New Year’s Eve, Melbourne

One of the first quandaries facing the solo traveller in a new city is: where to eat? Now, I had a guidebook to Melbourne, or at least a section of the Official Cricket Australia guide to the 2006-7 Ashes, which recommended a few places. But I tend to find that the places recommended in these books are (1) quite often on the other side of the city from where my hotel is, and at this early stage I don’t have too much faith in my knowledge of the local public transport system; and (2) frequently full of similarly discombobulated travellers, which may or may not be a bad thing. Also, I can’t shake the cynical suspicion that places in these books have paid to have their establishments named and reviewed thus. Again, this doesn’t in itself make them bad places in which to eat, but all in all I tend to be of the wander-around-the-centre-of-town-until-you-find-somewhere school of thought. This, somewhat ironically, means I inevitably end up in some touristy street paying over the odds for ordinary food. Such was my experience when in Barcelona with my trusty football companion Slid. Strolling down La Ramblas on our first evening, we made the mistake of stopping for a Coke at one of the street cafés with seating right down the middle of the street. And we paid a heavy price, what amounted to about £5 per Coke, as I remember.

In Melbourne on my first evening, I wandered down Swanston St, which appeared to be a bit of a hub of activity in the centre of town. Ducking into a side street, I found what looked like a great little place to eat, and it probably was, as it was jam-packed. Moving on, I found little to appeal food-wise, eventually venturing into a little place called Claypot King. I think it may have been the Chinese equivalent of Burger King, but it was decent, reasonably-priced, and I was the only Caucasian diner there the whole time I was there.

Searching for somewhere serving ‘typical local food’ is even more of a cross-cultural experience than it might be these days. In Berlin earlier this year, I was surprised to discover that an authentic local delicacy was … the kebab … courtesy of huge numbers of Turkish immigrants to the city. In Melbourne, typical local food seemed to be either Mediterranean or Chinese/Thai/Korean. For lunch today I stumbled on a great restaurant called CA de vin, on Bourke St (I think). It was neither indoor nor outdoor – the seats and tables were pitched in the alleyway between two buildings, with what looked like fabric roofing slung across overhead. The menu was Mediterranean, which is to say I could understand about 40% of the description of each dish. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil from the family olive grove in Greece was on each table. The whole eating experience was really top-notch, right down to the waitresses, whose uniform appeared to be black clothes and body-piercing. And DC would approve of their ability to deliver coffee after the dessert. Doubtless he would approve of their aesthetic qualities as well, being a man of much appreciation in such matters.

The unique location of the restaurant spurred me to wild entrepreneurial thoughts of how something similar might work in Edinburgh – imagine such an eatery in one of the closes off the Royal Mile – although reality kicked in when I remembered our beloved City of Edinburgh Council and their apparent mission to make the city as un-visitor-friendly as possible. They’d never allow it. Perhaps more pertinently, while Melbourne has a reputation for bad weather from time to time, outdoor heaters would surely make the place a viable proposition even in winter, whereas in Edinburgh…

The standing joke about Melbourne’s weather is that it can have four seasons in one day, and my own experience bears this out, although on Boxing Day we seemed to miss out summer altogether. Every morning bar yesterday I woke up to clouds, and it was even raining this morning. The forecast for Sydney, mind, is not much better for the next few days, which might be England’s best chance of not losing the Fifth Test.

British place names were evoked in streets and suburbs all over Melbourne. I emerged from an underground station to see a street called Ulster Lane, and also spotted Linlithgow something-or-other. There is even a suburb called Armadale, which I didn’t visit, on the off chance that the similarity extended to more than just the name… whoops, apologies to any readers from Armadale West Lothian.

Melburnians and Sydneysiders, much like Weegies and Edinburghers, are in constant conflict over whose city is better. I have not seen enough of Sydney just yet to make a fair comparison, but what I can say is that in six days in Melbourne I didn’t see a SINGLE spider. Or cockroach. Probably too cold for them…

PS I would like to formally apologise for posting this originally in its unedited state. I have now rectified matters, and included the paternal editorial amendment suggested by my anonymous mother

9 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve, Melbourne”

  1. Your Dad says that in paragraph 1 it should be “..bad places in WHICH to eat”

    That aside the photos are very, very good.

    Thinking about Diana. If you have lost one hour in your life has she not lost a day in her life? Consider the way she travelled home and correct me if I am wrong.

    Mum

  2. Happy new year Andrew,

    I was looking through your australia photos, great to see the maroon saltire!

    Here is further proof that there were Jambo’s at the cricket:

    from the Australasian HMFC supporters club section of JambosKickback

    “Boxing day derby:

    I’m going to be in Melbourne for the derby game (got tickets for the cricket) with my dad (don’t ask what team he supports, its not my fault) and I was wondering where all the jambos will be watching the game? SuperPippo will be over for the cricket as well, so it would be good to show some new arrivals to the country how us expats do things over here when it comes to keeping in touch with the football! It would be good to meet up with some of the Southern Aussie Jambos as well…”

  3. Your penchant for moolightling as a travel/foodie jouro is gathering impressive pace.

    Good work! I reckon you should get a grant from the Council to try the resturaunt idea in Armadale…..

  4. Laughed hard at your character portrayals… especially the opening lines for my darling hubba…
    Great photos… hope you’re having a wonderful time and HNY2007!
    Mrs Robbo
    PS. Will not mention the CRI***T.
    I know it must be a wee bit depressing for you!

  5. hello! – I’ll comment before AQ gets a chance to put his next update up and mention my crazy friends he met last night.. they were just… happy to see me … and a little intense about ordering thai food..

    Yes I did lose a day – all of a sudden too – as we flew over the international date line. – think I might have been asleep at the time.

    It’s sunny here and warm… with showers now and then throughout the day (don’t let AQ convince you “it’s like Manchester”). I had my one day at the cricket yesterday and am now nice and pink with sunburn. AQ is also adding some red tones to his flesh.

    Sat very close to the Barmy Army – but it took them most of the day to wake up and by that time I was sitting near Australia’s answer to the barmy army – the boony army – their sophisticated chants and the equally genteel responses were entertaining when the cricket became a bit dull.

    Nanna would be happy I saw Brett Lee up close – the boys were warming up right near us as we entered the SCG. “He’s a nice looking young man!”

    Right. I’m off. Kenny – I saw some Celtic supporters at Sydney airport when I arrived.. no Jambos as yet.

  6. Hey Diana,

    Why not join the NSW Hearts Supporters Club? I know how much you enjoyed that riveting game we went to!

    We’ve got new mascots as well, cute maroon tigers. No more Josh and Jemma Jambo 🙂

  7. I’ll think about it Kenny. I’ve already been invited (by the kilted father of the bride at my friend’s wedding on Sat) along to a ceilidh in the suburb of Burwood here. There’s a big underground world of Scots in Australia I wasn’t aware of… might venture to the Scottish stores when I get a cravings for tartan, tunnocks and tablet.

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