With the changing restrictions around group gatherings thanks to COVID-19, it was tricky to organize a proper celebration of Lee's 50th birthday! We decided to play it safe by spreading out the celebrations over a week or so, catching up with smaller groups at different times.
Kicking off the week, we headed up to Melbourne - for the first time since March! On the way up, we stopped off at one of our favourite small cafes, One For The Crow in Maidstone, for lunch where we were joined by Paul and Maria. It was their first time at the cafe and they were very impressed. It was great to catch up with them after only interacting virtually for so many months. Driving into the city from there seemed quite odd after so long and we easily navigated across to Carlton to our hotel for the night, Rydges The Park and scored free street parking right outside. Our dinner booking was nice and early at 6pm at stalwart vegie restaurant, Shakahari, where we enjoyed a couple of hours with Quo friends Craig & Rose and Michael & Christine. The food was, as always, tasty and well-presented.
We made a fairly early start the next day to stock up on supplies at Terra Madre in Northcote and our early start was rewarded by the quietest experience we've ever had in this bustling and amazing value organic shop. We also popped into Douglas and Hope and Naturally on High in Thornbury while we were so close by. A short drive then saw us at our pre-booked lunch spot in Templestowe, Powerplant. The weather had been a bit patchy during the morning with some showers so it wasn't great news to find our table for nine was on the cafe's outdoor deck area! Fortunately, the weather cleared and it turned into a sunny and very warm afternoon. It was lovely to catch up with ex-Quest colleagues Andy, Jos and Blair plus their partners and three hours passed easily at this excellent cafe, with great healthy vegan food to keep everyone happy! On our trek back home, we dropped into Sibling Vegan Grocer to stock up on grog and treats for Lee's family gathering later in the week as well as to cover the festive season.
On Lee's actual birthday, we made the return trip to Melbourne. It was a decent day weatherwise, so we drove to St Kilda and had an early lunch at the (now all-vegan!) Sister of Soul. We enjoyed sharing some lovely dishes there and it was great to see it so busy - and to hear that, despite COVID, they've had one of their best ever years! After a pleasant walk along the beachfront and pier, we headed across town to Brunswick Street, where we had a relaxing drink in the Vegie Bar (which, for once, was quiet!) and shopped at the Cruelty Free Shop. A short drive and a free park right outside the restaurant saw us in plenty of time for our 5.30pm booking at Shu in Collingwood. Since reopening after lockdown, this Sichuan restaurant has decided to only offer one dinner option, in the form of a ten-course vegan degustation menu (and this fact is proudly displayed at the front of the restaurant for all to see)! Although we normally only support vegan (or at least vegetarian) places, the fact that the restaurant was currently only serving vegan food made it a reasonable option - and the photos of the dishes (along with recent reviews) were amazing! We were not to be disappointed. The service was great and the various dishes were all inventive, tasty (sometimes very spicy!) and presented beautifully. The service wasn't rushed and trying lychee cider for the first time was pretty cool too! This was a worthy birthday dinner and the candle on Lee's dessert was a nice touch. At just $65 a head, this incredible experience was an absolute bargain. (Lee's phone photos follow, but the official photos on the restaurant's webpage and Instagram do these culinary works of art more justice!).
Ky's birthday was a low key affair at home, but we had Joan & Al over in the afternoon and enjoyed a long walk into town to make the most of the sunny and warm late Autumn conditions.
We were back in town later in the week for lunch with another Quo friend, Chris, and we tried the Edina Waterfront Cafe. This was our first dine-in experience since the new young owners took over and it's awesome to see some dcent vegan options on a menu in our small seaside town finally! Our lunch dishes were nicely presented and tasty, so we'll certainly be back (and will continue to stop by for oat milk lattes, of course).
Rounding out our week of celebrations, we hosted most of Ky's family at our house. The weather was OK but a little too windy to enjoy being outdoors even with the area we'd sheltered with large tarps. It was good to see everyone in the same place at the same time, the first opportunity to do so for many months. Joan did a fantastic job with the fruit cake (as in a cake made entirely of fruit) and Lee's 50th present was awesome, a telescope for Bay viewing (bringing us in line with almost every other house on our street!).