Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Royal Hotel – tucked away in Clifton Hill

6.21pm, Thursday 31st May, Spensley Street, Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Back up in Melbourne, folks, and it’s into the quiet backstreets of Clifton Hill for us, and into the relaxed and timelessly elegant Victorian era dining room of the Royal Hotel. Picture this. The classic high ceiling of split pine lengths, polished timber floor, the fireplace complete with carved blackwood pillars and mirror – and the fabulous old double dining room doors, complete with etched glass signage. This is what I mean …


And I just popped my head into the kitchen – it’s all happening out there and I can just tell we’re in for a top time. Here’s the canape that chef Eli has put together to go with the Jansz NV (along with Coffin Bay Oysters and smoked salmon that is) – it’s an orange and fennel salad topped with Jansz jelly! I couldn’t help myself and asked how to make the jelly. Just bring the Jansz to the boil, add a splash of champagne vinegar, some gelatin and into the fridge to set. Yum. Oh, and Eli kept the Jansz theme through all the canapés, curing and smoking the salmon in house with some of the wine in the brine, and having a Jansz ‘granita’ with the oysters.



9.11am the following Monday morning

I was right folks, Eli outdid himself. The Royal Hotel Dining Room is all about share plates and this is the way that Eli (head chef Tamarua ) approached the three sets of wine pairs that we presented at the dinner – using only local and seasonal Victorian produce:

With the 2010 Eden Valley Viognier and 2009 Virgilius, Eli sent out “Fish 4 Ways” – in the photo, from the top to the bottom it’s King George Whiting lightly floured and pan fried, Garfish fillets crumbed, Rock flathead beer battered, and local Bay snapper grilled.

On to the carnivorous course: Eli went to Ballan – a town on the Werribbee River north west of Melbourne – to get some of the Sher family’s Waygu beef. This was spot on with the Coonawarra Cabernet double act of 2010 The Cigar and 2008 The Menzies. With sides of beans, mash, and coleslaw laced with shaved Waygu – nothing short of sensational.

The Dromana Hotel – Mornington Peninsula

12.28pm, Thursday 31st May, Point Nepean Road, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

What a top day we’ve drawn for our drive down the Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne to have lunch with the Pirhana Club at the Dromana Hotel, showing off some of our Rare & Fine wines for the boys. All you have to do is walk across the road in front of the hotel and you’re right on the foreshore. If you don’t believe me – have a look for yourself at our day today!


That’s looking south down Port Philip Bay, and this is looking north. You can see why the beaches along this stretch and the towns perched alongside them – Dromana, Sorrento and Portsea – are such legendary names:


And this is Ray and Lel Stella’s Dromana Hotel:


Now, I’ve just had a sneaky peek out in the kitchen, and Lel has the apron on directing traffic and making the gnocchi, so no wonder there’s so many proper regional Italian dishes on the menu! I think I’m going to try the ‘Tender pork rib with sage and proscuito with mushroom risotto’, or maybe the ‘Italian pork sausages with peas and mash’, or maybe the ‘Home made meat lasagna’ (I might pick up some tips to improve my lasagna! ) or maybe the ‘Sicilian spaghetti with sultanas, pinenuts, anchovies and garlic oil’. And this is just the specials menu! I’ll let you know how we go, but I have no doubt we’ve landed in an exceptionally good spot for lunch today! Must have done something really right in a previous life!

OK – I gave in, went back to my Italian roots and went with the saltimbocca sort of dish – the pork rib with the most excellent single grain mushroom-laced risotto. I sat next to Ray during lunch and was lucky enough to get his ‘step by step’ secret method for making proper risotto! That’s my bonus for today! And the best wine with the pork rib? The 2010 “Strapper” Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend, hands down!

Thanks for a fab day out to Ray and Lel, and all the Dromana Hotel Piranha Club boys!


Country Racing – Bendigo – The Pubs and Clubs Raceday!

12.32pm, Wednesday 30th May, Bendigo Jockey Club, Bendigo, Victoria

It’s a beautiful day out in country Victoria folks, the horses are at the gate for Race 3 – the Yalumba Rare and Fine Maiden Plate, and I’m on number 10 – Elite Elle. Have a look at the track!!




OK – here’s the results of the race … that would be my horse – number 10 Elite Elle … going past the post first and drawing away!


Returning to scale …


And the winning jockey Damien Oliver – who also has a few Melbourne Cups in his trophy cabinet as well …


By the way, the chef working here at the Bendigo Jockey Club is on a roll as well. His name is Adrian – absolutely lovely bloke as wee as being very switched on to the food and wine interaction . He’s from the ‘Exchange’ restaurant here in Town, under the Bendigo Bank Building. Here’s the “Smoked chicken and dukkah spiced Turkish croutons with peppered rocket and Parmesan salad” that was paired with our 2009 FDW7C Chardonnay and 2010 Eden Valley Viognier.


