Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Holiday: Brisbane in October

I can hardly believe it, but it's been 10 years since I finished high school. I'm trying very very hard not to dwell on all the things that I planned to have done with my life by now, but nothing really makes you think about the time that's past more than attending your 10-year high school reunion.
I went to school up in Ipswich, and also had the dubious honour of boarding at the school for the four years I spent there.

This is a picture of a picture (probably of a copy of a picture) of the school in 1894, two years after it took in its first students. This original building housed both the schoolrooms and the bedrooms of the students.

And this is that same building now. It's now the administration block, complete with myths and legends about ghosts and deaths from the belltower (which is out of photo, to the right). I've always loved the history about the place. The original gatekeepers cottages are also still standing, at the start of the driveway, and are used for drama classes now. I was disappointed, though, that the school drive seems to have lost half of its trees. People used to come along there in a horse and carriage and have their wedding pictures taken there. I'm guessing not many do that any more. I'm ambivalent about my feelings for the school in general. My first year there I would have sworn it was hell on earth. But as the years passed I developed quite a soft spot for the grounds, the old buildings (not so much the new buildings - they are all quite utilitarian), and some of those truly OLD trees.

Anyway, I wasn't sure, even up until I walked in the room, that I wanted to go to this reunion. I'm now glad that I did, as it was interesting to see people I haven't spoken to since that final day at school. But it also hammered home to me that all the people I WANTED to stay in contact with, I have. I decided to head up for more than just a weekend though, so I took a couple of weeks off work (amazingly, from BOTH jobs) and headed up for a week. Since funds are always short I opted to look for a backpacker hostel, and wow did I hit the jackpot.

Somewhere to Stay touts itself as "The BEST backpackers accommodation in Brisbane". Are they the best in Brisbane? I don't know, I haven't been to every other place in Brisbane. But hell, they must come bloody close. I chose to pay a little extra for a standard single room so I wouldn't have to be sociable in a dorm room. The advertised room rate for a single is $39, with discounts for longer stays (so for me 5 nights ended up costing $178 instead of $195. Hey, a discount's a discount!). Check out the website - what more could you want from somewhere to stay than what this place can offer?! There's a pool to cool off in, a kitchen to cook your own food (cos although West End has some fantastic places to eat, that's an expensive way to live), a MASSIVE TV to watch, a laundry to clean your clothes, lots of foreign guys to drool over... when it came time for me to leave I seriously considered asking my Monday-to-Friday boss for an extra week, and running the risk of being fired from my weekend job. But really, lovely though it was there, I had to finish the holiday and head home (sniff, sniffle). Believe me, I'll be back there next time though.

Speaking of fantastic places to eat, I did give a few of them a go.

185 Boundary Street, West End QLD 4101
Ph: (07) 3846 7746
This place seemed like a nice funky little cafe. They were advertising a "Big Brekky" including a cup of coffee for $14. I figured, yeah, that'll do. Huh. I've had bigger. However the eggs were poached to perfection, the toast was thick and crusty, and the chippolatas were deliciously herby. On the downside I wasn't thrilled at being told that 50c was going to be added to the cost because I wanted tea instead of coffee - the reason I was given was that "tea is more expensive" (what the...?). Right there and then I almost walked out. The atmosphere of the place was good, with nice jazz/funk music playing, and interesting decor. That being said, I didn't go back again, as I found better places nearby.

169 Boundary Street, West End QLD 4101
Ph: (07) 3844 8324
Now here we have a place that could very quickly become a favourite, if I lived in the area. Espressohead was a bit grungier than Satchmo's, but was so friendly, and the staff so nice, that who could care? They were also a fair bit busier than Satchmo's, so I think there's a lesson there, but for all that the atmosphere is fairly relaxed and laid back. The mural painted on canvas on the wall kinda freaked me out, as it has a picture of a very large rat (hopefully NOT a statement regarding things you could find in the kitchen). Can't fault the food, though. Vicki and I had lunch there one day, and I figured $7.50 was a decent price for a chicken and salad sandwich. Then a monster of a sandwich between two slabs of Turkish bread came out. It supplied me for two meals! The chicken was real slices of herb-roasted chicken, and the salad fillings seemed very fresh. So after such a successful lunch I simply had to go back and try breakfast.
Enter one "Aussie Breakfast" of bacon, eggs, tomato, chippolatas and toast for $9.50. Then add hash browns and a pot of tea to take the total to $14. Now the same price as Satchmo's, but SO much better. Next time I'm in West End I'll be going here again to check things out a bit further. Oh yes, good coffee too.

The Gunshop Cafe
53 Mollison Street, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Ph: (07) 3844 2241
Oh my, this place is interesting. It apparently actually used to be a gun shop, complete with dark windows, rows of firearms, and boxes upon boxes of ammo. Nice! It's now a swanky little cafe/restaurant that gets pretty darn busy, despite the prices (two of us ate there for $100)
. Jane and I were looking for somewhere to eat while we caught up a little (as the reunion was a difficult place to chat for any length of time) and ended up here. We each ordered the 300g rib fillet - it came out atop small whole potatoes and broccolini, with a dollop of herb butter on top and a thin slice of prosciutto. It didn't blow my mind, but it was nonetheless very nice. Before starting our mains we had considered sharing a cheese platter to finish (especially when I noticed the Timboon Brie on the board!) but when the time came we found something sweet was calling. We ordered a creme brulee (Jane) and lemon panacotta (for me). The waitress getting the two of them mixed up (calling the creme brulee the panacotta and vice versa). And the creme brulee was missing the brulee bit, if you know what I mean - it was more just a creme caramel. Jane reported that it was still quite nice, but she'd been looking forward to that first tap with the spoon. The panacotta was quite nice, but again, nothing to get too excited about. Overall we agreed that the meal was somewhere between "good" and "very good". I'd be interested in going back to see what they can do with lunch.
We also (well, mostly Jane) came up with an interesting idea for Jane to take up in the new year, which I'll be very interested in seeing if she follows through: 12 dates in 12 months. Sounds simple - we shall see how simple it is, and how it unfolds.


Cindy said...

Huh, I used to live less than 2 blocks from your West End accommodation. (I was frequently woken up at all hours by drunken revellers with all sorts of accents returning to the hostel!)

Your reviews of a few of the local eats are spot on with my experiences. Atomica, next to Espressohead, is also worth a look. Whenever I'm back in Brissy, I have to get a korma from Punjabi Palace, down the road!

Oh, and another thing we have in common - my 10-year high school reunion's coming up in November! I'm not making the trip back but have recruited a couple of spies. ;-)

Anna said...

Oh dear - I went past Punjabi Palace a few times, on the way to the train station, and just couldn't bring myself to eat there - the name seemed WAY too cliched! I'm now thinking I might have missed out! That'll teach me to be a snob :-)

I seem to end up back in Brissy for at least a few days at this time every year, so hopefully all these places will still be there when I next go back.

Hopefully your spies will be able to tell you good things about the reunion - I still have mixed feelings about having gone. Glad I did, yes, but also it did bring back a few less-than-pleasant things I'd rather have remained forgotten.