Posts Tagged ‘smith street’

The Sunday afternoon visit to the laundrette had already thrown up an amusing little piece of Collingwood. The first of the tumble dryers to finish its cycle contained nothing but pairs of Levi 504’s in shades varying from very black through black to very dark blue and dark blue. All the same size, all clearly belonging to someone who was 1) dedicated to their look and/or 2) afraid of making choices of a morning.

As Bruce was folding them carefully on the table (after resisting the urge to fold them incorrectly so they’d all have creases down the front – not so cool now, hey, Levi boy!) the acrid smell that had welcomed them into the shop appeared to get stronger.

“It stinks in here,” said Bruce.

“Oh my God,” said Fran. “Those clothes are on fire!”

True enough, smoke was rising from a pile of dishcloths, overalls and aprons at the end of the table. Bruce pulled them apart: an intense heat was burning inside. It appeared someone was trying to start a fire.

“Jesus. I’d best go and get some water,” said Bruce, racing next door to Cavallero, bumping past the returning owner of the Levi’s as he went.

Three buckets later – and with a month of airing his clothes to get rid of the smell to look forward to – the smoke had subsided, half the laundrette was filled with puddles and a load of destroyed fabric lay scattered on the floor.

“Ah, I told them never again,” said the Chinese lady in charge of the laundrette who had just appeared from the rear door.

“Who do they belong to?” asked Bruce.

“James’ place. You know, the Greek one on Johnston Street. They did this before,” she added, resigned to a ruined Sunday afternoon.

Bruce and Fran returned the buckets to Cavallero where they were offered coffees for their troubles, although not before the Levi’s man had stolen their place in the laundrette queue. Opportunistic bastard. Another Smith Street dweller had also come in by this stage, seemingly unpeturbed by the stench from the smoldering pile, and continued with her washing.

It left Bruce and Fran pondering two things:

  1. Are Collingwoodians so laid back they’d have left the laundrette to burn to the ground?
  2. How spicy must the hot dishes be at Jim’s Greek Tavern?

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Quite why Bruce and Fran hadn’t ventured inside the Birmingham earlier is hard to fathom considering the new owners placed a sign in the street declaring proudly:


around the time they moved to Collingwood. Perhaps it had something to do with the Eddie Izzard supermarket theory that shoppers are always guided into the fresh fruit section first rather than toiletries so your initial thought is “Everything here is fresh, I will do well here” as opposed to “Everything here is made of poo”. (Interestingly, when you enter the Safeway / Woolworths in Smith Street you walk into a wall of toilet paper and baskets of tuna – poo and smelly fish – hmmmm….).

Still, spotting a review of a band called The Parking Lot Experiments on Mess and Noise Bruce decided to break his poo pub duck on the strength that their name is taken from one of the Flaming Lips weirder moments. And, despite the fact the only non-crap tap beer (Cooper’s Pale) ran out after his first drink, it did appear to be quite NOT SHIT: comfy sofas; pool table; big slabs of art featuring legends of music; decent jukebox; handy outdoor area; lights turned down low enough to make a detailed judgement of NON SHIT-ness slighty trickier.

The band room certainly had character; coming so soon after the dining room at the Edinburgh Castle helped prepare Bruce: the old sofas, tatty wooden walls, kids sat expectantly on the floor and lack of a stage made it reminiscent of the back room at your grandparents’ – you know, the one they’ve never got round to decorating since the 60s.

The kids did eventually stand up once the band were playing (some even stood on the sofas – IN THEIR SHOES – which the grandparents would never have stood for, no matter how much they liked spoiling you) and revealed Bruce to be the oldest in the room by an aeon. Still, he was there wasn’t he, generation terrorists? So many appeared to be friends of the band that at times it felt like he’d gatecrashed a private party in a school common room.


But what of the Experiments? Ramshackle in setup (the aforementioned lack of stage, amp stacked on milkcrates, drums sat on possibly more milk crates) and often also in sound (in particular the vocal harmonies that occasionally bordered on caterwauling).

Yet what tunes: from wistful freaky folk to pounding electro-indie that recall anything from the Lips to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, fellow Melburnians Kes and beyond. Impressive drumming on a sparse, unusual set up, entertaining playoff between the keyboard / organ and guitars, otherwordly lead vocals, odd lyrics, moments of yelping lunacy and boundless imagination. Exciting, weird, wonderful and bursting with potential.