5.27pm Same Day – half way back to Melbourne as we couldn’t stay for the whole day – we’re expected to be at the Shanghai Dynasty restaurant in Melbourne central at 6.30pm, as we have a consumer dinner there tonight.

But we had a great day at the track – thanks a huge amount Bendigo Jockey Club – loved working with you at the ‘Pubs and Clubs Raceday” – looks like we’ll see you all same time, same place next year.


See….I had a top day! And by the way, check out all of the top horses that have had their first significant win right here at the Bendigo track – their “Nursery Of Champions”


Lamaro’s Dining – In the sharp part of town!

5.51pm, Tuesday 29th May, Lamaro’s Cafe And Bar, Cecil Street, South Melbourne, Victoria

OK. All the bottles for this evening’s dinner are now open, checked and sound. No cork taint in this house tonight! In fact, every time I look at the middleweights on this trip – the 2010 Cigar Coonawarra Cab, the 2009 Scribbler Cab Shiraz, and the 2010 Patchwork Barossa Shiraz – I’m struck by how strongly they are knocking on the door. They’re our red hot red wine triplets, and I’m having a top time showing them off.

Any rate – I’m going to try and get a few more of these events up on the blog as they happen – it’s so much easier!

At the moment, I’ve got a massive ‘back blog’ of stuff from Far North Queensland and Grafton that I WILL catch up, but for now, here we go. Horses are in the gates, lights flashing, we’re set for a start …

Here’s the romantically lit Lamaro’s Dining in the leafy green, nice wide tree-lined streets of South Melbourne, the sharp and elegant part of town where they haven’t “brass and glassed” all the classic buildings in the area – the ‘before’ shot …


Canadian Bay Hotel – best watering hole in Mt Eliza

3.46pm, Tuesday 29th May, Canadian Bay Hotel, Mt Eliza Way, Mt Eliza, south of Melbourne, Victoria

We’re just heading back up to the city after our businessman’s lunch at the Canadian Bay Hotel – hosted by owners Joe and Giselle Padula. All I can say is that if you’re down this way – it’s a top option for a quiet oyster plate, chorizo and marinated beef shaslik, rack of lamb, sticky toffee pudding … yep, a top spot for lunch or dinner with mates, even just coffee and cake. The fireplace starts to kick in from about this time of year, and with folks like the front of house star Paula to look after you – you can’t go wrong. Here’s what it looked like today as we showed our Rare & Fines to the local business blokes:



Here’s the starters – the chorizo and beef skewers, sticky slightly Chilli prawns, and oysters – with the 2009 Virgilius and 2010 Patchwork Shiraz – loved the skewers and Patchwork as a bit of a favourite.

Then here’s the rack of lamb that the chef sent out. It looked SO good that I had to get a bit artistic with the photo. We put on the two Coonawarra Cabernets with the lamb – the 2010 The Cigar and 2008 The Menzies – and what an excellent triple act they made. Not sure what the Masterchefs were doing today, but they weren’t having as good a time as we were!

Have a look at this – my new career as food and wine stylist beckons!


See ya when it’s South Melbourne, and we will be opening bottles for tonight’s consumer dinner at “Lamaro’s”

Hi Melbourne…..we’re back!

10.23am, Tuesday 29th May, Russell Street, Melbourne Central, Victoria, Australia

Morning folks, and here we are on the last section of the 2012 Rare and Fine tour – finishing in style in grand old Melbourne. I went for a wander in search of coffee this morning, and found myself up on Exhibition Street, in front of the absolutely striking Her Majesty’s Theatre. Tucked into the Little Bourke Street corner of the building is their coffee shop, so in I went. The walls are covered with excellent caricatures of stars that have performed ‘on the boards’ of this particular stage, and as luck would have it, pride of place – just inside the front door – goes to a favourite of mine……the fabulous Maggie Smith. You might be watching her at the moment in that magic show on the Telly – Downton Abbey – she’s the one with just about every one of the killer lines in the show as the Dowager Countess, matriarch of the Crawley family who have inhabited the Abbey for eons!

Any rate – she writes her own top stuff as well. On the bottom of her framed caricature – done in conjunction with her appearance in “Talking Heads” in 2004 – she has autographed it with “I love Melbourne. May I please come back” my sentiments exactly as we head south from the city towards Mt Eliza and the job for today which is a tasting for the folks at the Canadian Bay Hotel.

See you when we are on our way back up to town to do a consumer dinner with our great mates at Lamaro’s in South Melbourne.


Goodbye Townsville … for now

7.17am, Sunday 27th May, Townsville Airport , Gate 3

It’s an early tropics morning – light but not really – and we’re heading south today from Townsville, the capital of Far North Queensland, to the chilly but elegant city of Melbourne. See ya when we’ve got three more layers of clothing on!