A recent trio of wines, two fresh and one fading but full of warmth.

Seville Estate Chardonnay 2011. Yarra Valley. Identifiably Australian and newish. Flint and a suggestion of smoulder, rich and ripe in the mouth, but still with good acidity and not overblown or over inflated. It's very good, but predictable.

Bannockburn Shiraz 1998. I had low expectation, the last bottle I tried seemed to be riddled with brett and I though this might be well and truly buggered. Leather and spice, it's old and tired, but still full of warmth. Like a vinous red dwarf perhaps - shrunken but glowing. Rose wood and boot, it's clean and soft.

S.C Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2013. This is true to the young tempranillo archetype.

Cork tainted. Not severely, but enough for me to wonder and then defend before finally conceding. The nose is blunted and faulty though there is still a spark in the mouth, with the acids and sweetness still giving some tension and a fleeting moment of mid week pleasure.

Previously 1, 2

Image: One of the several stone faces to be found on Bath's Walcot St. Related.

My Liebherr wine fridge has not been kind to these old Cape Mentelle paper labels. They're all stained and now detached from their original bottles, leaving me with a further three unloved 2001 Margaret River Cabernet clean skins.

I keep hoping this will morph into something refreshing, but it remains defiantly sweet, large and cumbersome; more notable for the splinters and menthol than anything I might admire.


Harissa marinated chicken thighs. From Ottolenghi the cookbook. The ingredients are listed here. I deboned 8 thighs, leaving the skin on, but removing the most fat riddled portions. The harissa has a beautiful depth and less heat than my previous pastes (1, 2). It's mostly because of the roasted capsicum. .  . For my own reference - pierce a large red capsicum and place on the BBQ (no cleaning) turning every few minutes, so there is an even char.

Hard boiled perhaps, but at least complete. . . my daughter had some ideas for the face, it reminds me of a sleepy young Lenin.

14%, Yarra Valley. It's difficult to love, a little too fat and textured, too bitter and unctuous, too rich and  burnished. Peach and marzipan, flint and barrel. It's very full and formidable, grippy and true.

Day 2. Honey suckle and a fog of sulphur and a wool. It's unchanged, but I've softened in my resistance.

The Syrah.

A baby back of ribs ($28), just one of the many pricey guilty pleasure to be found at Papa Jacks. I thought the buttermilk fried chicken (3 pieces for $20) was over cooked, though of course these things are less noticeable when you have beer as a lubricant. . .  

I enjoyed my meal, it's hard not to be pleased with a plate of sticky ribs, but I kept thinking of the observation attributed to Shane Mitchell of Saveur that I read a month or two ago in one of the weekend papers.

We arrived in number and without a booking, tired and hungry, and so perhaps our expectations were easily met. We just wanted comfort and food, quickly. The eating strip between Grey and Stanley is planned and competitive, tables spill onto the pavement and there's a wide choice of cuisines, the only thing missing is quirkiness and risk. Across the road beyond the grass and behind the bougainvilleas a sea of fast food for the even more impatient.

13%, augmented, plump and creamy. $A55 with grilled peach, match stick and butterscotch. There's a clear lactone edge to the nose, but even so I was a little surprised that this was so round and full and puffed up in the mouth; any spine is hard to discern. It strikes me as being unnecessarily inflated and and oak flavoured.

My oven, electric, only reaches 240 degrees, and so try as I might my bases are always more bread than  pizza, lacking that charred chewiness. The recipe for this wonderful pizza is from Roberta's cookbook, a copy of the ingredients can be found here. The book and recipes are brilliant and curiously precise - they suggest 43 grams of sauce for this pizza.

Modernity and stuffiness on the river. . . Like all venues that are a destination in and of themselves, there are some issues. For a room so light and breezy, the staff are remarkably serious and detached. There are of course no missed steps and all wants are anticipated, it just feels mechanical and scripted.

Image: the city eye fillet, a roast rump of pork and a deconstructed Banoffee pie.