The Royal Oak

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Royal Oak

We got soaking wet on our walk last night.

The evening started well, quite a nice night for a walk really as we hadn’t seen each other for two weeks, given Thelma’s theatre outing last week and there was plenty to talk about.  The main topics were the state of play with The Mother and the issues faced by Women of a Certain Age(WOACAs) in the workforce.   Regarding The Mother, after some confusion, she is off to have a shoulder reconstruction next week.  This means she won’t be playing in the finals, and will probably impact on her pre-season, but she should be right to return mid season 2013, should Geelong need her (Go Cats).

Regarding WOACAs, both Thelma and I,  fair to say, are well experienced and credentialed in our respective fields, and the issue is becoming, where to from here? Both of us are practitioners.  We really don’t want to take on management role where budgets, spread sheets and strategic planning are the focus of daily life; not that either of us mind offering an opinion on such matters, but we don’t want to be responsible for them. So where do we go?  This was the main topic on our journey.

Our walk took us to The Royal Oak, a quiet, unpretentious local pub, with a TAB and few patrons in the front bar. The strongest feature of the pub is the friendly nature of the staff.  When we arrived, the woman behind the bar introduced herself as “Alison”, and told us that she had taken over the Oak ten days ago. She has an Irish lilt and a genuine warmth that bodes well for the pub’s future.

Meanwhile for the here and now:  I have to say the on tap beer selection limited at best: Carlton Draught, Coopers Original Pale Ale and Bulmers Cider (I know its not beer, but it is on tap!).  We were offered a broader range in bottles, but that is not  part of “The Rules”.  We started with two pots of Coopers at $4.40 each.

The menu was an interesting mix: Thai Tuna Patties and Asian Chicken Coleslaw mixed in with pub standards of rissoles and mash and chicken parma.  When faced with such choices, I always following the sage advice of the Wise Stu, “When ordering food, remember where you are.” As the victim of many disappointing Thai Fish Cakes in country and non country pubs, I have taken this advice as a mantra. The Oak is a pub, nothing more or less, so I avoid the ‘asian’ and went with the pub cuisine.  This view was further solidified by the lovely Alison who told us that the Asian meals were ‘inspired’ rather than authentic.

What we ate: on Alison’s recommendation, I had sweet lipped snapper with salad and chips ($17).  Can’t you just imagine a fish with coral lipstick and a touch of gloss?  Thelma had the chicken parma, with, after much consideration, chips and salad (16), not veg and mash. Thelma will always be tempted by mash but your classic pub parma is chips and salad!

The friendly nature of the staff was further enhanced by the chef (assuming so as he had a stripey apron and came from the kitchen) who stopped by and asked us if we enjoyed our meals and actually seemed interested in the response.  We did, and at $50.40 for honest pub grub of two mains and 4 pots of beer you can’t complain!

After the repast, we continued on our way, and then the skies opened, the wind howled and the umbrellas blew inside out, so we caught the tram as far as we could but still managed to get soaked in the tropical downpour that is indicative of Melbourne’s Spring.  I discovered what a ‘shower proof jacket’ means , you get wet when it rains, and Thelma discovered that wearing summery clothes at the beginning of spring is naïve at best and leaves you soggy at worst.

Finally a confession

I’m not sure whether you have noticed, or care but the postings on our blog have been random at best over the last couple of month; there are reasons and I have become a ‘frozen moment’ about it.  I have had the drafts and images but something happened between that and the actual completion.  No more! I have decided to get over it, and get on with it. I will do my best, the posts will reflect our experience and the date we were there will be noted, they will be posted as soon as it can and hopefully the backlog will be clear in the next month. Confession over.

The Parkview Hotel

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I know it’s not the best photo, but have a good look.  See the figure on the top of the post? Thelma and I tried very hard to get a clear image but give that we are just using a basic phone camera this isn’t a bad effort.  Now to the real questions who, what and why, and will we ever know?

Actually I wonder if there are figures on other tram stops?

Life at the moment is topsy-turvy; Brad Pitt is still in the country ministering to The Mother, I am still on zoo keeping duties, so Thelma and I demonstrating flexibility by not so much walking but rather feeding, driving,then taking and forking, so the essential part of the evenings activities are still intact. These are really the most important parts anyway.

Now nothing gladdens the heart like 2 for 1 offer, and that was the sign that beckoned us to The Parkview, two mains for the price of one.

With such a budget saver, Thelma noted that “we can have as much beer as we like, and dessert!”  Well we didn’t go that mad but we did start with nachoes ($11) because we could . And they were exactly what you would expect of $11 pub nachoes, nothing more, nothing less.

Interestingly, even though it was a Thursday and I assume a pay night for many, the pub, bistro and even the pokies area seemed very quiet, perhaps this is why the 2 for 1 offer?  The lack of patrons seemed to encourage the barman to chat, we were offered wine but as you know, Thursday is beer night. After some discussion we went with Thunder Road full steam pale ale x 2( $11).  The barman, a friendly man with time on his hands was more than happy to chat and we all agreed that Thunder Road was a good ‘summer’ beer and apparently its a local brew, from Brunswick.

