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