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Pétanque Social

The return of an outdoor fave

Pétanque Social, the chic outdoor dining destination on Crown’s Riverwalk, has returned for a second year – and it looks gorgeous.

Red cushioned day beds, communal lounges, stunning city views and a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights greet those seeking a place to chill, while relishing Melbourne’s new freedoms.


Marky Rochford, Director of sustainable event agency Frank Wild, has brought an eco-focus to the re-imagined venue. There’s solar power chilling the beers, energy bikes to charge mobile phones, rainwater collection, reclaimed materials and eco-friendly paints.

The aim is to transport locals from the Yarra to the Tuscan countryside. There are terracotta tones and an earthy mural by Melbourne artist Melina McGough.

“Melbournians are craving an atmospheric destination. And this is undeniably the go-to place that allows Melbournians to relax, unwind and celebrate the warmer months,” says Crown Melbourne’s Executive General Manager of Food and Beverage, Enda Cunningham.

Other bits

A worm farm for composting. A garnish garden to provide the chefs with extra fresh ingredients. Nobu’s wagyu beef taco. Freshly-shucked oysters. Pumping tunes. Plenty of space and impressively stocked bar.

Where: Crown Riverwalk

When: Thursdays to Sundays until May 2022


The Lume Melbourne

An unparalleled immersive art experience.

After seven years in development, The Lume Melbourne has opened – a 3,000 square metre, 11 metre high digital art gallery, celebrating the creative genius of Vincent Van Gogh.

It’s technically stunning, creatively impressive and visually delightful.

After Covid-19 curve-balls and lockdown dramas, founder of Melbourne-based creators Grande Experiences, Bruce Peterson is thrilled to have finally established this mesmerising attraction.

“This is the new world we live in. This is the perfect way to celebrate togetherness with Van Gogh,” he says.


Art lovers devise their own route through the exhibition, meandering at their own pace. The art room overflows with visitors standing at miniature easels, sketching with pencil and eraser in hand, guided by a video tutorial. The soundtrack is stirring, from Erik Satie to Vivaldi. Overall, a calming, visually spectacular and stimulating experience.

Other bits

The merchandise store has wonderfully comfortable and stylish masks, so I stocked up. I did a double take when passing adorable Van Gogh Pop Vinyls, all lined up. And there’s a cafe/bar, so you can sip and nibble while you experience the wonder. There are plans for yoga sessions within the gallery walls.

Where: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (west end)
5 Convention Centre Pl
South Wharf

When: November 2021 until May 2022.


Top End Wedding: The Northern Territory is more than mosquitoes, heat and cyclones

Top End Wedding is the tale of Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) – an engaged couple who travel to the outback to meet the family before the impending nuptials. It’s unashamedly a rom-com and has taken more than one million dollars in its first weekend. Tapsell not only stars in the film, but is also executive producer and co-writer. The exceptional Wayne Blair directs the charming, enjoyable movie.

Listen to Tapsell and Lee (yes, he was Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody) chat about the joys of film-making in rugged terrain and so much more: ( running time: 2 minutes 10)



Eddie Perfect and his New York hug


Eddie Perfect says he feels like he’s been given a big hug by New York, as he celebrates his Tony Award nomination for Beetlejuice the Musical on Broadway.

As he expressed his shock over the Best Original Score nomination, he spoke of working on the show for four years and his hopes that the “super weird show” runs “forever”.

Listen here to my chat with Eddie Perfect (who desperately misses his backyard since moving to New York).

The Tony Awards will be held on June 10, 2019.



Sleeping Buddha at NGV

The National Gallery of Victoria has installed one of its largest works – a monumental 18 metre long Buddha. The work has been especially commissioned for the blockbuster summer exhibition, the inaugural NGV Triennial.

Weighing approximately 15 tonnes, artist Xu Zhen’s sculpture features a replica of a famous reclining Buddha statue adorned with 3D scanned and cast Greco-Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical sculptures, fusing together Eastern and Western cultural heritages in order to break down boundaries.

The sculpture is in 20 sections that have been meticulously pieced together by six staff from Xu Zhen’s studio. Fifteen white sculptures have been lifted by crane and positioned on top of the reclining Buddha.

“People are already scratching their heads about how we got this in here,” NGV curator Simon Maidment told me. The NGV had to ensure all the pieces fit through the doorways and entry points.

