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Somehow over the weekend I managed to share one of the major meals with each of three girls.
On Friday night I went into the city for a drink, just like old times. It was sunny but windy. The wind blew hard, pushing you forward or resisting as you walked into it. It was an inconvenient wind, yet I enjoyed it, feeling once more some of the capricious and untrammelled power of nature.
I met up with the publisher at Meyers Place for a beer, spilling out into the laneway amid the crowd of public servants from the Spring Street end of town. From there we went to Comme, an altogether different vibe. It's an elegant bar set in an elegant old building with high, moulded ceilings, and filled with elegant people drinking elegant cocktails or elegant New Zealand Pinot's.
We went to the upstairs bar which I didn't know existed, and perhaps didn't until recently. We sat on a funky beige leather banquette while I sipped on one of the aforementioned Pinot's, trying to fit in. Then we were off again.
This time we set off for dinner. Cumulus Inc is one of the trendiest restaurants in Melbourne at the very least, and one of the best reviewed. It's one of those wildly popular places that won't take reservations. Instead people crowd into the basement location on Flinders Lane, someone takes your name and casts an eye around the jam-packed room before pronouncing a table might be ready in 30 minutes, fancy a drink at the bar in the meantime?
In our case the wait was less than 5 minutes thanks to an unexpected departure. We sat at the bar and perused the menus while the young waiter behind the marble bar gave us the rundown. Basically Cumulus is one of those restaurants where you choose a selection of dishes to share, kind of like an up-market tapas, a popular concept these days.
Over the next couple of ours we shared about 8 dishes between us, and a variety of truly excellent wines as recommended to us by the waiter.
My highlights were perhaps a little unusual. I'm a sucker for a good bresaola, and enjoyed that with fresh horseradish. There was a truly excellent cauliflower dish also, North African inspired, with goat curd, pomegranate and pine nuts plus a mysterious combination of herbs and spices – there was basil I think, and I'm guessing harissa. It was delicious – as was the baked gnocchi with jerusalem artichoke, taleggio and truffles. For me that was probably the highlight. That and the great house-baked sourdough bread that came with the meal – perfecto.
It was while eating the steak that I felt something go amiss. I was chewing when I found something hard and crunchy in my mouth. A bit of bone? Well, unlikely given we were sharing a piece of boneless scotch fillet. Tooth then? Mmm, maybe.
And so it was. I fished it out of my mouth and found a small fragment of one of my molars at the back, left bottom of my mouth. I held it between my fingers looking at it intently while my tongue poked at the gap in my mouth, which felt huge. The tooth was interesting, a pale grey in parts with what looked like a small seam of green minerals running through it.
This was no surprise. I went to the dentist for the first time for about 7 years about 3 months ago. I basically got a clean bill of health. Naturally, that's when things started. About 2 weeks ago I rang to make another appointment – the tooth in question had become tender and loose. Now it was broken and I couldn't feel anything in the rest of it. (When I got home I found it had turned black, the nerve obviously dead).
In any case that was an interesting conclusion to a fine meal, and we went our ways soon after.
On Saturday it was Fong's turn. It was windy again, and very warm and sunny, unseasonably so. I met up with Fong in a little cafe in Little Bourke Street before I allowed her to twist my arm and take me to Kenzan for lunch – she always wants Asian. We had a cheap and tasty Japanese meal before moving on.
The idea was to do something. Her first suggestion had been some 'World Poetry' thing at Fed Square. I rolled my eyes at that – if it's like world music… I suggested the Dali exhibition then, but she said nup. We finally agreed on an architecture display at Ian Potter, and then promptly did nothing.
It was one of those days. Both of us felt very sleepy. I'd been up until about 2 the night before, plus the unseasonal heat and wind made me feel a bit drowsy, as it did her. The city was busy, full of people, the football crowd I thought, South Australians over from Adelaide for the big game and taking the opportunity to explore a real city for a change.
We mooched around. I searched for the boxed DVD set of Mad Men. No go, sold out. We sat on the steps of the GPO like a couple of wide-eyed blow-ins from the outer suburbs. Then we tried some orange juice from a roadside stall claiming to be the quickest and cheapest in Melbourne. Then we ambled down to Collins Street, and to the Hopetoun Tea Rooms for afternoon tea.
As far as I know the Hopetoun Tea Rooms have been there forever in the Block Arcade. It's the sort of place your grandmother would take you when you were a kid for a pot of civilised tea and a scone. I daresay it's a Melbourne institution, and a place I've wandered by hundreds of times with barely a glance at the display of cakes and cheesecakes in the window. I hadn't been there for 15 years.
So we sat in the window and each had a pot of tea and a slightly stale Portuguese custard tart and battled to stay awake. The conversation was anything but lively, and I was content to watch the crowd pass by outside and to eavesdrop on the conversations around us.
It was about 4pm when we parted. Fong pedalled up the road on her bike while I set off in the direction of the station – only to detour to the nearest bookshop. I'm not sure what made me do it. I was tired and actually wondered if I was coming down with something. Books are soul food to me though, and I think I was probably feeling a little muted – buying some books would lift me.
I went to Dymocks fully determined to spend some money, and walked out half an hour later minus $120 and with a bagful of books and DVD's. I felt content.
I stayed in bed until 10 on Sunday. I felt very lazy, and considered staying there for the rest of the day. Then the yoga teacher rang. We had made tentative arrangements to catch up for a walk with the dogs. Are you coming? she asked. Yeah alright I grudgingly agreed.
It was a much cooler day, the clouds low and broodingly grey. I was ready in record time and bundled a clearly delighted Rigby into the car and drove across town to Elwood.
We walked down the beach towards St Kilda, the dogs taking the opportunity to take to the water and roll in the sand. We had breakfast in St Kilda and then returned, a round trip that took about 3 hours spanning about 7km. With Rigby tugging on my arm it's pretty good exercise.
I'm not sure about the yoga teacher. I have the other two sorted, but don't know what the yoga teacher expects of me, or what I want of her. It's unusual for me to be so hesitant, but I'm pretty sure nothing permanent could be between us, though I like her and we get on well. We want different things, and are at different stages of our life. This uncertainty has me acting in a way unfamiliar to me, in a way not altogether welcome.
I'm sure something w
ill happen, but I think it will be just fun.
That was the weekend. In betwen I watched the footy and the cricket and baked myself Beef Wellington and lay on the couch watching an old film, Three Days of the Condor, like the slob I wanted to be.