Since we've been together (almost ten years!) we've had some good birthday bashes. The Barleys know how to celebrate the approach to middle age and when we're middle aged, we'll celebrate the countdownt to retirement in the manner we're accustomed to!
So Steveo Barley Boy turned 35 on Thursday. A few more gray hairs, bigger eye bags and the odd wrinkle or two and he's the same dashing man I married!
The birthday meal was home cooked with help from David Jones. For those that don't know, David Jones is an upmarket department store in Australia. We liken it to either a good House of Fraser or a poor man's Selfridges. Either way the one in Melbourne has a good food hall and that's where I spent my Thursday lunchtime helped by Karly.
I bought us some pheasant and beer paté to have with crusty bread and some saganaki cheese as it's one Steve's favourites.
Main course was some garlic and chilli crusted belly pork which was pre marinated and I just had to stick it in the oven.
Dessert was a white chocolate and macadamia cheesecake which doubled up as his birthday cake and all washed down by a bottle of Chardonnay from our favourite winery in the Yarra Valley, Coldstream Hills. We even pushed the boat out and had the single vineyard Deer Farm bottle from the Barley cellar (which is just the bottom shelf of a hall table!)
Friday drinks trolley was replaced by team drinks at 3pm at first in the office and then at Transit bar where we had a little corner to ourselves on the heated rooftop terrace.
This little drinks soirée obviously has nothing to do with Barley's birthday but was fun all the same. Working in an all female team means that every working day is filled with lots of giggling as well as some high jinx and drama! It's never dull!
Thank you Nadia (my big boss) for the cocktails and thanks to Jacqui (my immediate boss) for the decorations and chocolate accompaniments.
My how my delightful team member vie to feature in the blog! They all want starring roles and often ask if th
After a quick cocktail I rushed home to get ready for the big Barley birthday dinner! We've taken to celebrating birthdays (and to be honest, we don't always need a reason to celebrate) with memorable dinner out.
Tonight's destination, courtesy of my purse, was Restaurant Jacques Reymond. Monsieur Reymond's establishment is one of two, three hatted places in Melbourne so we knew we were in for a treat.
For more details and the review, go to the Restaurant Review page.
In summary though it was our best meal in Melbourne (also our most expensive) but it was an excellent experience.
Steve had made plans to have a few drinks in the afternoon (3pm) with some work colleagues and their other halves and we were responsible for selecting a dinner joint so we had some foodie conversations and plotted a few ideas.
It was one of those lovely Melbourne mornings - cold (as in jacket temperatures as opposed to coats) but with a blue sky and sunshine.
We had a few of those "You decide where we should go to lunch. No you decide. No I don't want to decide so you do it" conversations during our walk over the bridge and into the CBD. As we hit the bottom of Elizabeth Street we decided to walk over to Hardware Lane and see if it offered inspiration.
We walked up and down a couple of times. There was a massive queue outside Hardware Societé so we plumped for Red Spice Road.
In this pic you can see the corn fritters that are part of the lunch banquet. We got distracted by the tasty food and didn't take any more pictures!
After lunch we did a spot of shopping. Half a bottle of wine makes Steve a better shopper. We even picked up a couple of bargains at Myer (another department store akin to Debenhams for non Aussie readers) that he got quite excited about. Funnily enough not about the items but the mathematics involved in the discount; 40% off followed by another 30% followed by $20 for every $75 spent. His big wine addled brain took great pleasure in doing the sums then converting into pounds for an added complication!
This is Steve we're talking about who knew he wanted to be an accountant aged five! Me? I wanted to be a princess or an air hostess or a teacher or a movie star...
Surprisingly enough it wasn't open but a very good alternative next door proved to be a good place to while away two bottles of wine. We sat at a street table at the City Wine Shop. Stacey and Andrew soon joined us. The boys disappeared into the shop to choose a wine and we enjoyed an off dry Riesling from NZ.
Just as the bottle emptied, Steve's other work colleague Rob and his other half Lorna showed up and this time Stacey and I made the wine decision. It's not easy when surrounded by so many bottles and a very knowledgeable wine waiter cum sommelier cum sales assistant. The pressure was on to uphold the high standard, stick to a reasonable budget of $45 plus a $15 drinking on site surcharge. We plumped for a 14.5% viognier from Canberra which was $7 above budget and it proved to be a good and popular choice even going as far as easing the hangovers that Rob and Lorna arrived with.
After City Wine Shop we headed to the Sofitel hotel intending to try the Atrium Bar on Level 35 which is meant to have a great view. We got there only to find it wasn't open for another 35 minutes. It did have a great view so we admired that for free before heading to a different bar for another bottle of wine.
At the Atrium Bar was a pretty tree all lit up and bedecked with pretty coloured macarons!
Next bar on the list was the Carlton Club which was another new one for us. Rob's local back home is the Carlton so this nostalgic stop was in honour of his heritage.
I'm pretty sure the Carlton in Pontefract doesn't have red velvet flocked wallpaper and stuffed animals everywhere though! It's a pretty special place - where else can boast a life size stuffed giraffe, ostrich, psychedic printed rhino and peacocks (not live) strewn about the place?
A deals.com voucher originally for a Mornington Peninsula wine tour was cashed in on this special weekend. A week or so ago the tour company called me and said that they didn't have enough people to run the tour so we could either wait for another date possibly in August or head to the Yarra Valley. We decided to stick with the date and head to the Valley instead.
Pick up point was a little confusing as we couldn't see the bus or the driver but a quick phone call later meant we turned the corner and all was ok. We headed to 4 wineries (Oakridge, Coombe Farm, Yering Station and Yileena Park) and had lunch at Coldstream Brewery. We'd been to Yering Station a couple of times before but the others were all new.
Steve and I enjoy wine tasting tours as it means he doesn't have to drive and I don't have to feel guilty that he's driving. The group was mixed including two ladies who got on the wrong bus, got taken off that bus and dumped at a bus shelter and then picked up by us later, as well as a lone Indian traveller, a bunch of teachers and a quad of either pharmacists or nurses.
It was a bigger tour group than what we're used to and less of a "tour" in that the driver didn't really provide much commentary and more of an escorted trip. We didn't pay very much for it so had no real complaints. It could have been better organised (meet up point and lunch were confusing) but we still enjoyed the day.
Weather was wet and grey. It brightened up by late afternoon but certainly the views were hampered by the time of year in that the sky was grey and the vines had been cut right back.
We were impressed by Coombe Farm and enjoyed the wines from there. We bought examples from each except for Yering Station which we find quite mainstream. The pink champagne and port from there are pretty good but can be bought outside of cellar door so no need to stock up.
We came back to the city about 6pm and decided to try for a table at MoVida next door which we managed to secure. A great meal later marked the end of Barley's 35th celebrations.
So Barley's verdict on his birthday bash? "Food and wine filled fun weekend. Extremely enjoyable including the best meal we've had in Melbourne. Lots of wine which is always good."