The Cosmopolitan, Trentham

Trolling in Trentham

The exception proves the rule, actually I’m not sure what this means but given that it is not Thursday but we are eating in a pub, and yes we are talking, but no we are not walking it would seem like an apt saying.

Thelma and I have taken a road trip, not to the Grand Canyon, although that features in the story but to Trentham, to the Cosmopolitan Hotel to be precise for a leisurely Sunday lunch. Why? Well, Thelma and I have a tradition of escaping from the city for a long weekend of talking and forking and not much else every Melbourne Cup. Last year it was the wineries of McLaren Vale, this year was to be Coonawarra but as often happens, life gets in the way; well actually it was Sharon’s 60th birthday in Las Vegas, to be precise. Thelma, after some soul searching and consultation, and not one to miss “An Occasion”, is off to “Vegas Baby” on the very weekend we are to be amongst vineyards of the Terra Rossa. So, anyhow we decided to take ourselves to Sunday Lunch in the country as a bon voyages and commiseration.
Where to go? A couple of months the Age had an article on country pubs to visit (The Age, Epicure May 22 2012, pg 4) and Thelma and I, always ones for an outing and an advisory list, decided we would work our way through the suggestions, including the follow up ones from the readers (The Age, Epicure May 29 2012, pg 8). So it was off to Trentham for lunch at the Cosmopolitan. Trentham is, a small, shady town, it is always cool there not full of undesirable types, (I don’t think), about an hour’s drive up the Calder.The Cosmopolitan is a burnt out shell, having been the victim of a fire several years ago but the ‘pub, bar and meals ’ is running out of the renovated stables, with the meals being supplied by the kitchen on wheels to the side. I have so say that the kitchen is an example of Aussie spirit as they are plying their wares from a mobile kitchen, have to wonder how they will cope in summer, although this is Trentham and I doubt that true heat will be an issue. The cottage style garden separates the pub from the stables and being Spring was showing the promise of things to come , so we chose to sit on the terrace overlooking the garden to enjoy its ambiance, which was greatly enhanced when the waiter turned on the gas heater, have I mentioned that Trentham is somewhat chilly.

When we arrived a woman was chatting to the waiter, she was apparently a bridesmaid from the last nights wedding, she had come to reclaim the bride’s veil and by the look of her “a good time had been had by all”.
What we ate: for starters after discussion with the waiter, we tried the local tasting plate ($28). The waiter explained that the plate consisted of 3 x 60ml glasses of local wine (1 white & 2 red) and several, locally sourced morsels. We decided that this sounded like a good starting point so we would share. What we got, yes 3 generous tastes of wine and the tasting plate consisted of 1 spring roll, fresh ingredients but lacking a dipping sauce, a morsel (squash ball size) of stuffed chicken breast from the main menu and a taste of the braised neck on a spoonful of rice, also from the main menu. Do you get the sense that we were somewhat disappointed and a little miffed – for future reference, perhaps the suggestion that this wasn’t really a sharing plate or perhaps order two, but having said that, I would have been most upset to pay $56 for two serves of these morsel plates!

Given the limited menu, totally understandable given the limited kitchen, and the fact that we had tried two of the for mains on offer in the tasting plate what to have next? Thelma opted for the stuffed chicken breast with asparagus and potato($30). Me, I went for the bar menu and the pumpkin gnocchi with a fresh tomato sauce ($20), Ok but the serve was an entre size and I thought $20 for commercial gnocchi with a tomatoe sauce was a bit rich, and not the sauce.

What we drank, on the strong recommendation of the waiter, and having tasted it as part of our starter, we had a glass each of the Harcourt Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and it was delicious. Would have happily had more but at $9.50 a glass and as one of us was driving, not a good idea.

Having had starter and main, and being dissatisfied with both, now what? We were expecting to enjoy a leisurely lunch and as this was our aim, we were disappointed; when you start costing the meal, critiquing the quality and realising that this was not value for money, you know you won’t be back.
We decided to have a troll around the shops, including one set up as an artists collective, where all the money goes to the artist, an idea that we “fellow travellers” wish to support. Sorry, would have liked to support further by putting web link here but can’t find it – if you are in Trentham, it is the shop in the main street, across the road from the pub. The wife man running it was due to have a baby the day we were there, this could be a further clue, just look for a newish pram and tired parents.

Deciding we needed cheering and comfort food we went to Redbeard for coffee and cake. Redbeard is very strong and proud in its principles, they use natural yeast, organic ingredients, are carbon neutral, artisan and the 19th century Scottish oven is fired using plantation hardwood. Naturally there’ s a sign on the coffee machine says” No decaf or skinny milk as we believe in whole foods. Redbeard, with its observation window into the bakery, has the sense of a community hub, with, we assume locals happily reading newspapers and seemingly owning the space, notice board for the community as well as “What’s hot @ Redbeard” where they tempt you to bread making classes. ”. I had rhubarb tea cake, with the compulsory dusting of icing sugar (which is pointless and should be banned) and Thelma had a conker, truffle like ball with glace fruit and coated in coconut, coffees ok but a little tepid, or were we just feeling jaded?

