Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Myer Melbourne. Can a renovation save it?

Anyone who has walked through Myer Melbourne in recent times can't help but notice that the place is drastically changing, almost every day. But is it a change for the better, or the last desperate fight for survival?

For me, the rot set in quite some time back, when the 6th floor Lonsdale closed to the public. You can't get up there any more. It used to be the toy department, which has since moved to the Bourke street store. (For any non-Melbournian reading this, Myer Melbourne is split into two stores, Bourke and Lonsdale Street, separated by Little Bourke Street and a three level pedestrian bridge).

This to me was a sign that Myer was simply giving up. You don't close a whole floor of your flagship department store. The only explanation is that the place isn't profitable, and really it's the beginning of the end.

There are many reasons for this of course. Like it or not, retail shops are on borrowed time, which is sad but unavoidably true, and the obvious explanation why is The Internet. Almost everything you can buy at Myer you can probably buy online cheaper, or at least research an alternative retailer that sells it cheaper. There are a multitude of online retailers that sell everything from underwear to vaccuum cleaners and everything in between. I don't have to leave my house or my desk to make a purchase, and why should I? The only real risk you take is buying something that's the wrong size in case of clothing, or it might look crap on you when it looked fabulous on the online model.

Anyway now, Myer Melbourne has basically moved departments around all over the place, and a large section of the Bourke Street store is closed off on all floors from the basement up as they start the renovation. Once the renovation of Bourke Street is finished, the Lonsdale Street store will close permanently, and then who knows what will happen to it. I predict that the Melbourne Central shopping Centre will expand into it, but that's just a guess.

The thing is, they really don't get it. A renovation is all well and good. Go over to the New Myer Melbourne Site to see what's going on.

They can build a wonderful new store with atriums and escalators and all sorts of things like that but it doesn't solve the underlying problem. Stuff is more expensive here, and the service you get isn't worth the premium you pay for it. The only thing that's keeping Myer afloat is that a large percentage off the population don't realise that there's a better way than going out shopping.

But, sadly for Myer, eventually they will, and even atriums and glass lifts probably won't end up saving them.

In the meantime if you are walking through Myer as I often do, go through the Basement as it's much quicker!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl - It's been there for some time

Let us review the residents of "The Melburnian". The Melburnian Apartments are on St Kilda Road, a mere stones throw away from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. I'm not sure of the construction date, but I seem to recall it being built in the early 2000's... maybe 02/03? Doesn't really matter.

What I do know is that the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was opened by Sir Robert "I was in office longer than Johnny and even twice!" Menzies on February 12, 1959, so it's just under a year away from it's 50th anniversary.

The Music Bowl is perhaps most famous for a massive Seekers Concert with well over 200,000 people in 1967, but it's also known for Carols by Candlelight each year, as well as a series of free concerts by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It's also hosted a myriad of other events, from Pearl Jam to The Doors. So in other words its very well known that it's a popular concert venue, and yes, concerts tend to generate sounds and even noise. I doubt anyone would dispute this.

Which is why I'm totally flabbergasted about this story in today's Age, about residents complaining about loud noise from the Bowl. The story is incredibly biased because it does not even suggest that the residents may be in the wrong. Instead it suggests that events perhaps move to Flemington or elsewhere.

Newflash, people... you perhaps should have done some research before buying your inner city dog box and checked to see if, oh, perhaps, a major outdoor venue was just across the street!

And, in fact, the Melburnian Sales Website even mentions proximity to The Music Bowl as one of the highlights of the complex.

You're living in the inner city for Q's sake. Cities are large, noisy places. Perhaps if you don't like that, go buy an apartment on the Murray or something.

The stupidity of some of these moron's is beyond belief. This is the Melbourne Reviewer, reporting on a bunch of absolute knobs.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Terminus Hotel, down near that Swedish Joint.

A lot of Melbourne pubs have had makeovers, been half demolished, had smoking areas installed, glass and steel and are not cosy at all. I'm not sure why any of them bothered.

The Terminus Hotel in Richmond/Abbotsford (you choose), looks like it has had nothing done to it in years, and it really doesn't matter.

A sickly green colour on the exterior belies the interior which is a bit shoddy, full of weird stuff on the walls. We sat at a very makeshift table bolted to a wall, under a window with Black, star shaped christmas lights to our left, I think they were a reject from Alice Cooper's christmas tree. One of the barmaids looks like Toot Braunstein from the animated comedy "Drawn Together". I have the strangest feeling this was completely on purpose.

