Friday, December 9, 2011
We arrived at the restaurant on time and we were shown to our table. My seat was faced away from the view and my partner's seat was on a banquette running along the back of the room. The table was set out as one would expect of a restaurant claiming to offer top of the range service and food.
The service was attentive. We had menus and water -- just tap water; we refrained from the Rick Stein carbonated water -- within moments, along with a small bowl of olives. I ordered a sauvignon blanc ($42).
The first intimation that all was not well was when the wine waiter brought a bottle of riesling. It was not even from the same vineyard as the sauvignon blanc I had ordered. It was quickly replaced however.
We'd both ordered oysters as entrees -- my partner half a dozen natural, while I ordered a speciality that cost extra but came with chili sausages. A big fuss was made of placing pillowed plates before the both of us, this being necessary, we were told, as the oysters were served on a platter of ice.
Indeed, that is the way my partner's entree was served. Mine was not, requiring the removal of the pillowed plate. Also, I questioned the fact that I had only five oysters. I was told my dish comes with only five, despite having a higher price than half a dozen.
Anyway, the oysters were fine, as they should have been for the price ($24 and $27).
I'd ordered the fish pie and my partner barramundi (both around $40). The fish pie was disappointing. It consisted of two prawns, two scallops and bits of fish placed in a soup bowl, covered with a sauce (pleasant enough but lacking wow factor) and bread crumbs, then grilled. My partner found the barra ordinary, even the mash mixed with broad beans and peas. The dishes were edible, but expensive, we felt. We also had a green leaf salad, which was unremarkable
This happens at restaurants from time to time. Dishes don't live up to their potential.
We decided to end with a cheese platter, a port (for me), a Baileys (for my partner) and coffee.
Here is where the restaurant went from disappointing to annoying. The coffee and drinks, along with petits fours, came out and were placed on the table within moments of being ordered. We protested we had cheese to come. The waiter, to his credit, made inquiries, but the cheese failed to emerge for another seventeen minutes, just as we were about to cancel it. We were served the cheese with apologies and the advice that, if we wanted it before our coffee, we should have specified that.
Hmmm. I have never been served coffee before cheese anywhere else in the world.
Our conclusions? Very ordinary service and food.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
When the girls set off from Brisbane, she encounters a hunky young man, Jack from Yackandandah, at the airport and it turns out he's going to Greece as well.
Well, that's how it starts. But Claudia's been bonking the married (but separated) Marcus on the side, Con is a con, and Marcus's business is going down the tube. Not that any of that's apparent as our girls whirl into Athens and party like they were eighteen again.
Claudia sets out to find Con and deliver her goods, but she winds up in a dodgy place and a little messed around.
No matter, Santorini is next on the agenda, and who should be there but Jack. He ends up placing Claudia in handcuffs and marching her off to a Greek police station, because he's really a private eye hired by Marcus's wife to find out the truth.
Meanwhile, Marcus has deposited $20,000 into Claudia's bank account and as she is so in debt to her credit cards, it looks like she's (almost) free of debt at last (some of it inherited from a former boyfriend George who left her in the lurch -- Claudia's life ain't lucky).
Then Tara is on with the English lawyer Angie and Sophie's husband Alex arrives ...
Phew! Yes, this is breathless Heidke territory again. Fun, and funny. She sends up thirtysomethings something terrible, but not cruelly. Claudia is her own worst enemy, and she knows it.
By the end of the book, it is not clear that she and Jack are going to get it on (they do get it on once in the book, but Jack kind of wrecks that with his handcuff trick -- not that it wouldn't have worked at the right time), but at least they are friends.
Friendship is the strength of this book. Claudia, Tara and Sophie are old school and university friends. They know each other well and love and support each other. In less refined hands, they could have remained bimbos, but Heidke loves her characters, too, though she know their foibles and pretensions well.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
The business of being a successful author–what you don’t see but need to know.
A one-day workshop with Jeremy Fisher on everything to do with getting published. These are things you need to know well in advance of even trying to get published! The workshop will look at the business side of writing. Some of the issues to be covered will include:
- Understanding the market and opportunities for survival as a professional writer
- Some suggested work methods to establish consistent writing practices
- Record-keeping and basic business practices
- Writing as a business - extending your options
- Legal and ethical issues related to earning income as a writer (copyright, defamation, contracts, rights, use of third party material)
- Practices in publishing houses and how to interpret and understand them
- What are legitimate expenses involved in earning income from writing and how they can be claimed
- Marketing yourself as a professional writer
- Embracing the digital universe
- Getting up when you get knocked down again: Surviving rejection
DATE: Saturday 25 June, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
COST: $55 members / $65 non-members
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Colleagues recommended I read Robert Barnard’s Death of an old goat (ISBN 0-00-231198-4, Collins Crime Club, 1974). The book features a thinly disguised University of New England – Drummondale University in the book – and perhaps some of the staff of the English department are also ciphers. Barnard apparently spent some time teaching at UNE’s Armidale campus in the early 1970s. The references to the menace of Whitlam from some members of the squattocracy support this. The book itself was published in 1974.
It’s a pretty poor whodunit, more of an excuse for the author to lampoon almost all his characters. The only one who escapes with some dignity – but not much of it – is the temporary English lecturer Alice O’Brien. The rest of them, including the police, seem to dissolve into a nauseating mixture of beer, rough red wine and sherry.
Did Barnard not enjoy his sojourn in Armidale? This poorly constructed, nasty book suggests not.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 2011
A map of the Dutch province of Zeeland, in the south on the Belgian border, at the beginning of Elisabeth Holdsworth’s Those who come after (Picador, ISBN 978-1-4050-4050-1) alerts readers that this is a book with a rich history. Zeeland may be a backwater these days, but once it was the place from which the Royal Dutch East India Company sailed. These ships were the first from Europe to sight New Zealand and Van Dieman’s land, or Tasmania, these names all relics of that Dutch entrepreneurship.
Elisabeth Holdsworth is well aware of the history of Zeeland. She spent her early life there before migrating with her parents to Australia in 1959. I came to Australia with my parents from New Zealand in 1964. My family settled for a time sufficient for me to complete my secondary education in Goulburn, the inland city where Elisabeth now lives. Goulburn is another setting for her book, so even before I read it I had some connections with it.
Those who come after is a well crafted novel. The central character Juliana Stollburg is descended from the Dutch aristocracy of Middelburg, the chief city of Walcheren in Zeeland. She came to Australia as a child with her parents. Her father, a member of the Dutch resistance during World war II, runs a Dutch trading company, but, like many men who survived that conflict, he has problems. He drinks too much and eventually dies of a heart attack leaving an independent Juliana to fend fer herself and her mother. The mother is highly strung and never at home in Australia. Adolescent Juliana has to take care of her. She finds some help from Philly, the young psychiatric registrar who lives a few doors away. She has a close relationship with him, though well aware he is gay.
When Juliana finishes school, though she’s won two university places, she sits a public service exam and finds herself working for some clandestine part of the army. Her boss is the ultra-masculine Brigadier Michael Munro, who takes a shine for Philly. Their relationship must, of course, be hidden from all eyes except Juliana’s. The relationship is a torment for Philly, who wants to settle down with a good man, but years for Michael. Philly eventually kills himself. Juliana crashes a car and as a result her mother dies. Michael is shot in Vietnam; Juliana kills him with her father’s gun.
Later, much later, now married to Oscar, Juliana discovers her husband is having an affair with Frederick Munro, Michael’s younger brother. All these events fold in on her, but she stands steadfast. To the end she remains a stubborn Dutch aristocrat.
Told like this, the story seems trite, and I did find the gay connections at times a little far-fetched. But Juliana reacts to her husband’s faithlessness not with anger but with resignation. Her character grows with each misfortune. Stoic, certainly, but very much Dutch as well, and ultimately very Australian.Holdsworth tells a rich, rewarding story. If only this were true of more debut novels.