Posts Tagged ‘acland street’

While Fran’s appendix was rupturing in Sydney to an accompaniment of oysters, scallops, mussels, wine, beer and vodka, Bruce was enjoying a first taste of St Kilda institution Claypots.

That he was throwing down $5 glasses of cabernet sauvignon and wittering away to a cast of misfits rather than rushing to be by his stricken wife’s side was a situation entirely of Fran’s own making. After all, if you’re in terrible pain, don’t attempt to convey the message by quoting lines from popular music. Send texts saying: “I’m in excruciating agony and think I may die” rather than:

“I’ve got a bowling ball in my stomach”

because as anyone who is familiar with Tori Amos’ debut album and career highpoint Little Earthquakes will know, that’s a line from Crucify and therefore could never expect a response other than:

“I’ve got a desert in my mouth”

which, funnily enough, Bruce awoke to when learning the following morning of Fran’s panicked dash to hospital…

Still, back in Claypots and aided by the wine (and a glass of the lovely German pilsner on offer), Bruce was delighted to have found somewhere in the Acland Street area with genuine charm.

The rough hewn wooden bar with animatronic cat and dangling rubber man, French music, greasy spiced nuts, promise of $5 seafood paella and Sunday swap shops (with oysters) transported him somewhere far away – a nebulous place somewhere near the Mediterranean, perhaps.

Something very fishy

Fran would love the outdoor area with its stone fountain bath and fairy lights; Bruce enjoyed it for its inhabitants: in particular an elderly chap called Tony in feathered hat and scarf who would later be seen losing at chess to a young dandy in a three-piece tweed suit who turned out to be a playwright with a dark comedy starting at the Trades Hall in the coming weeks. Geoffrey would even pop up there on a later visit to continue an earlier conversation from Cacao.

Certainly, there was more than enough of interest for Bruce to resist his companion’s increasingly pained pleas to head to the dour horrors of the Doulton Bar across the road. And that was before the pianist-in-suit turned up to croon (admittedly somewhat atonally) on the piano for an hour or so.

Subsequent visits to the adjoining fish restaurant (the bar is a fairly recent addition) have produced some of the finest meals Bruce and Fran have enjoyed since moving to Australia. The Cajun flathead is the tastiest bit of fish the former can recall in recent memory, while the latter’s friends fell wholeheartedly for the whopping $120 Red Emperor they destroyed some weeks later, their happy memory of the night enriched by the female Eastern European accordion and fiddle duo who chased them from the bar and down Barkly Street afterwards.

There appears to be a sister venture – Gilgamesh, in Gertrude Street – that will hopefully atone for the fact they can no longer walk to Claypots in ten minutes since relocating to the north. And, fingers crossed, this venue will attract rather less of the peroxide blonde, Botox-ed to the hilt old-enough-to-know-betters and their smarmy other halves than the St Kilda establishment.


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The view from on high

The view from on high

With winter still a few weeks away and temperatures averaging around 25C every day, it seemed strange that so many people had come down with colds already.

But, on the night Bruce and Fran finally made it out for a pub (or should that be bar, given the paucity of any real pubs in St Kilda) crawl around Acland Street, the number of people with sniffles was astounding.

In the toilets of almost every bar they visited throughout the night, there was a cacophony of sniffs and snorts. Some people were suffering so badly they had to lock themselves into cubicles to attend to their runny noses. A handful of girls were so desperate to find the nearest piece of tissue paper that they were forced to use the men’s toilets; in a handful of cases they even had to take their friends with them to make sure they were OK; Bruce was always relieved when they came out laughing.

Al Pacino in a public service ad warning of the dangers of too much Lemsip

Al Pacino in a public service ad warning of the dangers of too much Lemsip

Other than suffering unseasonal maladies, the folks heading out on the weekend around Acland Street seemed a fairly homogenous bunch. Every bar had opted for a steady stream of um-chi-um-chi-um-chi beats to which the shade-wearing, tight-topped crews could wiggle their botox-enhanced booties.

Many of the bars were nice to look at, such as Big Mouth with its carved dark wood, red drapes and low-lit chandeliers, while the balcony upstairs at Veludo was a good spot to cool down and inhale the passive smoke from 50 cigarettes at the same time. Veludo’s sweaty Friday night entertainment upstairs featured an admirable bunch of loons in various states of Sun-Ra inspired undress banging out dirty live house music to entertain the conveyor belt of folks making their way back and forth from dancefloor to toilet.

Earlier in the night, Fitzroy Street’s Saint Bar, famed for its midget and Jaegermeister stunt, offered two-for-one drink deals that made it worth a visit, while the night ended in The Vineyard: by day a very popular bar / restaurant, by the time Bruce and Fran arrived at 3.15am, home to a gaggle of drunks, one of whom approached Bruce on the strength of their matching beards then took it upon himself to introduce his new friends to the door staff, the wonders of Archie’s pizza slice and wedges combo and very nearly drag them into the hellhole that is Traffik.

They wriggled out of that one and escaped home, trading the nightclub for an invite to the bearded man’s house party the following night. After all, Traffik looked so unhygeinic, they shuddered at the thought of how many people would be attending to their colds in the loos.

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Looks like a \


Maybe it’s deliberate, a ploy to attract immature British passers-by such as Bruce and Fran to have a nosey around. But, sadly, the tapas bar next to Dog’s Bar, in Acland Street, really is called Spuntino’s, no matter how jaunty and k-like the “t” on the sandwich board outside may look. Or, indeed, how much you might want it to be the home of a vertically challenged, but sexually charged superhero.

What Bruce and Fran share in lowest common denominator wit, they also seem to share when it comes to taste in eateries (and drinkeries for that matter), for after a wander up and back along Acland Street, a quick glimpse of spunk and a slightly longer perusal of the menu and Spuntino’s won the vote for Sunday night’s dinner without the need for debate.

Sat outside under the heaters, they were joined by expat chess players, an old couple dancing to the covers of some crooner called Cid, and a girl talking about how she “really liked her bum, but sometimes didn’t like her skin”. The special calamari (not deep-fried, but cooked in Jerez on a base of farmhouse potatos) and the hojinos (sweet fennel and Spanish jamon) were the pick, although the friendly waiter who somehow persuaded them to order the sweet-as-you-like rice pudding with vanilla beans, lime zest and toffee bananas when they didn’t need it was obviously pretty good too. Couldn’t the smooth bugger see Bruce was trying to watch his waist before he pulled that Jedi mind trick?*


It felt like being on holiday by the Mediterranean, with the warm red tiles of the bar, Cid’s scattergun journey around Europe (Andrea Bocelli and the Bee Gees anyone?), the dancers pirouetting in the back and the knowledge that the sea, even in these chillier times, was tickling the sand only a few hundred yards away. Their red wine pours are generous too. Lovely.


* That well known trick where the Jedi master posing as a waiter asks: “Would you like to see the dessert menu?” then passes one to you before you can muster the strength to say: “No.”

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