Elbow Room

As is my wont on trips to Yarra City, I went all snap-happy with my camera. And I did manage to produce a couple I was quite happy with. But the image from the five days in Melbourne that stands out for me wasn’t taken with my reasonably expensive apparatus, but by my daughter on her mobile phone. I do wonder if the days of cameras, like mine, are numbered. It seems what I can do with it she can do as well, if not better, on her phone. I’ve even noticed that UTAS is now offering an associate degree in arts, teaching, amongst other aspects, ‘…how to get the most out of…mobile phones (and) tablets…’ for photography. But that’s an aside. The image in question was taken at the end of a most pleasant restaurant experience on Fitzroy Street’s Elbow Room.

ElbowRoom05

In culinary terms, this trip to Melbourne saw some firsts for me, which probably indicates how in the Dark Ages, food wise, I am. I was introduced to edamame beans, tapas, Singapore noodles and fajitas. The beans and tapas, I found, were much to my liking in their deliciousness. As for the noodles, I’ve since discovered they’re amongst my lovely lady’s favourite dishes. She has had some unfortunate experiences with ordering them at local eateries so no longer does, so I have resolved to have a go at making the dish myself – fingers crossed. And at the Elbow Room I ordered something I’d never heard of prior to that night – fajitas.
Perhaps if you’re as ignorant of these as I was, here’s Wikipedia on that new (for me) delight:-
A fajita is a term found in Tex-Mex cuisine, commonly referring to any grilled meat usually served as a taco on a flour or corn tortilla. The term originally referred to the cut of beef used in the dish which is known as skirt steak. Popular meats today also include chicken, pork, shrimp, and all cuts of beef. In restaurants, the meat is usually cooked with onions and bell peppers. Popular condiments are shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and tomato. The northern Mexican variant of the dish name is arrachera. The first culinary evidence of the fajitas with the cut of meat, the cooking style (directly on a campfire or on a grill), and the Spanish nickname goes back as far as the 1930s in the ranch lands of South and West Texas. During cattle roundups, cows were butchered regularly to feed the hands. Throwaway items such as the hide, the head, the entrails, and meat trimmings, such as the skirt, were given to the Mexican cowboys called vaqueros as part of their pay. Hearty border dishes like barbacoa de cabeza (head barbecue), menudo (tripe stew), and fajitas or arracheras (grilled skirt steak) have their roots in this practice. Considering the limited number of skirts per carcass and the fact the meat wasn’t available commercially, the fajita tradition remained regional and relatively obscure for many years, probably only familiar to vaqueros, butchers, and their families. The food was popularised by various businesses such as Ninfa’s in Houston, the Hyatt Regency in Austin and numerous restaurants in San Antonio. In southern Arizona the term was unknown except as a cut of meat until the 1990s when Mexican fast food restaurants started using the word in their marketing. In recent years, fajitas have become popular at American casual dining restaurants as well as in home cooking. In many restaurants, the fajita meat is brought to the table sizzling loudly on a metal platter or skillet, with the tortillas and condiments.
So I’m not sure how authentic the beef variety were at the Elbow Room that balmy Melbourne eve, but they had a zing that was spot on, were satisfyingly filling and made me wish I was a local so I could go back for more.
So how come the Elbow Room with the plethora of choices to be had around where we were staying? Well here’s its web-site descriptor:-
The Elbow Room is a fashionable restaurant/cafe/bar nestled between the palm trees at 19 Fitzroy Street, just metres From St Kilda Beach. Relax in the weekend St Kilda sunshine on our comfy outdoor timber furniture with an antipasto and a glass of wine or cold beer. Sip cocktails from our extensive list whilst watching the sun go down across the bay. Step inside our restaurant and find a candle lit, ambient space. Let our friendly staff guide you through our large menu and enjoy affordable, modern Australian cuisine.
The Elbow Room offers a great selection of local seafood, steaks, and fresh salads, with our menu identifying a number of vegetarian, celiac and gluten free options. The restaurant is fully licensed, stocked with a wide range of wines, spirits and cocktails.
Here are some comments from satisfied customers:-
Steve D – Fitzroy – I heard about the Elbow Room from my neighbour. I gave it a go and was very happy I did. If you want great food in a relaxed environment, then book now.
Lisa T – Bundoora – We were on holidays in Melbourne during November and we visited lots of restaurants. The last one we visited was the Elbow Room, wish it was the first! We’ll be back again some day.
Simon R – London – To be honest, I thought it was just going to be another night out with OK meals and lousy service. How wrong was I. Plates were full and staff were so kind I could’ve stayed there all night. Give it try, you won’t be disappointed
Mary L – Flemington – I took my business clients to the Elbow Room and we all had a wonderful time. I am happy to report we negotiated a new deal over a fine bottle of red. Good work guys!

elbow-room

I was staying in St Kilda with the little North Hobart family. Before venturing out each evening Kate and Leigh-lad would work their hand apparatus, scouting the vicintiy in search of a venue for our evening meal together. One or the other must of hit on the Elbow Room and we were soon heading down Fitzroy Street at a quick clip. Many other prospective diners were parading up and down, also on the hunt for a great spot for tucker, but Kate expressed satisfaction with the menu as displayed on the frontage of the Elbow Room, nodded her pretty head towards us and in we sauntered. Outside there were some diners in place, but in the interior we were the first arrivals. The night was still young and if the restaurant was up to scratch we knew others would follow, as they did in a steady stream during our time there. We were soon seated comfortably with a smiling waiter happily chatting away to us as he distributed menus and organised drinks. Our Tessa was in her element. Detailed discussion had ensued about her order during which she was an extremely active participant, considering all proffered options with due seriousness before she made a final verdict. When our food arrived we found it generous in quantity and tasty on the palate. After consumption, Tiges too gave it all her imprimatur of approval. Of course, having our young miss with us added to the pleasure – as I would have expected having shared previous dining experiences with her.

elbow-room-function

And the photograph? Sadly I only came in on the tail end of its occurrence. Our meal had wound down so Katie went up to the counter across the way to settle the bill. Tess reckoned she needed to part of that action and followed in her wake. She clamoured up on one of the tall bar stools, craning her neck to see what was going on and to examine all the very interesting stuff that was actually behind the counter. It was the guy taking our monies who asked permission to actually lift her up onto the bar so she could have a better view of her surroundings. Then the lovely fellow set about explaining to her what he did in his role as bartender/barista, much to the fascination of Tiges. This, for Kate, was a photo opportunity not to be missed and the image was duly captured.

I know I am hopelessly biased when it comes to my granddaughter, but for me the image is not so much about her but more the blue-shirted bloke who took time away from his duties to make the night of a little girl. She was so eager to have knowledge about the workings of his vocational world – and he cheerily complied.

All this was symptomatic of the random acts of kindness Tessa met with from working Melburnians during her adventurings in the city. Of course they all couldn’t be caught on camera in the manner of the Elbow Room that night. It was just a mini-moment, but with all the harshness there is out there in the big picture, it tells what a lovely place the world of ordinary folk can be. But being so attuned to that little presence in his vicinity, the guy behind the bar the evening of the Elbow Room was anything but ordinary.

bar tendering

To check-out the Elbow Room’s menu = http://www.elbowroomstkilda.com/

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