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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Gingerboy

I'm so glad this is the only place I'm blogging about in this post, because FAR OUT BRUSSELS SPROUT, it deserves it.

Gingerboy's main room: dark bamboo and changing colour end wall


It was my birthday last week, and I am fortunate enough to work for a small company that celebrates its staff members' birthdays by treating us all to lunch. Having tried to coordinate previous birthday lunches unsuccessfully at Gingerboy (27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne), the anticipation (on my part, anyway) had been building for months. I really wanted to see why this restaurant so frequently tops 'best restaurant' lists in Melbourne. Surely it couldn't be that great?! I was dubious.

I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. This place is fantastic. Or, to use an expression I'm rather fond of at the moment, it is AWSBALLZ.

Again, housed on a laneway off the top end of Bourke Street (I promise I don't spend ALL my time in that part of town - sometimes I go to King Street, haha), Gingerboy is one of Melbourne's iconic laneway delights. It describes its food as "a modern Australian adaptation of the Asian hawker-style street market food". Throw into the mix some amazing cocktails, fantastic service, outstanding interior fittings, and excellent coffee (wink, wink), and you have on your hands one pretty great place.

The main part of the restaurant is predominantly dark with lime green touches. It features a changing-colour light-wall at one end, another wall covered length to length in dark bamboo, opaque neon plastic chairs, a huge red tassled hanging piece, and bright artworks alongside traditional ornaments.

Orange end wall

Pink end wall + opaque chairs

Ceiling

Bamboo wall

Red tassles + bright artwork

Modern lime green meets traditional

Lime green finishes

My view out the front window (Crossley Street)


There's a high chance I was so impressed by the interior design because I tend to go for bright, sparkly things, but I really do believe it all comes together very nicely, despite being an eclectic mix of... stuff.

We had a round of the most delicious cocktail ever. It's my new favourite. It's called the "Gin No Name", and features gin (duh), with lemongrass, kaffir lime, lychee and citrus. It was so delicious, I had to have two!

Gin No Name


And then, the food.

At our birthday lunches, we tend to order bits of everything, then all share it. I LOVED, repeat LOVED, everything we ate at Gingerboy, bar one item: a wagyu meat dumpling thing that was just too meaty for my tastes. The boys liked it, though. This is what we had:

Scallops

Kingfish tataki. This was SO GOOD, we got it twice.

Salad

Dumplings

Whole fried baby snapper

Lovely staffer dissecting whole snapper for us

Salt & pepper chicken

Can't remember name but YUM

Prawn & ginger in rice pastry

Wagyu in la-lot... this was a bit much for me

Very meaty!


We also had son-in-law eggs that were AMAZING. We were told to put the whole egg in our mouth as, when you bite into it, the yolk goes everywhere, and this way, you can catch it! It's a warm, crunchy, delicious explosion in your mouth. Mm hmm.

Finally, because it was my birthday, we had dessert. These were the boys' choices:

Banana fritters

Passionfruit parfait


And I, being SPECIAL, got a birthday candle with my effing amazing "toasted coconut tofu cheesecake, raspberry jelly". Scattered over the plate were what looked like freeze-dried, and tasted like intense passionfruit pieces, over dusted icing sugar. YUM.

Coconut tofu cheescake

Freeze-dried passionfruit bits


This was a 'special occasion' meal, but goddammit, I will be inventing any special occasion I can to go back to Gingerboy as soon as possible.



Update: 14 October 2013

Last month, my work crew returned to Gingerboy for another birthday lunch. Seems we just can't stay away. The food was just as awesome as last time - but this time we decided to have a kingfish tataki serve EACH (since they're just too good to share), and we also had the whole snapper again (NOT each!).

My Kingfish Tataki and favourite cocktail

SNAPPER, that's right I said SNAPPER


The desserts were just as visually and ...taste-fully? spectacular:

Coconut mousse, coconut ice-cream and wafer thingy

Can't remember what this was but it was VERY GREEN AND MELTY

Fairy floss & raspberry goodness


And then I took a few more decor shots for you as well. You can thank me later. By buying me dinner at Gingerboy. (See what I did there?)







Gingerboy on Urbanspoon

Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain

Some names in Melbourne's bar scene are thrown around quite a lot. Everyone's heard of Cookie, the Carlton, Gin Palace, Supper Club. Since arriving in Melbourne in 2009, I have heard the name Double Happiness (21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne) a lot, and thought, 'What a nice name!' (DOUBLE happiness! Man, I reckon most people would be pretty content with SINGLE happiness) - not realising I had actually already been to this tiny, iconic laneway bar.

Double Happiness is topped by New Gold Mountain - technically a separate entity, but both bars are so small and so close, one would be forgiven for thinking they were the same bar with a different theme on each level.* They're run by the same crew as Lily Black's - a 'top marks' bar for its location (on Meyers Place) and its Art Deco stylings - and Mr Wow's Emporium on Smith Street (another place I've heard of a lot but not yet made it to... SAD FACE).

Liverpool Street is one of the many laneways that come off the Parliament end of Bourke Street. When you find number 21 - basically a doorway, like the entrances to so many of Melbourne's best hidden spots - head on up the staircase, and you'll walk into a small, dark, moody space. It's sparsely lit by lamps with occasional bursts of colour, such as the green glowing spots built into the bar that give off a 'universe' effect. Unfortunately, the dim lighting makes for not-so-great photos, but here is a molto-touched-up one so you can get the general gist:



Seating is limited. Hell, SPACE is limited. There are a few tall bar tables and a few low tables, and to one side is a raised, cushioned booth area, able to accommodate up to six people. We sat there, having been out for a cheap noodle dinner in celebration of my friend's finishing her job, and were overshadowed by this mystical, decorative piece on the wall:

I'm getting the Eye from LOTR. Just me??


We ordered cocktails, some of which were served in those fantastic low, round, 1920s-style champagne glasses:



And you may be glad to know there are some interesting and delicious-sounding cocktails available by the jug: 

COCKTAILICIOUS


Sufficiently inebriated, we made our way upstairs to check out New Gold Mountain. Here, the theme is predominantly red. These red lampshades hanging over the stairwell made for a spectacular entrance into the bar: 

Purrrrrrrtty


We scored us another booth-type area, larger this time, still dimly lit. It felt warmer, but kindy seedy and classy at the same time - a bit like a bachelor pad meets a harlot's boudoir. With Chinese finishings.



We enjoyed the swish table service, and I particularly enjoyed checking out the design finishes (but I'm biased, because I luuuuuuurve red):

Separating wall

Light curtainy thingies hanging from the ceiling


Personally, I felt rather uncomfortable in Double Happiness. It was more like Half Happiness. It seems too small to fit enough people to create an exciting vibe, and I found its atmosphere oddly cold. Perhaps it would be a better venue for an intimate date.

I much preferred New Gold Mountain upstairs (although its name is kinda silly - I wonder if there is some interesting story behind it?). The secluded atmosphere and opulent furnishings are retained in both bars, but New Gold Mountain feels much warmer, due to the richer colours and materials.

Drinks are on the pricey side - as you would expect for fancy cocktails, lush settings, table service and a classy reputation - but expertly made. I fancy the clientele would be mainly small groups, happy to keep to themselves. You'll want to dress nicely and take your interstate visitors there, but although they're lovely, you could go months without even thinking to pop back in to either bar. I feel similarly about Gin Palace: maybe lush, hidden cocktail bars just aren't my thing.

Each to their own, right?


* Note: 29 April 2013 

Double Happiness contacted me to check I had been to the bar on the very ground floor, through the big glass doors - this is actually Double Happiness, next door to New Gold Mountain. I hadn't; it seems I was under the incorrect impression that Double Happiness started and ended on the first level. Please keep this error in mind with regard to this blog post. My apologies to both venues, and I hope to see you soon to amend my error!  - M.P.


Update: 12 June 2013

I recently popped into Double Happiness to check out the correct venue. Hallelujah, there is more space! It's basically one large room with a bar running alongside the entranceway, an attractive fireplace at the back, and low table/bench seating throughout. There is a small smoking 'den' at the front and a tiny courtyard area out the back that houses a couple of grungy toilets.

Bar tucked in alongside the entrance

Fireplace


Pointedly Chinese-themed with its artwork and finishes, Double Happiness still didn't blow me away. The bar staff were friendly and obliging, but I found my cocktail slightly disappointing (its coconut froth topping was too solid to drink through) and the drinks overall quite expensive.

We noticed a projector overhead - the place would be cool for an intimate screening of some kind - and I liked the cosiness of the fireplace. Otherwise... I'm not sold.




Double Happiness Bar on Urbanspoon

New Gold Mountain on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Adelaide: The Garden of Unearthly Delights

The first thing any Adelaidean will tell you about the Fringe Festival is that "The Garden" is an absoulte MUST.



A sectioned-off part of Rundle Park at the north-eastern corner of the CBD, The Garden of Unearthly Delights (cnr East Terrace & Rundle Road) is essentially the hub for All Things 'Fringe'. Here, for the duration of the Festival, you can buy or collect tickets, attend shows in any one of the on-site 'venues' (mainly tents like you'd find at a circus), buy merchandise, get a food or drink fix, shop at market stalls, attend events, lounge around on the grass or chairs and watch people or the free entertainment, take the kids on rides... and the list goes on.







The Garden is set up like an old-fashioned fair: elaborately decorated caravans housing food stalls, games and tickets; various stages and 'big top' style, colourful tents; wooden painted signs, flags, mirrors and coloured lights. It is loosely divided into sections for food and drink, rides, and market stalls, with venues dotted around the park.








We wiled away time in the Garden at several points over our long weekend in Rads. Here are a few more of its many delights:


Still not sure how this spit roast was 'Dutch style'

Sorry, vegetarians

This was not a concentration camp

or a French circus

Vintage clothing market stall IN A BUS

Hi hanging fish

Muppets! and other cuties FOR YOUR HEAD



My sister and the gorgeous Mya

Jade and Bree whooshing past

Hi, Jade!




It's a great place to hang out, and I can see why it's so popular. I mainly liked it because it's a visual feast for the eyes, but considering you can head there at most times of day, with grown-ups or the kids, and you have a number of ways to spend your time... it's got ***CLICHE ALERT*** something for everyone.

Looking forward to seeing how the Garden evolves with each new Festival.