Well worth heading there armed with five bucks for the final night of their residency next Tuesday (26/5). Might even try one of the Birmingham’s NOT SHIT $6 pizzas.

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“Don’t drink too much. I’ve got you tickets for tomorrow” said the text.

Too late. It was already 10.30pm and The Drones were mere yards away, several pints of Goat Hightail had been quaffed (at $10 a pop – Jesus, Corner, what are you trying to be? Riverland?) and a week long booze drought was being broken.

(With hindsight, it would have been sensible not to crack into Jaegermeister chasers once a Kev Carmody cover had closed their set in style, at which point Bruce concluded that his initial impressions of Gareth Liddiard’s mob at Falls, namely “What the fuck is that noise?”, was a little hasty, although in his defence it was early afternoon and the poor lad had fully extended himself the previous night…)

Still, cruising through the Anzac Day game the following afternoon while still drunk from the night before with assistance from the odd glass of wine is one thing (no more shall Carlton Draught be purchased unless under pain of death – and then only maybe). Heading for an evening of fine dining while the last remnants of said booze are threatening to wear off is another.

Who'd have thought these guys would taste so good?

They made it – and were given pride of place at the front of Provenance for the new(ish) restaurant’s second tasting evening, this time based around quince and quail. Thankfully, the quince cocktail (a fruity little martini number) was first up… and several of their fellow guests were equally under the weather in a bout of unwitting, yet welcome, empathy.

So: Provenance. Run by a young whippersnapper of a boy. Aiming to bring exquisite but simple food to Smith Street for little money. Even offering champagne breakfasts in a spot wedged between 7 Eleven and the Australian Cleanskin Group and in easy shouting distance of the Collingwood soup kitchen. Ambitious, no?

Anyway, without wishing to come over all Jabba the Hutt and pretending to genuinely know something about food, here’s what ensued:

  • a minestrone-type soup with a quail and chicken stock and added kidney beans that acted as much as a welcome cleanser as anything for Bruce (i.e. it wasn’t wine, meat pie or chips with chicken salt a la MCG);
  • a nicoise salad featuring seared quail legs and a couple of delicious quail eggs (delicious, apparently, cos they’re fatty as hell. Shame they’re not bigger – like a savoury Cadbury’s Creme Egg but tiny);
  • two seared quail breasts on a bed consisting of such wonders as celeriac, roast beetroot, pumpkin, some form of quince – and stuff (the waitress’ description not mine – and this is not a complaint: charming honesty works every time in Bruce and Fran’s neck of the woods. Also, please refer to the opening line of this paragraph);
  • an Eton Mess (the gift from God that is panna cotta topped with a layer of quince jelly and a mountain of the sweetest cream and meringue laced with roast rhubarb);
  • and a cheese platter featuring Gorgonzola – no wonder Wallace used to get all steamed up about it – and a millefeuille of quince paste and young Spanish manchego that deserves to feature on every cheese platter from now until Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung plays out at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.

It was marvellous (and only $75 a head including a glass of wine with each course). Bruce might have added a little something to the quail in either the salad or main course stages to differentiate between the two but then again the philosophy at Provenance is all about simple pleasures so what does he know. The matched wines also proved a good way of staving off the hovering hangover clouds, ensuring that they only kicked in once the crew had decamped to Dirty Little Secrets and fallen asleep.

Sadly, when he checked the papers the following day, Collingwood had still lost the Anzac Day game in the final few seconds and his guernsey (courtesy of a birthday gift from Fran who must have some hidden agenda to turn her husband into a full-on bogan) remained winless for another week. But, thankfully, the memory of the millefeuille kept the hangman’s noose at bay.

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G’day, G’day does occasionally dip its toe into the world of food / bar / cafe bloggery, although most of the time it forgets.

Maybe one day it’ll catch up and be filled with a torrent of them (Gigi Baba’s – small, but exquisitely tasty portions, staff – hmmm; Woodspoon – what was all the fuss about, exactly?; Peko Peko – a much better Japanese bet; N&J’s Thai Cafe – your best when your budget’s tight and you can’t be arsed to cook; Grumpy’s Green – great local craft beer, lovely, lovely staff, superb little beer garden, dangerous coffee vodka; and so on…)

In the meantime, Bruce and Fran have been finding themselves at Provenance more than anywhere else in recent weeks, whether for coffee and pistachio-topped croissant, spot of brekkie or a tasting platter (mmm… diggin’ that cured trout, haloumi and black pudding) and glass of wine.


