A four-course dinner with canapes and cocktails at one of Melbourne’s oldest hotels? Um, yes please, don’t mind if I do. Particularly when it also involves listening to one of Melbourne’s most fascinating authors, Robyn Annear, as part of the M Gallery’s Literary Collection series.
The apple martinis were ready and waiting as I walked into the foyer library at the Grand Hotel on Spencer Street — a tribute to Melbourne’s founder John Batman and the apple orchard he planted on the site where we stood milling about. A quick glance around the room and the framed historical images also told me that this was the perfect setting for a chat with local writer Robyn Annear. Penning iconic books like Bear Brass and A City Lost and Found, she has spent much of her career peering into Melbourne’s past to uncover rare, unknown truths and stories.
Once the small talk subsided, we were all seated for a meal that surely would have made Batman proud. Dishes like steamed Salmon Timballo with asparagus risotto and shellfish mousse, and lamb rump with smoked eggplant compote, were paired with wines from the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and Beechworth. Fortunately there was a break before dessert started. Robyn took her place, passing on interesting insights into her life as a writer and her deep love for Melbourne.
And while the ganache, sticky wine and cheesecake was definitely a treat, the tour around the first few floors of the Grand Hotel — previously home to a racecourse and then the Victorian Railway Commission from 1891 — was definitely the highlight. Restored and maintained as close as possible to its original state, you can only imagine the stories it might tell if given the chance.
The daughter of a museum curator, Collette spent much of her childhood dressed up in colonial costumes for the local newspaper playing ‘knuckles’. Equal parts literary and culinary enthusiast, she currently spends most of her time reading business blogs to help her improve and grow her Melbourne-made and sustainable maternity wear label AYLA Maternity.
Book your tickets for the next Literary Collection dinner at the Como Hotel, Melbourne on September 17 when Deborah Oswald talks about what it takes to write for acclaimed television series like Offspring, Police Rescue, and Bananas in Pyjamas.