Tuesday, 31 July 2012


We had dinner with T and W at Lupino in Flinders Lane (just down from Spring St).    According to the website, it had just re-opened after chef Marco  had returned from Italy.   Full marks to him for not delegating the task while he was away.

It's a plainly furnished but stylish venue, with an open kitchen and it seems to be one of the "in" places at present.   On the night we were there, it was busy, and the tables appeared to be regularly turned over, with early diners, intermediate diners and late diners.  We were told at 7.24 that we were early for our booking, and would have a 6 minute wait - which is exactly how it turned out!  As we left, there were people eating at the bar (perhaps they didn't have reservations?)

In the dark, it would have been easy to walk past it, but I've since read that it's marked by the red neon wolf’s head above the front door.

Interesting Italian menu.   We especially enjoyed the spicy pepper and celery soup, and I liked the gnocchi formaggi (a four-cheese sauce high on gorgonzola!)  I'm told the spaghetti marinara was good, too.

Service was OK, and prices were not too bad, bearing in mind that this is a CBD bistro.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Restaurant reviews

A recent issue of the Australian's weekend magazine set out to list Australia's "hottest" 50 restaurants.
Obviously, a list of 50 restaurants, Australia-wide, is a somewhat different (and more rarefied) proposition than the Good Food Guide.   I was reminded of the days when I eagerly checked each new issue of the Good Food Guide to make sure that none of my favourite restaurants had been listed, on the basis that, if they had, they would put their prices up.

No such dangers with the Australian's listing.   I don't think there's the slightest risk at all that any of the restaurants in this neighbourhood would have come even close to being considered.  I had only heard of a handful of the Victorian listings, and have only ever actually eaten in two of them.

While it's good to see quality being recognised,  I am not sure that the characteristics of at least some "hot" restaurants are likely to appeal to me.  For example, one restaurant is complimented on the "subtle use of avant-garde tricks and techniques".   All is not lost, another gets marks for "astonishingly good, deceptively simple food".  But, for the time being, it looks unlikely that the Australian's list will overtake Good Food Guide as my reference point when I have good eating in mind.    And for day-to-day eating-out, I'm happy to rely on personal recommendations as well as "trial-and-error".   Moreover, the fact that an establishment isn't listed anywhere except on Eatability (or similar) will continue to be no bar at all!

Saturday, 28 July 2012


I have occasionally posted on the Eatability restaurant review site (http://www.eatability.com.au/au/melbourne/) and so was interested to read that it had been sold for $6 million to Optus:
  This article is behind a paywall, but the free part gives the general idea.

Here's a link to another report on the sale:

 It mentions that the founders work from home!    Although the article in the Australian (which I read in hard copy) stated that Eatability employs about 12 staff, the idea that a work-from-home business  can be worth that sort of money is, well, food-for-thought (no pun intended).  I wonder if Optus have really done their due diligence?   This is a market in which there's lots of competition (such as Urban Spoon and others), and, frankly, I find the Eatability web-site pretty clunky (not helped by their recent attempt to diversify away from restaurants).  
There again, perhaps having regard to the value of Facebook (even after the drop in the price of its shares), prices in cyber-space are measured differently to those in the "real" world.......?

Friday, 27 July 2012


We were encouraged to visit the Napoleon "Revolution to Empire" exhibition after reading this blog:
  Indeed, an impressive exhibition.  There is a great range of materials, drawn from a whole range of institutions.  They include paintings, engravings, a tapestry or two, books, furniture, weapons, clothing, gold and other jewellery, medals, porcelain and other dishes and other items, . ..the list goes on.   They're supplemented by a number of multi-media displays and music from Napoleon's coronation.   The panels contain a lot of information, not all of it directly relevant to the displays, but they do set the context.   

The exhibition covers a lot of ground, but three aspects that I found to be of  particular interest are the French explorers in this part of the world during that period (and the impact that they had on France), the  Malmaison items and of course the opulence of the Empire era.

