Wednesday, October 14, 2009


62 NewQuay Promenade, Docklands, VIC

A night out with some colleagues, two of whom don't eat glutens and one of whom doesn't eat seafood, meant that the Melbourne defaults of Italian or seafood were out. Greek it was.

It started well. Very well. Friendly staff, prompt wine service, lovely dips and bread. The conversation flowed, we perused the menu. The blokes went for large plates of meat of the souvlaki-sans-bread kind, and the girls shared mezze. Meatballs: gorgeous, done in a sundried tomato saucey thing. Cabbage salad: so good we ordered it twice. Lemonade potatoes: ditto. Grilled calamari: came in a complete grilled body, amazingly tender, perfectly grilled. Apparently the secret is to marinate in kiwi fruit beforehand. It went on and on.

Then we asked for the bill. Seven people, $50 each. No problem. Two of us remarked on the difference between the UK and Australia, in that you had to carry more cash than usual in Australia because of weird restaurants rules and the non-global acceptance of cards. It turned out, it was true of this restaurant. Three of us had cards, four had cash. The waitress did not know how to put through more than one card, and insisted that the only option we had was for at least two of the card-holders to take a ten-minute return trip to the nearest ATM in a howling gale on a windy horrible night (and one of them didn't have a coat). Luckily I had cash myself (but only because I had found $25 in my coat pocket). The others. the ones with only cards, were ropable.

We paid and left. Despite the good food, the old-fashioned approach to bill-paying will prevent me from going there again. Who carries that much cash around with them?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pinot Week dinner at Montalto

With our own little slice of Burgundy on the doorstep, it seemed churlish not to get involved in the Mornington Peninsula's Pinot Week this week.

Eileen organised tickets for the Montalto event - an afternoon of tastings at three of Halliday's five-star-rated pinot wineries, followed by a gala dinner at Montalto itself. The weather held: a beautiful sunny (but brisk) afternoon spent wandering through sprouting vines is no bad way to go.

First winery was Scorpo (not Scorpio) winery, where we tried barrel samples from this year's vintage and got a sneak preview of the 2008 vintage. I even went as far as to try the Chardonnays on offer, which as most of you will know, is a miracle for me.

Off on the bus to Prancing Horse Estate, who practise organic and bio-dynamic viticulture. We sat in their beautiful house (about 30 of us) sampling their locally-produced pinot and comparing it to their very own Premier Cru Burgundy whilst Sergio explained the origins and basis of bio-dynamics. A huge platter of gooey cheese perfected the experience.

Back at Montalto as the sun - and warmth of the day - started to fade, we stood in the piazza under gas heaters whilst owner John Mitchell and his chief winemaker Robin took us through three 2009 barrel samples from three different blocks, explaining how clone types and aspect differences make for such varying wines despite their close proximity to each other.

Sipping a glass of bubbly and downing oysters, sushi and tempura, we watched the light fade over the vines and olive groves before dinner was served. Interesting flavours abounded, including my personal favourite of wild hare ravioli served in a pinot and chocolate sauce. Sounds odd, but it really worked. We sampled six more pinots from 2001 upwards, and put the world to rights with Eileen and Kelvin.

A long drive home (thanks Orlando) meant a 2am end to the day, but a great start to spring.