The System at work again – No 8 by John Lawson

As mentioned previously, OH and I have a system for making sure we try at least one new restaurant per month.  March was OHs turn to pick out of the jar of fate – we take turns about and usually make the pick for a special night out.  The reason for this particular night out was a flying visit to Melbourne by OH’s brother (Beanie-boy) and his wife (Posh).  No. 8 by John Lawson was pulled out (coincidentally it was one that OH had put into the jar), and bookings were made.

We planned to spend the whole day with Beanie-boy and Posh as OH doesn’t get to see his family too often.  It was a pretty early start for everyone involved, we got a text at 4am our time letting us know that their flight from Christchurch had been delayed by 2 hours.  They figured they were up, so why not share the love.  We got another text at 6.30am to let us know the flight was delayed a further hour.  It was really helpful knowing that the flight was delayed as soon as the passengers knew – that way we could make sure we didn’t leave too early for our 30 minute trip to the airport (for those that don’t know me – Yes, that is sarcasm).

Fortunately with no further delays we picked them up from the airport, got them checked into their hotel and headed to OH’s current fave Touchwood in Richmond for lunch.  (This is why we have the system – OH likes going back to places he knows and loves).  It’s a fave because it’s pretty good and always busy.  I had my usual Pulled Pork Tacos – it comes as a server of three soft shell tacos with pork, cabbage and fennel slaw and apple compote.  Being a disciple (Michelle Bridges 12wbt) I have two and OH happily demolishes the third.  OH had his usual, Wagyu Beef Burger with handcut kipfler chips and our visitors had Mexican Chicken Salad and House Cured Salmon.

With everybody feed and watered we headed back to our apartment so OH could show his big bro where we live.  It’s worth mentioning at this point that my OH is the strong (not in the meat-head gym junkie kind of way) silent type, to my utter amazement around his big bro you could not shut him up.  We spent the rest of the day showing our guests around the Melbourne CBD.    We walked the length of Melbourne CBD several times – my Fitbit was so impressed at my 18,000 steps I got a new badge.

OH and I raced home and after a Superman like change of clothes, we were back in Southbank ready for our dinner at No. 8.  We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks; bubbles for me, a Savvy B for Posh and beer for the boys and some freshly baked bread while we contemplated our selections.  We all opted not to have entree and went straight to the mains.  The rellies both opted for the fish special which was a crispy skinned Barramundi served with a dashi broth, I had the Rib Eye Fillet and OH had Duck.  (OH will always have duck if it is on the menu – it used to be fish but he’s gotten a bit more upmarket as he’s gotten older!)  We all shared a lovely Central Otago Pinot Noir with our mains (once you’ve had a good Central Otago Pinot there’s no going back!)

We all declared that deserts were a no go zone and instead wandered through the Crown complex and ended up outside in time for one of the hourly flame displays.  In the 18 months that we have lived in Melbourne I have never actually seen one of these – it’s pretty impressive.

Overall our night at No. 8 was pretty good, the company was great, the food was good (sorry not quite dericious), the service was excellent and the damage wasn’t too bad considering it’s a pricey place.  It was a good choice for a special occasion like our visiting rellies.

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Mexican Crowd Surfing – Fonda Mexican & White Night

It’s official – I don’t like massive crowds!

OH and I joined some fellow Kiwis (birds of a feather and all that) and an honorary Kiwi to go to White Night a couple of Saturday’s ago.  White Night is now in it’s second year in Melbourne, the organisers expected a crowd of around 500,000 this year – Melbourne did not disappoint.  I’m pretty sure I got squashed in a mosh pit on the corner of Flinders Street by Fed Square with every single one of the 500,000.  Well, maybe not that many in that one little place but it sure felt like it.  On the up side, the light shows on Flinders Street Station and the other buildings in that area were awesome and everyone was very polite considering it was a very cramped situation.  We should have known that it was going to be busy in the city as it was pretty hard getting a tram and we ended up walking into the City from Richmond.

OH and I had dinner with Miss Feisty and Sport Mad Chick at Fonda Mexican to start the evening off.  I love Mexican and we thought that Fonda’s casual atmosphere would suit us for a pre-event dinner.  OH and I arrived first and enjoyed a drink while we waited.  I ordered the Pineapple and Mint Aqua Locas – way too drinkable but very yum and OH had a beer.  I think I was on my second by the time our friends had arrived.

We started with Charred Corn each and then OH and I opted to share a Pulled Pork Quesidilla and Char-grilled Mushroom Burrito along with a couple more drinks each.  It’s no wonder we didn’t mind the walk (stumble?) into town.  OH and I had been to Fonda before and had really enjoyed, this visit was not different – our meal was dericious and would have been very reasonable if we hadn’t been quite so over zealous with the drinks.

