two discoverers drove the short distance up Canterbury Road to the dark and sleepy city of Boroondara.


Discovery XXXII

Little Africa was chosen as the venue for Discovery XXXII, mostly because of a mixup of dates and commitments. Only three discoverers were able to make the not-so-long journey to North Melbourne, arriving by bicycle from Docklands and trams from Flinders Street and South Yarra.

I arrived early and settled down happily with a nice St George beer in the late evening light filtering through the shopfront window on Victoria Street. Little Africa is quite a small space but very welcoming and comfortable. I learned from Urbanspoon that you can choose to settle into nearby Prudence bar instead, and have food from Little Africa delivered to your table. Sounds like the best of both worlds.

St George
St George

Once the usual suspects (minus one) were assembled at Boris's table, we ordered the vegetarian combo plate for two and the derek tibs, a pan fried lamb dish as compensation for our unreconstructed carnivore.

Vegetarian combo
Vegetarian combo

The vegetarian combo arrived on an enormous pink rimmed plate, wearing a fetching straw hat. As you can see, a chunk was already torn off the delicious injera bread before I had a chance to take a photo. It seemed like far too much for two, but the combination of lentils, cabbage, carrots, pumpkin and spicy, salty, lemony flavours, with a little refreshing greenery, was so delicious that we managed to get through nearly all of it.

Ths is the derek tibs: less spectacular, but equally well appreciated.

Derek tibs
Derek tibs

When we could eat and drink no more, we saw Mr 30 off on his bike, and then walked through the Victoria Market on our way back to Melbourne Central. The market was buzzing with its regular Wednesday night hawkers market and we made a note to go back some time when we weren't already utterly sated and longing to get home to the peaceful city of Boroondara, way out east, to collapse on the couch.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Discovery XXX

Consideration was given to holding Discovery XXX in the MCC Dining Room on the occasion of the Victoria vs Queensland one day cricket final; however rain, work obligations and the lack of a jacket and tie saw the four discoverers assembling at Curry Vault in Bank Place instead.

Curry Vault was not exactly a discovery as two of us had been there before for a business lunch, but it won out as a convenient and well regarded Indian restaurant handy to the city and Docklands office workers.

I was early and ordered a Kingfisher, whereupon I discovered that Haywards 5000 was also available! I made haste to finish the Kingfisher (not that there's anything wrong with it at all) so I could get back on track.

The other discoverers gradually trickled in. We ordered onion bhaji, just to see if it would come close to the late lamented Rawat's, which of course it didn't. Again, nothing wrong with it, but Rawat's onion bhaji was definitely the Haywards 5000 of onion bhaji. It's about time we re-visited the Taj Palace in Footscray to see if Rawat's famous dish lives on after his untimely passing.

But back to Curry Vault. Along with the bhaji we had aloo gobi, baingan masala, lamb saagwala and the usual rice and naan.

Onion bhaji
Onion bhaji and friends

Undoubtedly you can get more exciting and cheaper Indian food in the suburbs, but Curry Vault is a good option if you are in the city and want a pleasant meal and great beer in one of Melbourne's traditional laneways. The food, service and ambience at Curry Vault can't really be faulted. And before and/or after the meal you can have a beer at the Mitre Tavern, as long as it's not too overcrowded with the noisy and thirsty legal fraternity. And while you are there you can lament the loss of the charming Edward Lear tiles from the unfortunately renovated bathroom facilities.

One great thing about discovery in the city is the easy ride home on the train to the dark and quiet city of Boroondara. From Bank Place it is a short walk to either Southern Cross or Flagstaff. Thanks Metro trains for running the service to East Camberwell every 15 minutes in the evenings.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Discovery XXXI

Our thir[s]ty-first Discovery was The Quiet Man in Racecourse Road Flemington, on Wednesday 6 March 2013. Two discoverers rendezvoused at Southern Cross station, transferring to the Crazyburn line at Flagstaff for the short trip to Newmarket.

As it was a hot evening we started with a pint or two at one of the outdoor tables in Rankins Road. The pub's menu and website tell us its history - apparently 'opening its doors to the public' in 1998 with the shipment of the Irish prefab components from Dublin. I was so pleased when Flemington Heritage posted a picture to their Facebook page just a few days later, showing that the pub was formerly known as The Palace, and was built on the site shortly after it was purchased in 1879.

Quiet Man
The Quiet Man

We moved inside for the culinary stage of the evening, into a cosy booth in the front bar which Mr 28 had been holding for us, pending the arrival of our fourth discoverer from a day trip to Ballarat. I chose 'Paddy's pancake' from the Out of the soil section of the menu, accurately described as 'Potato and spinach pancake in a cheese Mornay sauce, served with chunky chips and salad garnish'. Very tasty and hearty food.

As I am writing this some time after the event, I don't have an exact recollection of what the others ate, but I suspect that steak may have figured in at least one of the choices. You can check out the menu on the Quiet Man website and make your own choice - it's fun and there is a marvellous array of potato dishes from which to choose, if by any chance you are tired of chips.

Wednesday is acoustic night in the front bar so after dinner we were treated to some live music. We enjoyed the entertainment for a while before finding the discovery tour car and heading over the Bolte back to our south of the city refuge (driving over or under the river three times in the process). Meanwhile Mr 28 and Mr 30 stayed a while to enjoy the music before walking home to their new abode just a few quiet and leafy blocks away in the beautiful suburb of Flemington.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Discovery XXIX

'Taking it to the people' saw three discoverers taking the 112 tram (popularly known as the one one twelve) to the Lord Newry hotel in North Fitzroy for Discovery XXIX. Meanwhile I drove the discovery taxi to the site and was happy to score a spot in the middle of Newry Street just over the road from the pub.

First a shout out to Max, the Newry's resident handyperson who has done a marvellous job of decoration with flower boxes and planters and even an octopus on the chimney. Yes really. Just look up next time you're passing, if you don't believe me.


Soon the tram travellers and the special local guest arrived and we perused the menu over our drinks (Coopers Pale, sparkling wine and water). Sadly the Newry's famous eggplant chips are no longer available. We made do with Scotch fillet, grilled haloumi, the Lord Newry burger, a rocket and pear salad and pizza.

Scotch fillet
Scotch fillet



The haloumi was probably the star dish of the evening. It was served with lovely crunchy rösti baskets and a rather weedy salad. One of the 'thin & crispy' pizzas was found to be too crunchy and blackened around the edges. The staff were very obliging about this and more than happy to remove the item from the bill.

Pizza with fenugreek

I already had plenty of salad with my haloumi so I didn't need to sample the separate pear and rocket salad. In my opinion this world was a better place before rocket became a ubiquitous salad ingredient, but some people seem to like it. It's OK as long as its bitter mustardy taste is ameliorated by other ingredients. Pear, balsamic vinegar and parmesan generally do the trick.

The ubiquitous rocket

The front bar of the Lord Newry is the new dining room, with the former dining room transmogrified into the pool area. I'm not too sure if this has been a successful move as there was no one playing pool on this warm Wednesday evening, nor were there very many people eating in the front bar. Most people like to sit outside at the footpath tables, and a very pleasant area it is too, with the lovely old green tiles and Max's plantings.

Green tiles
Green tiles

The return trip over the river to the to the quiet and leafy city of Boroondara was accomplished without incident as the dropoff was on the way home. Future dropoffs may be different. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Disovery 2013.