Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gingerly

Today I once again put miserliness before wisdom and experience and took a Jetstar flight.


Surprisingly, however, it worked out fine. In a rare moment of something airline-related actually going my way, the check-in agent offered me a window seat in the exit row. Legroom! Glorious, glorious legroom! So despite it being Jetstar, and thus about as luxurious as one of those third world buses with goats on the roof, I had a very comfortable flight and landed in Bali not wanting to curl up and die in a gutter.


From Denpassar Airport we took an overpriced taxi up to Seminyak. There are many calm, meditative places in Bali, but Seminyak veers between “decadent luxury” and “exuberant chaos” on a moment by moment basis. High-end shops and luxury restaurants stand aloof amidst listing power poles, crumbling footpaths, scooters parked in every conceivable nook and cranny, and shifty locals trying to sell tourists taxi rides, massages and Viagra.


Fortunately my hotel is being relatively honest when it sells itself as “a peaceful oasis in the heart of Seminyak”. Away from the street, the lobby is a Zen space of orchids, polished surfaces, mellow gamelan music and smiling staff who welcome you with a polite sembah. Upon checking in, we were subjected to the usual upselling, but we resisted, largely because we had no idea what they were actually offering: there’s nothing so ineffectual as an upselling attempt from someone who doesn’t speak your language very well.


Because we’d arrived fairly late in the day, we set off almost immediately for our first restaurant. It was the only one on my list that I’d already tried; Ginger Moon.


The last time I was here it was with the anti-foodie, who ordered chicken pizza. This time, my foodie friend and I could order The Banquet. Corn and zucchini fritters. Roast duck pancakes. Asian fusion mini hotdogs. Chicken satay skewers. Watermelon salad with deep fried soft shell crab. Three kinds of crème brulee (pandan, black sesame and ginger). All washed down with amazing passionfruit and chilli martinis.


Putaloco was a little alarmed by the traditional monkey head bill holder...





But he defeated it...





Or so he thought...





Sadly, Ginger Moon couldn’t exist in the same way back home. This delicious six course banquet cost us $23 each, not including drinks or service charges. In Perth I’ve paid more than that for a single martini.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Aspirational

The last time I went to Bali, I was traveling with someone who didn’t really care too much for food. He was allergic to shellfish, didn’t like fish or pork, wasn’t too fond of vegetables, and wasn’t at all partial to strong spices or Asian cuisines. And he didn’t drink.


This made our restaurant outings somewhat problematic, because Bali has some spectacular restaurants which offer a five star experience… for the same price as a pub meal in Perth. And I was with someone who didn’t want to eat in them.


So I’ve made plans to return to Bali, this time with a fellow foodie, to sample the high end delights of its finest and most celebrated restaurants.


Joining us on this epicurean odyssey is another one of my little plastic friends.





I have dubbed him Senor Putaloco, because he needed some sort of name, and I’m just that racist.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

End

I will keep many images from my time in Melbourne...





... including this one of a man reclining in Fitzroy Gardens while fondling his own buttocks.


Melbourne: a classy place full of classy people.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rewarding

As I bid Melbourne a sad farewell, it seems like to a good time to offer some awards to some of the excellent cafes I've visited:


Best food – Top Paddock. I had the most elegant and delicious version of eggs benedict I’ve ever eaten.


Best coffee – Hardware Societe. Absolutely exquisite; even the foam art was so crisp and immaculate it could have been printed with a laser.


Best wifi – Touchwood. Easy to access, fast, reliable, and so powerful that I could access it from any of the other cafes on the same block. I’m sorry, but holidays make wifi whores of us all.


Best music – Madame Brussels. The home of awful, addictive 80s love songs.


Most innovative menu concepts – Bowery to Williamsburg. They refuse to do the breakfast staples. Except Bloody Marys. I salute their priorities.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bizarre

On my last day in Melbourne, I walked up to Prahan to visit the famous Chapel Street Bazaar. It's the only place in Melbourne, or indeed anywhere else, where one can buy a bowie knife, a taxidermed duck, vintage racist lawn ornaments, Star War figures missing their capes and light sabres, a Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament stolen from someone’s Rolls Royce, go-go boots or a 200 year old mahogany sideboard, all in the one convenient place.


In the evening my friends and I went to Nevsky, a culinary celebration of everything that makes Russia great. So... vodka, basically. The food was fine, the waitress was mischievous, and the spiced ginger and honey vodka was copious. And very good. Sadly I knocked my final glass over with the carafe, causing me to say a Very Bad Word out loud in a crowded restaurant, and thus revealing that I'd had quite enough. In my defense I'd only had about three shots, but that was on top of our pre-dinner cocktails. And our pre-pre-dinner cocktails.


Okay, so my defense sucks. I'm allowed some leeway on my final evening in Melbourne.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Contrast

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the NGV is hosting a major exhibition of works by Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei which is THE cultural event of the moment. As I'm leaving tomorrow, I grabbed my chance yesterday to see it.


It was totally cool.


