July 16th, 2012

Just finished…

Phew… just put the finishing touches on our next issue, the annual homes special. Bit of a quirky one this year - we found 10 houses that look really ordinary at the front but amazing at the back. A real ugly duckling/swan deal. More on that soon…

May 24th, 2012

The All-Time Power 50?

The June issue of The Melbourne Magazine features The Footy Power 50 — rating and ranking the most powerful people in football today. But what about yesterday?

Who should make it onto the all-time list of footy’s most powerful people?

We’ve gathered an initial list of 25 identities (in alphabetical order) to get you started, but should we add Lou Richards? What about Wayne Carey? Or Dick Reynolds?

Think about who has had a lasting impact on football — from the way the game is played to how much the league has evolved — and let us know which players, coaches, administrators and commentators you would include.

To weigh in, simply click on the black bar in the masthead above — where it says “Who should join the ‘all-time’ footy power 50?” — and we’ll add your suggestions to the list.


Gary Ablett senior - Routinely made the impossible possible — they didn’t call him “God” for nothing.

Allen Aylett - An early expansionist, was VFL chairman when the Sydney Swans were born in 1982.

Ron Barassi - Involved in 17 grand finals (for 10 flags), was also among the first big names to switch clubs.

Harry Beitzel - A broadcasting and stats pioneer, Beitzel also championed the international rules concept.

Charles Brownlow - The player and administrator for whom footy’s most prized individual honour is named.

Ron Casey - Commentator and Kangaroos man — inaugural inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame.

Andrew Demetriou - Former footballer and players’ union head, now a force for change and growth in the AFL.

Jack Dyer - Feared/revered as a player, Captain Blood also stood out for his classic on-air “Dyerisms”.

Ron Evans - Former AFL chairman and Bombers president, succeeded by his son David at Essendon.

Graham Farmer - Revolutionised ruckwork, elevated the handball from defensive option to attacking weapon.

Tom Hafey - Four time flag coach personified the us-and-them fortress mindset - especially at Tigerland.

Allan Jeans - Perhaps no coach in modern history was as widely beloved as the late great “Yabby” Jeans.

John Kennedy - Hawks coach, renowned for his stirring oration, in particular: “Don’t think, don’t hope, do!”

Michael Long - His legacy is two-fold: Long was a champion on the field, is an activist and inspiration off it.

Leigh Matthews - Involved in 8 flags as a player and coach, Lethal was also named “Player of the Century.”

William McClelland - As VFL president from 1926 to 1956, he was the league boss longer than anyone in history.

Jock McHale - His coaching record is unlikely to be matched: 714 games for 17 grand finals and 8 flags.

Ross Oakley - More than 20 years ago, Oakley was league CEO when the VFL officially became the AFL.

Dick Reynolds - “King Richard” won four flags as captain-coach of Essendon, along with three Brownlows.

Graeme Samuel - Formerly of the AFL Commission, Samuel had a distinct vision for a fully national game.

Alan Schwab - AFL administrator and executive, once described by Oakley as “the football engine room.”

Norm Smith - Named coach of the AFL Team of the Century, “The Red Fox” took the Dees to six flags.

Jim Stynes - The story of his rise in Australian rules is regarded as the greatest in the history of the game.

Tom Wills - He helped invent footy, wrote the initial rules of sport, and umpired the first game in 1858.

Ted Whitten - Captain-coached Footscray to the 1954 flag (their only one). Can’t leave out “Mr Football.”


Who did we leave out? To weigh in, simply click on the black bar at the top of the screen (“Who should join the ‘all-time’ footy power 50?”), send us your nomination, and we’ll add your suggestions to the list…


Kevin Sheedy was the first suggestion, and a good one at that…


Doug Ackerly of Carlton had this suggestion to add…

Good to see Allen Aylett and Harry Beitzel on your All-time Power 50 list.  But, it surely must include former Essendon premiership half-back, Geoff Pryor, who led the 1970 pre-season “strike” at Windy Hill over pay and conditions, and led the push for establishment of the Players’ Association of which he was the inaugural president.
Others who deserve serious consideration include Norm Smith’s brother, Len, who was the first of the modern coaches, and Norm’s predecessor, Frank “Checker” Hughes.  And, you should not forget The Truth’s sports editor, Brian Hansen, who dared to challenge VFL and club officialdom over ground facilities, ticket pricing, etc. and the general secrecy surrounding football administration in the 1960s.
A propos, it is a pity that Caroline Wilson (a panel member) was not included high in your contemporary list for her fearless investigative journalism and insightful commentary that have “kept the bastards honest”.  Hers has been an invaluable contribution of the highest merit.


