Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Magnificient Melbourne continued

The Handsome Australian and I spent a night in Melbourne's dazzling CBD recently and it reminded me once again, what a truly amazing city we live in--especially when it comes to food.

When I informed the Handsome Australian that we'd been granted a weekend pass out by one of our dear family members, he began his research into our dining destinations almost immediately. Good Food Guide in one hand and a nice glass of red in the other, he poured over the pages looking for somewhere special to go.

Meanwhile, I was busy online (imagine that) trying to book accommodation. As much as the Handsome Australian loves the Good Food Guide when it comes to choosing a restaurant, I equally love the Trip Advisor website when it comes to choosing accommodation. If you haven't heard of Trip Advisor before, it's certainly worth a look. It's a website that allows users to leave reviews about hotels all around the world and rate them on their performance in different categories. Since I've discovered Trip Advisor, I haven't been disappointed by my accommodation. Their moto is "get the truth. then go." I love the no holds barred reviews people leave and the site is busy enough that there are generally multiple reviews for each place so you get a good feel about what it's like. In Australia, I use that site in combination with the wotif website (which offers last minute deals on hotels) to find good places to stay. When used in conjunction, the result is usually value for money and who doesn't like that?

Who knew a simple night out in the city required so much preparation? Well, when you've got two little people hanging about, you don't get these opportunities very frequently so you have to make the most of it. Here's where our research took us...

The Trip Advisor and wotif cocktail led me to book The Oaks on Lonsdale. These are serviced apartments that are virtually new and very comfortable. We've tried the five star accommodation in the city before and I have to say, for the money I was disappointed. The Oaks is listed as 4 star accommodation on the wotif site and the price tag was about half what the five star places were asking. So the price was right, and Trip Advisor rates it in the top 10 user reviewed hotels in the Melbourne CBD (#5 to be exact)--a winning combination. We were very happy with The Oaks on Lonsdale. The location was brilliant. A stone's throw from Chinatown in Little Bourke St, a short walk from the Theatre district, and minutes away from the Victorian Parliament (that's the state capitol building). Our apartment was modern and clean and very, very comfortable. It was also a very quiet place to stay. Somewhere to consider if you ever find yourself in Melbourne. It's got my stamp of approval.

As for the Handsome Australian, he had big dinner plans. He had chosen a restaurant called Longrain from the Good Food Guide and given them a call during the week to make a booking. Apparently, they don't take bookings for tables of 2. They told us to turn up on the night, have a drink at the bar and when a table was ready, we could have it. Or something to that effect. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't take a booking, but the Handsome Australian assured me this was SOP so I went with it.

Once we had checked into our hotel, I pulled out the golden book and had my first read of the review for Longrain. I wanted to know what I was in for. The Handsome Australian had told me it was Modern Thai and I was keen because I love Thai. The first two sentences of the review are the following, "Looking for a romantic table for two? Look elsewhere." Apparently the restaurant has mostly large communal tables and a very noisy buzzing atmosphere. Did I mention the Handsome Australian and I were in the city to celebrate a wedding anniversary? So I began to wonder what made him choose a place with communal tables that doesn't take bookings for tables of two because clearly they don't have tables for two!! I questioned him on this.

Me: "You failed to mention this place has communal tables. Why did you choose this exactly?"

HA: "When I read the review, the food sounded different and really interesting. I didn't give much thought to the seating arrangements."

I think he was referring to this part of the review, "And the food has as much spunk as the venue, with chilli, ginger, basil, mint and lime turned up to full volume" or perhaps it was the mention of "bombastic" desserts. I'll never know. I can't explain the way the Handsome Australian's mind works, but I do know this--it's decision making capacity is very closely linked with his stomach organ.

We decided to stick with our plan since it was a bit late in the piece to get a table at any of the other restaurants we might have chosen otherwise. So we walked the short distance to Longrain and spoke with the helpful hostess who informed us it would be a 1.5 hour wait for a table but we were welcome to hang out at the bar. We decided 1.5hrs was too long and so went for a walk. Only problem was, the Handsome Australian had left the bible back at the hotel. So we had to go from memory and the place I remembered from the map was an Italian restaurant called Trunk.

We walked the short distance between the two and walked into a very quiet looking restaurant. I was sure there would be a table available for us. A quick chat to the bartender and he informed us the dining room was booked out but we could have some drinks at the bar and choose some food off of the smaller and more casual bar menu. While we were pondering our choices and looking over the bar menu, the bartender returned and said, "I've just spoken to the dining room manager and he told me that if you are happy to hang about and have a few drinks for half an hour then a table should be coming available in the dining room." So we jumped on the opportunity. We parked ourselves at the bar and decided to order a few entrees along with our cocktails. The bartenders were friendly and made a mean mojito. The entrees arrived quickly and were fantastic. Half an hour flew by and before we knew it, we were shifting to the dining room. The food in the dining room didn't disappoint either. I had a lamb shank and the Handsome Australian a Scotch Fillet. Both were very tasty. We looked ahead to the dessert menu before ordering mains and had both agreed there was nothing there that caught our fancy. We'd have to relocate for our last course. There was bound to be a more exciting dessert menu elsewhere in the city. We just had to put our heads together and think of where...


Kay said...

Have you tried the 100 miles cafee in Melbourne Central? Its excellent. Love reading your blog btw, I lived in Melbourne for two years and just moved back home and I miss it sooo soo much!

suzinoz said...

Kay-Thanks for the tip. We haven't been to the 100 miles cafe, we'll have to try it. Thanks for reading the blog. It's good to know someone is =)

Nor said...

it is a great post