In all and as always, Thelma and I had an enjoyable outing even though it wasn’t the leisurely and luxurious lunch we were hoping for. Now Thelma has winged her way to Vegas, including the compulsory visit to the Grand Canyon, and I am plotting our next country pub outing.


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!

Lord Newry

Thursday, 17 May 2012

This was a nice night for a walk, even the possums in the Exhibition Gardens thought so.  That was  until a cyclist came towards one of them as it waddled across the path; there was a moment’s hesitation and then it swung into the overhanging foliage of an oak tree.  As it did so it so cunningly avoiding the possum barrier on the trunk of the tree and disappeared into the tree, for, one presumes, a feast of forbidden foliage.  Note to City of Yarra Parks and Gardens: possums is smart.

As the evening was almost balmy, we decided to pick the Lord Newry, a pub that was a ‘good walk’ from the city, keeping the pubs closer in for when the weather is inclement.  Our logic here is that if the weather is miserable we walk to the closest pub on our list then we can catch the tram the rest of the way to Merri.  Honour is then satisfied as we have walked and we have’ pubbed’.

The last time Thelma and I were at the Lord Newry was the week before the ‘No smoking in pubs’ legislation came into place.  Things have changed at the Newry, no smoking inside for a start.  There has also been a refurbishment of the pub in the last couple of years, but the main feature of the Newry is its sense of genuineness, in contrast to the display home feel of The Tramways that we visited last week.

I quickly learnt the pub had been refurbished when I followed the sign for  the toilets that directed me “through the dining room”.  I wandered, I searched but no dining room, because yes, the pub had been refurbished and what had been the dining room was the pool room and yes, there were still toilets.

At the Newry you get the sense that is is a locals’ local; from the table of drinkers complete with large black dog out the front that you know have been here before and will be there in the future, to the posters advertising the pool competition, this is a place that holds a place in the community, or at least that’s what it feels like.

The menu reflected the sense of genuineness of the Newry, yes it has been refurbished but it hasn’t lost its soul What we ate: Thelma went for the Cumberland sausage ( the whiteish, spiral one) with mash, peas onion and rosemary gravy ($18). Thelma is a great fan of peas and mash. Me, I had an excellent parma, proper chicken breast with a Napoli sauce that had a hint of warmth (chili) to it ($19). And we drank: Coopers Pale Ale and Fat Yak (nothing too fancy here) – $9.70.  So all up dinner cost $46.70

Perusing the menu, we came upon Breakfast – 12 till 5pm Friday, Saturday and Sundays; with such breakfast stalwarts as Chicken schnitzel, fried eggs, saukraut, chips and salad.  So many things are wrong with this and then you realise that you are not the demographic they are trying to appeal to. Perhaps the next time Thelma and I have a big night on the sherry we might tryt the Lord Newry for Sunday breakfast.

Sitting behind us was a table of thirtysomething blokes discussing life, the universe and everything but I have to say my ears pricked up when one made the pronouncement the “a pram is just four wheels with a baby on top”.  It was amusing to listen to the ‘blokes support for this view’, I wonder what the mothers of their children think? Do they not know there is a whole pram industry that would deny this, a pram is so much more; all wheel drive vehicle, status symbol, shopping cart and some where to carry your coffee. The baby can often seem like an optional extra.

Tramways Hotel

Thursday, 10 May 2012

When you think about it, there are a lot of pubs in inner city Melbourne, and these are the ones that are still operating, not the ones that have been turned in to boutique, or’ boutiquish’ apartments.  The reason that this is has popped into my mind is that Thelma and I ‘lost The Tramways Hotel.  We knew its general vicinity in North Fitzroy but our bearings were confused by the angularness of the roads, no grid pattern here, and the fact that the Tramways, Lord Newry and Fitzroy Star are all within spit of each other.

There was slight tenseness in the air when we realised that we hadn’t walked past it but were parallel and would have to go a block to the left when our actual forward journey would be forward and right.  There was a debate, was this going backward? (See The Rules) Me, slighty tired and grumpy “No” as we were parallel, Thelma less sure, being more a stickler for The Rules, was testing my case (and patience). We  got to the “I don’t care phase I’m going any way” stage and the moment was over.

The Tramways has been renovated since we were here last, and in our opinion, not for the better.  It feels like it could get a run on “The Block”.  It is now in a modern, inner city style, with a slightly sterile over tone.  It feels like a café or restaurant not a pub,  consistent with this style were the candles and Sicilian Sea Salt on the tables.  And I have to  mention the deconstructed brass door handles  – hard to describe, you just have to see them for your self.

The patron seemed to reflect this style, they seemed to be young professionals.

The menu at the Tramways has adopted a burger theme.  Beside the classic beef, there is lamb and haloumi, quinoa and hummus and greek beef (which is just wrong). There was a steak sandwich  and the three non burger mains were steak, chicken and gyoza.

Thelma and I both went a steak sandwich, which came on a seedy bun, with a spoonful of coleslaw and the best chips.  Skin on, naturally as that fits the style. $18 each, per sandwich, not per chip.

What we drank: Thunder Road Brunswick Bitter($4.50) and Golden Paw American style pale ale ($4)

All up our dinner cost $45.50, well under budget.


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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