Recharging batteries. It’s something most of us need to do, be it for the car, the phone, the remote control … or just for yourself.
Given that the batteries in the aforementioned devices are in fair nick, I figured it was time for me to recharge my own batteries. They’ve had a fair workout of late, so the human RACV equivalent in my case became Port Fairy in the middle of last week.
To ensure a decent recharge, I snaffled an almost new townhouse right on the ocean at Pea Soup Cove. Cracker of a house it was … called Rockpool.
A friend and I had locked in a four-night stay that would afford us time to sample some good food, wine and to take in some of the many geographical features that are within the area.
During our time there we managed to try several good/decent wines, not the least being some Italian sparkling wine … Ca'del Bosco Cuvee Prestige was the moniker … and at $55 a bottle it was worth every cent and then some. If I had my druthers, I’d take it before many higher-priced French versions. There was a loaf of bread in every sniff (the yeast was bountiful and beautiful), a bowl of fruit in every mouthful and a fine, fine bead … not sweet, not dry, just right. The only problem for us was that we had just one bottle (although there were a couple of lesser-light Frenchies in our fridge as back-ups … and they were OK).
Ca'del Bosco is 75 per cent chardonnay, 10 per cent pinot blanco and 15 per cent pinot niro. On the shelf in the bottleshop, it is housed in orange/yellow cellophane to protect it from ultraviolet rays. It works.
We also along the way sampled some NZ Robinson sauvignon blanc, Pepperjack Shiraz and what we deemed an excellent chardy – Secret Stone, again from NZ. There was also the odd glass of something indefinable with a steak dinner at the pub on the first night … even a pot of fabulous Kilkenny.
We managed to squeeze in some Thai food that was good without being great, a day of antipasto picking after a local shopping expedition, but in the food race, dinner on the Saturday night was so bad it was good in a funny way.
We weren’t in great nick to start with for dinner, given that we were still having a chardonnay and a smoke on the beach at 8.30 Saturday morning (yeah, it was a long night) and maybe it was the tiredness, maybe not, but the farcical dinner had us in stitches for the last part of the torture in the restaurant.
I won’t name the restaurant … the owner/chef would be unhappy in the extreme … and he’s a young battler who doesn’t deserve to have some mug punter such as me kick him about publicly.
Originally we tried to get into a restaurant that was named Victoria’s country restaurant of the year last year (look it up yourself if you want to know), but it was Saturday … no booking, no deal. A very helpful woman suggested another where she said the food was good.
We drove around and spied one that we’d talked about earlier in the trip and thought, damn it, let’s give it a try.
We got a cosy table, illuminated (just) by an oil burner (perhaps there was a reason for the dim lighting, but more of that later).
It was a good wait (OK, it wasn’t good, it was bloody slow) before we got a wine list. It took even longer to get a menu … bear in mind the joint wasn’t packed … but we opted for a couple of glasses of Mother of Pearl chardonnay, which, at 10 bucks a glass, was overpriced. Oh, and we ordered some still, bottled water given that the tap water in this neck of the woods is terrible … OK, it’s not even that good. Still, the wait gave us some time to try to figure out why the forks on the tables were set with the tines pointing down (yeah, they were upside down). Still don’t know why. Never seen it before, probably never will again … although when the oyster fork arrived later, it was placed on the table in the usual way. Go figure.
After weighing up the dinner options, there were to be freshly shucked oysters on one side of the table (no entrée on the other side) and they were to be served with pickled ginger and wasabi – a little bit of fusion sounded like a good idea. Mains, after dismissing everything else, again was beef – 30-day aged Black Angus (medium-rare please) on the other side of the table and for me some grass-fed sirloin (rare please, even still with a pulse is OK by me).
So far so good. Some free bread, dipping oil and balsamic was a pleasant surprise … although not to be the last surprise of the night.
Eventually we got our glasses of wine, a healthy pour into wine glasses that I’d deem too large for white, but no doubt they were to be used for red, or whatever we had ordered. Oh, and the still water (jeez, these still water mentions run very deep with me).
The food being delivered to other tables looked OK and they were no apparent signs of despair.
Then, the oysters came. Now you’d reckon that a chef worth his or her salt would have perhaps finely diced the pickled ginger and mixed it with the wasabi and laid a dollop on top of each oyster. You’d reckon.
No, these each had a largish (compared to the size of the shell) slab of ginger under the oyster on top of which sat the green wasabi. Green is important here. The wasabi wasn’t the only thing on the verge of verdant.