They’ll be attending Saturday night’s Quince this, Quail that tasting event (and are rather excited about it), which will no doubt be worthy of reporting back. In the meantime, here’s what a doppelganger has to say about it…

Quince this, Quail that @ Provenance

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Bruce and Fran have many fond memories of Smith Street, from their first day of house-hunting when they wandered down from Fitzroy to see if it still deserved the sobriquet Smack Street and chose the road next to Safeway where the 24-hour drunks were holding court to the day, six months later, when – Fran’s initial fear of Collingwood overcome and a lease signed around the corner – they made their way to Safeway to shop for the first time.

As they approached along the pavement, they could see it was peak hour for the drunks with maybe a dozen gathered around the benches and bins next to the traffic lights. One man was particularly fired up, screaming incoherently into a woman’s face with such force that you half expected his emaciated, rotten frame to be thrown backwards Newton’s Third Law-stylee into the pane of glass behind. And, had the object of his rant not worn her hair in a manner only reasonably described as “beyond dank”, it would surely have been standing on end.

‘Best keep an eye on that one,’ thought Bruce as they approached, ensuring, like a chivalrous knight of old, that he kept his body between the loon and Fran.

At the moment they passed, the aggressor turned from his original prey, let out a neanderthal yelp (along the lines of “Nnnnyeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrrrhhhhh”) and lashed out at Bruce, connecting with a force somewhere between a ball of cotton wool brushing one’s leg and a lamb nudging at its mother’s teet.

“Did that man just punch you?” asked Fran, unsure whether to laugh or show concern.

“Yes,” said Bruce. “I believe he did.”

Since then, Smith Street has offered a seemingly endless stream of incredible beards, men talking to inanimate objects, early morning drunks, tragic fashion victims, the most flamboyant of gays and the butchest of lesbians – even a man standing at the traffic lights in a giant foam hat with a plastic bag at his feet looking for all the world like he was about to cross but, in the time it took to drink a coffee, never actually stepping out.

Today may have taken the biscuit, however. At lunch outside Provenance, Bruce’s companion remarked regularly and with delight at the sights that passed them by, wishing Collingwood would lend some of its freaks to her North Fitzroy neck of the woods. She left too soon.

[Another tenuous youtube link]

As Bruce made his way home the VB drinkers outside the Punter’s Palace turned to heartily greet a friend. Said friend fitted the usual Palace look: blue wife-beater; greying, patchy ponytail. But he had one standout – sorry, two standout – features. On each shoulder he had a rat.

That’s right: rats. Not one, but two. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they were both dyed green.

Smith Street and all those who bestride thee: we salute you.

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In a matter of days Fran will celebrate reaching the magnificently divisible age of 32, while just four days later Bruce will leave that milestone behind for the somewhat less divisible, but eminently alliterate 33.

Both are pleased to report, however, that signs of encroaching maturity are notable by their absence as evidenced by the giggle that accompanied the first sighting of this on Smith Street:


One can only hope the person(s) responsible find time to head further down Sackville Road with a dark blue marker pen…


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Fuck me. Please? You can have a sniff. No? Bugger.

Fuck me. Please? You can have a sniff. No? Bugger.

Pleased to report that the chap who gave Bruce’s relos such a positive impression of Collingwood continues to keep up appearances.

This time he was spotted walking past the Grace Darling. Well, truth be told, he was heard before he was spotted, chuntering away at great volume as he strode purposefully down the street wearing nothing but a tattered pair of shorts, a menacing look and a layer of muck, with his aerosol tucked like a .38 pistol in his waistline.

A young Chinese girl had caught his eye as she marched in the opposite direction in micro skirt and knee high black leather boots. The chromer’s early comments were carried away on the wind, but thankfully Bruce was able to pick up the last of them.

“Well, you’re wearing fuck-me boots so surely you want to fuck me.”

Sadly, despite the effort he’d gone to and the undeniable wit bring employed, she walked on.

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