Thursday, May 28, 2009

High Tea and High Jinks

So, more travels with your Aunt. We booked two nights at The Windsor Hotel, beautiful Victorian old girl in her original garb but impeccably maintained.

We were reminded of the Shining and Redrum and it did have that mahogany spookiness to it but it was gorgeous, the staff lovely and didn't give a shit that we were dressed in jeans and T shirts within its five star walls.

Clare was a little disappointed on first viewing because I think she prefers the more modern dark brown and cream minimalist look that's so prevalent in hotels these days but it was just as I'd remembered when I stayed there 17 years ago before seeing Phantom of the Opera - right down to the Footman at the door who obligingly looked after our now cumbersome wheelie bags.

We had booked in for High Tea . A quaint English tradition that's enjoying a huge resurgence here in both tea shops and hotels. Clare kindly redeemed her Christmas gift voucher and paid for the event. We were escorted into the Ballroom nonetheless and genteelly sat at a table for two ("Tea for two and two for tea . . cha, cha, cha . .") poured a glass of sparkling rose and it was explained to us just how things worked. First a tier of scones with the thickest of King Island Triple Cream and jam, then a tier of savoury pastries and muffins, finger sandwiches and pastries then our pick of the dessert smorgasbord. All accompanied of course . .with tea!

We could have done with a crowd frankly because we were pogged after 20 minutes and simply couldn't even do the chocolate fountain justice!

We checked into our tiny but beautifully Victorian room . . .

(hey it was cheap).

We managed to sneak in a quick look around Crown Casino and coffee with the Benchwarmer who was also visiting Melbourne before sprucing up to meet my niece for dinner at Madam Brussels where she's the Event Manager . . .I've never seen anything like this. Hidden in a dingy off-road hallway in Bourke Street, and three floors up, it's a wrought iron furnished, floral decorated bar with a brick pathway and astro-turf indoors, where the waiters look like 1920's tennis players or boat punters! Very cute, very small and unless you're in the know would have no idea it was there.

This is common in Melbourne. You find the good spots by word of mouth - keeps the tourists out! A after an Espresso Vodka Cocktail . .yum for those who don't like their cocktails too sweet, we moved on to a restaurant called Panama Dining Room. This was our first introduction to Melbourne's love of shabby chic and industrial architecture. Even the entry door was actually a fire escape door graffiti'd with the restaurant name. Inside a huge warehouse space transitioned from left to right with no dividers from bar and pool tables to lounges to restaurant.

The menu was fantalicious except for the introduction of rabbit which I just can't grasp as gourmet food, largely because they are so destructive in my garden. But we selected a rare Wagyu steak with something potatoey and some sort of jus and almondine broccoli and charred pumpkin. Gorgeous . . all blended with a delightful local chardonnay at a mere $45 per bottle and a couple of freebies on the house because my niece knew the proprietor. Pogged and happy after a night of conversation and giggles, we left Bec to party hard . . these 'hospitality' types keep late hours!

On Monday, we had arranged to shop . . Melbourne is renown for it but shopping is higgeldy piggeldy. There are the same chain stores that we have in Sydney then alleyways of designer shops, recycled clothing shops and rather exclusive boutiques and of course cafes.

We ran into the Benchwarmer again in this alley and after a coffee we said our goodbye's and Clare and I hit the stores. Our purchases were few and far between. Clare bought a nice knitted dress, I settled for a more sedate business shirt.

We'd arranged to meet some friends with whom she'd travelled in South America and a fellow blogger so settled happily at the Transport Bar in Federation square since it was central, close to Flinders Street Station and the tram stops and began imbibing yet again.

It was wonderful for Clare to catch up with her 'wharfie' friend met during South American travels and another girl for whom she's designing a website then as dark fell, Kath from Blurb from the Burbs rang to ask where we were, as she was free for a couple of hours and would make her way over.

Now if you haven't checked out her blog, please have a look. I rarely promote other's blogs because it's a matter of taste but hers is well worth a look. She is a published author - Work Life Balance for Dummies - a mother, a wife, a freelance writer and gets paid to eat and photograph chocolate for a living and it doesn't get better than that! Where do these women get jobs like this! English Mum also gets paid to test recipes and review children's DVD's . . .anyway, I digress . . .she appeared as a little vision in dark blue jeans and salmon pink denim jacket with a neat black shoulder bag with it's thin strap swagged across her chest, arms outstretched and a smile as big as the outback. We liked each other instantly. She's exactly as I imagined only more petite so don't believe her when she goes on about her big bum! And she said I looked younger and slimmer than in my photos, so there! ('Tis true I take an awful photo). We sipped and chatted, discussed who we'd met from the blogosphere, talked about life, family, dogs, blogging and new opportunities and in all too short a time, she had to return to entertain family who were visiting from South Australia to celebrate her daughter's birthday but not before issueing us a generous dinner invitation next time we're in Melbourne, one we'll certainly accept. A sweet, natural, chatty Aussie blogger and I really enjoyed our time together.