One reader came up with an interesting nomination in Silvio Foschini

Foschini didn’t have a massive career (107 games between Sydney and St Kilda) but he did have an impact on footy. In 1983, unhappy at the Swans, he returned to Victoria to join the Saints. He hadn’t received a clearance, however, and ended up in court arguing against the clearance rules, claiming they breached restraint of trade laws. He won, and was allowed to play for St Kilda, which ultimately helped abolish the zoning system.


Eddie McGuire was another valid one. Turned a struggling suburban club into one of the best off-field sporting clubs in Australia, raised standards generally and has had a profound effect on public footy discourse. “Power personified.”


Keep ‘em coming folks …

May 15th, 2012

melbourne look presents… orange

Stand on any busy Melbourne street during lunch-hour, squint and note the colour you see most: apart from black and charcoal (naturally) it’s likely to be flashes of bright orange. We’ve seen it in vibrant orange-red and more low-key rust on fashionistas in skinny-leg jeans and we’ve noticed zesty tangerine on skirts and coats (citrus shades are big but look out for the stone fruits too). Blokes are wearing orange V-necks that add a touch of derring-do to a sensible ensemble and women are layering earthy terracottas and burnt siennas as well as more flowing pumpkins and corals. “It (orange) was all over the runways in Europe for spring and summer,” says our fashion editor Kate Gaskin. Designer Amanda McCarthy of the Leonard Street label says the hue has been a slow-growing hit. “People are getting used to it and realising it can be flattering,” she says. “If you wear a subdued palette, an orange dress is gorgeous with a navy coat, black tights and black ankle boots.” Shoes, bags, even a lipstick or nail polish are all ways to test-drive the colour and find a shade you like. 

May 15th, 2012

raise the red lantern

Sushi selection at Akachochin, South Warf

There is, apparently, no such thing as a “Japanese restaurant” any more: it’s all about specialty variations. Paul Mathis’s newly opened Akachochin at South Wharf (pictured) is named for the red lanterns (akachochins) Japanese bars hang to advertise their specialty. Izakaya Den (city) owners Simon Denton and Takashi Omi are busy transforming the site of former two-hat Verge (at 1 Flinders Lane) into Nama Nama, a weekday Japanese cafe; and Hihou, a shochu (vodka-esque) cocktail bar. In July, expect to see Pabu (Jap-lish for “pub”) at 190 Smith Street, Collingwood, a bar with a yakitori grill. Then there are izakayas Yu-U (city), Maedaya (Richmond), Ichi Ni (St Kilda), En Izakaya (Balaclava) and Kumo Izakaya (East Brunswick). Watch this niche.

May 3rd, 2012

What to do when they come here … and what to avoid

Have visitors coming to Melbourne? It’s always hard entertaining them without resorting to the usual suspects (penguins, Great Ocean road etc). Here’s a list of what to do with them when they’re here - and what NOT to do…

Do take your visitors on a “secret” laneway tour. Melbourne’s laneways are not always as impressive as we think they are (rows of bins and graffiti aren’t quite the Sydney Harbour Bridge) but they can surprise when we don’t make such a big deal out of their charm. Wander nonchalantly down Degraves Street and into Centre Way. Then pop into the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade – a little corny but actually great – or have lunch at Dinkum Pies in Block Place: “Now here’s some real Aussie food,” you’ll boom. “What’s that? Never had a meat pie? You’ve gotta try one.”

Don’t rent blue bikes for them. Doing so will, a) identify them as a tourist and, b) expose them to the frightening possibility of an unwanted encounter with Shane Warne. (Those $5 helmets do make an excellent souvenir, though.)

Do have dumplings, either on one of Hutong’s many levels (Market Lane) or Shanghai Village on Little Bourke, where you can get a plate of prawn and chicken dumplings for $7, and bring your own wine. If your guests are from overseas and have been here a week, they are probably shell-shocked by how expensive everything is – so let them shout.

Don’t take them to a fancy restaurant – the food may indeed be world class but the current exchange rates will make Michelin-starred London and New York restaurants look cheap.

