Saturday in Melbourne is lively. People crowd and bustle and have places to go, things to see. The undercurrent of AFL crackles through the town’s streets and pubs, as multi-coloured tribes make their way west to the ‘G or east to the Dome. You can’t help get caught up in it. We’d stopped in for a pre-dinner drink at the Exford, a cracking pub in Chinatown that used to variously be a knock shop, and an epicentre for that particularly dark and influential strain of Melbourne music with the Birthday Party as its nucleus. It had also accommodated me upstairs many a time over the years, but we were completely caught up in the big screen rather than any reminiscing. The Gold Coast Suns were leading the Pies by a kick, with less that ten minutes to go. They’d lost their skipper and main focal point Ablett, and three others, so had no one on the bench for the last 20 minutes! The Suns took a six point lead into the final term and held on grimly, the last five minutes with less than a straight kick in it! Collingwood had a chance to snatch it right at the death but Young dropped a sitter of a mark with an open goal square in front of him and the Suns hung on! The pub erupting with the joy of seeing a little aussie battling underdog getting up, well except for a couple of old grizzly Pie fans, who were muttering into their beer.
We departed to check out the neon-lit and lanterned streets of Chinatown discovering about 26 potential paces to eat, but settled on a wonderful little shop in a tiny arcade after reading the story affixed to its front window. Meiyan Wang (aka MaMa) spent three decades of her life working as an accountant for the Chinese Government, while crunching numbers by day, she’d make lavish, but homely feasts for her family by night, and at their recommendation finally took the plunge and made the move to Melbourne and started the ShanDong MaMa restaurant. Its all about the hand-made dumplings, here and the five spice peanuts give a splendid intro into the gloriously flavours bourne of simpleness and care that is to follow. I’m sure there’s already thousands of other gushing food blogs about this already if you care to look.
After dinner is was back to the Exford to hit the dance floor for Razzamatazz indie disco. But we were drawn back into the all pervading presence of the sport filling the telly. The ASADA asterix addled Bombers* were sticking it to the previously high flying Port Power. Again it was late in the last quarter, and within a kick! We sat transfixed as Essendon got up, up by two points in a thriller, probably justly too due to a non-free kick that had the whole pub grumbling. The people-staring proved more alluring than dancing so we stayed a while more down stairs watching Wimbledon before another brief and brisk walk home doing the Victoria Street shiver. Amy: wow, I actually cared about the result of a game of AFL – I am a Melbournite now!