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The North Melbourne Hotel

The North Melbourne Hotel

Do not be deterred by the utterly plain façade of The North Melbourne Hotel on Victoria Street. Inside the latest restaurant offering from publicans Sandra and Jose de Oliveria (owners of Richmond’s Bouzy Rouge) you will find a delightfully enticing décor and a reasonably priced, modern European menu.

The black chandeliers, marble-topped tables and eclectic knick-knacks are charming. Bartender Marco bounces around, hoping you will be tempted by the cocktail list or perhaps try one of his own concoctions. His Pisco Sour with a twist (a dash of chocolate bitters) is excellent. Apparently, the wrong pisco turned up in an order but Marco has made it work and now the Muscatel Pisco is on the re-order list.

Share fare is encouraged so there are smaller plates such as Steak Tartare through to Duck Liver Parfait .The early crowd favourite are the Jalapeno Poppers. While the crispy fried lambs brains are a stand-out. Larger dishes include Seafood Paella and 12-hour roasted lamb shoulder.

Local breweries and craft beer have been embraced with the North Melbourne Draught at four dollars a pot. A house red or white is also four dollars while there’s a solid range of local and Italian, French and Portuguese wine.

Surprisingly, the par-baked bread imported from France is excellent, with a perfect crunch and teamed with a subtle olive oil for dipping.

Portions are generous. The Cajun spiced soft shell crab, brioche bun and spicy remoulade is enormous (11 dollars) while the side dish of Angry eggs (crispy potatoes, Iberian ham, aioli and fried egg) is nearly too large for two.

The char grilled pasture fed Eye fillet, sweet potato puree, jus and roast witlof makes a classy main while the king fish cerviche is both sizeable and satisfying.

The 100 seat pub is an elegant space for relaxed dining. There’s nothing dull about it on the inside.

Location: 480 Victoria Street, North Melbourne

Phone: 03 9329 1634

www.thenorthmelbournehotel.com.au

Review: Ricky Martin

There can be no argument: Ricky Martin (born Enrique Martin Morales) is a passionate performer. He positively glowed as he entered Rod Laver Arena stage – a veritable glistening specimen of a man, head to toe in white cotton.

The international superstar has earned the respect of a multitude Australians through his nurturing and caring role as a judge on talent tv show The Voice. And those who believe that those who judge should be able to do, can’t criticise this man. He can move. He can sing. He can entertain.

The crowd was transfixed as he gyrated through his hits. He was ably “assisted” by an impressive group of dancers who I am convinced wore less and less as the night wore on. And  I would suggest the black bralette and butt-cheek skimming shiny hot pants may have been a crowd favorite.

Martin dedicated the Melbourne concert to the victims of the quake in Nepal, with an intriguing “intermission” of a video montage of beautiful, smiling faces of underprivileged children being helped via the Ricky Martin Foundation.

The singer urged the crowd to forget their woes – all their issues of home, work and school. Perhaps that was an acknowledgement that his fans are of all ages. I know that there was at least one 86 year old woman in the audience, while in the row in front of me, a young girl of about seven stood on her seat to watch Martin shake his bon bon.

There were smoke machines, a spectacular light show, brilliant nine piece band (love a brass section) and an impressive, mega confetti machine. But in a way, these accoutrements were superfluous, since most of the time, I really couldn’t take my eyes off Martin – with the occasional sideways glance at the aforementioned barely-robed dancers.

Melbourne choreographer Jason Coleman, sitting nearby, was in awe of their expertise. “Every step, every dancer was amazing. Really world class and uber-hot.”

Coleman said of Martin’s moves. “When he started I thought he’d hit a bit harder than that but by the end of it he did exactly what he said he would do and left his soul on the stage.”

Martin welcomed onto his stage Melbourne singer Jackson Thomas that he’d mentored on The Voice. A powerful duet ensued and Thomas’ voice was gorgeous.

It was a lovely gesture indicating that Martin is giving that promised “leg up” to those who appear on the talent show.

Amongst Martin’s parting words. “I don’t care what people think. I don’t care what people say.” Then he managed to get the crowd to do a daggy dance involving throwing hands in the air and rubbing tummies to a song with Spanish lyrics. And yes I joined in. And no, I have no idea what the song was about. But it sure was fun.