What we ate: Thelma went for the beef cheeks, celeriac puree, roast field mushrooms, dutch carrots and mushroom sauce ($16).  Apparently, while hot, the beef cheeks were enjoyable but as they cooled they got tougher. Me? I had scotch fillet with roast veg and mash, and despite the garlic butter recommendation from the barman, went the red wine jus; should have gone the butter.

Finally a word of warning regarding the sobriety test on the way to the loo; it’s 1/4 step down then 1/2 step up; easy to miss and the result would be unattractive.

Gasometer Hotel

Thursday 24 May 2012

As usual, Thelma came to me but before we set out, I checked the BOM Melbourne radar site, the radio had been warning all day of storms so didn’t want to be caught out.  Actually BOM is  a favourite site of mine, because as a dog walker, it is very useful to know whether the dark clouds are serious or not.

It was my turn to pick so decided our destination would need to be on a tram track, to  give us an option in case of inclement weather.  Chose the Gasometer, in Collingwood. The last time we were there it was a mock Irish pub and Thursday night was “International Parma Night”. You know Hawaiian Parma, with pineapple, Italian with Napoli sauce and Mexican parma with salsa and guacamole .

As we were walking along Smith Street, it was a good chance for me to show Thelma Sharon’s big budgie. No, it not a euphemism; let me explain.   Sharon West, a friend, teaches visual arts at the Indigenous Arts Unit of the School of Art, RMIT University. Through her art she examines the relationship between settler and Indigenous cultures within the context of Australian colonial art history.

Sharon won the award for Excellence in Conceptual Photography at the Kodak Salon at the Centre for Contemporary Photography and part of her prize was to have her work displayed on bill boards in Collingwood.  Hence her big budgie and big magpie (quite appropriate for the streets of Collingwood) are on the wall of the Seven Eleven in Smith Street.  They are quite an impressive sight, as they are huge, imagine a pony size budgie. Interestingly, Sharon gets to keep the posters when they are taken down. Now given that they are the size of a regular billboard, we are wondering she will do with them. Feature wall in her flat, doona cover, thoughts?

Arriving at the Gasometer we were welcomed by the warmth of two open fireplaces. We discovered the focus of the cuisine has narrowed somewhat so from International Parmas, it now has an Eastern European focus;  Polish chicken, wiener schnitzel, meatballs with vodka and dill sauce and smoked salmon goulash. There was also two pages of vegan meals and they boast that there is a vegan only deep fryer and they don’t use any pre-made products.

What we ate: Thelma had wiener schnitzel, that was beef, not veal and made the profound comment that it tasted “beefy not veally’.  Most profound!

Me? I had the polish chicken and dumplings, I had a vision of meaty casserole and fluffy dumplings.  The reality was more like a poor version of Mum’s chicken casserole but without the meaty bits of chicken or the veg, (three bits of carrot and two of potato do not veggies make). What I got was dumpling like gnocchi, when what I had imagined was fluffy and substantial – ‘ my bad’ because had I thought about it I had had east European dumpling at Koliba Czech and Slovak Restaurant and was equally disappointed.

What we drank: Prickly Moses Red Ale and Collaborator Brown Ale ($12.50) – according to the barman, the was only 2 kegs of Collaborator made, which is a pity really as it was a smooth and full bodied, a truly noicedrop.

Overall cost: meals $46, beer $12.50 = 58.20;  just under budget

Before I go just a piece of advice to the tall barman, when you ignore the woman of a certain age waiting for service at the bar to engage with the tattooed twenty something that just walked in to check out the menu and then just walks out again; serves you right.  Just saying!

The Standard Hotel

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lovely evening for a walk as you can see from Thelma’s picture opposite.  Actually we did spend time trying to take photos of the skipping circle in the gardens but the lighting was too poor,  so to those people who may have wondered about the two women loitering taking photos of each other, we were actually trying to capture the very impressive speed skipping you were doing.  Perhaps once daylight saving returns?

Tonight’s choice was The Standard  a pub hidden in the back streets of Fitzroy; so hidden in fact that when I mentioned it to friends who live locally, they had never heard of it.  It is a student pub but not of the grungy sort, I can imagine post grads rather than first years here.  Having said that, it was warming to watch a family of four on the next table, playing cards while they waiting for their meals – is this a return to old-fashioned family values?

The Standard has history, especially links with the Fitzroy Football Club.  As we were waiting for our meal, two guys were reading the memorabilia that was on the wall above our table, realising there could be an issue of personal space, were apologetic telling us that they were long time Fitzroy supporters and were admiring the feats of the club of yesteryear, a bit like a pilgrimage to sacred sites.  Looking  at the memorabilia of the Fitzroy  FC, shows how much life has changed.  The poster they were looking at commemorated Fitzroy creating a new VFL record high score – 36 goals 22 points 238 to Melbourne 6 goal 12 points 48.  This was achieved on Saturday 28 July 1978 at VFL Park.