Bust of Napoleon by Lorenzo Bartoli
Interestingly, the coverage of military issues is not consistent.  Of course, it's all about fashion, style, the arts and so on, thus the military efforts of the era are a backdrop, not the main story.  Hence, although Napoleon's Orient campaign is covered in some detail - perhaps because it ushered in a focus on things Egyptian - other military matters, such as the victory at Austerlitz, the retreat from Moscow and Waterloo are hardly mentioned.  

We noticed Barry Humphries was there while we were (after the unveiling of the gladioli).   We can only imagine what Dame Edna might have to say about Josephine's style!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Russian bride and Melb PC User Group

What has a Russian bride got to do with a computer user group?  Well, it's like this.....
It started when it occurred to me that I couldn't recall reading the monthly "magazine" (now a CD!) from the PC User Group.  So I checked on the website, and it seems that for once it wasn't my memory at fault:   an issue of the "magazine" hadn't been produced.    One thing led to another, and it does indeed seem that there have been "issues".  I ended up at this site:
This stirred a recollection of having received something (perhaps while we were away) about an upheaval at the group.  However, the suggestion that the treasurer had somehow been trying to send the group's money to his Russian fiancĂ©e definitely excites the imagination!
I couldn't resist!  I googled the name of the ex-treasurer, and one of the results led to a sign-in page in that name on:
(EDIT:  After I first posted this, the link stopped working for a while.   It couldn't have been anything I said or did, could it?)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Gladioli for Melbourne

We were on our way to see the Napoleon exhibition (more about this in a future blog), and we saw another line up of photographers.  They were in front of an enormous bunch of gladioli on the lawn at the Arts Centre!   We were aware that Barry Humphries was in town from this post:

And - between the photographers and the gladioli - there he was!    We missed the speech, but we saw him unveil the plaque on front of the flowers, which I have subsequently learned is to celebrate the reopening of Hamer Hall in a couple of days time.  On the ABC news, it was mentioned that the flowers were a gift from him!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

"Maligned Marvel"

"Maligned Marvel" was the heading of an article in last weekend's Australian mentioned in a comment to a post a little while back.    And to what did it refer?   Agapanthus, no less!

What a jungle!
In the article, it is pointed out that they're an import from South Africa and they often jump the fence to become garden escapes, smothering native species.  Surely that's enough to condemn them?

But no, the writer says that they're "...generous and easy-going, coping with drought, poor soil, salt winds and neglect."   She likes their flowers and  says that new varieties have been developed, many of them sterile.

I don't think they're attractive and I am not convinced that their virtues, to the extent that they exist, outweigh their faults.  My antagonism to them is reinforced by the strong suspicion that the agapanthus in the streets in this area (and at Lorne) are the raw, aggressive variety. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Is that a choir? No, a "protest"!

I often walk past the Magistrates Court in the city, and have noticed that it is very common for a little group of press photographers and TV camera-people to wait on the footpath outside, no doubt to create a bit of misery for well-known people who have to enter or leave.   I guess they might be freelancers, but I don't know.  It must be boring for them.

The presence of an array of cameras has not been lost on others, I noticed today.  As I was walking down the street, it seemed that a choir was lined up on the court steps.   But, no, it wasn't a choir.  It was a small group of vocal protesters who were performing to the array of cameras (and hardly anyone else, other than a few police)  in much the same way as a choir, going through their chants.   (Edit)  I've now found out that it was the Max Brenner protestors' day in court but the thought certainly occurred to me that, if you have a "message" that you want to deliver, then why not take it to where the media are gathered.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Something Italian

 I've written about Something Italian in a previous blog-life.  However, we were back there this weekend, and it was as good as ever. Fairly straight-forward food, but good.   

We started off by sharing a "capri" pizza - great. Not unexpectedly, I went for  the gnocchi, which was on the specials board - with a sun-dried tomato and cream sauce.    Indulgent, but it certainly slipped down!   I'm told that the veal zingara was fine, too.   We were tempted by, but passed on, the chocolate soufflĂ©.     The service was helpful and good-natured, even though the place was busy.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Number plates

 I notice that recent Victorian number plates are getting into the Zs.