First published 2015

Red Carpet: Absolutely Fabulous, Melbourne

Sigrid Thornton is a fan. So is Natalie Bassingthwaighte. The women joined hundreds of guests at the Melbourne premiere of Absolutely Fabulous The Movie at Crown Village cinemas.

The film, with 60 cameo appearances ( including a doozy from Jerry Hall and a wonderful stint from Rebel Wilson) is based on the hugely successful television series starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.

It was in 1990 when Saunders and her comedy partner Dawn French were writing scripts for the third series of their hit TV show, French and Saunders, that they came up with a sketch that eventually led to the creation of Ab Fab.

The big screen debut for Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone sees the pair still oozing glitz and glamour and clamoring to live the high life. They still love shopping, drinking and so on but things go pear-shaped when super model Kate Moss is accidentally pushed into the river Thames at a fancy launch party by Edina.

The crazy antics are back while persistently outrageous and silly behaviour ensues. And a ridiculous plan is hatched to escape the media frenzy and continue lapping up luxury forever more.

In Melbourne for the premiere, Saunders said, “When you’re Edina and Patsy, you can do anything. Being them is just a licence to be outrageous.”

She also revealed that occasionally she does slip into her Edina character for her children’s entertainment. “To make them laugh, you know, I’ll say I’m going to order a drink and just to make them laugh I’ll order it like Edina or fall over or something like that. Really, just to amuse my children.”

The film opens in cinemas across Australia this week

Watch the Melbourne premiere video here:

 

Chat: Sharon Stone

Hollywood siren Sharon Stone plays Dorothy Boreman, a haggard and exhausted housewife and mother in the film Lovelace, which tells the story of  1970’s porn actress Linda Lovelace.

The film portrays the domestic violence, the abuse and the pain Linda suffered during her years of fame.

The role for Stone is a far cry from her Hollywood sex symbol status.

I snared an Australian radio exclusive with the Basic Instinct star and soon realised that Sharon, at 55 years of age (at the time),  is very comfortable with being famous.

She also chatted about her admiration for Aussies and how she would change the world.

Lovelace, also stars Amanda Seyfried, Hank Azaria, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris Noth, opens in Australian cinemas on September 26.

 

Bush Tucker, Yulara, Uluru

I didn’t know what a quandong was when I sat down with Patricia Solomon to talk about her work at the Kulata Academy café at Ayers Rock Resort.

In less than two years, Ms Solomon has been promoted to Step-Up Leader at the incredibly busy cafe and training academy that churns out build-your own sandwiches, focaccias and wraps from morning to late afternoon.

It’s a basic concept – people select their sandwich fillings then add sauces, dressings and condiments to their stomach’s delight.

patsolomon

I’m told grabbing a kangaroo sanga is a visitor favorite but many ask for a taste test before committing to the whole sandwich – only to exclaim – “It tastes like roast beef!”

As you wander into Yulara Town Square, you’re more than likely to witness an extraordinary queue of keen and hungry visitors, patiently waiting for their reasonably-priced repast.

As Ms Solomon talked me through her life-changing decision to leave family in Townsville to take up a gig at the Resort, I was impressed by her passion and respect for her work, food and culture.

“I started off not knowing how to carry two glasses on a tray. Then I got the opportunity to learn from others who know five-star dining right through to working in a cafe,” she told me.

“I feel I’ve changed as a person. Two years ago, I was sour towards people but I feel now, through working in customer service, it’s opened my mind to how everyone has a story.

“Instead of being closed off, I’m now open to conversation. Everyone is so interesting.”

Ms Solomon believes visitors also change their ways after coming to Yulara.

“Being Indigenous, I feel this is the motherland because they still practice traditional ways. So, it makes me proud when customers and guests ask me questions about me or here.

“I feel that people coming here and learning about the culture and how people live off the land, they leave with a better appreciation for the environment.”

Ayers Rock Resort has introduced a new Bush Tucker Trail at its eateries, cafes and restaurants with flavours such as Lemon Myrtle, Kakadu Plum, Bush Tomato, Quandong and Wattleseed incorporated into dishes across every restaurant.

Offerings include braised pork belly sliders with kakadu plum chili sauce, cucumber and macadamia nut salad or grilled crocodile tail dusted with bush dukkah with spinach salad and lemon myrtle and mango dressing.