After leaving Fonda, we met up with the rest of our company for the evening – The Richmond Twins (fellow Kiwi and former work colleague of Sport Mad Chick and his partner- who is our honorary Kiwi) and wandered into White Night via Alexander Gardens as the day faded into night.  OH and I lasted a few hours at White Night and from what we saw the light shows were pretty spectacular.  Our pals went through for another few hours and managed to navigate the crowds to see a fair portion of the free light shows.

I’m glad I went to White Night, but I’m also glad we left when we did.

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Night Market Wash Out – Wat Da Pho

OH and I got invited to join a couple of friends at the Queen Victoria Night Market held Wednesday nights during the summer months.  On the allotted Wednesday Melbourne decided to send us torrential rain and thunder storms – it was a pretty unanimous decision to take a rain check (pardon the pun) on our marketing adventures.  Instead we decided to meet up for a casual cheap and cheerful meal at Wat Da Pho in South Melbourne.  I had seen it a few times when I’d been to pick up OH from his work in Albert Park and it looked like a fairly busy place – always good sign.

I rang ahead to check if they took bookings or were a walk in kind of place.  The helpful staff advised me that they did both and advised me to book as they get pretty busy at certain times.  I booked, but unfortunately when Feisty Sidekick arrived they didn’t have a booking under my name.  It wasn’t an issue and the staff sorted a table for us.  We suspect that they misheard over the phone and that our booking was in fact under a different name.  No issues.

The menu is small but quite tempting.  To start we tried the Crunch Spring Rolls a serving of six mini spring rolls – we opted for three Pork and three Vegetable and the Rice Paper Rolls.  OH and I preferred the Vegetable Spring Rolls and we each tried a different Rice Paper Roll.  I had the Lemongrass Beef, OH had Chicken and Avo and Feisty Sidekick had the Prawn.  We were later joined by Sport Mad Chick who had both the Beef and the Prawn – she had a bit of catching up to do (navigating Melbourne’s tram network in the rain can be very time consuming).

We all opted for the Pho over other dishes on the menu.  Pho is a Vietnamese soup usually made with thinly sliced beef (Pho Bo) or Chicken (Pho Ga).  The beef is cooked in the fragrant stock to which the diner can add Vietnamese mint, bean sprouts and lime etc.  I had the Chicken with rice noodles, while OH and Feisty Sidekick both had Beef with rice noodles and Sport Mad Chick had Beef with egg noodles.  OH and I liked the flavour of the Pho but felt the noodles were a little overdone might try the egg noodles next time.

Overall we thought it was a good meal for a rainy Wednesday night in Melbourne.  I think we all agreed that there were other items on the small menu that would warrant a return visit to sample.

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The System – Valentines Dinner – Il Bacaro

When OH and I first arrived in Melbourne we thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a no returns policy when dining out.  That is, for a whole year we would not go back to the same restaurant twice – forcing us to continually be trying new places.  There were a couple of major flaws to our brilliant plan; we are creatures of habit – we can’t help but go back to our favourites and quite simply, we fell in love with Richmond so we didn’t venture much past what was on offer on our doorstep.

This year we have decided that once a month we will try a new restaurant.  That’s where the system comes into play.  It may surprise anyone who knows me reading this post that I am a bit of a control freak.  I have a bit of a bad habit of vetoing OH’s choices where dining out is concerned.  Some of this is valid as the choice may not be 12wbt friendly but mostly it’s because it’s not my choice.  To stop me doing this we set some rules around The System; OH and I got to choose 12 restaurants each – including iconic, fine dining type of restaurants, we cross referenced these with The Age Good Food Guide, Urbanspoon and the Entertainment Book (yes I know – control freakish! But we are new to Melbourne so need to do research).  We put these choices anonymously into a jar and each month one of us gets to pick a place from the jar.  We use The System for major events – Wedding Anniversary, Valentines Day, Posh Spice visiting (my Sister in Law – more on that one in a later post), Birthdays etc.

To celebrate Valentines Day I got to pick from the jar and I selected Il Bacaro, handily one of my choices that I’d been wanting to try for a while.  OH made the booking and off we went – I was frocked up in my new size 14 dress (from the Flock of Kiwis visit) and OH in his best $10 shirt (nicer than it sounds – OH likes to buy stuff on sale and has a range of dress shirts that he picked up for $10).

