St Patrick’s Day

I’m not from the Irish tradition, so St Patrick’s day isn’t really a natural event for me to celebrate.   But, there was a St Patrick’s Day lunch happening so …  well, I found I had a greenish tie, and I headed off.

I see from Wikipedia that even though the day falls in Lent, you’re allowed to break your Lenten fast on this day!

I’m not sure whether many of those attending were actually fasting, and in fact there weren’t any references to the saint himself.   But  there was lots of wine, jokes, singing and even a little speechifying.  The food was good and the company entertaining, so it was all very pleasant, even if it did degenerate into a bit of rowdiness as it wound up (yes, there was some whiskey there, too).


Balnarring’s Gourmet Paddock.

Just a few doors from Le Bouchon is Gourmet Paddock.    Well, yes, I suppose it is a food court, but it’s definitely “up-market”.  On the website, they say they’re all about a “foodie fellowship”!

We dropped in for a look after our lunch and bought some things to nibble on later on over coffee.   Great atmosphere, and the things we bought were good, too.   We passed on getting a drink at the bar, too, although I can imagine that at the right moment, that would be tempting.

It’s not exactly what I would have expected to find at Balnarring, but on reflection, I can see that the atmosphere is designed to appeal to the local demographic!

“I was Poisoned”

Well, it’s a dramatic expression, but there’s a website in the USA that calls itself I was Poisoned.   It exists to “report” food poisoning, mainly in (but not limited to) restaurants. I chased the site down after reading a media report about it.

An interesting concept, but it’s basically just a series of listings. I’m not sure when the reports cease to be visible, but it seems to be a relatively short period of time (I couldn’t find any older than a month on the site).     Perhaps the site has some utility in identifying “clusters” of incidents, although issues such as personal hygiene surely apply in some cases.

But a presumably unintended bonus for me was that the site gave me a number of chuckles as I reflected on Western “culture”, particularly the nature of the items consumed (“mozzarella sticks, pancakes, chicken tenders, onion rings” anyone?).    Overwhelmingly the reports concern “fast food” establishments!   What can I say……..

And as for the report where the husband felt ill during the night and “next day my wife took my leftovers to work” and later got the same symptoms……

And frequently the conclusion is,  “I will never eat there again”!

In my first draft of this post, I referred to these being matters of “American” culture.   On reflection, that’s a bit unfair;  I don’t think these issues are confined to Americans!  But it seems that in Britain the problems may be different:  KFC stores are having to close because they can’t get deliveries of chicken!

Eating at Balnarring

There’s some stylish eating down Balnarring way.  Yes, there are the numerous Mornington Peninsula wineries, of course, but there’s also Merricks General Wine Store, Jackalope, Point Leo Estate and Le Bouchon.  Now, we haven’t been to Point Leo estate yet, but recently we went to Le Bouchon with friends C and P.

Everything here is impressive:  the space (which is open and airy), the welcome and the menu.     Best of all (has it really come to this!) for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, there’s a 2 or 3 course set menu  for $35 (or $45).   And that includes a glass of wine!    I had the vichyssoise soup and barrumundi, and thought it was very good.     The other members of the group were satisfied, too, except for one comment (just a little unfair, I thought) that the steak wasn’t cooked quite as requested (always a tricky subject!).

Not surprisingly, the reviews tend to be very good.

I’m just a little surprised that it’s only open for lunch on 2 days.  I respect that they want to concentrate on the evening service, and if the business model works for them, well and good.   Perhaps in this part of the world, the demographics are such that there’s sufficient local clientele to justify concentrating on the evening service, without the need to cater to the lunchtime trade?

Eating in Mildura

There’s good dining in Mildura.   We were referred to “Feast Street” as the place to go to so as to eat well.   Apparently this is the nickname for Langtree Av, and there did indeed seem to be a number of restaurants, many of which looked good, and it wasn’t easy to make a choice between them.

The Bistro Mildura

One option was Stefano’s of course (part of the Mildura Grand Hotel complex),  but that seemed over-the-top in the circumstances.  But we thought we ought to eat at the Grand, so we went to The Bistro, which is also part of the Grand Hotel.  This does indeed have a “bistro” atmosphere, although it’s sylish and there’s full table service.

I had the lamb cutlets and S had the salt & pepper squid.   By the time we included a few drinks, it wasn’t the cheapest meal, but we liked the experience and we thought we got value for our money.

We noticed that on a weekday evening, the diners seemed to include a number of “lone diners”, which suggested to us that its clientele includes people in town on business.

In fact, a walk around the carpark at our accommodation (a little way out from the centre, so not the Grand!) suggested that many of the guests were in town for work purposes.   Referring to them as “tradies” is perhaps bit of an over-simplification but many seemed to be part of the “service sector”.


The local information about wineries and related matters for the Coonwarra region is readily available and easy to understand.  The one thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is the wall-to-wall carpet of vines along the terra rossa strip is bisected by a busy highway with a 110 kmph speed limit, and a constant flow of heavy vehicles.  So, if you’re tempted to slow down as you approach the winery of your choice – well, be very, very careful of that truck behind you!     No dawdling here.

That said, we did tastings at 3 wineries (Wynns, Zema and Rymill) and had lunch at another  (Fodder at Ottelia).  I counted 23 wineries with cellar doors (and in addition there are a number that aren’t open to the public), so we only touched the surface.    We might have been tempted to call in at one or two more, but there’s a limit to how much wine we can fit in the car – and we’re yet to hit the Barossa!

Dinner was at the pizza/pasta place in town.    Great pizza for starters, but the gnocchi was “ordinary”.

Lots of wine in barrels at Rymill
Rymill’s prancing horses

The tennis experience

We’ve been to the Australian Open each year for many years, and I suppose we thought we were familiar with the grounds.  However, it seems that a lot of work has occurred since the last Open (and some is still in progress).   There are more buildings, more of what used to be open space is covered with concrete, and any memories of what used to be public open space in the area are just that:  distant memories.  Is it all worth it for an event that lasts for just 2 weeks each year?

Gavrilova in action

Obviously the “powers that be” have decided that the answer is “yes”, and are presumably satisfied that there’s no risk that the Open will not continue to be held in Melbourne for the foreseeable future?

As well as all the work going on in the grounds, the visuals and screens at the courtside appear to have been upgraded, so that during breaks, the crowd is exposed to a rather amazing array of glitzy advertising.


Electronic displays






We arrived fairly early for the evening session, so sat in one of the numerous outdoor bars with a glass each of “sparkling” and watched a set or so of the Stosur match.  We then went in search of a “sit-down” meal, but the central venue that in past years has provided a reliable, if slightly pricey, meal is no longer there.  We ended up queuing for a pasta meal, which was fine (although the efficiency of the venue in getting prospective patrons seated was a little doubtful).

There are numerous venues catering for “hospitality” arrangements (see here) (such as arranged by “corporates”) but there are very few places for “sit-down” dining (aka “restaurants“) open to the holders of normal tickets.  There seem to be plenty of places serving “fast food”, much of which, now that I look at the map more carefully, seem to have the potential to be of a good quality (well, no Maccas!);  I guess next year, we ought to do our research and plan accordingly.