Continuing an infrequent series on restaurants I have known.
1984: Num Fong in Swanston Street. Red velvet curtaining the walls, Lazy Susans on round tables, a host called Henry and a menu that never changed. The occasion: family lunches and dinners. We lived about a kilometre away at the time. My older children were under ten then. They loved the sesame toasts, the chicken and sweet corn soup and the banana fritters. Num Fong only just closed earlier this year, swamped by a new wave of Asian eateries on Swanston Street that were faster, fresher, cheaper. Farewell, Henry.
1985: Baker's opens next to Mario's in Brunswick Street. The occasion: most days. This was my ‘office’ for some time. I wrote a small children’s book there, on paper napkins. (Baker's moved further down Brunswick Street in about 1989.)
1986: Acland Street's Fairy Stork. The occasion: our regular Sunday night dinner spot. Lobster tails in garlic sauce, whole steamed fish, rice, Wyndham Estate chardonnay.
1987: Flower Drum. The occasion: a pre-Black Monday work dinner. New money was everywhere and tables of cashed-up, cellphone-toting, power-laughing executives are drinking pre-dinner beers from the neck of the bottle and trying not to choke on the lemon while ordering up big on abalone and Moet. Greed is good? I thought greed meant you kept money. In 1987, people were throwing it around like confetti.
1990: Romeo’s, Toorak Road. The occasion: most Friday lunches. I worked nearby. The Caesar salad or the triple decker pancakes with flaked almonds and honey? The spinach lasagne or the spaghetti carbonara? Romeo’s is still there and the food is still the same. If you walk in right now, someone will be having the pancakes and someone else, probably some old dear with gold coiffed hair and gold Gucci sunglasses, will be picking at the Caesar salad.
1993: I take a date to Shogun, a Coverlid Place Japanese restaurant with no reservations that I had previously known and loved, only to find it closed. Instead, we go to a noisy Thai place in Little Bourke Street and sit on opposite sides of a too-wide table, dining on small helpings of something that is overspiced and overpriced. We can't hear each other all evening. I married her.
1994: Kitchen Hand dumps Lygon Street's University Cafe as Official Breakfast Supplier and appoints the Rathdowne Food Store. Fresher, tastier, more interesting menu, better coffee and, vitally, easier parking. My Official Breakfast Supplier was immensely important in those days. I was divorced, had teenage children at home most of the time and worked a stressful job. That morning half-hour of coffee, toasted sandwich and newspaper was bliss. I would have gone nuts otherwise.