Now this my friends, is what it's all about for me. It was wonderful to meet her and although I knew what she looked like, I now can hear her voice when (pretty Aussie at that). I know how she sounds when she laughs and the expressions on her face. It was indeed a 'moment' and I'm so grateful that she took the time out to meet us. Thanks Kath, you're a champ.

So, after all this chatting and hugging and catching up - Kath moved on and we ordered dinner from the bar - very excellent pub grub and yes, I know you shouldn't post a double superlative. No sooner had we finished (four young things 24-29 and me well over the hill) were approached by a couple of sleeze bags and despite our attempts to ignore their advances and claims of closing "a trillion dollar deal . . " yeah right! Had to rely on the bouncers to release us from their vice like attention. They were locals apparently and well-known to the establishment. Although I have to say, I did enjoy a little guilty pleasure in being chatted up by someone 15 years my junior!

Another night's sleep in the spooky hotel before our last day. I was determined to order Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine for breakfast and we enjoyed one of each immensely before boarding the South Brunswick Tram for some 'alternative' shopping.

Trams are interesting. From what I gather, it all goes on an honesty system, you buy a ticket from a machine, validate it once on the tram then use the tram for the nominated time . . .but nobody checks . .we could have caught it for free . . next time . . nah . .I couldn't do it. Too honest and it was only six bucks then we realised that we were travelling a distance of about 1km and could have easily walked!

Fitzroy is definitely that. A few factory outlets, many very expensive boutiques and heaps of 'Vintage Clothing' outlets. Street side cafes and restaurants and one called Little Creatures which was basically a huge space and bar that resembled a soup kitchen where we just had coffee but had we wanted to, we could have borrowed a bike, eaten from enamel bowls and/or plates and tasted over 150 beers.Borrowed pic but the cheeky smile on the right served us the best coffee in the street!

Frankly after trudging up and down Brunswick Street, we were beginning to feel footsore and weary so headed back to the hotel for final checkout and to retrieve our wheelies. But not before discovering the beautiful Victorian Exhibition Centre and another pretty park.

Walked the full length of Bourke street during peak hour to meet the airport shuttle (I was being tough but it was killing me). Then into the airport for arguably the worst cheese and ham toasted sandwich on the planet before boarding a nice big 767 for home. What is it about airports? I mean Macdonalds is the only decent food there and I use that term loosely!

So, aren't you glad we didn't do a world trip! This is the next best thing to the "Hey, come over to our place and take a look at the slides of our holiday . . ." Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Sleep tight, make sure the bed bugs don't bite!

Too short but too much fun! And I'm sure we only scratched the surface. Look out Melbourne because I have a feeling that's not going to be the end of the Bainbridge onslaught.

Normal and less introspective service will resume tomorrow . . so many fuckwits, which one will make it this Friday? Who knows?


Candie said...


Great post Baino,really nice!!

Friday fuckwit,we want friday fuckwit!!!Laughing my "chest" off!LOL :D

Anonymous said...

Oh 'tis true about finding the "good spots"! Some of the best places are in the most run down areas, that tourists fear ( when they really don't know sod all! ). but even in the nicer places, they can't always find them. Word of mouth has always been the better way to advert. And that hotel! And the High Tea( Mom's always wanted to do that )and chocolate fountain! I'm gaining 1/2 a stone just looking at it :)

nick said...

Clearly a successful weekend - all-out hedonism and self-indulgence! An excellent antidote to employment difficulties. High tea is a long tradition in Norn Irish families, but not so common in restaurants and cafes so I'm not sure how prevalent it still is.

Brian Miller said...

great post. fun walk along with you. have had many a time in local hideaways that served the best food. lots of coffee intermingled which sounds wonderful. and drowns out the tea. : )

The Clever Pup said...

This is so exciting. Being a North American and never having been in Australia, I really had no idea what Australian city life was like.

