It started with afternoon drinks on the rooftop bar of Jimmy Watsons (333 Lygon Street, Carlton). Rooftop bar, you say? Yes, rooftop bar! Venture through the staid, old-style restaurant part at the front, into the back courtyard and bar area, and just up the staircase you'll find a colourful haven covered in fake grass, bench seats, low tables, colourful cushions, fairy lights, lanterns, candles and pot plants. Quite a surprise, but a pleasant one. (I will take photos next time, promise.)
The upstairs bar and downstairs back bar seemed to be closed (this was at 4pm on a Saturday), prompting a bit of confusion as to where one buys a drink. So we traipsed back to the front entrance, bought our drinks and traipsed back upstairs to our garden paradise haven. After a while, some staff appeared every so often, offering COD table service which helped matters somewhat.
We got a bit hungry, so ordered some char-grilled bread with dips. They were standard flavours but tasty, well-presented and the waitress even provided more bread free of charge (win!). I hate it when there's not enough bread provided to use up all the dip.
This is one of my new favourite places. It's very near the corner of Lygon and Elgin Streets.
Christmas dinner with my new housemate was booked for Small Victories, a six-month-old baby on the trendy bit of Rathdowne Street, Carlton North (number 617). For the first few months it offered cafe food only, but for the past few it's also been doing dinners Thursday through Sunday. I'd heard about it for a few months but hadn't had a chance to get over and try it yet.
It's a very relaxed affair, run by a Kiwi bloke named Ben, who seems quite happy with its progress so far. I've no idea what it's like as a cafe (they use Wide Open Road coffee, so it can't be awful), but as a dinner venue it was relaxed and very professional. Our waitress also seemed very relaxed but helpful, and they were quite happy for us to float through some drinks and food at a pace slower than most snails. There were some interesting beers on the list, including a chocolate coffee porter, and my riesling was lovely. For nibbles, we ate pickled vegetables (very pickled, but I liked that), cured pastrami, and ewes' milk cheese croquettes with a honey sauce. Then cheese! A sharp cheddar and soft blue with a peach compote and quince paste. All served with plentiful thinly sliced bread. Very European and very pleasant.
On the way home we stopped at Naked For Satan, wanting to get up to the new rooftop bar to check it out and say hi to a friend who works there. But once we got past the (fairly quick-moving) front door queue, there was a half-hour wait list to get into the lift and up to the roof. The whole place was apparently at capacity, but I do find it a bit of a wank when there are a thousand bouncers around, tripping on power. Nonetheless, I'll get there eventually...
So instead, we stopped at the Black Cat (often confused with nearby club The Night Cat, as they're both in Fitzroy, but completely different) for a nightcap. The Black Cat is a cafe by day and bar by night, with chilled, vine-covered street-side communal seating. We took our high-filled wines (plus!) and perched at the end of someone else's table. Everyone was wearing drapey designer stuff and hats - sooo Fitzroy, baby. Still, it was a cool vibe. Perhaps a better venue for weekend beer-garden style grazing.
I'm gonna have to slow down soon! Silly season is killing my liver...