Do go for a drink or two at a hard-to-find bar in the city. Do Madame Brussels (quirky) and the scientifically themed Croft Institute (ditto). Or try a pub crawl in Fitzroy. Start at the Labour in Vain, where your guests will feel that they’ve rubbed up against the hip, gritty side of the city (and they can play pool or hear a band). The Standard, the Union Club, the Rainbow… there are dozens of pubs to drop into. 

Don’t go up Eureka Tower. Not the tower’s fault, but the view is actually pretty dull: flat volcanic plains. Put your $17.50 entry fee towards a pie or two instead.

Do go to the footy. But look for a match featuring one of the big five clubs (Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond or Hawthorn) and aim for a night game. Under lights, footy is enough of a spectacle to be enjoyed even by those who’ve never heard the name Buddy Franklin.

Don’t go to the cricket. You don’t really want to spend three hours getting to the bottom of the difference between a draw and a tie, do you? Not to mention LBW…

Do see some art at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Conventional, but internationals will be happy to see some great indigenous art and the in-built visual history lesson that is the colonial collection. And it’s free.

Don’t Take them to the NGV International on St Kilda Road. It’s great … for us.  Internationals (especially from Europe and the US) have probably seen far more impressive art collections. Go to the underrated and bucolic Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen instead.

Do get out of the city for a three-day tour around the bay. Spend a night in Queenscliff then catch the ferry across to Sorrento. Grab a bite to eat at the Portsea pub, stay the night, then check out a few wineries on the peninsula before heading back.

Don’t take them down the Great Ocean Road. Yes, yes, they must go, but encourage your guests to do their own thing and take a charter bus, thus saving your stomach from those endless hairpins.

Do feed the birds in the Dandenongs at Grants Picnic Ground: it’s fun, and if you’re even close to being sick of your house guests, you might sort of enjoy seeing them clawed by the gnarly and powerful black talons of a flock of greedy cockies.

Don’t automatically do the penguin parade at Phillip Island. They’ll imagine a magical deserted beach; the reality is idling tour buses, a monolithic visitor centre and lights like those at the MCG. Only if they really must.

May 3rd, 2012

Five expert packing tips…

1/ Carry on …a bit extra. Airlines have tightened up on cabin baggage allowances, officially limiting economy passengers to one small bag and seven kilograms, but you can extend their hospitality a little. They rarely weigh hand baggage at check-in – they just look at it, so if it’s an OK size you should be fine, even if it’s filled with lead bars (just don’t grimace when you pick it up). Most carriers will turn a blind eye to an additional “personal item” or two (handbags, overcoats, cameras and possibly even laptops). Finally, in an excess-baggage emergency, go to the airport newsagent, buy a magazine, then stuff the plastic carry bag with all those books and jumpers that would otherwise end up in your bulging suitcase.

2/ Squash it in
Use vacuum bags to pack your clothes: they reduce volume by up to 75 per cent. Or take it up a notch with the Spacepak system, squishable soft bags, compartments and folding techniques that apparently allow you to take everything you need in one carry-on (flight100.com.au).
3/ Don’t take books Buy a Kindle with a case with a built-in light – perfect for reading on the plane.

4/ Avoid excess baggage
If you go crazy shopping, book with an excess baggage service such as jetta.com.au (similar services are available overseas): they pick up your extra bags and send them on for much less than the penalty rates the airlines charge when you break their scales.

5/ Don’t use locks
Use cable ties instead to temporarily lock up zips for checked bags: no fiddling with keys and still a deterrent.

May 3rd, 2012

Six things to take on the plane with you…

1/Chewing gum (to pop your ears and freshen breath).

2/ Slippers (the floor of the plane gets very cold, as does the metal bar under the seat in front of you).

3/ Wet wipes and deodorant.

4/ Trackie dacks (to change into once aloft).

5/ Noise-cancelling headphones (generally, pricier ones are better) or earplugs.

6/ Empty water bottle (to fill with water once on the plane instead of using those micro paper cups).

