Liquid diet only at Ponyfish Island

Ponyfish Island – this pic should help you find it!

In my continued (and futile) quest to stay with the pack on new Melbourne café openings, I finally got to Ponyfish Island.

The signs were good: a sunny day, the Yarra River flowing brownly past, my café companion, GG, found the place under his own steam. This is no mean feat. Try describing where Ponyfish Island is: it’s on a pylon supporting one of the footbridges that runs across the river between Flinders St Station and Southbank.

Yeah, easy.

Anyway, Ponyfish Island has actually been around for a while, but despite its amazing location in the middle of the river, it just hadn’t taken off. New owners and a liquor licence have fixed all that, and last Thursday afternoon, the place was heaving. Literally heaving, with good music and happy punters enjoying an after-work jam jar of wine (tres egalitarian, what, serving wine in a jam jar).

We’d planned to hit the island for lunch, so popped in on Friday, scoring a table by the water at 12.30pm. We ordered: GG had the gnocchi and I went simplistic with a toasted sandwich with spinach, cheese and tomato. We had plenty to talk about but when a youth wandered past with gnocchi and sandwich, we hailed him over.

No, this can’t be your order. You haven’t been waiting long enough, he told us.

Fifteen minutes for a toastie isn’t long enough? I asked.

Not in this place, he said with a little laugh, oblivious to the two journalists committing his nonchalance to memory for future blogging.

It turned out it was our order. Reader, before we ate, we played ‘spot the spinach’ (I won, espying two tiny, wilted leaves tucked in one corner of the no-name white bread offering) and GG’s gnocchi was cold.

The day was sunny, the conversation good, the food queue was long; we gave up and ate.

It may have been a fool’s errand but we also ordered coffee. I placed the order at the counter and then asked, will it be long, as we’ve got to get back to work. The barista heard us and grinned. I’m all over it, he told me. Nevertheless, ignore all the other orders and make ours first, I suggested blithely.

Two seconds later, he appeared with my flat white and GG’s double piccolo, both beautifully executed in delicious Niccolo coffee.

The moral of the story: put nothing solid, I repeat, nothing solid, in your mouth on Ponyfish Island, and treat it like the beautifully ambient bar that it is.

Open 8am till 1am.

Greetings from the world’s second-most livable city

We Melburnians were disgruntled on Facebook this morning: 11 degrees and raining…in February, our summer. If we’d read the newspapers before the weather report, we should have been happier, as Melbourne has been voted the second most livable city in the world, after the perpetual chart-topper, Canada’s Vancouver which, incidentally, was today experiencing temperatures of just one degrees, and rain .

I like Vancouver: the food is amazing, the scenery beautiful, snowfields and ocean close by. But if I had to choose between the two, I’d still choose Melbourne. It’s those extra 10 degrees. In Vancouver, joggers wear full bodysuits and having been there in December, I can tell you that Melbourne does not have snow drifts like Vancouver has snow drifts.

In the comments following this story in the Sydney Morning Herald, I note that no Sydneysider was begrudging Melbourne its position – Sydney was down in 7th place, just above two more Australian cities, lonely Perth and suburban Adelaide, in tied eighth place. That makes four of the top 10 cities as Aussie hotspots. In fact, most Sydneysiders were laughing at the idea that Sydney’s such a great place to live, quoting bad health and transport systems and outrageous costs of living: true, true and true. Those blissful beaches give a lot back to the city.

It could be worse, Sydneysiders. You could be living in one of the bottom 10: say Harare, Dhaka or perhaps  Port Moresby. Poor Tehran, there it is as the eighth-worst city in the world, when it actually has good food, shopping and marvellous scenery nearby.

