Let me open by saying that in America the concepts of “posh” and “buffet” rarely intersect.
A buffet meal anywhere between the two coast of ‘Merica feels a lot like bellying up to a feeding trough in a cattle yard: virtually everything is corn based or deep fried. Emphasis is placed on quantity, not quality. Presentation leaves everything to be desired. We won’t even discuss the germ factor or the state of the sneeze guards in most Golden Corrals, or Chinese buffets in the middle west. I just can’t. It will ruin the excellent dinner we had this evening.
You can imagine the wide eyes with which the children met the buffet at Melba, which we had the privilege of testing for Bound Round: oysters, two types of local crabs, prawns piled high, NZ green lipped mussels and a sushi bar. If you’re imagining the sushi bar at your local Hibachi place: no. Just no. The best sushi we’ve ever had. Yes. Really. An Indian bar, complete with naan oven. An east asian bar with everything from proper duck to dim sum. A cheese bar. A dessert bar, complete with a chocolate fountain.
“This reminds me of the buffet at that Four Seasons place we stayed,” Hannah stage whispered to me.
Ezra was visibly working to be worthy of the dining room.
Elisha, poor kid, was just trying not to cough on anything; he’s recovering from a cold.
Gabriel had the look of a hunter planning his attack.
Our first round of plates was telling:
Tony: Sushi and sashimi.
Ezra: Bread, tasting platter of meats.
Hannah: Cheese & olives.
Elisha: Grapes, cheese, walnuts and a cheese stuffed naan bread
Me: Crab of two varieties and prawns, with a side order of fresh mozzarella
We giggled as we ate, enjoying the treat of an upscale meal.
“I put on my imaginary monocle the moment I walked in,” Hannah announced, with a ram rod straight back, pretending to adjust her eye piece with proper haughtiness.
Plate #1: NZ green lipped mussles, cheese, bread and three slices of beef steak
Plate #2 Tuna, and salmon sashimi, squid sushi
Plate #3 clams, cheese, bread, beef, smoked salmon
Plate #4 2 chocolate cakes, a “smurf head” (blue creme in a tiny pastry cup) cheese cake
Plate #5 Ice cream, and what looked like half a kilo of Haribo gummies, marshmallows dipped in the chocolate fountain.
Plate #6 Sushi: king fish, salmon, tuna and an eel roll
Elisha slipped three walnuts into his pocket with exaggerated mock stealth.
“SEE!” Hannah announced, “Yet another reason not to carry a dog in your purse!” (It’s a bit of a soapbox for her at the moment, the use of pets as fashion accessories)
Tony returned from the dessert bar and tucked into a range of tiny delicacies, “Hmm, the smurf brains are surprisingly delicious,” he announced.
I was standing over the dessert display contemplating my choices: chocolate fudge cake, or creme brulee, when Ez approached and asked me with a deadly serious tone:
“Mom, could you please provide me with some adult supervision for the chocolate fountain and ice cream?” He was quite determined not to be the guy to accidentally fling a chocolated mallow across the dining room. (Getting through a meal without some catastrophe requires a great deal of focus for this child.) I tried not to smirk on the outside as I followed him to the quadruple decker chocolate fountain and watched him choose a waffle cone with a chocolate rim dipped in sprinkles.
“You hold the bowl,” he instructed me. I obeyed.
Three marshmallows were ceremoniously dipped and placed in the bowl. Two scoops of ice cream were carefully laid into the cone without cracking it. Then, he asked the question that tested my mama-zen-mettle:
“Mama, can I have enemas on my ice cream?”
“Can you have WHAT?!!” I sputtered, giving him the one big eye ball that means, “Watch it, Mister!”
“Enemas?!” He repeated, seriously, pointing at the bowl…
“Oh yes, of course you can have mini M&M’s on your ice cream!” I choked back my giggle in the face of his very serious attempt to get it right.
It was a good thing we had a few kilometers to walk home.
We all needed it, and Melbourne in the dark on a warm spring evening is a lovely sight: the neon blues reflected in the Yarra and a full moon hanging low over the top of the towers. We walked between the swinging red lanterns, hung for the moon cake festival,and savored the moment. Hannah and Gabe walked ahead, arm in arm, as they often do and Tony and I remarked on the change that five years can make: they were self declared enemies at 10 and 12, now they are the best of friends.
We lined up on the bridge and breathed in the darkness of a city night. Ez and Elisha pointed out the “crocodile” in the river (a floating piece of palm) as the sounds of laughter and street musicians leant texture to the colours hanging in the black velvet night. There aren’t many perfect evenings in a lifetime, but this was, without question, one of them.