May 2nd, 2012

15 Travel essentials

A lot of stuff advertised as good for travellers is a bit naff. We wondered: what would you buy specifically for a trip away that would actually be useful? Here’s 15 we came up with…

1. Rain shell 
The Columbia “Raintech” — light, impenetrable. $149 from Columbia Sportswear, city ph: 9602 5700

2. Long-sleeved thermal T-shirt
The Icebreaker Crewe. Merino will keep you cosy. $139.95 from Paddy Pallin, city ph: 9670 4845

3. Blister dressing
Trust us — your feet will thank you. 
$10.99 from epharmacy.com.au

4. Folding bike
Light enough to pack. Brompton S2L. From $1459, St Kilda Cycles ph: 9534 3074

5. Gadget organiser
Cocoon Innovations Grid-It. Keeps cables and gear in one place. $57.99 from fishpond.com.au
6. Door alarm

The Belle Hop attaches to your hotel room door. $34.99 fromfishpond.com.au

7. Laundry bag
Travel bag ripe? Use the F1 Go Clean Laundry. 
$24 fromflight001.com

8. Packing system
The F1 Spacepak — compresses and organises. 
$46 from flight001.com

9. Head torch
For a light in dark places, the Petzl E+Lite. 
$54.95 frompaddypallin.com.au

10. Digital luggage scales

Avoid excess baggage charges forever. $30 fromflight001.com

11. Water purifier

The Katadyn MyBottle has a built-in virus filter. $110 fromwellingtonsurplus.com.au 

12. Wireless speaker
Jambox by Jawbone. Turns your phone into a stereo. $249.95 from

13. Headphone adaptor

Hate airline-issue headphones? Don’t use them. $9.95 fromcablechick.com.au

14. Noise-cancelling headphones

Bose QuietComfort 15 — worth the cash. $399 from the Bose Store, city ph:9600 3008

15. Micro umbrella
By Knirps — ultra-light, pocket-friendly. 
$49 fromflight001.com

May 2nd, 2012

Albert St Food & Wine

Albert Street Food & Wine in Brunswick

Let’s make like a French arthouse movie and begin this review at the end. For there awaits a lemon tart of such beauty it demands headline status. A simple, unadorned Meyer lemon tart, it is nonetheless the queen of tarts: unequivocally, the perfect example of the perfect dessert. Just a minimalist wedge of yellow, on the plate it looks quite naked – no ice-cream, no cream, not even a misguided mint leaf garnish to contradict its humility. The beauty is in the way Albert St’s head chef, Philippa Sibley, gets the curd so ethereally light and finds the perfect measure of tang and sweetness. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

It’s doing Sibley a disservice to go all ranty about desserts when she’s trying to shift the focus back onto her all-rounder status as a chef par excellence. Her glossily aspirational book PS Desserts would have put a metaphoric line underneath her career in the pastry section but for her irrepressible excellence in the area. Just check it out at Albert St: spiced pineapple with popcorn-flavoured icecream and a scattering of chewy little caramelised bits and green corn shoots. Simple but original. More time-honoured is the flavour combination of perfect fresh strawberries with a subtly acidic balsamic ice-cream, dramatic straws of meringue and the (for once) useful addition of basil shoots. As for the Snickers, the game-changer of a dessert that launched a thousand imitators and has become something of a millstone for its creator, it’s been occasionally seen on the specials list. Please move on.

Albert St was a long time coming but worth the wait. Its six-month gestation saw a Victorian banking institution on the corner of Albert Street and Sydney Road reconfigured into a drinking and dining space that says something bold without sacrificing comfort. The wooden-beamed ceilings are monstrously high, the fittings are chic without screaming about it and the selection of charcuterie and cheese composing a quasi-religious still life between bar and kitchen give some indication of the produce-focused drivers of this business. Just to complete the manifold attractions of a multi-tiered enterprise (it opens for breakfast and goes until late seven days a week), it includes a wine shop and provedore.

Funny that when things are becoming ridiculously niche in Melbourne dining (Mexican, anyone?) along comes a place based on a completely familiar repertoire that manages to knock a few socks off. The menu is familiarly European but spans all of the bases with flair. A fat slab of charry haloumi lifted by a spirited mix of green tomato ketchup and pickled zucchini; a personality-filled wooden board of charcuterie, from a super-creamy guanciale to chewy, peppery chorizo with accoutrements such as pickled watermelon and the most infantile of baby pickled vegetables. The fluffy bowl of salt cod baccala for slathering onto toasts with green goddess sauce – more prosaically known as a mixture of green olives, peppers, artichoke and parsley. More, please.