Naturally, a selection of Bush Tucker cocktails have also been whipped up by mixologist Ty Bennett. They include a Lemon Myrtle Martini, a Quandong Capriosca and Native Mint and Desert Lime Mojito

Tourism Australia says that Indigenous experiences and food and wine were key to Australia’s international tourism offering.

About 14 per cent of international tourists to Australia take part in an Aboriginal cultural experience, bringing in about 5.6 billion dollars a year.

Ray Stone from Voyages says the team of Executive chefs joined forces to create contemporary dishes that add ingredients that have been used in Indigenous cuisine for thousands of years.

After my inspiring chat with Ms Solomon (who is hoping to one day be promoted to manager), and as I sunk my teeth into the Quandong cheesecake, I realised I actually love the taste of wild peach.

The writer travelled courtesy of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia

Krabi, Thailand

It’s a clever, thoughtful hotel that compiles a series of indoor activities for those times you don’t feel like venturing outside for a drenching. Stretches of South East Asia, including Thailand, are known for afternoon downpours during monsoon or wet season, so ideas are welcome on what to do when it’s teeming rain.

As I absorbed the serenity of the expansive foyer at the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, I noted the list of fun things to do written neatly on a solid, wooden framed blackboard.

The activities included batik, yoga, candle-making, Thai boxing, learn how to speak Thai and bag painting but what caught my eye, (the eye of someone often chided for being a dreadful cook) was the Thai cooking class.

I adore Tom Yam and just my luck, how to make the spicy soup was part of the rainy-day tuition.

Krabi 3

On entering the custom-made cooking school, tucked in amongst gorgeous gardens, I observed piled-up spices, fresh herbs, gleaming pots and pans, glossy bench-tops and shiny silver cooking stations.

Then I saw the man who would impress me for the next two hours with his knowledge, patience and humour: chef of 40 years Phak Phakphoom.

What a sweet smile he shared as he imparted the cooking tips he’d accrued over the decades.

Krabi 1

The following is what I believe is the ultimate (and authentic) Tom Yam recipe with notes attached as told to me by Chef Phakphoom.

Tom Yam Goong ( Hot and Sour Prawn soup)

200 gram prawns, cleaned,

3 cups water (or stock)

2 garlic cloves minced.

3 thin slices fresh galangal

¼ cup fish sauce

2 stalks lemon grass

2 shallots sliced

2 kaffir lime leaves

½ cup sliced straw mushrooms

5 green Thai chili peppers ( optional)

¼ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon chili jam

1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves

Preparation:

Heat water to boiling. Add the garlic, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and shallots to the water ( or stock). Add the mushrooms and chili peppers. Cook gently for two minutes. Add prawns to the soup and reheat to boiling. When the prawns are cooked, place lime juice, fish sauce and chili jam in a serving bowl. Pour the soup into the bowl, stir, garnish with coriander and serve.

Chef notes: Do not take the stems off the kaffir lime leaves. Only use skinny pieces of lemongrass. In order to “balance” the dish, it’s crucial to use an identical amount of lime juice and fish sauce. It’s okay to cheat and use bought chili jam since it takes a full day to make a homemade version. And as Chef suggested with a cheeky grin, “Chili jam okay for Europe people but only half spoon.” Smash chili peppers with a spoon to release the juices. Turn lime inside out to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Do not overcook prawns.

Footnote: The soup was delicious and I have proudly made it on my return from Krabi. However there’s just one thing missing at home: Chef’s guiding smile.

Krabi 2

Donna Demaio was a guest of Accor, Qantas and Bangkok Airways.

Roc’s Bar, Jam Factory, South Yarra

Roc’s Bar at the Village Cinemas at the Jam Factory has officially opened, describing itself as New York cool. At the launch, invited guests were treated to the theatre of freeze-dried popcorn, cool champagne and canapes (the prawn and chorizo skewers were a hit) – an apparent expression of gratitude for the crowd who had stepped out on a brisk Monday eve.

As the film fans snuggled into the V-max seat to watch Jason Bourne, a special mention was made of the founder of Village Cinemas, Roc Kirby. It was he who in the 1950’s founded Village Drive-Ins in Croydon ( later the operation was to be known as Village Drive-Ins and Cinemas) and who now has a beautiful bar named after him.

A brief video introduction from actor Matt Damon was impressive, as he noted the crowd was amongst the first in Australia to see the action-packed film.