Mr Maidment said, “When the gallery was built in 1968, art of the day was quite different and certainly it wasn’t presenting 18 metre long sculptures at that time.”

unnamedOccurring every three years, the NGV Triennial is a free, gallery-wide exhibition of contemporary art, design and architecture that features the work of more than 100 artists and designers from more than 30 countries around the world.

“I’m not plastic” Real Housewives of Melbourne Season 4

“I’m not just a feisty b*tch that looks good,” declared Venus Behbahani-Clark as she was introduced as a new cast member of Foxtel’s The Real Housewives of Melbourne , which has been filming Season 4 around town for a few weeks.

The 35 year old mother of two has no qualms about joining the successful franchise but doesn’t want people to be too quick to judge.

“Please, please don’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know me. My heart is kind. Don’t judge me by my looks,” she told 3AW before confirming, ‘I do believe in looking good so I have had a little bit of cosmetic work done but it’s not that I’m all plastic.”

Her children, aged seven and three, will appear in the series. And her oldest has already started asking questions about her mother’s role in the show but Venus says she will not allow her children to watch.

Venus has seen the previous series, commenting on the cast. “All the girls have challenging personalities because they are smart girls. So we all have a little bit of guard there.”


Venus Behbahani-Clark photo by Donna Demaio

46 year old Gamble Breaux has enthusiastically returned to the show, hinting that while she had a “rough start” she’s now having a great time despite sparks flying. “It’s a treasure trove of trash and I’m so excited. I’m having a bit of fun with some new meat.”

She also hinted that after just a few weeks, she already has some regrets, explaining “I was in a bad mood when we started, so I wasn’t really myself for a while but I’m feeling normal now.”

Gamble says the program has been good to her. “It’s life changing. It gives you a platform not to do boring stuff. You’re obviously up there to be made a bit of fun of, but that’s all right.”

Breaux also spoke of the stress involved in planning her stepson’s 21st birthday party, revealing that it cost twice  as much as her wedding.

The other new housewife is 51 year old Sally Bloomfield who, after talking to former Real Housewife Chyka Keebaugh, thought she’d give the show a go.

The Bold and the Beautiful Down Under

The cast professed to have no clue as to the story line, as long-running Channel ten soap The Bold and the Beautiful announced it will film on location in Australia in February.

The stars of the popular show about feuding families in the fashion industry gathered at CBS’ Studio 31 in Los Angeles to toast the announcement with fake champagne. They then were seated on set for a celebratory lunch of meat pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons with miniature Australian and American flags as table centerpieces.

The world’s most watched soap will film in and around Sydney between February 12th and February 17th. There’s a whisper Melbourne may also feature.

Based on the show’s usual filming schedule (it surpassed 7,500 episodes in January), it’s understood producers are aiming for about six episodes.

John McCook (Eric Forrester), one of the original cast members, is thrilled to be marking the show’s 30th anniversary with a trip to Sydney.

McCook, who has never visited Australia, said, ‘It’s a wonderfully big deal. It’s another hemisphere for God’s sake. I look forward to a very luxurious flight. We’re going to be very well taken care of by Qantas.’

He insisted he had no idea what the scenes will be. ‘We haven’t seen the script yet. We have broad strokes of what we’ll be doing down there but it’s sort of gossip.’

Meanwhile another soap life-timer Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke Forrester) is looking forward to her tenth trip to Australia.

‘Australia is so fabulous. What I always find so amazing is that everyone is so nice. You don’t feel there’s a care in the world. No worries, mate.’

Australia’s Ashley Brewer (Ivy) who joined the show in 2014 is looking for tips to share with the cast. ‘The thing is I was born and grew up in Brisbane and then lived in Melbourne for five or six years, so I’m not an expert on Sydney.’

And she has no idea how the story-line leads them to Australia. ‘I don’t know a single thing. It’s going to be news to me as well.’

Qantas will provide round-trip flights for the cast and crew. Qantas Group spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said, ‘It’s a terrific opportunity to promote Australia by featuring it in one of the most popular TV programs in the world.’

The national carrier said from previous experience and similar partnerships, such as bringing the Ellen show to Australia, it noted a spike in bookings after the shows aired.

