Esther's grand tour of Melbourne

Trip Start Apr 28, 2012
Trip End May 11, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We drink champagne to celebrate our arrival with our good friend and host Esther. It's wonderful to see her, and a shame that her partner, Bobby, is in Sydney for work this month. Their house is a stunning '30s art deco, heritage protected bungalow. Everything about it is beautiful, and it matches Esther's aesthetic to a T. Her spare room is the best room we've had this trip.

For dinner we head to a place called Jim's Greek Tavern. It's been an ambition of ours to eat Greek while we're in Australia. We don't have the Greek population in New Zealand to adequately support the cuisine. 

Jim's is a large hall packed with tables. It's about half full, which isn't bad for this late on a Monday evening. We notice that almost everyone in the restaurant except us looks distinctly Greek

On the way over, Esther has warned us that a lot of online reviews complain about the service. "I think they don't understand the Greek way," she says. A short, portly, middle aged Greek man makes his way over to the table. "What do you want?" He demands "Lamb or fish?" We settle on lamb. "I give you some some dips and bread, then salad,  chips and meat," he informs us and leaves. A few minutes later a large plate of dips is plonked on our table. We tuck in. It's beautiful. It's not long before a large Greek salad and huge amount of handmade chips arrive. We haven't even made inroads into the starter yet! Then the meat starts coming out. First a plate full of succulent, fatty, slow cooked lamb, finely sliced. It's served with sliced raw onions, something I'm usually not a fan of, but in this instance it's a brilliant match. Within a few minutes the next plate arrives. Perfectly cooked lamb cutlets. We look at the amount of food at the table in front of us and suggest to the waiter that maybe it's enough. "But there are lamb kebabs coming," he says. It's not an option to turn these down. "You want me to take this away?" he threatens. But the cutlets look so good, and it would be a travesty to send them away, and anyway, I'd feel rude. In a minute the last plate of lamb arrives. The skewers are just delicious; beautifully tender with a charcoal flavour. 

There's enough food on the table for at least eight people, and there's only three of us. We slow down to try to get through it. Our BYO red wine flows freely.We continue to try to engage the wait staff in conversation. They treat us with what appears to be disdain. One points to our almost untouched bowl of chips. "You're letting them go cold," he accuses. Admittedly they're delicious, but we just don't need deep fried carbs to go with our meat mountain.

About halfway through the meal we notice a group of men enter and sit at a table opposite us. It would be hard not to notice them. They look like bulldogs with the attitude of pitbulls trained for a fight. They're clearly gangsters and could be straight out of Underbelly (season 1). We avoid eye contact and strategise that, in case of a shoot-up, we'll duck behind the low wall that separates our table from theirs.

As we start to feel seriously full our portly waiter comes over with a carafe of red wine. It was left, untouched, by the table of women next to us. Without asking he pours some into Esther's glass, mixing it with the wine we've brought ourselves. Our objections fall on deaf ears, as does our invitation for him to sit and join us for a glass. However, he stays standing at our table and pulls out his billing booklet. We have no idea what the charge for tonight will be, given that there's no menu. "Do you work?" he demands. "what do you do?" We answer honestly and he seems unimpressed, except with Esther, who is an early childcare educator. He continues to linger at our table, and somehow we manage to build a conversation. Eventually he does pull up a chair, and he recounts a Greek myth for Nathan, then moves on to a ten minute lecture about his fitness routine. At one point, as we're yet again exclaiming over the amount of food we've been served he says "You think you eat a lot? You should see how much the guys at the table over there have had!" He glances at the gangsters. The funny thing about this is that we all notice that he leans back while he says this, to ensure he's hidden behind a pillar while he talks about them. Gangsters for sure.
Eventually he present us with an entirely reasonable bill. We leave and make the somewhat foolish decision to stop off at a couple of Esther's favourite bars on our way home. When we wake up in the morning, the 9am jog that Nathan and Esther had enthusiastically planned the night before is off the cards. We drag our red-wine hangovers to Esther's favourite cafe for a late morning breakfast.
Esther leads us to Fitzroy and we meander through some very funky shops, making a little purchase here and there. Because we've slept in, we start running behind schedule and Esther begins trying to hurry us up. It's her only day off while we're here, and she has a lot to show us. We catch a tram to town. She marches through the laneways, showcasing the best street art in town, takes us to visit her possum friends in a park, leads us through Chinatown, then to the arcades, all the while pointing out her favourite bars, restaurants and shops for us to come back to. It's a lot to take in, and by 5pm we're all thoroughly exhausted. We grab a cheap and cheerful dinner in Chinatown before catching a tram home to collapse on the couch. I'm in bed by 8.30pm.
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sonja on

hey guys it's awesome to read about your holiday, it sounds WAY more amazing than I thought Aussie could be! Hope Nathan is better now (sounds like it by the dinner you described). I love your writing Yvonne.
its left me looking forward to the next update!
x x x

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