Roc’s, with piano bar, comfy couches and chic décor, hosted more drinks after the screening.

http://www.rocsjamfactory.com.au/#

 

Helpmann Awards, Sydney: 2016

Matilda the Musical has been the big winner, raking in 13 awards from 13 nominations at the 2016 16th annual Helpmann Awards in Sydney.

Hosts at the glittering event  included Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Guy Noble, The Umbilical Brothers and Simon Phillips.

Others at the event, presenting the awards in a range of categories including comedy, cabaret, musicals and opera, included Tim Finn, Noni Hazlehurst and Eddie Perfect.

There were sensational performances from the Singin’ in the Rain cast, Sarah Blasko, Marina Prior, Ladies in Black and The Sound of Music, and more.

TIM MINCHIN

Photo: Tim Minchin ( copyright Donna Demaio)

The ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel Arts and is available via webcast at www.foxtelarts.com.au until August 25.

Winners list:

BEST MUSICAL
MATILDA THE MUSICAL

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
SARAH PEIRSE
The Golden Age
Sydney Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
DANIEL FREDERIKSEN
Matilda The Musical

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
ELISE MCCANN
Matilda The Musical

BEST INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
PRINCE ‘PIANO & A MICROPHONE’ TOUR 2016
Prince, Dainty Group and ICO ApS

BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
WOMADELAIDE 2016
Womadelaide Foundation

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
KATE MILLER-HEIDKE AND THE TASMANIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH VISUALS BY AMY GEBHAR

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
ROB HOWELL
Matilda The Musical

BEST SCENIC DESIGN
ROB HOWELL
Matilda The Musical

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
TIM MINCHIN
Matilda The Musical

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION
STEPHEN AMOS
Matilda The Musical

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
HUGH VANSTONE
Matilda The Musical

BEST SOUND DESIGN
SIMON BAKER
Matilda The Musical

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE
PIERRE-LAURENT AIMARD
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Symphony Orchestra

BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT
FRENCH BAROQUE WITH CIRCA
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
SIR SIMON RATTLE CONDUCTS THE AUSTRALIAN WORLD ORCHESTRA
Australian World Orchestra

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN
BAMBERT’S BOOK OF LOST STORIES
Barking Gecko Theatre Company

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION
SUGARLAND
Australian Theatre for Young People and Performing Lines

BEST CABARET PERFORMER
MICHAEL GRIFFITHS
Cole
Adelaide Festival Centre’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER
TOM BALLARD
The World Keeps Happening
Token Events

BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
IL RITORNO
Brisbane Festival and Circa

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A DANCE OR PHSYICAL THEATRE WORK
FRANCES RINGS
Sheoak
Bangarra Dance Theatre

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL
PETER DARLING
Matilda The Musical

BEST MALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE WORK
KIMBALL WONG
Habitus
Australian Dance Theatre

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE WORK
YOLANDA LOWATTA
Sheoak

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
JOÃO FERNANDES
Agrippina
Brisbane Baroque in association with QPAC

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
KERI FUGE
Agrippina

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
CARLO VISTOLI
Agrippina

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
NICOLE CAR
Luisa Miller
Opera Australia

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA
SIR DAVID MCVICAR
The Marriage of Figaro
Opera Australia

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
MARK LEONARD WINTER
Birdland
Melbourne Theatre Company

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
PAULA ARUNDELL
The Bleeding Tree
Griffin Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
JAMES MILLAR
Matilda The Musical

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
MOLLY BARWICK, DUSTY BURSILL, TIANA MIRRA, ALANNAH PARFETT, SASHA ROSE, GEORGIA TAPLIN, BELLA THOMAS AND INGRID TORELLI
Matilda The Musical

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
LEE LEWIS
The Bleeding Tree

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
MATTHEW WARCHUS
Matilda The Musical

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK
CAROLYN BURNS AND TIM FINN WITH SIMON PHILLIPS
Ladies in Black
Queensland Theatre Company

BEST OPERA
AGRIPPINA

BEST BALLET OR DANCE WORK
SHEOAK

BEST PLAY
THE BLEEDING TREEG

The ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel Arts and is available via webcast at www.foxtelarts.com.au until August 25.

 

 

Wellington on a Plate 2016

Partly inspired by the success of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and a desire to celebrate great food and drink, respected New Zealand chef Martin Bosley teamed up with some pals about eight years ago to establish Visa Wellington on a Plate. Nowadays, the two week festival brings together thousands of people in August, to experience, explore and discover the treats that lie within the nation’s capital.

