Panama Dining Room

I do like the Panama Dining Room on Smith St. Used to be a pool hall, when the floor below was a Latin Band venue — The Stage — which used to go off, and where I had some of my best evenings. Now The Age is onto it, and here’s their review. In fact, they like it so much they reviewed it again. It has that up 2 flights of stairs, you have to know about it excellence, but unlike so many such places, it is an expansive place once you get up there. There is a free pool table, and apparently on Sundays they have table tennis. They only got a sign recently. This one will be with us for a long time, like Spleen, and The Lounge, and 20 Myers Place. The photo of the Room’s bar is by Ben Richards, one of the Crumpler crew whose HQ is not so far away from the Room. Here are some more of his lovely Room photos: Continue reading “Panama Dining Room”

The Age’s take on Kent St, the good Smith St Bar, is here. Our Melbourne daily has forgotten that the city side of Smith St is actually in Fitzroy, but who cares? It’s an odd review which does not ring true to the location for me. What is meant by this passage for example?

‘Behind the large roller door (which is a glossily bright shade of Margaret Fulton kitchen green), Kent St unfolds in a marvellously ramshackle fashion. Like Miss Haversham’s formerly grand abode, had Miss Haversham lived in an upstairs-downstairs townhouse near Number 96, the place is like a ’70s dream house gone to seed. You half expect to be greeted by a bunch of dust-covered ladies-who-(didn’t-make-it-to)-lunch in bell-bottomed playsuits clutching stale vodka stingers.’

Whether this is a reference to Miss Havisham (as is suggested by ‘dust-covered ladies’) or Miss Haversham from the BBC series ‘Upstairs Downstairs‘ (as is suggested by the spelling and the alusion to upstairs-downstairs), neither is evocative of Kent St, and how do we segue from either period to the 1970s?

Cavallero, Birdman Eating, Lentil as Anything reviewed; Beer haiku

Reviewing is a difficult art. There are certain constrained forms I particularly like. The obituary. The chess column. The restaurant review. All so constrained by the necessaries, requiring clever use of what little room there is for the decorations. The English tend to do them best. Zia Mahmoud does the most with the least with The Guardian‘s bridge column. Haiku fascinates me. The very word puts me on edge. I hate haiku about as much as shakuhachi music, but at the same time I love it about as much as a good egg breakfast, a short speech, photos of Japanese taking photos of cherry blossoms with unbelievably expensive cameras (snap thanks to a great photographer, Mark Alberding), and the way sacred cows get in the way of traffic in New Delhi. Short is good. Less is more. Small is beautiful. Metre is a useful discipline for the poet’s natural tendency to ungrammatical excess. Some of the most elegant writing going around today is to be found on this website. I particularly like: Continue reading “Cavallero, Birdman Eating, Lentil as Anything reviewed; Beer haiku”

Growing Up in Collingwood 1934-1955; A Memoir by John Ventura

On Monday I was frustrated again when I headed down to Babka for lunch. It was closed too.  Still hungry, I was diverted by Grub St Bookstore, where the genial bookseller looked very pleased when I asked him if he had any books on the history of Collingwood. He went out the back and returned with Growing Up in Collingwood, an A4 paperback self-published by John Ventura last year. It looks like a bloody brilliant social history. It is so unedited, so full of graphic design faux-pas, that it positively vomits authenticity. It has many photos, and the most classic hand-drawn diagrams of the author’s favourite childhood haunts, his family’s residence above the family fishmonger at 262 Jhonston St, and the like.

Ventura was schooled at St Euphrasia in the Abbotsford Convent:

“Sometimes we ordered our lunch via a brown paper bag with lunch money enclosed and our order and name written on teh bag. These were sent to the milk bar around the corner opposite the Yarra Falls knitting mill. At 12 o’clock, the bell would ring and we would all stand up to say the Angelus prayer. After dismissal, we all raced down to the milk bar to collect our lunch.”

He used to go to the first Coles Store, and to Foy & Gibson’s on Smith St:

“G.J. Coles’ first variety store opened in 1914 and in 1919 they advertised nothing over 2/6. I remember the glass tops over the goods displayed, probably stop us kids pinching things. Mum bought my stationery here and I also scored a metal frog that made a clicking noise. Remember those?

I think next door to Coles was the large retailer ‘Foy & Gibson’s’ a quality trader who begain in 1891. They made goods in a factory and mill complex between Wellington and Smit Streets. They had a variety of goods, Manchester, clothing, furniture, leather goods, soft furnishings, hardware, books, toys and sweets.

It was just magic for a 6-year-old to wander through the store. I well remember the systems of overhead cables in Foy and Gibson’s when you bought something, the sales assistant would place the money and docket into a brass container. This was then fitted into a bracket hanging from the cable. A quick flick and the container was propelled along the carrier to the upstairs office where the money was removed, checked, and the change and receipt returned by the same process. Meanwhile your purchase was wrapped neatly with string and your change refunded.”

A Fitzroy Blog and a Smith St Blog

Really, you know, it was a boring idea to write a blog about a suburb, though I still consider comendable my determination not to contribute further to the annals of published diaries yet another account of an as-yet rather unfinished pedestrian life. But believe it or not a tech journalist told me he thought I had put the first bit of putty in an empty niche of the web: the microenvironment blog, which made me think that a blog about the cavity occasioned by the slashing at an early age of my umbilical cord could be like, even cooler. But what would you say? Perhaps part of its charm could be that it would only be updated every few years, when some navel escapade or other came across the horizon. Anyway, this journo threatened to write an article on the phenomenon, but of course did not. Now he has more ammunition: Fitzroyalty has sprung up, though it must be said Brian’s relevancy criteria are being relaxed a lot faster than mine. The photo’s his. And his blog put me onto the somewhat stalled but nevertheless interesting Smith St blog.

Locals: Gertrudes, Lambs Go Bar, The Vic

Well, The Age bar reviewers have been hard at work, recently reviewing:

  • Gertrudes at the Exhibition Gardens end of Gertrude St in Fitzroy (pushing the boundaries of this little blog’s sphere of interest, it has to be said), owned by an astrophysicist and with lawyers pulling beer (apparently);
  • The Vic, on the corner of Park St and Victoria St (I endorse the sentiments of the reviewer and was fascinated and delighted to learn that you can have Victoria St Vietnamese delivered there); and
  • Lambs Go Bar, a bluestone building in Greeves St, just off Smith St, boasting 100 beers at any one time and has an amusing website. The first Tuesday of every month is “Wheel of Beer” where $5 buys you a spin of the wheel and a random beer from their selection.

All places where you have a good chance of avoiding glitterati, if that’s your thing, as it is often mine. The photo is of Portland’s Jeff Wallen‘s grandfather’s beer collection.