The first oyster my friend attempted was difficult inasmuch as she could get the ginger and the wasabi-clad oyster onto the fork. She picked up the shell to get a better shot at a clean lift only to be greeted with something that smelled the way I’d imagine a shit carter’s hat would smell at the end of the week. The oyster’s soul had gone to God, but the remains … Jesus. It was none-to-freshly fucked, not shucked.
Once my friend had recoiled from the offending shell (or should that be smell?), she suggested that I smell it and handed it to me. I made the mistake of taking it at an angle that imparted some of the offending liquid from the shell onto my hand. Oh, it was off and so too were the surrounds of my hand. A subsequent smell of the other oysters realised that another was on the verge of meeting its maker and it was hard to tell with the rest. I could actually smell the really offensive one from my side of the table.
The waitress was surprised to hear` the news, but after my friend’s suggestion that she too smell it, it was a done deal. The plate was kitchen bound with a message … this is awful.
“I’ll get you some others,” the waitress suggested. “No thanks.”
I headed to the bathroom to wash the stink from my hands. Damn. No soap, although I did dismantle the soap dispenser and get just enough to do the job. The waitress seemed surprised that there was no soap in the bathroom. Jesus, it just gets worse, eh?
Within five or so minutes, the waitress appeared again at our table with the wine bottle and hastily (after rudely reaching in front of us) gave each glass a slurping top-up.
“That’s on the house,” she declared proudly, without for one minute thinking of whether we actually wanted more chardy or perhaps a change or even wanted more wine at all (yeah, right, like that’s ever happened).
But Jesus, it was big-hearted gesture, not … more like a half-arsed one.
So we sat there in the (almost) dark, although not in the dark as to the quality of the oysters and we wondered out aloud (but not too loud, mind) about the chef’s temerity in sending them out in the first place. Did he have a blocked nose or for that matter a sense of smell? Certainly, he didn’t posses any sense in his action. What would the rest of the meal be like? Carrion from the Great Ocean Road perhaps. Nah, that’s carrion things just a bit too far, isn’t it?
The steaks eventually (another too long a wait) arrived and despite one being a sirloin and the other a scotch fillet, they looked remarkably similar. Mine was meant to be served with fresh green beans, broccolini, potatoes and a red wine reduction … although on closer inspection (did I mention it was dark?) I found some asparagus too. Lucky I wasn’t allergic to it, although it could be seen (or not) as a bonus of sorts.
My friend’s was meant to be served with potatoes and other assorted veggies and a reduction, but hers was mostly green beans.
Each piece of beef was cooked rare, medium, well done, depending on which part we could managed to machete our way through.
Now, we know that fat is flavour but there’s just so much flavour you can cope with … but both steaks had never been near a trimming knife. And the gristle on and within each. You could actually hang them at Christmas time … oh wait, that’s mistletoe, not gristletoe, eh? About halfway through what for each of us was becoming a losing battle with the fat and the gristle, it seemed that we each had the other’s dish. Did I mention that it was dark? And no, we’d had just the one glass of wine so our senses were functioning, the memory of the smell of the oyster notwithstanding.
We soldiered on but without a chainsaw (or the aforementioned machete) and perhaps a cast-iron stomach, it all got just a bit too much.
On each plate there was more matter left than we had each managed to consume, but the battle was over. Gristle 2, us 0. The gristle had won handsomely.
We sat there peering through the darkness (I did mention that it was dark, didn’t I?) at our plates and suddenly laughter was the order of the day. Not just any laughter, but deep, deep laughter that was hard to curtail. And stare we did for quite some time before the waitress (who had lobbed earlier with another bottle of water that I’m not sure we ordered) finally deigned to take away our still-laden plates. Oh, the last of the bread sat there for a long time after, no doubt soaking up the darkness.
I’m pretty sure that we were laughing (it was dark … and no, not the bread) so much that it helped make the disaster into a fun thing.
For 38 bucks a steak, it wasn’t to much to expect better. A lot better.
The waitress finally rediscovered directions to our table to check whether we fancied dessert.
“Err, just a bill, thanks,” was the only response permitted. I was keen to have a crack, but common sense from across the table prevailed.
When the bill arrived … it was the quickest delivery of the night … there was no charge for the oysters, but there was a charge for the still water. $14 a litre (two 500ml bottles). Did I mention I was dark?
Jesus, I’d paid $1.49 a litre for petrol before the trip.
And now $14 a litre for water. Still it may have been, but it was still worth laughing about in the end. It was just another joke on a night that delivered plenty.
Oh, and it wasn’t that dark outside.
And after a few days of recharging, what the hell difference did one unexpected charge mean in the overall scheme. After all, we got a laugh out of it.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.