This year there are more than 130 events with Chef Bosley’s fourth Prison Gate to Plate, once again sold-out before the festival begins.  There are several sessions, where 80 people dine on food designed and made by maximum security prisoners at Rimutaka Prison, New Zealand’s largest jail. There are drug dog checks on the night before guests get a tour of the prison perimeter then seated for their meal in the correctional officer’s training quarters. Chef Bosley reveals that prisoners eat dinner in their cells, served on trays  through slots and not in a dining area as depicted in television shows.

Martin Bosley

Mr Bosley says it’s a golden job to work in the prison kitchen, so the six inmates that he works with and trains appreciate the opportunity. There are four in the back-up crew just in case the chosen ones “stuff up” (which has happened). Dinner is served by prisoners and correctional officers and to Mr Bosley’s delight, guests often can’t tell the difference.

The menu is printed at the prison print shop, the roses sourced from the gardens of Christchurch prison (nothing grows at Rimutaka according to Chef Bosley) and painted plates, made by inmates of course, decorate the walls of the dining room. This year, there’ll be a cookbook collating four years of Prison Gate to Plate recipes.

The menu is developed by the prisoners, who have been  learning to make sausages and squid ink ravioli. And since they expressed a strong interest in molecular gastronomy – caviar and foams have been added to the offerings.

Mr Bosley says his position on incarceration has altered, while the concept of “food as an agent of change” still plays in the back of his mind. “I used to think that since they’ve done bad things, they should be breaking rocks in the hot sun.  Why should I help them.”

Now he gets emotional reflecting on his own learning curve and how profoundly he’s changed. He’s heard the prisoner’s stories unfold while teaching them how to slow braise ox cheeks or break down a fish.  “We need to give them the opportunity to show they can be worthwhile and contributing members of society. During the process, they’ve been given self-confidence and self-esteem and  they’ve taught me empathy and humility.”

He is still trying to convince authorities to allow him to serve the upcoming dinners on the actual prison trays with scratched-on graffiti and gang slogans.

Meanwhile, he has succeeded in getting “jail juice” on the menu –  a non- alcoholic drink made of left-overs and essentially whatever the prisoners can get their hands on. This year, there’ll be three different flavours served.

There are so many inspired and interesting Visa Wellington on a Plate events.  Here are some top picks:

1/ The biggest beer festival in New Zealand is Beervana.  There will be about 60 breweries with more than 300 types of beer being served. It’s held at the Westpac Stadium, with thousands of craft beer enthusiasts gathering around the perimeter for the event.

Beervana  1

2/ A Taste of Old: Pioneer Cooking for Kids. Children get a hands-on  chance to take a trip back in time and experience cooking as it used to be: without electricity. The program is presented by the Garden to Table Trust.

3/ A record 116 burgers will vye for the big prize in this year’s Garage Project presents ‘Burger Wellington’, which sees food trucks and restaurants battling to win the ultimate accolade.

4/ The sleek and stylish Egmont Street Eatery is part of the Laneway Progressive Dinner that has you meandering through Wellington’s artisanal laneways, enjoying a veritable feast. Others taking part include Pizza Pomodoro and Golding’s Free Dive.

Ti Kouka Burger

5/ High Coffee at the Intercontinental. The plush foyer of the Intercontinental hotel is hosting high coffee with a delightful selection of sandwiches, pastries and not-to-be-missed coffee-flavoured macaroons. The event kicks off with an espresso martini.

High Coffee at Intercontinental, Wellington

6/ Pizza making wonder Tom Kirton (Tommy Millions) is presenting  an all you can eat pizza and dessert buffet at Prefab Café. The man spent time in New York to make sure he learnt what he needs to know about good pizza. And trust me, it’s great. There’s to be beer matching too, thanks to the Garage Project.

7/ Bypass the Bin is an afternoon well spent, learning how to minimise waste in your own kitchen. Chef MacLean Fraser is hosting the entertaining, informative masterclass which shows how to make the most of what’s in the kitchen.

Tommy Millions Pizza

Visa Wellington on a Plate, with 136 events, runs from August 12th to 28th. www.visawoap.com

The writer travelled to Wellington courtesy of Positively Wellington