This set me thinking, where next?   Other states have various combinations.

So, in an idle moment, I turned to Wikipedia (where else?)   It's stated there that -
"Soon Victoria will have exhausted all ABC-123 format plates. Two main combinations are under consideration: A12-AAA or V123-ABC (like South Australia's "S" prefix) New colour schemes for the future general series may be the existing blue on white, or black characters on fluorescent orange."
Good grief.... fluorescent orange number plates?    Hopefully good sense will prevail and we'll be spared that!   (Or is it just a joke on Wikipedia...???)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Agapanthus - again

I hadn't noticed it previously, but there's a garden bed in the street which has daffodils instead of agapanthus.  I don't know how this non-conformity slipped past the Council, but it's good to see, as well as being a reminder that spring isn't far away!
But there are agas on the other side!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Le Tour de Salon

We had the privilege of dining with the rider from Le Tour de Salon last night.
(see http://loungeroomtdf.blogspot.com.au/)
Amongst other things we heard all about the troublesome helicopter (and spoke to the pilot)!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Different from or different to?

In my last post I said: "Garuda these days is very different from the Garuda of days gone by".   I paused when writing this.  Is it "different from" or "different to"? And I have to say that after I had repeated both expressions a few times, neither sounded correct!
My usual solution in situations of this nature is to change the sentence around so as to avoid the problem.  But I wasn't happy with any of the alternatives, or with the idea of wimping out.  So,  off to Fowler's Modern English Usage, to read: "That different can only be followed by from and not by to is a superstition" (there's a separate entry for "superstition').  And much more.    The tenor seemed to be that even though "different to" was OK, it was slightly questionable territory.   I was tempted to be adventurous, but in the end I played safe!

(Yes, I know that's the 2nd edition, but I cross checked with the 1st edition and it was quite similar.    I don't know - and don't really care - what the 3rd edition says).

Monday, 16 July 2012

Airline rankings

So, Qantas have slipped to number 15 in the ranking of the world's "best" airlines: see
Happily, I don't fly enough to be able to comment as to whether this is justified, one way or the other.   For what it is worth,  my recent experience of Qantas was on two international sectors (as a result of a code-share).  On these, I thought Qantas were satisfactory but not exceptional.  But perhaps air travel these days is never better than "ordinary"?

I thought it was interesting that Garuda are rated ahead of Qantas (at 11th, up from 19).    It is many years since I've flown Garuda, but like others, I was a little surprised at this.  This attracted comment on at least one forum in cyber-space, but there were many comments in defence of Garuda, to the general effect that Garuda these days is very different from the Garuda of days gone by.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Queen Lear by MTC

I have never seen King Lear, so it was all new to me when we attended MTC's production of Queen Lear.    It might have been better if I had glanced at the Wikipedia summary beforehand, although I am not sure.    Yes, Shakespearean dialogue is not always easy to follow, and there are many twists and turns in Lear, but I don't think my ignorance of the story was the only reason that I struggled with this performance. 

In fact, I read on one website - which was otherwise generally favourably inclined - that "While it is difficult at times to tune the ear to all of Nevin’s speech......" (see http://simonparrismaninchair.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/queen-lear-review/).  

 At least one reviewer is not kind to this production, see
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/stage/queen-lear-cheerless-dark-and-deadly/story-fn9d344c-1226424964382  (sorry about the paywall, but even the bit that is accessible gives the idea!)

However, there is still much to appreciate.    Nevin's performance is certainly powerful, and the rest of the cast are pretty good, too.  The set during the storm scenes is dramatic, although I wondered at times whether there needed to be such a large expanse of stage during some of the other scenes.

The production is at the MTC Theatre, which looks pretty good at night!

