Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; tales of the outback

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year, and warn you that this post has nothing to do with Abbotsford; it just explains the absence of blogging recently. I went to Broken Hill and Mildura from Boxing Day for a few days (and, on the way between the two, to Dareton, where I snapped the pictured marvel). How we thought we could fit in a 5 course dinner at Stefano’s the day after Christmas Day (and two days after my mother’s Christmas Eve dinner) is a mystery. But the food was superb while I could still fit it in.

In Broken Hill, I went to Bell’s Milk Bar, twice, and the second time was able to have an apricot fizz. That involved apricot syrup manufactured on the premises to a secret recipe from the 1950s, vanilla ice cream, soda water, and ice. It was good, in the Hemingway usage of that expression. I convinced the dreadlocked vixen formerly of Ballarat behind the counter to sell us some ice cream to have with the quandong pie we bought at the Silverton Tea Rooms. She said that after two years, she was still regarded by the locals as being “from away”. Continue reading “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; tales of the outback”

Staying in country pubs (I knew the discipline would slip sooner or later)

Henceforth, this is no longer a blog about Abbotsford as I choose to define Abbotsford. It is about that and country pubs, in particular those with old fashioned accommodation still operational (endangered species). There is a Flickr group on the subject (a future project of mine) but precious little else. If you know any other than Jeparit’s Hindmarsh Hotel, Dimboola’s Victoria Hotel, and Queenscliff’s Royal Hotel where you might enthuse about staying, let me know. (I bought Country Pubs of Victoria at Grub St Bookshop yesterday before heading over to the John Wren exhibition at the Racing Museum in Federation Square, of which much more anon.)

I went to Beechworth today and took the Canondale for a spin on the rail trail, discovering in the process the Commercial Hotel, just shy of 150 years old, and apparently in good hands. It is pictured, 3 times (the fourth is a gorgeous house in Beechworth). The pub’s proprietor fellow told me that I wouldn’t find too many hotels in Victoria in as original a condition as this one, and I believed him. It is a beautiful place — Ned Kelly used to drink there — and you can get a smallish simple clean rennovated double room containing a washbasin and a new bed — nothing else — for $65 a night (3 nights for the price of two) or bed, breakfast and 2 course dinner and champagne for $85 a couple, a bloody good deal.

Ume Nomiya, Gertrude Street’s Japanese drinking house

Miss K, renascent party girl, took me on a bar crawl of Gertrude St on Friday. We checked out Little Rebel (don’t share my barber man’s enthusiasm), Radio, and Gertrude’s (more anon). It involved dinner at Ume Nomiya (ume: Japanese plum, usually pickled — pictured, thanks to Matt Helminski; nomiya: drinking house) the tiny 37-seat Japanese place next to our regular haunt, Tandoori Times. Indolent Andy said it was his favourite Japanese restaurant, and that was enough to pull me out of some inertia and get in there. Mind you I think lingering first impressions when the place was but a bar and was not all that busy were preying on my inertia. Then, it was a bit too cool for school, weird even, though that was back in 2001. We loved every minute of our relatively quick dinner and warm sake slurp there. Continue reading “Ume Nomiya, Gertrude Street’s Japanese drinking house”