We were there for a friends birthday, so a number of us ended up at a table in the courtyard-cum-beergarden. This was of course after playing musical chairs with a woman who's beehive is solely responsible for global warming.

The crowd was fairly mixed, though it was mostly 30-40 somethings. There's also an upstairs area, didn't have a look at this but it looked pretty full as well.

Apart from the jugs of Cascade Light we drank ($12.80 each), we all decided to eat.

And, this, my friends, is the the biggest disappointment of the evening.

The pub is great, the staff are great, the atmosphere is great. There was a DJ outside playing the most weird retro music. There's a wall of fame with young pics of heaps of old time Aussie Celebrities, Bobby Limb, a very young Kamahl, et al.

So when it came time to order I couldn't go past one of my staples, a Chicken Parmagiana. This can very rarely be gotten wrong.

It was a bit pricey, $19.50. I rather naively assumed this was because the thing would have to be completely MASSIVE. I mean, most parmas are massive, but at this price it had to be gargantuan.

Well, when it finally arrived (and yep it did take it's time), the actual chicken parma itself was woefully small. Okay it was tasty, it was a good parma, but it was TINY. I can not over emphasise this point enough. I've had a lot of parmas in my time, hell I've had parma at Crown Casino, (something I'm not proud of) and that was bigger than this.

There were plenty of chips, and a nice little salad on the side, but I wanted a big hunk of meat covered in ham and cheese and tomato. And I got something tiny (albeit yummy). I've had parmas three times the size for half the price.

I know this is a trendy 30/40 something venue, and they figure everyone's coming her to get pissed so who cares what we feed em? The meals were tasty, but as for value, I have to say I was woefully underwhelmed.

But hey, who cares what I think? The place is always packed anyway, just because of where it is and who lives nearby. So, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood picking up yet another Billy Bookcase, why not head over the road for a break, back to the real world. Or, at least in Richmond/Abbotsford (you choose) as real as it gets.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blue Train - I think I remembered to validate

Well, against my better judgement we went to Southgate again on Friday night (don't worry, this time we paid cash).

We have been to Blue Train several times before and it's always nice. The one thing that sticks out is that it's meant to be notorious for having to wait for a table, but on Friday night we didn't have to wait at all.

The crowd was fairly eclectic but mostly hip young things much like myself and my partner (yeah, right).

I'm pretty sure Blue Train get's most of it's staff from the current Melbourne Backpacker population, but there's nothing wrong with that, staff are very friendly and completely non pretentious, which just makes the entire experience very easy going.

I was tossing up between the fish and chips and the burger, and so asked my waitress what she thought. She recommended the burger, and I quote, "it's really big, not a shitty little patty or anything". So I went with that. Partner ordered Ravioli stuffed with olives and riccotta in light tomato sauce with fresh shaved parmesan.

Both meals, lovely... the burger was indeed very hearty, though Partner berated me for eating it the wrong way (with knife and fork rather than just squishing it down and biting in).

My chips were a little cold... but I really didn't care.

We also ordered a couple of glasses of sparkling wine which made the event even more pleasant.

There was plenty of eye candy around as well, which always makes for an even more enjoyable experience.

All in all Blue Train is a Southgate institution... a balcony table would be nice, but to me it's more fun sitting inside watching the organised chaos of the staff. And I guarantee everytime you go you'll get served by someone different because this probably isn't a long term employer and that is part of it's charm.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Westgate Punt - On your bike!

Well the Australia day long weekend brought gorgeous weather, and partner had been pestering me to try it out, so I finally did.

We rode into the city from home, and then along the Port Melbourne Tram Route Bike path to Port Melbourne. From there it's not far, through Westgate Park, to one of the termination points of the Westgate Punt, just under the bridge.

The Punt runs 10:00-5:00 Weekends and also on Public Holidays, and is $3 each way. On the day we went, there weren't many going over by the time we got there, but coming back we had to wait for two trips before we could fit! The pilot of the punt (if that's his correct title) said that he had never seen it that busy.

After crossing we rode on to Williamstown were we had a nice lunch, bit of a walk around before returning.

As mentioned previously it only runs on weekends, but with petrol prices the way they are, perhaps sometime soon it'll have to run 7 days a week! Apparently it may still be a threatened species however, so try it out while you have the chance. It would be a shame if it stopped running.

For further info, check out the Bicycle Victoria Page

As a cheap and cheerful day out activity if you are anything approaching a cyclist, this can't be beat for the novelty value of going under the Westgate Bridge, and also getting to see a part of Melbourne that not to many people bother with.