We all see the Sydney Opera house, but I haven't a clue what the rest of Sydney, or Melbourne for that matter, looks like.


laughingwolf said...

tired me out just from the reading, baino :O lol

glad you both had fun :)

tut-tut said...

Wow, what a great intro the Melbourne. You are quite a writer yourself, Baino. So vivid and fun. I wish I had written something for today's Theme, but alas.

Your post makes me want to come meet you and see Australia.

Wings1295 said...

Fun! Thanks for sharing!!!

Kat Mortensen said...

The tiny, Victorian room looks gorgeous. I honestly don't think you could tear me away from a chocolate fountain!
What a fun adventure. I'm so jealous!

(You didn't hear any kids on 3-wheelers rolling through the halls at night did you?)


Unknown said...

Welcome back! It is really splendid that you had fun on your trip. You had tea with a very nice young girl. I have Brittish tea at home.

Ronda Laveen said...

What a fun looking little establishment with wrought iron and astro turf. Haven't seen much of that since the 70s and 80s. I twas fun reading and I enjoyed reading about your meeting with Kath.

Grannymar said...

It all sounds like a great adventure.

Blogger meet-ups are fun, now that you have started... keep going.

New Yorker wannabes said...

Oh this looked so great! I'm a bit jealous and in desperate need of a holiday!!

Thanks for sharing Baino! I enjoyed every minute of this post :)


Colette Amelia said...

Wow looks like a great trip and I loved the room even with the redrum. Shortly after reading the Shining I travelled to Holland and stayed in the redrum Hotel there! scary! Even had the tub with the shower curtain.

Baino said...

Thanks Candie, it was a really nice break and since I haven't got a job yet will probably be the last for a while. FF is on it's way . . .*Chest! Giggle*

We were lucky to have my niece and another friend give us a 'heads up' on some of these places Subby, otherwise we would never have known they existed. Except Little Creatures which screams at you from the road! Poor Mom, having diabetes probably would prevent her from enjoying it . .lots of carbs!

Hedonistic? Moi? Well . . maybe just a little. Well Nick if you get the chance you'd love it and it was all veggie except one or two ham finger sandwiches.

I'm actually becoming quite fond of tea Brian and toying with the idea of actually buying a tea pot and leaf tea rather than the ol' Irish Breakfast Tea bags!

Clever, I'm ashamed to say that I've been to precious few cities around Australia. Each seems to have it's nuances but it's always helpful to have a local guide!

Wuffa, we walked enough to burn off the yummies! Neither of us gained weight but we slept like babies when we got home we were to tired!

Toots, you're more than welcome if you can stand 14 hours in a tin can!

No worries Wings that's what this blogging thing is all about!

No kids on three wheelers Kat but plenty of Tram dinging . . I still don't know why they 'sound' their bells at all hours. Plus we were at the back of the hotel so the frequent crashing of bottles was also heard as the garbos picked up the rubbish!

She is indeed a very nice young girl Ropi, that's Clare, my daughter . .fine company she is and a very sweet tooth. I drink Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea! In fact, I am drinking it right now!

Cute isn't it Ronda. Very quirky as are the cocktails!

GM that's the plan. I'm sorry I missed David McMahon actually he would have been a very interesting dude to chat with. Perhaps next time.

Marianna, you have the Greek Islands on your doorstep and summer vacation coming up . . have a break in Santorini! That's somewhere I'd absolutely love to go.

Collette, it wasn't quite as spooky as the photos make it look but definitely old fashioned and to my taste. I think if the walls could talk, they'd have a bit to say!

Leah said...

I am really enjoying hearing about your jaunt.

I love "mahogany spookiness," great turn of phrase.

Renee said...

Baino what an awesome post.

Clare is beautiful and I think she looks a lot like you. Because you are beautiful too.

I am happy you got to me your friend.

Everything looked so amazing but I have to say I loved the room you stayed in and I am a high tea junkie.

Thank you for the best wishes for Nathan.

Love Renee xoxo

Damian Damjanovski said...

Awww, I didn't even get a mention. =(

Glad you had an awesome time!

Baino said...

Haha . .well there's plenty of mahogany spookiness to be seen!

Renee I'm dying to do high tea at home if I had the right excuse. I have a lovely Shelley tea set that I've never used! She's much prettier than I . . but thanks for the complement.

Sorry Benchwarmer that was, I have corrected my error and you now apper twice . .happy? Yeh we did have a good time. Did you?

Bimbimbie said...

Tsup*!* Blimey you managed to pack a lot in. The high tea would have been an event in itself for me, I would have forgone food for a day or two just to get to that chocolate fountain ;)

River said...

