Lance and I both love mini-golf. And it was telling a casual co-worker about this love that initially spawned Lance’s anniversary surprise holiday to Melbourne. He was told there was one about an hour out of Melbourne that we *had* to do. Before he could get the specifics about the course, this colleague left and Lance was left to investigate himself. And there seemed to be multiple options. No matter! He formed a for us a mini-golf tour of Melbourne. It was perfectly planned and more than a little crazy – which tends to be how most of our tours and tournaments end up. Crazy, pushing our physical limits and just So. Much. Fun. We’d fly out at midnight, getting in to Melbourne at 6am. We’d grab a rental car and then drive course to course until a winner was determined. All up, there was about 4 hours of driving between the venues, with 8 courses to play across 5 venues. We’d then drop the car off in the city, just around the corner from our hotel, check in then get a bite to eat. Dinner that first night was always supposed to be a simple affair. Just a quick meal to fill us up and get us to bed early to get over the midnight horror and full-on day. Instead, we walked a few hundred meters to a little Italian place I’d stumbled across in my research called Tipo 00 and got an early start to the best restaurants tour of Melbourne.
When I say the tournament was perfectly planned – we didn’t factor in one thing – Melbourne weather. It was sunny and warm in Perth when we booked the car and finalised the tour schedule. It was not when we arrived in Melbourne at 5:30am. Sleepless and cold, the lovely Thrifty folk let us sit in their office for half an hour before they opened and could serve us, and we headed out to the first course. And it rained the whole drive. And it rained off and on the whole course. And it was freezing. The guys in the golf pro course thought we were insane. Yes, we had turned into crazy golfers who played rain or shine. They have two 18 whole courses at Yarra Bend, so we had a coffee in between the two to warm our fingers enough to hold the clubs. At the next course, it appeared to have gotten colder. And it started hailing. Yes, now we were crazy golfers who played rain, HAIL, or shine. Luckily, the second of these two courses was mainly undercover. They informed us that our next stop was actually closed that day. So, freezing, tired (we’d now gone around 30 hours without sleep) and wet…we decided to call the tournament early. Four courses completed, Lance was the overall winner. But deciding it was too cold to continue was the best decision we made. The second best decision was eating at Tipo.
It’s a fairly unassuming little spot, but hugely popular. It’s interior is rustic and welcoming, dimly lit and warm. We were told there would be a half-hour wait, but that there’s a lovely wine bar up the road, they’ll call us when we can eat. Perfect. Just as I finished the last sip of my vermouth, the phone rang. I’d recently introduced Lance to Lalla Rookh in Perth, where we ate the il Capo menu and it was hugely tempting to go for that option here. There was so much on the menu we wanted to try, that it seemed a good way to do it. But our curiosity to try a few specific dishes won out and we ordered ala carte instead.
We decided on two entrees and two mains to share, and the sommelier and wait staff then helped us pick two wines available in the half bottle that would go with our options. I love half-bottle options, especially at places where the half-price is exactly half the bottle price. More flavours, same price! The wine list was mainly Italian, not a lot I was familiar with, so the staff knowing the wine inside out was a huge help. Our dishes were the entrée special of the day – wild mushrooms, with smoked wagyu and housemade rosemary crisps and the grilled tongue. The tongue is thinly sliced and concertina’d onto a skewer before being grilled, so it’s both aesthetically interesting and has lots of crispy exterior bits as you bite into it. For mains we had clam and smoked tomato spaghetti – as I’ve mentioned many a time, Lance is currently obsessed with smoking things, so this was one of the dishes that made us lean away from the set menu. The little smoked cherry tomatoes were fabulous – but there weren’t enough of them. I think the dish totalled 10 clams and only 4 tomatoes. The flavours combined so well, but needed more of the sweet smoky bursts of flavour. The stinging nettle and saltbush risotto was vibrantly green in colour and flavour. It was decidedly different, and one of the best risottos I've eaten.
As we do with Lalla Rookh, we left proclaiming that we would try and head back there to try a few more dishes. And we had the best of intentions of doing just that – especially considering the restaurant was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel. But other restaurants beckoned and we didn’t end up back there. Sadly. Maybe next trip we’ll do the rest of the tournament and go back for the chef’s menu. In summer.