We had a lovely evening, the staff we very knowledgeable and very welcoming.  We started with a glass of bubbles for me and a beer for OH and chose a lovely NZ merlot to go with our meal.  Our waiter had picked up on our accents and gave us a bit of light hearted ribbing for choosing a NZ wine.  Our entree was zucchini flowers stuffed with a ricotta and pea mixture.  The were so delicious that we had eaten them before I thought about getting a photo for this post.

Main for me was an entree sized hand cut pappardelle with lamb ragu, truffle paste, peas and pecorino Parpadelle OH couldn’t resist the roasted duck breast, baked duck leg with celeriac, rainbow chard and mustard fruits.  il barcaro duck

Both were delcious.  I should explain my rating scale that I have borrowed from a Japanese student that we had living with us for a period of time.  We could figure out how good a meal was through a rating scale of our cooking; from best to worse – yum, delicious and thank you (OH’s meals mostly got the thank you).  So delicious is pretty up there.

Desert was selected on the recommendation of one of the staff combined with us not so subtly spying on what our neighbours had and using that the rule out a couple of options we had been considering – I often suffer from severe food envy.  The winning selection was baked apple with berry nut crumble and ricotta semifreddo which we shared accompanied by a couple of different desert wines (I should mention – one each) selected by our very helpful waiter.  Desert was also pronounced as being delicious as well and was again devoured before I could consider photos.

It was one of our more expensive nights out – around half the bill was alcohol (Craggy Range Merlot does not come cheap) but was definitely worth it.

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Breakfast with Michelle Bridges

I had breakfast with Michelle Bridges!  OK, it wasn’t one on one, there were around 800 other people there!

Michelle was the guest speaker at the latest Business Chicks event at the Palladium Ballroom in Crown.  As I’m a self proclaimed disciple (FYI – I have a friend that doesn’t like the term, but I use it very tongue in cheek) I booked myself a ticket.  I’m also trying to increase my networking efforts now that I’ve moved to Melbourne so I go to a few Business Chicks events.

As luck would have it, I was seated at a table in the front row (perfect place for a disciple I say).  I was sat next to a bunch of lovely ladies who made me, the loner, feel very welcome.  Business cards were swapped, goodie bags explored and breakfast was had.  I managed to mostly avoid the temptation of the sugar loaded baked goods – I shared half of a very small danish with my neighbour.  Breakfast was poached eggs and sauteed spinach, with hollandaise sauce on toasted brioche with a side of sauteed mushrooms.  The brioche was way too sweet for a savoury dish so that was sidelined.  Don’t panic Mish (we’ve had breakfast together so I can be a bit more informal) – I kept track of all my calories using MyFitnessPal.

Mish was accompanied to the event by Commando and their table was only a few down from ours.  Much to the delight of my neighbour who had to go to the toilet a couple of times to get a glimpse of Commando.  I’ve never watched Biggest Loser before so didn’t really know who he was or what the big deal was about and when I did watch the show I just didn’t get why all the 30 plus crew raved about him.  Must say, after seeing him in person, I kinda get it now.

Mish’s presentation was well recieved.  She delivered her story and her message and related it to the business oriented audience.  She is a pretty driven and inspiring lady who tells it how it is – no BS.  For me it was a nice reinforcement of the messages I get through the 12wbt programme.

All in all, it was a great networking opportunity, I got some much needed CPD hours and a chance to see my idol (just for you my disciple disliking friend) up close and personal.  There was a book signing, meet and greet afterwards with Mish but as OH was picking me up I had to forgo that pleasure – oh well, next time.

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A Flock of Kiwis

What do you call more than one Kiwi.  I googled what a group of Kiwis would be called and learned that there is no official term for more than one Kiwi -so a flock it is.

Last weekend we were inundated with a bunch of Kiwi friends for a visit over Waitangi weekend.  There are a few of us living here in Melbourne that went to Uni together in Auckland – three to be exact.  We did a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) together and graduated in 2010.  As a class we were a pretty tight bunch and have kept in touch since.  Late last year one of the girls (Water Ski Chick) from our class separated from her husband so Fijian Barbie (FB) had the great idea that we should get her over to Melbourne for a visit.  Water Ski chick jumped at the chance along with Lawyer Girl and Gadget Boy (the only couple from our cohort).  Gadget Boy is over here quite often for work so was able to tie in a work visit which provided accommodation and a car for him, Lawyer Girl and their little one.

I had a planning meeting with my Melbourne colleagues (Fijian Barbie and Sport Mad Chick) deciding on how best to entertain our Kiwi mates.  I’m not a huge fan of my current work project so jumped at the chance to have a day or two off work  We decided that we would have a big night out on the town (Thursday was chosen) and that we would have dinner Wednesday at our place, drinks on Friday at Fijian Barbie’s place and Saturday we would venture out of the city to sample the delights of the Yarra Valley.  The two visiting girls had indicated that they would like to hit the Melbourne shops which I took to be a fab use of my two days off work as I am still rebuilding my wardrobe after my weight loss.

