Jul 18 2010
EARLY ON A SUNNY SATURDAY MORNING
The Tubby Two are jogging along the beachside track, Tubbymistress a nose ahead. Clad in black leggings and a long-sleeved jogging shirt – and completely into the zone thanks to Kelly Rowland’s ‘Work’ – she is moving with unexpected gazelle-like grace.
A short shirtless man looms up on the track, heading toward her. Shirtless Man isn’t dripping with sweat but overt jogging superiority, decked out with an iPod armband, silver earphones and a suspicious winter tan. He is also smack-bang in the middle of the track and not showing any sign of moving across.
As he approaches, Tubbymistress steps off the track to avoid a collision. He swooshes past like an express train hurtling through a station. She glances over her shoulder at Tubbymaster, and frowns. ‘Do you think he even saw me?’The Graham
cnr Graham St and Esplanade West, Port Melbourne VIC
It seems that plenty of locals can see the Graham, a renovated pub on the quiet end of one of Port Melbourne’s busiest streets. Inconspicuously nestled amongst a row of apartment buildings and Victorian terraces, the Graham is slightly off the beaten track but worth a closer inspection. It’s certainly on the Age Good Food Guide’s radar, having been awarded a ‘hat’ each year since it opened in 2005.
What positions the Graham amongst the city’s best ‘gastropubs’ is its unassuming elegance. It’s a lovely little restaurant wrapped in the façade of a nineteeth-century pub, the ideal canvas for a long lunch with family or friends. With dark brown carpets and chairs stark against crisp white tablecloths – and the intimate flicker of candlelight at night – it looks classy. With the close attention from the wait staff, magnified to the nth degree when you have the dining room to yourself for a decent portion early on a Tuesday night – it feels classy.
The menu has a modern Australian flavour with Asian and French notes, featuring a range of hearty yet elegant winter dishes such as roasted suckling pig with sautéed brussel sprout leaves and bacon crumbs; and red curry of Chinese roasted duck, a menu mainstay. The latter is wonderfully fragrant, made even more appetising as the curry is dished up at the table. It is excellent, even when paired with the hand-cut chips I ordered on spec after deciding I hadn’t consumed enough of these potato gems on a previous visit.
Tubbymaster was enamoured with the lemon-crumbed veal stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto, and a salad of parsley and smoked almond. This dish was never going to disappoint a man partial to the wonders of buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto. His facial expression said it all; it appeared to be love at first bite.
My favourite memories of the Graham include glorious long lunches with the girls, a mish-mash of gossipy eating inevitably capped off with the sumptuous assiette of desserts. Advertised for two, the selection of miniature desserts is big enough for four ladies. As soon as the plate is brought to the table, our forks inevitably spring forth – sinking into flavoursome ice-creams and soufflés; poking, scraping the smears of chocolate out of tiny dishes. Suffice to say, the Graham’s sweet treats please me very much.
TUBBYMISTRESS SAYS: The Graham is an unassuming little gem in residential Port Melbourne. Its façade is the colour of Richie Benaud’s blazer but there’s nothing beige about this renovated pub, which offers a charming package of attentive service and elegant food. The owners – twins Tony and Peter Giannakis – have managed to walk the tightrope between classy and down-to-earth, meaning the Graham is family friendly and cosy enough for a romantic night out.
The Palace (505 City Road, South Melbourne): A contemporary take on a pub, offering generous portions of pimped-up modern Australian pub food in smart-casual surroundings.
The Victorian (123 Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park): Relaxed beachside elegance, spiced up by quirky, friendly service. Great breakfast.