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.