Even the pizza base is a thing of beauty – light, full of air, crisp and chewy – thanks to the mix of flour and semolina. Topped with a jammy onion confit with black olives and anchovies, capers and parsley in a salsa verde, it’s Sibley’s Italian-leaning answer to the French pissaladiere. The only thing that didn’t light a fire was a risotto – perfectly cooked, but with the headline spanner crab overwhelmed by the earthiness of baby beets. Small beer when it’s followed by medium-rare wagyu tri-tip — a chewy, flavour-maxed cut from the base of the bottom sirloin — covered with a piquant mixture of bone marrow, capers, parsley and onion. Rewinding to the start, even the bread is special – baguette with butter that’s been whipped with basil-infused olive oil into something light and ethereal. It’s that attention to detail that makes Albert St the place it is — perfectly realised, whatever order you approach it in. - Larissa Dubecki

May 1st, 2012

Dr Ranjana Srivastava’s May column

Tongue loosened by a liberal amount of wine, the woman finally blurts out what has clearly been burning on her mind all evening while other guests enjoy a friend’s hospitality. Our host, while doing the introductions, joked, “Best if you two find an interest other than cancer to talk about.” Caught up in many interesting conversations, I have completely forgotten about his subtle warning until now, when I find myself next to her.

Tapping me on the shoulder, she says, “I got cancer some years ago and had every recommended treatment. The chemo was awful but I kept at it, showing up for every appointment, braving my nausea, hiding the baldness … My oncologist was a highly capable man but he was so pessimistic. On a good day, he was neutral about my prospects; on a bad day, I felt as if I should just go and plan my funeral. Anyway, I finished my chemo, survived the ordeal and faithfully returned to see him. Last month was the seven-year mark. I got up in the best mood, planned a lovely lunch with my husband, and went to my oncologist. Thank God, everything was clear. My heart was fluttering with relief, and you know what the man said? Do you have any idea what he said?”

“No,” I respond, knowing I am soon to find out.

“He said, ‘Cancer can come back years later, we need to be vigilant.’”

She scans my face for a reaction. “What do you think of that?”

Thankfully, it’s a rhetorical question. You think, “Big deal, he told the truth”. But tell me, would it be so wrong to insert, “Congratulations, you made it!” or, “You’ve done really well”?

“I’m sorry for your experience,” I offer.

Momentarily, she looks mollified. Then she draws herself to her full height and pronounces dramatically, “I have decided that the problem with a lot of oncologists is this: you’re all hype and no hope!”

The other guests look away, mortified.

“But it was nice to meet you anyway.”

Having granted my reprieve, she threads her way to the other side of the room. The flustered host rushes to apologise but I reassure him that his guest has given me no offence and, in fact, has provided food for thought.

Stepping out into the night, I reflect on my countless conversations with patients who have reached some arbitrarily defined milestone after cancer treatment – six months, two, five or 10 years. With the help of increasingly promising modern detection and treatment methods, more patients are returning to the oncologist to receive good news. Good news doesn’t always mean cure but a durable remission, alleviation of troublesome symptoms, and a better quality of life are important goals too.

To the oncologist whose daily work is mired in sobering statistics brought home by visible human suffering, there is nothing sweeter than seeing scans with shrinking tumours, blood tests with falling markers and, of course, patients who confirm the good news by the way they look and feel. Even though part of me knows that the response to chemotherapy is a function of tumour biology, I unashamedly feel a personal vindication and relief when a patient responds to therapy, in the same way as I am numbed by a sense of personal failure when someone succumbs to disease.

But how do I and my colleagues express our relief? As the woman bemoans, it is seldom with words of praise or encouragement for the patient. In place of saying, “You did well,” we might say, “The chemo worked well.” Instead of celebrating the moment, we can’t help but peer into the future. For many patients resigned to the obtuse language of medicine, this must do. But others object to their doctor’s inability to show emotion more openly. Some patients become disillusioned in the process, others lose their will when the oncologist will not acknowledge their vital contribution to the fight.  

Anyone whose cancer has resurfaced after decades of silence will know that the woman’s oncologist was absolutely right – it is nigh impossible to pronounce a cancer permanently cured. I felt sympathy for her oncologist because I know he was trying to get across a crucial piece of information which, if not digested, leads to complacent patients, missed appointments and ignored tests. The modern patient wants to be informed and no oncologist wishes to be reminded that the patient had “no idea this could happen”. For the oncologist who sees cancer every day over a career of decades, what sticks is the ravages of the disease, so there’s always a pressing obligation to temper enthusiasm with weighty pronouncements.

