dinner heston blumenthal mech installation melbourne-

melbourne on a whim | from diamonds to Dinner | choirs to Cognac

Charisma and character - and just a little bit game-changing. Action!

Why Melbourne brings out the fashionista, foodie and culture vulture in all of us…

The plan for Excess All Areas’ visit to Melbourne this month was simple: there was no plan. Hop on a plane and let fate dictate for 48 hours. Here’s what was especially rewarding about a guerrilla hit on Victoria’s capital…

1. Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei

Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) until April 24, teases out the tensions and synchronicities between the two powerhouse artists via an exploration of more than 300 works.

As the gallery’s senior curator of contemporary art Max Delaney told Tony Magnusson in Crystal magazine: “Andy Warhol’s work encompassed painting and sculpture, but also film, writing and publishing, music production and the cultivation of celebrity.

“Equally, Ai Weiwei is an artist, architect, curator, cultural critic, activist and public intellectual, and producer of social media.

“Both have transformed the idea of the studio in their respective times, as well as the image and role of the artist.”

In Room 8 of the NGV a whole wall reflects Ai’s “freedom” project, With Flowers. From November 30,  2013, he placed, every morning, a bouquet of fresh flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside No. 258 Caochangdi studio in Beijing until he regained the right to travel freely again, which he did in July 2015. The images of the bike, captured on CCTV, were posted to the artist’s social media feeds each day.

A room is dedicated to floral works by Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei. This is part of xxxxxxxxxxx Photo Susan Skelly

A room is dedicated to floral works by Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei. This is part of  With Flowers,  the Chinese artist’s way of marking time until he was given back his passport and was free to travel again.

Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei is a feast of photography, iconic screen prints, cultural and personal insights and a richness of lateral thinking. Lots of good books to take home from the gallery shop, including Ai Weiwei’s Blog, writings, interviews and digital rants from 2006-2009.

2. Dinner by Heston

When the Fat Duck pop-up bumped out of Crown Towers late last year, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal  bumped in, making Melbourne just the third city to play host to Dinner.

And what an eccentric experience it is. Run with the precision of an intensive care unit, under the auspices of chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, this ode to English cookbooks resurrects recipes from between the 13th and 19th centuries, everything from creations of the royal chefs of King Richard II to Lewis Carroll’s fanciful feasts.

Extending the theme to the walls are shadowy medieval feast backdrops and installations like the kitchen’s stunning kinetic spit roast that has all the intrigue and ingenuity of a watch complication. It’s an interpretation of the first automated spit roast mechanism, invented by the British clockmakers of Greenwich.

Despite its occasionally Chaucer-like menu – meat fruit, salamagundy, frumenty, umbles – the offerings are elegant, fresh, intense, modern and clever. Marron and cucumber soup, from 1730’s The Complete Practical Cook, by Charles Carter, is the moat securing a castle of cured prawn, golden trout roe, cucumber salad, sorrel and onion.

dinner by heston crown melbourne beef royal short ribs skelly

Beef Royal with the lot at Dinner by Heston. Photo Susan Skelly

The centrepiece of Beef Royal are two cubes of Black Angus beef short rib, cured for 28 days, slow-cooked sous vide for 56 hours, and served with lightly crumbed ox tongue and sweetbread, a rich red wine anchovy, mushroom and parsley sauce, a pillar of charred carrot, and a shield of sweet onion.

Dinner had a quite a refurbishment when the Fat Duck left, and is now decorated in dark wood, brown leather and burnished copper.

Service is exemplary, wine matches inspired. As general manager Danilo Mancini offered up a tour of the premises and some insights into the great big glass box that is the industrious kitchen, there’s a sense of having been mistaken for a VIP.

3. Christine

Down the stairs behind the red door at 181 Flinders Lane is the fashionista’s Aladdin’s cave, curated by the peerless Christine Barro: Philip Treacey hats, Jamin Pueche handbags, Sonia Rykiel shoes, Lanvin neckpieces as bejewelled as chandeliers, Amouage fragrances, Martin Grant suits, Etro elegance. Splurge central.

4. Fidels The Cellar

This trove tucked away on level B1 of Crown Towers (+61 3 9292 7842) is where sports stars, millionaires and moguls make a beeline for cigars and their accoutrements. Not to mention rare and limited edition Cognac and whiskies (Fidels specialises in Macallan) in Lalique crystal or oversized bottles that look to be rescued from ancient shipwrecks. Spotted: a Borges & Irmão 1900 vintage port, first bottled in 1947. Look for sets of Penfolds rarities in customised suitcases.

5. 200 years of Australian Fashion

See the flash frocks in Australia’s couture journey, from the earliest dressmaking workshops in Brisbane to Bondi’s contemporary studios and modern day designers such as Dion Lee, Kim Ellery, Romance Was Born and Toni Maticevski, via the colourful 1970s creations of Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson for Flamingo Park. Photographs, interviews, paintings, drawings and new acquisitions flesh out 200 Years of Australian Fashion picture. Until July 31 at the Ian Potter Gallery, NGV Australia, Federation Square.

Graff Nuage Ruby and diamond necklace crown towers melbourne3

Graff “Nuage” diamond and ruby showstopper

6. Graff

Crown Towers is becoming quite the luxury shopping precinct and rocketing it into the stratosphere is Graff, the new Melbourne outpost of one of the world’s most prestigious diamond merchants. The store windows, whose displays of showstoppers (like the diamond and ruby statemehnt neckpiece, above) swivel 360 degrees so that what’s in the window can be more fully explored in the shop, emit enough dazzle and white light to power a galaxy. When you’ve tired of the sparkle check out the huge chandelier that looks like bubbles of dripping toffee.  Graff prides itself on vertical integration, shepherding stones from the mines to the workrooms to the stores.

7. Rock ’n’ Roses

Confession: Excess All Areas’ blood pressure goes through the roof at the mere sight of anything Louis Vuitton does that pays homage to the late New York punk-pop designer, Stephen Sprouse. So how to resist the Louis Vuitton Etoile Rock N’ Roses stole adorned with Stephen Sprouse-designed flowers reworked in a camouflage effect? Why try.

louis vuitton etoile rock N roses scarf homage to stephen sprouse

A nod to Stephen Sprouse: LV’s Etoile Rock N’ Roses all-purpose scarf

8. Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir

“Stomp, clap, step, clap…” Rehearsals with Dan Sultan on his song The Drover were in full swing at the Church Of All Nations in Palmerston Street, Carlton this week as the MMGC prepared for a Palm Sunday parade ending in Queen Victoria Gardens in support of refugees. Soprano, alto, tenor and bass – real people with real voices – shaping, stacking and polishing harmonies to songs of hope such as Kumbaya, We Shall Overcome, Freedom Highway and We’re Gonna Make It Great. Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir  (50 at rehearsals, but 80 at full strength ) is a community choir, directed by Phil Heuzenroeder, whose members are aged from 18 to 80, performing at festivals and stand alone concerts – Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin a speciality.

9. Sake Restaurant & Bar Hamer Hall

This Japanese eatery by the river at Southgate serves up delectable confit petunia ocean trout and broccolini with a truffled soy sauce. Sake also wins the best maitre d’ award for observing EAA’s distraction (and frustration) in rebooking flights and accommodation while dining and delivering – out of sympathy – a stunning dessert of raspberry sorbet, chocolate cake and crushed pistachios, crowned with a knob of honeycomb. Free of charge. Now that’s kindness.

sake sweet things hamer hall southgate nihon nemesis dessert skelly

Sake’s elegant raspberry and chocolate treat, Nihon Nemesis.

10. Kirk’s wine bar

On the corner of Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street (west of Elizabeth Street), Kirk’s is a light, informal, Parisian-style space to start the day or clock the passing parade after work. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and a nicely curated menu including oysters and imported cheeses, a generous charcuterie plate, with excellent terrines and pickles, char-grilled bread and dinky little jars of chicken liver pate.

Photos Susan Skelly; Dinner spit roast installation & Graff jewels supplied


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.