Looking at this poster gave me pause for though, it was a snap shot of a time that had changed. There is no Fitzroy FC any more, it went north and became the Brisbane Lions (originally the Brisbane Bears), the VFL is now the AFL and VFL Park is now a housing estate.  For me, that one poster captured change in my life time – this musing makes me realise how time is passing, this isn’t history, it’s within my lifetime!

The menu at The Standard had the flavour of being ‘a little bit fancy’; the parma featured feta, the chicken kiev, usually a volcano of garlic butter boasted porcini mushrooms,sage and macadamia nuts. and was served with parmesan, chive and potato mash with a garlic veloutè.  I have to say, I actually don’t know what veloute is.

Although the menu may have ambitions, the delivery of a basket containing cutlery, pepper and salt, 2 slices of white vienna and sachets of Western Star butter brought us back to the ‘pub’ environment.  And I have to say that white vienna bread with a good dollop of butter is a little slice of cholesterol inducing heaven.

What we ate:  Thelma went the Delux Parma and reported it to be satisfactory but was not convinced that the addition of feta did anything to enhance its ‘ parmaness’. I, for some reason, went the for the veggie burger from the specials board, it was ok but interestingly didn’t come with salad of any sort, which surprise me.

On reflection, I may mock the fanciness of the menu, but there were several veggie options, quite a change from the good old pub days where if you asked for a vegetarian meal you got a plate of chips or were told “that’s ok we have chicken!”.

What we drank: Vale Vipa and Chestnut Pilsner from Bridge Road Brewers these were on tap and fit into the little bit fancy theme of the pub.  Thelma would like it noted that the  pilsner had the faint aroma of bacon rind about it, she was right, you know that smell of uncooked rind , didn’t taste that way.

The cost of our meal was $45: the delux parm $20, the veggie burger $15 and the beers $10.

Before we left, following our mother’ training we went to use the facilities and had a most disconcerting experience. Now The  Standard has a lovely, beer garden, quite a treat for an inner city pub, and it is well used, even on a night like this where there was a nip in the air. So? I hear you ask, well let me tell you the quaint louvered windows of the loos face in to the beer garden, like speakers in an amphitheatre.  Now, I don’t know what people on the outside can hear, but on the inside you can hear every word from the garden.

Not a criticism, just a warning!

A Rose by any other name

The Rose Hotel is to be auctioned on the 27 April @ 12pm.

Having seen this ad, we knew that the first pub in our quest should be the Rose.  For those of you who don’t know, it is a classic inner city pub that harks back to the time when the area, Fitzroy, was poor and there was pretty much a pub on every corner, or so it seemed.

Thursday was a lovely evening. We are having a long, Indian summer and it has been glorious and worrying all at the same time; no boots, coats and 24 degrees at the end of April, is this global warming at its best?

Thelma and I wandered through Fitzroy, knowing where we were going; we didn’t pay too much attention, which was why we suddenly realised that the pub wasn’t where we thought it was, ie in Rose Street.  Feeling slightly foolish, and aware of the “No backward rule”, we had to take a moment, admire the black and white cat surveying its domain on the edge of a balcony, gather our bearings, and assure our selves that we had been here before and we knew where it was.  For those of you who are interested, the Rose is on the corner of Napier and Leicester St, near but not on Rose St.

The pub itself has the feeling of a locals’ local, you get the sense that the patrons belong there – it is an extension of their living space.

What we ordered, this is a PUB so naturally I had a chicken parma – good but interestingly it had sprouts (bean not Brussel) in the token salad – perhaps a nod to it to the gentrification of the area.  Thelma had brains, large size – her rating to the dish was “a good brain is melty in the mouth, this is a bit tuff.”.  Just by the way, one of the things you need to understand about Thelma is, if there is something quirky or unusual on a menu, she will gravitate towards it just because.

To drink, we had James Squires Nine Tales on tap, hadn’t had that before– nice.

For us, the entertainment at the Rose was provided by the classic family pub presentation of the large table with 6 adults sitting at one end and a collect of 5 children at the other. The Chuppa Chup machine provided endless fascination for the young folk, am not sure if it is training for pokies in later life but the potential of “a win” in the form of a free lolly on a stick had them all intrigued.

We couldn’t here much of what they spoke about but the quote that had us intrigued was by a sister to a brother: “It’s what girls do, you might what to know that”.  Sadly we missed the context but it did give us something to mull over, exactly what did he do that called his ‘boyhood’ into question, we actually had a second Nine Tales on the strength of that – two drinks is rare but as we were under budget ($60 all up) we could do this.

For meals and beer it cost: $40.50 then a second beer ($9.00) so all up dinner cost $49.50.

As Thelma said, our experience at The Rose, “was not perfect but what I needed and was nice enough”.

We walked from the Rose along St George’s road to Merri station, at which point Thelma realised that her car was not there, she had taken the tram that morning but as it was a pleasant evening she would continue to walk, or catch the tram, whatever took her fancy.

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