I don’t believe that the woman was denying the seriousness of her disease, but what she objected to was the perceived failure of her oncologist to share her joy at being alive. Ironically, her story would have been the brightest spot in his day too, a living memory to draw consolation from when the next patient doesn’t do so well.

So what she was expressing is a common desire for us all, for even doctors are destined to be patients one day. We want our conversations with doctors to be infused with hope because beyond the prescription of medicine, we want to feel truly cared for. We want our disease to be placed in the context of our whole lives. We want our efforts praised, our setbacks acknowledged, and to feel as if we are in pursuit of a common goal. This is especially important when the journey is arduous, uncertain and punctuated with dread. Watching the doctors who do it well, I see that empathy doesn’t cost any more time and both doctors and patients find the exchange far more rewarding.

When I see patients now, I can’t shake off the woman’s catchcry: all hype and no hope. One patient at a time, it is a tag worth erasing.

May 1st, 2012

Ian Rose’s Tree Change column/May


The theme tune to the American sitcom Cheers always drags me back to my late adolescence, when I would often find myself at home on a Saturday night, mopily watching television with my mum while she worked through a mountain of ironing and a bottle of barley wine. As a highly-strung and egocentric 17-year-old, I yearned for some kind of social life, to take a break from all my worries (chiefly my geography homework, complexion and chronic girlfriendlessness); to go, in short, where everybody knew my name. A mere quarter of a century later, I’ve finally cracked it. I have a local.

I spotted Oscar’s Alehouse almost as soon as we moved up to the hills. I’d just climbed Stoney Road, the unsealed, pot-holed and bepuddled track that offers me a lung-punishingly steep short-cut to Belgrave Station, and noticed the little bar nestled among a drab parade of local businesses. The corrugated-iron frontage bespoke a no-frills attitude which appealed to the curmudgeon in me (who is me, in fact), and the sign outside promised “food, drink and conversation”. Now, the list of things I like in life may be a dwindling inventory, but it will forever include grub, booze and a good natter. I’ve been stopping off at Oscar’s on my way home from work on a Friday evening ever since. The bar’s owner, Brad, is a soft-spoken, neat North American gentleman whose wiry frame belies his passion for hops. He’s an expert custodian of regular and guest ales on tap, as well as 90-odd bottled brews which range from the workmanlike to the aristocratic. This place is clearly a labour of love for Brad. You can see it in the discreet but assertive manner in which he slips a coaster under any glass that is carelessly set down on his Himalayan cedarwood bar, which is why I keep doing it.

On a Friday evening I’ll always find Terry, a laconic Canadian carpenter, local girl Jamie, who specialises in being bubbly, and either Simon or Shannon, a married couple who are so rarely to be seen together that I am beginning to suspect they are the same person. Often Roscoe will show up, too. Roscoe is an elfish Kiwi who always insists on buying me drinks, never accepting any in return – the man I’ve been looking for all my life. For an hour or so, I’ll sit down to drink with these people and discuss beer, sport, current events, ongoing gripes and the progress of the new roundabout being constructed on the Gembrook Road.

I’m allowed an hour, and then I have to get home to help with the kids. Once, though, just after the birth of our son, I was sent by my beloved to Oscar’s with unprecedented instructions to “enjoy myself”, and not to worry about what time I got home. I had a lot of fun, I’m told. Unfortunately, my 10-minute walk home down Stoney Road somehow turned into a two-hour bush ramble, and I got in at about 3am, sodden and bewildered, with insect bites all over my bum and a fat leech, presumably a very drunk, fat leech, attached to my neck. It left me quite a hickey. My 17-year-old self would have been proud.

May 1st, 2012

Marieke Hardy’s Melbourne Magazine Column/ May

am away from home a great deal this year as I am  on the lam from a murder charge  trying to work on my difficult second album and it is generally agreed that when deep in the throes of the “creative process” one must seek inspiration in foreign pastures. Thus far, it has been wholly stimulating – the beguiling winds of Albany, the crisp sun of Margaret River, the golden beaches of Gnarabup. Despite having a complexion the colour of eggwhite, I appear to be tolerated by the local surfing community (I’m presuming “get a dog up ya” is a traditional greeting for new chums) and have spent many happy days squatting in the desert and letting sand run through my fingers like one of the Leyland Brothers (Mike).