In the course of his career, Warhol experimented with many different art forms, and viewed in its entirety his body of work attests to his genius as an artist. Sure, anyone could film the Empire State Building for eight hours and call it art, and we might decide that they’re just a plenteous wanker. But Warhol worked with film, paint, collage, drawing, screen printing, photography, text and what can only be described as “thought”, and managed to make intriguing and insightful pieces in each medium. The confidence evident in his embellished screen prints, along with his early sketches and watercolours, shows that he was definitely a true artist, not a charlatan.


The exhibition was clever in juxtaposing his work with Ai Wei Wei’s. The Chinese artist has many of the same influences, the same varied mediums, and a similar fascination with basic cultural iconography and notions of multiplicity. The philosophical parallels of Warhol covering portraits of Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus with diamond dust and Wei Wei imprisoning a thousand year old statuette in an empty Absolut Kurant bottle are clear.


Not content with only experiencing the sublime, I managed to insert the ridiculous into my life later that evening as I attended a cabaret show featuring leggy singer/dancer Rhonda Burchmore and local drag queen Trevor Ashley. I wouldn’t have gone ordinarily, but I was with a group of friends and we’d had a few drinks, so I bought a late ticket and followed them in.


While it had a few laughs, the show was basically terrible. The jokes that weren’t crass and vulgar were ancient when music hall vaudevillians did them. The sound was mixed by hitting the mixing desk with an old shoe. Burchmore and Ashley shouted where they should have sung and stomped where they should have sashayed. Even the costumes seemed to be badly put together and perpetually on the cusp of falling apart.


But I still enjoyed myself, mainly because of the company. Since I’d bought my ticket just an hour before the show I couldn’t sit with my friends, but I ended up being seated right in the front row. Enter Jocelyn and Jared, the platonic couple in the seats next to me. Both were a little drunk and naturally boisterous before the show, but when Burchmore and Ashley came onto the stage, Jared went into some sort of wide-eyed, gay diva meltdown. He was like a camp, flamboyant child who’d fallen into a vat of sugar, climbed out, then promptly fallen into another vat of red food colouring, then received a basket of adorable puppies. His squee when Burchmore first strolled onto the stage in a beautiful tight sequined gown was audible throughout the entire theatre, and possibly in other theatres nearby. He guffawed at every lame gag, stomped his feet with every chorus, and constantly turned to face me and Jocelyn with an expression of ecstatic delight, as if to check that we were witnessing the same orgy of fabulousness that he was. Which we clearly weren’t. But while his orgasmic enthusiasm was irritating on one level, but also kind of infectious. When I found my friends after the show, I discovered that I’d actually enjoyed it more than they had, mostly because I’d been breathing in second-hand besottedness from Jared for the last ninety minutes.


My friends were scathing about Jared’s behaviour, which apparently was visible from every row, but I found him so amusing that I took a selfie of us at the end to commemorate the evening. And he, naturally, was delighted beyond all sane reason to oblige.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Civilisation

With a couple of hours to kill later yesterday afternoon I dropped into the State Library on Swanston Street. Besides untold numbers of books and glorious Victorian architecture, the library also has a nice little art collection themed around Melbourne's history.


I hadn't fully realised that Melbourne was so young, nor that it grew so fast. In 1836 Melbourne consisted quite literally of a dozen huts on a hillside. A mere 50 years later, in 1886, trams were rattling back and forth in front of the grand public buildings that still stand today. It boggles the mind how quickly Melbourne blossomed, and how much money and determination was required to make it happen. In the reign of one queen, it went from kangaroo-riddled bushland to huge neo-classical buildings and public transport networks.


You can see why Melbourne is still considered one of the most liveable cities in the world. Outside the grandeur of the State Library, people lounged on the terraced lawns, talking, reading books and tapping away at laptops. A busker played sultry music with a guitar and an oversampler while comedians joked with couples as they handed out flyers for their shows. Beyond them, trams carried people up and down Swanston Street, and overhead the lights in skyscrapers twinkled down. It was a vision of a peaceful, prosperous, harmonious civilisation in action.


Mind you, there are two Melbournes, which a friend defined as the Melbourne within the tram network and the Melbourne outside the tram network. I’ve only ever visited the first Melbourne, the Melbourne of the Comedy Festival, jazz clubs, laneway cafes, 19th century terraced houses, hipster barbers and twenty different takes on eggs benedict. The Melbourne outside the tram network is… well… Perth. Suburbs, shopping centres, cheap Korean cars, Kmart clothes and obesity. Basically, the Melbourne I’ve experienced is a lovely, stylish bubble twenty kilometres in diameter, outside of which dwells the sad, sordid reality of most Australians.


But within the bubble all is good. As evening darkened into night I met up with a friend to go to Bennetts Lane. I visit Bennetts Lane every time I come to Melbourne, and it is always a revelation. On an ordinary Thursday night, with an audience of maybe fifty people, of whom only a quarter appeared to have bought tickets, we heard a fabulously talented nine piece jazz band playing a mixture of standards and their own compositions. Band leader Gianni Marinucci played an exquisitely controlled and soulful trumpet. The alto saxophonist was a bit of a showboater, but otherwise all of the band members played with flawless beauty, in a way Perth only sees once in a blue moon, at great expense, when the stars and fates align.


But in Melbourne at Bennetts Lane, it’s just another Thursday night to fifty people.