Feb 23, 2015
Melbourne, The National Gallery of Victoria, and Australian cheese
Off to Melbourne, Chapter 1
Perth to Melbourne is about 5 hours by air, and three hours earlier on the clock, so it would be a little tight to fly and play a concert the same day. As a result, we had a night free to explore, or in the case of about 10 of us, to retrace our steps to Dainty Sichuan, an excellent Sichuanese restaurant in South Yarra. Huge shout out to Elly Winer for having done the original legwork to find this place three years ago. It has had a face-lift since then, and the interior is much nicer but a bit louder than before. And slammed it was. Friday night + Lunar New Year + Dainty Sichuan = mobs of people. We had a reservation and still waited a half hour. It was totally worth the wait.
The next day was our first concert in the stunning Elisabeth Murdoch Hall within the Melbourne Recital Centre. What a gorgeous space, a delight for the eye and the ear. We were again extremely warmly received and Blair Williams did (in my irrelevant opinion) a spectacularly good show. Again after the intermission, we mingled with the crowd and there were several very friendly and welcoming audience members.
As it happened, February 21st 7pm-7am was White Night in Melbourne, their Nuit Blanche. The town was seriously humming when we got back to the hotel, but I was beat and went to bed. Boring!!
Violinist Julie, Aisslinn, and Christina in rehearsal
I woke up very early the next morning, probably as a punishment for not going out the night before. I went out for an early walk so I did, ultimately, see the very tail end of the festivities. It was little bit like walking into someone’s house on Christmas morning after all the gifts have been opened, and there are breakfast dishes on the table – basically a disaster zone, but one that a lot of people had a great time generating.
The Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne is excellent, and I did some shopping there in the morning. I knew that I wanted to cook on the evening of our day off – not everyone’s idea of fun, but after my family, cooking is the thing I miss the most when we’re on the road. Our hotel for both stays in Melbourne consists of many apartments with small kitchens and some laundry facilities, which is great. I had scoped out the market the day before, putting together an achievable menu based on the very sketchily provisioned kitchen (one pot, one skillet, one baking sheet, one very sensitive smoke detector hooked into the hotel’s sprinkler system). The mussels looked great, but there wasn’t a pot big enough to cook more than a dozen in!
Later in the morning, a small group of us went to the National Gallery of Victoria, and spent a very satisfying couple of hours. The collection there is fine and the portrait of the 18th century ‘cellist Luigi Boccherini was on display (it was being restored last time we were here). We also ran into Alison Mackay, who had just been part of a panel discussion at the Gallery.
After a small, late lunch, I went back to the hotel to practice for a couple of hours (while practicing I was also drying a bunch of halved cherry tomatoes that I had tossed with thyme and olive oil, my idea of multi-tasking).
Okay, here’s the menu:
- Fusilli with a sauce of kangaroo sausage, dried cherry tomatoes and an onion, garlic, thyme and white wine reduction
- Roasted organic loin of lamb with garlic and rosemary; garlicky mashed potatoes; citrus, mango, avocado and arugula salad with passion fruit dressing
- Three Australian cheeses: Seal Bay triple cream from King’s Island Dairy (Tasmania), Shadows of Blue from Gippsland Dairy (Victoria), Warrnambool Vintage Cheddar (Victoria) and sourdough boule
We’re just about to land in Sydney. More later!