Coonawarra

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
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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.

Lorne

Most years, we only get to Lorne for our January break.   So it’s always interesting to see what’s changed over the previous 12 months.  However, generally the changes are only incremental.

There are almost invariably changes in the retail scene.   Shops come and go, as do restaurants.

This year, the Arab restaurant – a Lorne institution – has closed and its premises are unoccupied.   I heard that the landlord had terminated the lease because of arrears in the rent.

 

Westpac have closed their branch, leaving only an ATM machine, and the 2nd-hand bookshop has gone, too.

 

 

 

 

 

The solar operated rubbish bins are new, too (I think).   These are an interesting concept:   apparently they have a greater capacity because using a solar-powered motor, they compact the rubbish.

One thing hasn’t changed:  the traffic congestion!   The agapanthus are still here, too.

 

Trip Advisor and “The Shed”

I often look at TripAdvisor’s reviews, and have posted a reasonable number myself.   I also like to think that I understand the art of reading reviews on TripAdvisor (and elsewhere) and sorting out the ones that can be relied on and those that aren’t so reliable.  In particular, I distrust “1-time posters”, and I look for recurring themes in the reviews.

It seems that TripAdvisor has procedures to protect against “fake” reviews, but these appear not to be foolproof!    Apart from the issues with Meriton, it’s been reported that a non-existent restaurant rose up the rankings to become TripAdvisor’s number 1 restaurant in London!

Supposedly the person behind this is called Oobah Butler, and it appears that he’s written the story behind this  here.  The story has certainly been  reported in the media and here).

It seems that TripAdvisor were asked for comment, and Butler reports that they said, “Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us.  As there is no incentive for anyone in the real world to create a fake restaurant it is not a problem we experience with our regular community – therefore this ‘test’ is not a real world example.”

Indeed!    So TripAdvisor consign the fact that they were fooled to the “fake news” basket?

Disclaimer:   I haven’t independently verified any of what Oobah Butler says, but apparently this is an archived link to the TripAdvisor review as at existed at some stage, which seems to suggest that there’s at least some basis to his article.

Amaru

A small restaurant called Amaru opened up not far from us a couple of years back.   It seemed rather inconspicuous, but evidently it’s been a big hit in the culinary world.   In fact, in the write up in the  “delicious.100” list, it was started, “Clinton McIver is serving up one of the most exciting showcases of Australian produce”.

I can’t comment on it personally, because it’s listed in the “$$$$” price range!  However, I do wonder how the word gets “out there” about classy restaurants, although I assume there are blogs and Facebook pages.   Amaru was listed 9th in the “delicious.100” listings that were published recently, but now I read in the newspaper that it’s actually been ranked number 1 in the “popular vote”.

I admit that I’m usually a little dubious about polls where the respondents are self-selected, but the article stated that there were about 12,000 on-line votes, so presumably the voting was reasonably representative.  Clearly, they’re doing “something right” there, but even though we often like to check out new restaurants that are close by, I think this one is out of our class for the time being!

French Brasserie

We went to dinner with T and W, who suggested The French Brasserie.   We had a great night.

The French Brasserie is in the city, down Malthouse Lane, which is an alley that runs off Flinders Lane.

The night was pouring rain, but the restaurant is spacious and we were made comfortable at a nice table. There was lots of activity around;  it seems that Flinders Lane is now a “lively” area, and it was the night the “Same Sex Marriage” legislation passed Parliament which may have had something to do with it.

The approach is very French in staff, service and food.  In fact, most of the staff  appear to have French as their first language (are they here on working holiday visas?);  obviously this is appropriate in this environment, although there were occasional moments when things had to be repeated to ensure there was no confusion.   The menu isn’t extensive, but it does appear to be authentic.  Our only issue was that the “Le Canard Rôti” was described as “Roast duck breast with slow cooked egg”.   We mistakenly (as it turned out) assumed that the duck would be roasted and hence more than pink, but we managed to sort this out amongst ourselves.

The Trip Advisor reviews are very positive.  They mention the comprehensive wine list, but seem to gloss over the cost!   Sure, you get a lot here, but you need to pay for it, so this is not the place for a bargain night out!

100 Restaurants

The so-called “delicious.100” magazine fell out of the Sunday paper.   It supposedly lists what it regards as the top 100 Victorian restaurants, listed in order from 1 to 100.   I notice that I blogged about the equivalent publication last year.

It’s not clear how the list was compiled, and it’s not specifically stated that the reviewers (who are named) actually dined at all the restaurants listed.   There’s a suggestion  that one of the factors was popular vote (but I didn’t persevere long enough find the link to this).     Maybe the listing was at least to some extent compiled from other sources (although of course I can’t say for sure).

Hence, to my mind it doesn’t have the credibility of the Good Food Guide.   Just the same it’s an interesting “read”, and the task of actually listing restaurants in order of rank is certainly ambitious.      I admit (as I’ve done before) that (top) restaurants aren’t really my scene, although I like to read about them if only  to make sure that none of the restaurants that I do like have made it!   And it’s interesting to know the sort of dishes that these restaurants serve (often not my “style”).

This year the publication is stated to be compiled in “partnership” with Uber Eats.  Strange indeed, because it’s hard to imagine that any of the really good restaurants would condescend to allow their food to be delivered!  But perhaps the readers of this guide are likely to use Uber Eats when they’re not eating out?