If you’re interested in the full story of the world’s most livable cities, click here to read the Sydney Morning Herald’s take on it all.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s top and bottom 10 cities of the world:
1. Vancouver, Canada
2. Melbourne, Australia
3. Vienna, Austria
4. Toronto, Canada
5. Calgary, Canada
6. Helsinki, Finland
7. Sydney, Australia
8. (equal) Perth, Australia
8. (equal) Adelaide, Australia
10. Auckland, New Zealand
The bottom 10 cities were:
1. Harare, Zimbabwe (worst)
2. Dhaka , Bangladesh
3. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
4. Lagos, Nigeria
5. Algiers , Algeria
6. Karachi, Pakistan
7. Douala, Cameroon
8. Tehran, Iran
9. Dakar, Senegal
10. Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tagging, bombing, paste-ups, can control… street art in Melbourne

Pic credit: Metro Gallery

If you thought that all that graffiti along the train lines was just kids wasting time, being destructive, you are just soooooo last century. This is art, baby, art.

Well, that’s the point of view if you’re a street artist/graffiti artist/urban artist – whatever you want to call yourself.

“Those kids tagging (leaving their signatures along the train lines) are creating their identity, and they’re learning such skills as can control,” one street artist told me recently. So tagging’s the street artist’s equivalent of the schoolkid’s ‘Goz woz ‘ere’ engraving on trees and desks, I guess.

Excitingly, Melbourne is currently hosting the only Australian exhibition of US street art poster girl Swoon (yes, they all have nicknames, as the same guy told me, who wants to sign themselves ‘John’? Mind you, with a real name of Caledonia Dance Curry, she’s got plenty to work with here.)

Swoon has been doing paste-ups in the US for the past decade – that’s where she’ll draw or block print something on paper and stick it up on a public wall, as opposed to getting out there with the aerosol cans. Her work is lyrical, feminine and very beautiful. In the gallery setting, it was sprinkled with gold and layered with stencils and paper collages. Much of the work was already sold before the exhibition opened, with the gallery’s minions hopefully wielding red spot stickers. And to prove there’s money in art, the most expensive piece (at the time unsold) was priced at $25,500.

She turned up in jeans, sneakers and a white painted singlet with a bumbag (yes, really), while Jeff Kennett, who I accidentally banged into, looked positively unhip in his suit with a floral-clad wife in tow.
Get in quick, the exhibition runs till just 3 March at Metro Gallery, 1214 High St, Armadale.

And if you’d like to see more Melbourne street art, click here for a pix from a walking tour I did recently through the CBD’s laneways.  

Hot to shop: Cairo

In the printed media business, we work with interesting timings: to wit the publication of the Sun Herald’s Hot to Shop: Cairo, just as the riots were taking hold, when shops were either closed against the demonstrations, or being forceably opened by looters.

As was said to me recently, it could have been worse: London’s The Guardian published a story on Cairo for kids at the height of the demonstrations. Damn those long lead times!

Look on the bright side, travellers! Cairo is going to be dirt cheap in the coming months – if the government gets its act together. Having read the news reports about the French supermarket chain Carrefour being looted to blazes, I have to wonder what the looters really thought they’d do with all that weird foreign food: pesto, risotto, thai curry paste…

Well, if Queensland can mount an advertising campaign to lure back lost tourists after a swathe of natural disasters (floods, cyclones, more floods), why not Cairo? It may be a few weeks to early, but the Occidental Tourist likes to stay ahead of the pack.

So if you’re heading for Egypt some time soon, here are my hot tips for the best shopping in the Victorious City, more

Hot pants, chilled bourbon and an absence of ladyboys

Worth the drama of getting here…
Bizarre sights on my recent Melbourne to Noosa (Qld) flight: 
The couple opposite who have brought stubbie coolers on board with them to keep cold the Jim Beam & Coke they’ve ordered from the hostesses. Obviously seasoned Queenslanders. 
The non-Japanese girl in denim hotpants, white knee-high socks and thongs. An over-enthusiastic exchange student?
And why the rush to the loo the moment the seat-belt sign is off? The flight was delayed 45 minutes – surely you’d address this while cooped up in the aircon-dripping extension at Melbourne Airport?
If only Jetstar took a leaf out of the instruction manual of a new Thai airline, which has hired six transsexuals as flight attendants in “’what they felt is an effort to promote an equal opportunity agenda for what they consider the ‘third sex’”, reports eTN travel news.