Then there are, of course, the myriad things one misses about Melbourne when one is forced away by torch-wielding mobs roaming about the country wearing nothing but khaki shorts and a beatific smile. Melbourne is in my heart and my bones. It runs through my blood like strong black coffee. Due to the town of my birth I am conversant in AFL, surprise changes in the weather, and the fact that nobody should go to a 24-hour gymnasium unless they want to get shot in the neck by a gangster.

In terribly hipsterish, sanctimonious fashion, I am also a vegan (please do try and quell your gasps of surprise), which means I have acquired the right to travel the world complaining loudly that nobody has considered my feelings when opening their tapas bar/French bistro/Argentinian steakhouse. Recently, I enjoyed a protracted tussle with a waitress at a rural WA winery (I won’t name it. Alright, it’s Cullen) as we ran through certain items on the menu that may or may not suit my dietary requirements.

“You can have the ricotta dip but not the hummus,” she ventured.

“Hmm,” I replied. “But perhaps the ricotta dip has cheese in it.”

She stared at the menu blankly.

“What about the anchovies? They’re vegan, aren’t they?”

I looked at her for a full minute.

“Or do they have fish in them?”

“You know, I think anchovies do have fish in them,” I mused helpfully.

We settled on chickpea fritters and ended the afternoon without my having to stab myself in the face with a fork, which can only be considered a gastronomic success. Yet I had a moment of yearning for my local dining establishment, a place where my beau and I walk through the door to the collective mutterings of “oh for eff’s sake, here come those two sanctimonious vegans again” and we are fed gnocchi until we pass out.

You become accustomed to your little Melbourne enclave, the bars, the restaurants, the cafe with the impossibly attractive barista who makes you go very pink in the ears. Does this mean we shouldn’t venture further than Braybrook if we wish to experience a cultural exchange? Of course not. Part of the joy of travel is being a stranger in a strange land, away from the comforts of home. Then, too, we are given the gift of returning home, savouring the blessed nooks of our sacred neighbourhood, kissing its perfect spaces until it is time once again to leave.


April 29th, 2012

Complete May issue - here

The May edition of the Melbourne Magazine is now available online - just click on the pages below and a PDF will open in a new window. 

April 26th, 2012

A little bit of Italy

What’s most striking about this month’s Giro D’Italia is not just the severity of some of the climbs – but the fact there are stretches of dirt road thrown into the mix too. The Paris-Roubaix pave (cobblestones) is harsh, but at least those roads are pretty much flat: the Giro has sadistically steep sections that reduce the world’s toughest riders to walking pace. Crawling pace, even. Stage 16 on May 25, the Plan de Corones, is fantastically cruel: a 13km uphill time trial that peaks at 24 per cent (1 in 4!) over hard-packed dirt and gravel. We’ve searched for our local version of this monster and found it – out the back of the Basin, at the bottom of Mount Dandenong. Granted, it’s not as steep as the Corones (at a relatively pathetic 5 per cent) or as long (about 8kms) but it is dirt, it has hairpins, and you’d probably be better off on a mountain bike. So it ticks some of the boxes. We managed it fine on a road bike, even if our teeth were nearly shaken out on the descent (don’t be a hero on this one). How to find it? Instead of following the Mountain Highway up past the Basin – the popular 1-in-20 route up the mountain – head instead onto the Basin-Olinda Road, which runs behind the little strip of shops, then when the sealed road ends, go around the corner onto the dirt and follow your nose up to Olinda. You have to pick your way around some of the bigger rocks, and we don’t recommend it when the wind picks up (as trees tend to fall onto the road) but it’s a bit of fun and a tiny taste of the pain pros in the Giro have to go through. In the next issue – we find our mini version of a Tour de France stage and also launch our first page dedicated to cycling.

April 24th, 2012

Larissa reviews Seoul Soul

BBQ beef  rib at Seoul Soul, 323 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, phone  0478 768 760

The table grills are mostly for show at the latest Korean outfit adding fuel to talk of a Melbourne trend. Owner Insu Kim — architect by day, restaurateur by night — doesn’t like the smokiness, so the butterflied beef rib ($17) comes to the table already sizzling. The meat has benefited from a marination in a ganjang (fermented soybean-based) sauce before being thrown on the chargrill and served with a sesame-oil-based sauce and three kimchis — sweet onion, radish and cabbage — that cut through the fat. Just one of the satisfying (and cheap) dishes at this nicely designed Victoria Street shopfront modelled on the trendy modern places in Seoul. - Larissa Dubecki

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