The Bold and the Beautiful broadcasts in nearly 200 countries including Iceland, Estonia, France South Africa and Switzerland.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas 

POW Kitchen, St Kilda

If you desire a lunch that packs a (chilli) punch, seek out a meal at the Prince Bandroom’s POW Kitchen in St Kilda. Executive chef Daniel Hawkins (ex-Longrain) and head chef Woosun Choi (ex-Newmarket Hotel) ensure their love for chilli is evident in many of the South East Asian dishes, adding the perfect kaPOW  to a bunch of authentic and powerful flavours.

POW Kitchen has a superbly located balcony overlooking the ever-intriguing Fitzroy Street. This means you can laze away the afternoon, watching the street’s colourful characters stride by below, while munching on a fine array of yumminess. The menu includes crisp school prawns wrapped in betel leaves, soft-shell crab with green mango and super spicy Kung Pao Chicken. All delicious.

Cocktail concoctions abound with an enthusiastic bar manager eager to please – and occasionally create new tastes on request. Drinks such as Pomiscuous Girl ( spiced rum, pomegranate, mint and lime) and Mango Baba (Cachaca, Montenegro, mango, soy and vanilla) can be ordered in pitchers or in glasses. And naturally, the classic Aperol Spritz is virtually on tap. A total of 14 cocktails and 28 brews and nearly 30 wines.

It’s a place ripe for further discovery. It’s a place to share a magnificent  pile of fried Mochico chicken ribs with green chilli kewpie. It’s a place to please those who enjoy genuine, tangy flavours in a truly laid-back setting.  Oh, there’s also a “South East Feast” which at 45 dollars a head (minimum two people) is a pleasantly surprising string of sensational  sharing plates. KaPOW.


Dream Lover World Premiere

The talented and charismatic David Campbell is a huge fan of legendary 1960’s singer/song-writer Bobby Darin. And it was with passion and gusto that Campbell took to the Lyric Theatre stage in Sydney for the world premiere of Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical.

The show, written by John-Michael Howson and his cousin Frank Howson, traces the highs and lows of the entertainer’s life, cut short by ill-health at age 37. The musical is a window into his rise to fame, his family secrets, his personal struggles and his frought marriage to Hollywood sweetheart Sandra Dee.There are more than 30 songs and an 18 piece big band on stage, playing such tender tunes as Mack the Knife, Under the Sea and of course, Dream Lover.

Campbell told me, minutes after stepping off stage, “After 20 years of being a fan of someone who has such an emotional connection to my life and is an idol to me. And to have his son come out to give his blessing. It means everything to me.” His dad Jimmy Barnes was in the audience, proud as punch.

The show is competing with two other productions that are classics, for vastly different reasons. My Fair Lady (directed by Julie Andrews) has just broken box office records at the Sydney Opera House and stars Anna O’Byrne as Eliza Doolittle. She’s marvellous, with a powerful voice and incredible presence as her confidence and character grows over the three hour show. Reg Livermore is delightful and bursting with energy as an exceptional  Alfred P Doolittle. British performer Alex Jennings is an excellent Professor Higgins but is to be replaced by Downton Abbey’s Charles Edwards in the Melbourne season. The costumes and choreography are gorgeous.

Meanwhile Disney classic Aladdin has audiences spellbound as they watch the Genie appear on stage at the Capital Theatre. The magic carpet is mesmerising and the ensemble a dancing, thieving, fantastical frenzy. The show, based on the hugely successful 1992 film (grossing more than half a billion dollars at the time) is fun, romantic and just the right amount of frivolous.

The writer travelled courtesy of Destination NSW

We Will Rock You: Melbourne

It’s really loud. But that’s how the audience likes it. Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You is pounding out Queen hits at The Regent Theatre, with a cast that impresses from the first few notes.

The ensemble cast is energetic, frenetic and garishly good, while Gareth Keegan as Galileo and Erin Clare as Scaramouche are wonderful.

Must mentions include Brian Mannix (Buddy), Casey Donovan (Killer Queen), Jaz Flowers (Oz), Thern Reynolds (Brit) and Simon Russell (Khashoggi). They each bring a certain pzazz to the futuristic show about a time when people don’t know what live music is anymore.

The cast

Entertainment reporter Donna Demaio caught up with the main players including Ben Elton.

Watch video here: