Thursday, 10 February 2011


“My favorite animal is steak.” - Fran Lebowitz

Another very busy day at work today, in which I achieved lots, at least. I just wish that all people would work together as a team – it’s enough to have a bad apple to make the whole crate go off. I really don’t understand the sort of person who is nasty and mean for no reason at all. If personal gain is involved, I would understand it, but to be bad just for the sake of being unpleasant or malicious is beyond me. Fortunately, I have the support of my staff and I have enough patience to deal with this person in a calm and conciliatory manner – for whatever it’s worth…

We presently have a group of Korean medical students visiting our College and they are doing a Summer short course with us. They are greatly enjoying it and are a very vivacious, fun-loving group. The professor who has come with them is also a very friendly and outgoing woman and today we had another two members of their staff join us. I took them all to lunch with members of our own staff and after asking them where they would like to go, what type of cuisine they wanted to sample (this being the very cosmopolitan Melbourne with an embarrassing richness of choices), we all went to a typical pub and we enjoyed a typical pub lunch. This the overseas guests also enjoyed greatly.

Melbourne pubs are omnipresent and vary greatly in terms of atmosphere, décor, cuisine, pricing and ambience. Everyone has a favourite one or two, and while they all mainly serve alcohol at a bar, they all also serve meals. The arrangement is more or less the same – one is seated, looks at the menu, selects their meal and then goes and orders, pays and the meal is served at the table. The quality of food and the service varies greatly, but pub fare is generally very similar, with most popular pubs having standard, popular meals like spaghetti carbonara, veal parmigiana, oysters Kilpatrick, Caesar salad, steaks of all persuasions, fish and chips and other such old favourites.

Some pubs are more trendy and they do some vegetarian meals, Thai food, Chinese cuisine, or “fusion”. The prices of Pub meals are generally quite reasonable except in the very trendy ones (pubs with a superiority complex) that are found in the more “aristocratic” suburbs. I have never enjoyed an outing in one of these “uppity” pubs and the food is pretentious and expensive – not good value for money at all. The wine is also quite expensive in these pubs (not to mention the clientele, which can be a little challenging as well!).

Today, we lunched at the Lion Hotel in the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre in the heart of the City. This is an average pub located in the upper level of the shopping centre and is in “faux” old English pub style. It is quite enormous and tends to be rather busy most of the time. There are many bars and lounges and eating areas, but the nook that we usually frequent is a private room called “The Library” which is in the back of the pub. It is a relatively small room that will fit about a dozen people at the most, all sitting around a big rectangular refectory table with bench seats along its three sides. It is decorated like a library with shelves and books and curios in cabinets, old prints on the wall and looks quite homey and “old-world”.

Our Koreans loved the ambience and atmosphere and were most impressed with this unexpected place on the top floor of a modern shopping centre in the heart of the bustling city centre with skyscrapers all around. We had typical pub fare, with some choosing traditional beer-battered fish and chips, others an expanded version of the other standard BLT (bacon lettuce and tomato) sandwich, others fyllo pastry vegetarian parcels and some choosing the Cajun-style chicken. We drank some beer and once again our guests were very pleased. I was pleased also as the expense account did not have too big a dint in it afterwards!

A pub that we sometimes go to closer to home if we want a typical night out (Sundays are usually good) is the “Old England Hotel” in Heidelberg, about a 10 minute drive away from our house. This is a slightly up-market version of a typical pub, but at the same time it is not pretentious. The food is reliably good and reasonably priced with the service average. It’s an easy solution to going out somewhere without fuss or need to dress up for when we are not in the mood for cooking (it doesn’t happen often, but it’s good to have this choice).

Another pub that is reliably good is the Railway Club Hotel, in Port Melbourne. This serves great steaks so when we are feeling carnivorous (that also doesn’t happen too often!), we go there for a very nice steak dinner. One can inspect the choice of meats in the glass fronted fridge and select the cut of steak they like (or for the squeamish like us, we leave it up to the chef!).

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