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.

Jam and Cream

Sunday, 9 September, 2012

In a world of microwaved scones, fizzy cream and pretend jam, Thelma and I found an oasis of Nannaness and even though it isn’t a pub and even though it wasn’t Thursday, we felt we should share.

Thelma had heard about Jam and Cream and as it was a lovely day for a drive and Brad Pitt was otherwise engaged, we decided to investigate, all very Miss Marple.

The washing line in the front window, displaying freshly laundered Nanna type ‘smalls’ semaphored its intention loud and clear – this was a cafe of “old fashioned family values”.

I have to say it is an odd spot for a Nanna Cafe, in a service road, next to the discount shoe shop and round the corner from a couple of shuttered asian takeways but there it was, a piece of nostalia in Heidleberg Heights.  Any how in we went, tables were decoupaged with 1950s dress patterns, doilies were stencilled on the floor and the cash register is a reminder of the days before digital, and ever decimal currency.

Jam and Cream is run by a group of women who obviously enjoy and have a passion for a gentler, analogue time but most importantantly for quality food that Nanna not only would approve of but be slightly jealous that she had been out baked.  Have to say that my Nanna was not the best cook, she made excellent lamingtons and a mean roast but her pastry  could be used for roof tiling.

At Jam and Cream, the menu is purely 1950s home baking; there are sausage rolls, pinwheel sandwiches, sponge cake, slices and scones of every hue.  As Thelma noted, they are practicing the art of Experimental Sconing.  The Savoury scones had names like: Alfred, Clifford, Gilbert, Basil and Montgomery that reflect days and baking gone by.  The sweet scones were more ambitious, they started with Plain Jane (Traditional with jam and cream), but included Bertha (a Mars Bar scone), May (lemon & poppy seed served with lemon curd & cream) and ones with coconut, ginger and white chocolate, but not at the same time.  And the best thing about these scones, they are baked to order, yes, not pre done and ‘nuked’ or sitting on a counter going stale but rather baked to order.

What we had: Thelma went for the Plain Jane, your traditional plain scone with raspberry jam and cream and naturally a pot of tea (house blend) ($13), they were excellent exactly as a scone should be and the accompanying jam and cream was delicious and plentiful.  I had the pinwheel sandwiches ($9.50) and they were a grown up version of the fairy bread pinwheels I remember as a child; fillings include; squashed egg and ham.  Note for the whippersnappers: fairy bread pinwheels were available.  As we felt we had room for a little something else, and with the good  grace of the cook, we spilt a serve of scones and I had a May scone, with lemon curd and Thelma, in typical fashion went the truly exotic and had  a Beryl, one with cherry, coconut, served with chocolate ganache and cream, apparently delicious but mighty messy.

The tea was plentiful, proper tea pots, with tea leaves and at least three cups per pot and naturally it was served in proper cups and saucers, the good ones that Nanna would have kept for best.  Actually the cup in the photo had strong childhood resonances for Thelma as cups like this belonged to her Nanna.

And that is  the other interesting thing, for  Women of a Certain Age, Jam and Cream provides nostalgia, similar to the couple sitting behind us, singing along with the 1950s music, this was their courting music.  For the stylish yet eclectic young women sitting next to us, this was retro and for the Mother with the young girl and boy this was an illustration of ‘old fashioned family values’.

Just a final point I need to make: icing sugar has no place on scones, in fact icing sugar has no place in anything other than icing.  It drives me nuts,  why dust anything with icing sugar that doesn’t represent the Swiss Alps because all it manages to do is coat the bosooms in fine white powder, make everything slightly sticky and make you look like you have been snorting coke (not cola!).  I also have an issue with the affectation of dusting with paprika, one question -why? Here ends my rant, but be warned, this is my quest, the end to food dusting.

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.

Lifeus interruptus

Thursday, 7 June 2012

One of the challenges of being a woman of a certain age is having a mother of a certain age.

The Mother dislocated her shoulder; not, she would want me to let you know, through an old lady fall, but rather hefting carpet and getting her feet tangled in the bottom of it.

Anyway the up shot is that Brad Pitt has gone to the country to tend to The Mother, as she needs support with tying laces,  cutting food and general domestic support, he is NOT needed for personal care, much to his and The Mother’s relief.

This change in circumstances leaves me now responsible for managing the menagerie  and disrupts the elegant flow of the Thursday Night.

Thelma and I decided that flexibility was required, so rather than our usual routine of walk, talk and fork, we massaged, trained and pizzaed. First we went for a neck and shoulders massage at Lu’s Healthcare at the QV Centre.  Lu’s is one of the myriad of massage shops that has opened in the last couple of years, initially I was suspicious, how good can a franchise massage shop be?  Well, I have to say, very good, serious deep tissue chinese massage, just what was required after a fairly fraught week.

After a good work out at Lu’s, we floated to the train and to feeding time at the menagerie.  That done, Thelma and I sat down to repeats of repeats of The Big Bang Theory and pizza from Pizza e Vino and a bottle of durif. Pizza was good, thin crust, fresh ingredients; we had L’Atomica $15.50 and Verdura $15 and most importantly, they home deliver.

Although the evening was enjoyable, hopefully we shall resume normal transmission next week.

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