"...a smile as big as the outback"
I've seen that smile and have to agree with you, Baino.
I loved hearing your take on Melbourne. I've lived there twice, both times close to the Army base, and pretty much a "stay at home" except for grocery shopping. I love the hotel pictures, they're beautiful! Old fashioned places like that appeal to me much more than the shiny bright modern stuff.
So it's true what they say about airport food...

Kath Lockett said...

Baino, you've made me cry....
....and not just with jealousy at seeing your photos of the chocolate buffet...

Baino said...

Bimbimbie . .we didn't even dip a strawberry we were so full of teensie little pretty cakes! Doesn't matter, I've got a smaller version at home! And yes, I insist on packng stuff in. Clare wanted a nana nap on Monday arvo . . .nup . .not allowed!

River I lived there for a few years as a teenager but didn't really get into it. My niece however, I don't think will ever come back to Sydney, she's very fond of the place. And yes, Kath was lovely. $7.50 for two pieces of white bread, a slice of processed cheese and I think they actually just waved the ham over the top!

Oh you! Don't be daft! Loved meeting with you and we'll do it again, but for a little longer next time!

i beati said...

I'm loving that the 2 of you met up and you took us along

Kate said...

Little bloggers together then??? It sounds like great fun - you were overdue for some of that methinks!!!

Susan at Stony River said...

What a wonderful trip and how cool is that to meet up with a fellow blogger! You're convincing me I need an Australian vacation... yup, so I'm off to buy the Lotto tickets for it (my only hope!)

Mrsupole said...

It sounds like you had a really great time there. It is nice to meet with bloggy buddies, I hope you get to go back sometime for the dinner. I like how you took us along on the trip. You have a way of making us feel like we are right there beside you. And I love those high teas. They just cost a lot. Chocolate Fountain sounds yummy. I need to get my fondue set out. It works pretty good too.

Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

God bless.

Unknown said...

Ooops! If I knew it I would have experssed myself more eloquently. Sorry.

kj said...

ooooh, what a great way to tag along on your mini-vacation. it's obvious you were in luxurious electic surroundings and in good company. you and clare look alike. i think it is so super you hang out together like this. i think my jess and i would also, and isn't that a huge gift, baino?

and kath looks like a total doll of a person. it made me happy to read about you spending time together, hugs included.

so now you're back to the get-a-job phase and sweetie, trust me, you're going to be fine.


Anonymous said...

Baino, an inspiration hit whilst I was waiting for mum at hospital clinic. I'll repost on my next round but couldn't wait. I blame it on the chocolate fountain!

While sitting one day for high tea,
Two ladies did chance to agree;
The chocolate fountain they eyed,
Across the room they hied,
And attacked the fountain with glee!

This version has been modified for attendance~~there are originally four ladies...G'day, luv!

laughingwolf said...

good all round, then :)

Baino said...

iBeati she's so much fun really. Lovely lady.

Welcome back Mrs . . not quite as glam as your honeymoon but fun all the same!

Susan, there's loads of bloggers in Cavan, you should connect . . .email me and I'll let you know who. Yeh, I'm in the lotto draw too to visit Ireland would you believe!

Mrsupole, it's been a long time since I've had a proper holiday so was due for a mini break. Clare actually redeemed a Christmas gift voucher for the high tea so it was FREEEEE! Glad you enjoyed it. I travel vicariously myself!

Ropi that's fine. All complements accepted with grace!

kj lots of people say we look alike but without her specs, I think she's more like her dad. Yep, we're the best of friends that's for sure. Actually it was luxurious but very cheap, listed on which has 'specials' for travel and accommodation. Very useful little site!

Subby your a funny bloke! Sadly we were so full on little sandwiches and cakes, we didn't even dip a strawb in the fountain!

Indeed Wuffa!

California Girl said...

I'm starting to think I'm crazy. I read this post in toto the other day...(I think that's right, "in toto") and wrote a response about the high tea, the beautiful old hotel, the nice room, the food, etc. and how cute your daughter is. once again I must be forgetting to fill in the word that proves I'm not a robot. I don't see my comment. Damnation. I do this alot. It kind of defeats the whole purpose. Or am I getting doughty as you might say?

California Girl said...

Okay, I just wrote a comment wondering where my original comment I wrote the other day is and saying I must not have filled in the robot word. But you don't have a robot word. Now I'm worried...or crazy...or both. Ignore me.