EDIT:  Here's another review which I think makes a number of valid points:

Friday, 13 July 2012

An evening at Bellezza

C and P suggested that we eat at Bellezza in Malvern Rd, and we had a good night with them.   I had the minestrone which I enjoyed, followed by the slow cooked lamb shoulder on mash which was also good.  The other dishes, including the duck, salmon and schnitzel also looked nice and I'm told that they were  as good as they looked.

There's a good deal to be had on weeknights by printing off a voucher from their web-site, which no doubt contributed to the fact that the place was pretty busy.  Only catch - when I tried to find their website again today, it came up as "account suspended".   Perhaps this is only a temporary glitch?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Two hakeas

Doing well
When we re-planted the garden a couple of years or so ago, we planted a hakea on each side.   They were  about the same size when planted.   One has since thrived, and it rewarded us with great flowers in autumn.    The other hasn't done nearly as well, and there hasn't been a flower to be seen on it.

I'm not aware in any differences in the soil (but perhaps there is?), but otherwise I can only attribute this difference to the fact that the better performing plant receives slightly more sun.  To the human eye, the difference isn't great, but seemingly it makes a lot of difference to plants!


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Drains and things

I suppose we ought to be grateful that the Council is maintaining our footpaths, drains and gutters, but it was a bit of a nuisance when they closed off (at short notice) the laneway that gives access to our garage for several days.    This was to install a drainage pit.   They don't seem to have taken into account the fact that the slope is such that the water runs away from the location of this pit!

New footpath

Monday, 9 July 2012

The "Special Disease"

I like Bernard Salt.   He writes regularly in the Australian.  He used to be called the demographic writer but I see he's now the "Social Editor".

In a recent article, he referred to "Special Disease".   Here it is:
(Sorry if this link ends up at a pay wall).

Of course special consideration is OK sometimes.....
What is this disease?  Well, it's where I am very special.  And so are you.  And you.  In fact, we're each so special we need to be treated differently.  And sensitively.  We need sensitive treatment, maybe an apology, and certainly a tax break.  Not that a tax break will compensate us, but it will be a recognition that our problem exists.

All this leads to the inevitable question:   if everyone is special, who is doing the work and paying taxes?

The answer is, not too many of us, so it seems!
Bernard developed the point quite well, and drew attention to the related affliction known as "Victim Syndrome".

All this strikes a chord with me as identifying the attitude of many in today's society - and the response that all-too-often comes from our politicians .

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Hagia Sofia at Breakfast

Although our trip is behind us now, I came across this image from our stay in Istanbul.   It's the view from the top-floor breakfast room of the hotel in Istanbul.  And, yes, that's Hagia Sofia.
There was also a view in the other direction of the Bosphorus (and the cruise ships at the wharf).  However, there are more rooftops in that view!

Saturday, 7 July 2012


We went to Malvern Theatre's production of "An Evening with Chekhov's Short Comedies".    The four one-act plays were The Proposal, A Tragic Role, The Bear and The Anniversary.

The performances were, I thought, a little on the patchy side.  On the whole, the standard wasn't too bad, but just a couple of the roles weren't up to the quite high standards we've come to expect of this admittedly suburban group.    But unfortunately, I don't think everyone in the audience appreciated Chekhov.   In spite of the title, Chekhov doesn't have you "rolling-on-the-floor" with laughter. His comedies are rather quirky, based as they are on Russian life in the late 19th century.   In the Director's Notes, it's stated that, "...even now, we in the West simply don't understand Russia and the Russians".

He goes on to ask, so what then of Russia of the late 1880s, when the majority of Russians, "lived lives cut off from Moscow, and even each other, by endless distances, featureless snow covered steppes and long dark winters"?
This certainly seemed to be borne out by these plays.

The Malvern Theatre itself is a pleasant venue, and it's not too far away.   And there's free sherry beforehand and cake and coffee at interval!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New blog

It seemed appropriate to end the previous blog with our travel details, and not clutter it up with further thoughts.  Hence, I'm starting this new blog so as to post any day by day thoughts I may wish to express!
For ease of reference, here's a link to the former blog: