EPISODE 14 (a): eat, drink, love, whatever

Paella at Era Bistro in Melbourne St . Brisbane. Dining out before the achingly amazing Dylan concert.

Paella at Era Bistro in Melbourne Street, Brisbane. Dining out with other dedicated fans before the achingly amazing Dylan concert.

Wining and Dining: serving up this first bite-sized blogisode 

Always dedicated to such sensuous and sensual lifestyle pursuits as wining and dining, I wrote a journal article back in 1989, on the topic of the history and cultural significance of Brisbane restaurants. In this article, I tied the burgeoning restaurant culture to the ‘coming of age’ of Brisbane as a city. Prior to this publication, I also presented my foodie findings at an international conference that year. I had plans to do a ground-breaking cultural study on wining and dining across the world (the words ‘international’ and ‘comparative’ always combine to make a very productive approach). My supervisors at the University didn’t take my ambitious food culture project very seriously at the time; I think they were jealous that they hadn’t thought of such a delicious project first.

The article on Brisbane restaurants

The article on Brisbane restaurants

Boldly dining out, strictly for research purposes only…

In any case, undeterred and unfunded, I have been munching my way around the world for many a long year, a particularly piquant form of  ongoing ‘research’, which still continues – see the survey questions posed at the end of this episode.

This wining and dining trend has led to some very memorable moments, locally, nationally and globally, not always documented by appropriately lush photos at the time. I tend to immerse myself in pleasurable events, often forgetting to take the photos until it is too late. I did manage to snap some great photos for my original Brisbane restaurant research, but sadly those seem to have vanished into the mists of time, as have many of the places I wrote about then. Hence the rather ‘free range’ photographs served up here.

In dedicating these two closely linked blog episodes (14 a, with 14 b to come later next month) to funky foodies everywhere, I will try to give a not-too-obtuse thumbnail sketch of what I was on about in that academic article, as well as a smattering of observations regarding eating out in Brisbane (and elsewhere) in the New Millennium. I could never hope to emulate here in blogland the very special Jenny Menzies, with her terrific food blog – see, for your enjoyment: http://newfarmfoodstories.com/about-2

Ms Wren and me enjoying the delights of Da Silvios in Bologna

Wondrous Ms Wren and me enjoying the tasty delights of Da Silvios in Bologna, Italy, September 2013. What a great culinary experience that was…highly recommended if you ever go to beautiful Bologna.


Touches of sophistication: the early dining-out days

Here are a few reminiscences on several establishments from the past; those readers who have enjoyed dining out in Brisbane, then and subsequently, might hopefully also recall and share their own experiences in a blog commentary. The first central European restaurant was probably the Old Vienna (1966);  the French restaurant Chez Tessa opened a bit later on Wickham Terrace – a smart establishment, closing down sadly in 1972 after quite an ‘a la carte’  flourish for a few years. La Grange was another notable French place in the Seventies.  At least Chez Tessa represented a down-to-earth break from the elevated eating style of restaurants such as the nearby one at the Tower Mill Hotel/Motel, where the revolving movement and the view were much more outstanding than the food. There does seem to be a widespread inverse correlation between altitude  and quality – the higher you go, the less impressive the eating experience.

The seedy Seventies: consuming women and food in masculinist spaces

What also flourished in Brisbane at the time were places designed for businessmen’s lunches, such as Tom Jones in a basement in Caxton Street.  The advertisement for Tom Jones says it all: ‘Businessmen get onto it at lunchtime’, featuring images of scantily-clad waitresses serving two smirking, lecherous blokes in suits.

The text of the ad further promises ‘a quickie’ and ‘she will lay it out in front of you when you arrive’. Not much sexual subtlety in ’70s Brisbane – nor even in the late ’80s, despite the critical advent of  ’70s Second Wave feminism. For instance, two restaurants appealing to male business clients, Exclusively Yours and Carolina’s, advertised in the daily newspaper’s business pages, considered to be an exclusively male domain. These ads featured coyly (brutally?) truncated, naked parts of the female body, carved up like pieces of meat, and ‘plated’ for masculine consumption.

Brisbane’s cultural cringe

Other cringeworthy self-promotions and publicity abounded in different ways. For instance, Lennons’ 30th floor Talk of the Town boasted not only  of ‘sweeping views’, but also of the ‘finest smorgasbord in Australia’ (it seems the manager had visited Wrest Point, Melbourne and Sydney and could vouch for that judgement).

The late Seventies saw the restaurant craze spreading inevitably to the suburbs. By the end of that decade, there were about  300 restaurants in total, with the media trumpeting the existence of at least 100 (self-important) ‘quality’ restaurants in the whole of  Brisbane. By the Commonwealth Games in 1982, Brisbane was on the cusp of becoming a much more cosmopolitan city. Hence, the restaurants tended to symbolise this increasing sophistication in a particular way.


Rather dated decor at suburban restaurant Rhubarb Rhubarb in 2014. At least it is BYO.

Rather cliched decor at the suburban French restaurant Rhubarb Rhubarb in 2014. At least this is BYO – regrettably, a dying breed of eating establishment.


The restaurant families in Brisbane: the rise and rise of Italian fare

A rags-to-riches, migrant Aussie battler myth surrounded Gino Merlo, who opened the famous Milano restaurant in Queen Street – ‘From cane to caviar:  By the sweat of his brow, he (Gino) has become one of Australia’s leading restaurateurs’, catering for the then premier Dr Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen and other supposed luminaries  (newspaper article, 1981). Gino’s brother Lou opened Merlo’s in 1974. These Italian restaurants operated at the higher end of the inner city market, largely servicing Brisbane’s establishment, and thereby causing some disquiet, at times, for those who opposed the right-wing government holding gerrymandered sway for too long then in the state of Queensland. A tricky, ongoing dilemma – should food and politics ever mix?

At the lower, more populist end, there were the equally legendary Lucky’s Trattoria (also opened in 1974) and the Giardinetto in the Valley. At Giardinetto in Brunswick Street (an evolved  version of this restaurant is still there) I remember feeling pretty sophisticated ordering Lasagna in the ’70s. I also enjoyed many outings to Lucky’s, as much for the ambiance as anything else.   Inside, opera music blared out, with appropriately over-the-top paintings on the walls, often featuring images of the proud Lucky himself.  At the end of each meal, this beaming owner/cook Luciano/Lucky would emerge and present, with a flourish, plastic eggcups full of a rather dodgy marsala for everyone lingering at the table – provided you were a regular. It was impossible to refuse this offering or resist this performance art.

Ann Street near where Lucky's establsihment  used to be

Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, near where Lucky’s establishment used to be

Valley nightlife: a smorgasbord of transexuals, cockroaches and a wedding

Regardless of rumours (never proven!) that Lucky’s Bolognaise sauce was largely Pal dog food, and facing up to the realities of the cockroaches scuttling across the floor (and tables), as well as the very challenging toilet out the back, I visited Lucky’s in Ann Street many times. I particularly liked finding myself there around 3am, when many trannies would come in after a show for various forms of sustenance, creating a very special atmosphere.  Memorably, there was also the very funky occasion of an unconventional wedding celebration at Lucky’s for my dear friends Savannnah Burgundy and her partner, Pedro Beaujolais, who certainly didn’t want to have the usual wedding breakfast ritual in the ’80s.

It seems that these days, the irrepressible Luciano (Lucky), having retired and passed on his legacy to his son in a different venue, still serves food and joy at an aged-care facility. I hope he still sneaks marsala serves in plastic eggcups to the patrons there as well.  What a great way to be ‘seeing himself out’. http://www.volunteeringqld.org.au/web/index.php/news-media/newsmenu/media-centre/press-coverage/1189-luckys-one-in-six-million-who-care


Eating in a village outside Oriolo Romano in Italy. No obvious cockroaches here though the waiter whispere d to us that the owners supported that great Italian cockroach Berlesconi.

Eating in a village outside Oriolo Romano in Italy. No obvious cockroaches here, although the waiter whispered to us that the owners supported that monstrous Italian cockroach, Silvio Berlusconi. For a moment, we nearly gagged, but, thankfully,  managed to soldier on…sometimes, definitely,  food and politics should be kept very separate.

Feedback please (10 sort-of- questions for further research…)

Here are a few burning questions that I am often asked or which happen to float around in my brain on this topic.  Hopefully, through a combined effort, we can compile a few useful lists and insights for foodies everywhere (predominantly, but not solely, in Brisbane). You are welcome to answer through the comments, or on Facebook, or via email to me.

Results will be compiled and published in the related blogisode coming up later in September. Please send along also any appropriate pics if you wish.

1. Recommend worthwhile, good value restaurants that still allow you to BYO wines.

2. Recommend any exemplary, quiet restaurants that have sensitive soundproofing decor inside, so that you can actually hear everyone speaking around the table, without having to shout and without ending up with a headache/earache at the end of the evening from all the clatter and shrieking.

3. Name places that allow easy, generous crossover times for breakfast and lunch and are not precious about that limbozone time, when it is too late to partake in the breakfast menu and too early for lunch.

4. Tell us about your most delicious eating-out experience/s in all its/their glory.

5. Send us any funny/quirky/awful  food allergy dining stories.

6. Name your favourite restaurant and tell us why.

7. Should food and politics mix?

8. Any topic you would especially like covered next time around?

9. Any memories triggered by restaurants covered in this blog?

10. Any nice  related photos would be much appreciated with your comments on any topic.


One of many dessert treats at legendary Da Silvios, Bologna, Italy

One of many dessert treats at legendary Da Silvios, Bologna, Italy




EPISODE 13: Tangled up in Bras (apologies to Bob Dylan)

Wiffwaff wisdom rules: expert breast transformation

After another wild night with the WiffWaff Sistas – not a girl punk band but a pingpong team – I made a special, if rather reluctant, resolution, on being reminded about the delicious bra-land  adventures of having an expert fit you when buying a new brassiere. The Sistas’ combined enthusiasm and their witty anecdotal evidence swept me into realising that 2014 was shaping up to be the Year of the Bra. Rather mysteriously, bras have popped into two of my earlier blogisodes, and as a film buff, I am very fond of continuing the  thematic trend of verbal/ visual motifs. Also I am usually open to any form of transformative experience.

It has been at least a decade since I fronted up for this a peculiarly  female ritual, performed by the mythical Bra Goddesses at David Jones. I decided to take a deep breath and experience the classic fitting trial of buying some new bras, rather than simply rushing in, grabbing some, doing a quick try-on, and hoping for the best.

I went into the city last Sunday, hoping I would be the only customer getting some bargains at the end of a lingerie sale. Feeling pretty stressed, despite the Sistas’ assurances that all would be absolutely fine, I built up to the experience rather tentatively, cruising around the store, hoping to find the same lovely Italian woollen beret I had bought there a year ago and recently lost in Melbourne. I didn’t, of course, find that item, as it seems it is now actually full-on summer.  I also found myself checking the usually hopeless (for me at least) clothes sections at David Jones. Such boring, unimaginative designs filled me with a further sense of futility and dread.

Finally I decided it was time to stop my pathetic store circling and loitering. Longing for a coffee break, I womanned up and headed into the underwear section,  feeling that it was now or never…


Bra hunting in the DJ labyrinth

Bra hunting in the bewildering DJ labyrinth

Old versus young: the labyrinthine world of Bra goddesses and monsters

Sussing out the section, I observed that the one solid older woman expert seemed to be busy. I am not ageist but I really didn’t want the young person to fit me up with a new lingerie item; nothing personal, but I tend to avoid any so-called expert who looks about 12 these days. It is all a matter of trust and I was putting my body on the line here.

Aside: Apparently  newly-minted medical students don’t have to study anatomy as a compulsory subject anymore, and often these budding medicos spend their time in lectures playing solitaire, checking email and Facebook on their computers. I therefore also avoid  any doctors under 40.

The rather gruff older person was not at all warm or welcoming – so much for the explosion of yet another myth.  On the reassurances of the Sistas, I had hoped to be warmly embraced and taken into her restorative care, to discover the wonders of the properly fitted bra for the next couple of years. Finally, I realised I was being a bit ridiculous waiting around for the busy old bat, and graciously agreed to let the pleasant younger person do the deed.

Alone in the bra cell: eavesdropping and being whipped into shape

The young person politely took command and performed several measuring rituals, giving me many instructions as well as reassurances. She waltzed out to find some nice bras in my size. Meanwhile there was another woman being fitted by grumpy lady in close cell proximity, and I could hear everything about her personal boob size issues. When my young person returned, armed with several to try on, I was carefully instructed how to push, pull and lift etc etc. To my surprise, she didn’t  physically grab each boob, up and over, firmly settling it into the cup, a very intimate, hands-on experience that one of the Sistas had graphically described.

Aside: I wonder how, isolated in a little underpants training cell, many men would feel if another male firmly grabbed, lifted and squashed their testicles, re-arranging them to fit expertly into special different styles and colours of jocks etc. The men I know would probably love it after the first shockwave. 

After several trials, the patient young sales assistant discovered I was somehow between sizes – for some unknown reason, this also seems to happen to me with shoes. Undaunted, she went off to find a compromise brand and style. Each time she left the cell, she joked ‘Back into the labyrinth’.  I rested between each foray, concerned about next door hearing everything about my personal anatomy, trying to cope with my soaring stress levels. Moreover, each time I tried on a new version, I found I had some kind of bra-fitting amnesia and couldn’t quite recall, let alone master, the exact lean forward, prod, lift and fit procedure. I was certainly teetering on the brink of failing Bra-Fitting 101.

Aside: This tends to happen to me in the gym also – a form of ‘gymnesia’ I call it, occurring when asked to repeat an elaborate exercise.  At that stage, I find I have completely wiped the ritual from my mind, which is usually roaming anywhere but in the gym, despite my delightful PT. Now I seem to have spawned its little sister, ‘bra-nesia’.

Meanwhile, a woman, and (unexpectedly for me, and also, apparently, for her attendant) her male partner were chatting animatedly in French and English in the next door cell with the thin walls. Finally after her own bilingual version of trial and error, her size was deemed to be 14A. On hearing this, I had a moment of regret – I once was smaller than the French woman (whom I never saw). Just for a bit of blog fun and the accompanying bra-nostalgia, I dug out some old pics of me when I was about as young as the expert sales assistant…

Out on the town In my early 20s.

Out on the town in my early 20s.

Finally the agony was over – there certainly wasn’t much ecstasy. But at least I got $20 off each new bra and was told brightly by the assistant : ‘Now you can go home and throw out all those old bras’. So after a restorative lunch at Pablo’s in New Farm with one of the Wiffwaff Sistas, I went home and threw out about 15 old bras lurking smugly in one of my drawers. At least I was obedient in that department. As yet,  I haven’t successfully donned the new bra with all the accompanying rituals – that will have to wait till I head out tonight to yet another Bob Dylan concert . Not that Bob would particularly care about a dedicated fan’s pretty bra. But I will feel a lot better secretly knowing about my precious new undergarment as I sing along to All Along the Watchtower and, of course, Tangled Up in Blue

Old bras destined for the bin

Old bras destined for the bin

Aside: Here is another nice nostalgic pic of three youthful people…at my wedding where I won the Courier Mail Easter Bride of the Year (second prize!) or some such nonsense. I have to remind my ageing self that I too was once young like the sweet sales assistant in the David Jones lingerie department.

'Most modern' bride with my bridesmaids 'Joan' and 'Dorothea' who have appeared in various blogs

‘Most modern’ bride with my bridesmaids ‘Joan’ and ‘Dorothea’ who have appeared in various blogs