Day one was fairly average as it was a school night for us and they had all been up since the crack of dawn.  Day two was a brilliant day of shopping and fun, followed by a fabulous dinner at Burma Lane. We’d been there before with another group of Kiwi friends and were really impressed with the service and food.  Both times I think the standout dish has been the Potato cake filled with spicy slow roasted lamb belly, cabbage salad & minty yoghurt.  They dealt with a group really well and catered to a couple of allergies in our group with their exceptional service.  I think Burma Lane is my current fave restaurant in Melbourne when dining with a group.

Day three was a visit to South Melbourne market where we were able to score some new designer gear and my first ever size 14 dress (I’d never been below an 18 before starting 12wbt). Their visit coincided with the second Melbourne heatwave and on the way back to their Hotel my pals decided that they needed to indulge in a pub crawl along Southbank to combat the heat.  This involved drinking pints of cider for me and pints of beer for them.

Day four we had planned to make more child friendly and had decided that we would venture out to Yarra Valley.  Healesville Sanctuary was our first stop – get in before the heat of the day.  The last time I visited the Sanctuary was around 20 years ago, we had a fab time.  Lunch was a great pick by Sport Mad Chick – Innocent Bystander.  Absolutely loved their Moscato Granita.  OH and I shared a delicious pizza and fries drizzled in Parmesean and Truffle Oil – yum.  Although, I did have a bit of food envy when Gadget Boy ordered the Beef Short Rib.  Gadget Boy and OH both purchased new T-shirts.  The boys ones are way cooler than the girls were.

After lunch the adult festivities commenced, we started with a visit to De Bortoli on the recommendation of a fellow customer at Innocent Bystander who informed us they had delicious cheese as well as wine.  The staff at De Bortoli guided us through a tasting to go with our shared cheese platter.  Purchases were made – OH and I both agreed on a couple of the Bubblies and a Riesling. Domaine Chandon  was next on the list but we had spent such a long time at De Bortoli that we missed the tasting but the staff there hooked us up with a bottle to share on the terrace.  We finished our afternoon off at Yering Station enjoying a lovely tasting and more purchases – I think OH chose an Off Dry Riesling on the suggestion of Gadget Boy.

The weekend was finished off by breakfast the next morning at  Proud Mary‘s.  Another fave for OH and I.  Unfortunately, two of our groups orders got completely forgotten including the coffee, partly because we all arrived in dribs and drabs and didn’t wait for the rest to turn up and the waitress got a bit confused with who had had what.  The waitress was very apologetic and neither of them had to pay which was appreciated.

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Grease (the Show not the Country)

I subscribe to a few ticket alerts, one night a while ago I was checking my emails and got a pre sale offer for Grease.  I asked OH if he’d like to go to Grease.  He got quite gooey eyed and said that he’d always wanted to go there.  Much to my amusement and his annoyance, I had  to correct him and let him know that I was talking about the show not the country.  I did tell him that I would take him to Greece at some stage.  After I stopped rolling around the floor and he got over his hissy fit at me laughing we decided that we would get tickets.  After consulting the diary (it get’s quite full these days) we decided on the Saturday 1st of Feb.

Since we were going to have a quick and casual dinner pre show we decided not to invoke the new restaurants only rule and went to one of faves – Hu Tong Dumpling Bar http://hutong.com.au/.   We ordered Duck Meat Dumplings, Vegie Dumplings, Shanghai Noodles and Chicken Fillet in Laksa sauce with a small serve of rice – all washed down with a lovely Central Otago Pinot Noir.  We actually got two serves of Duck Meat and not the Vegie Dumplings but the Duck ones were so delicious that it didn’t matter.  Typical of us, we ordered one dish too many – that dish was the Chicken Fillet, lovely but not really needed.  The price of our meal was pretty good, over half the bill was the wine (also delicious and went down way to fast).

The show was awesome and brought back a whole heap of fabulous childhood memories.  I first went and saw Grease with my folks and a neighbouring family when I was much younger.  Our two families went on a day trip to Whangarei when we were living up in Taipa the first time around.  It was a really big deal to go to the big smoke, compared to Taipa (which is a beachside town in the Far North) it was massive, we even went to Pizza Hut for lunch – a very big treat.

After the show we wandered home pleasantly full after having an ice cream pre show (it was a hot night in Melbourne) and watching a show that was a blast from the past.

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