HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

Today we have a guest post from Celeste from Travelling in Mary Janes, who’s here to share her love and passion for handmade crafts with you and her favourite littles shop, Little Shop Of Handmade. Thanks Celeste!

Hi everyone! A quick background on myself. I am a Music Teacher by day, and a Jewellery Maker by night. I make little accessories for children and classic jewellery for adults from resin, acrylic, swarovski crystals and so on. Handmade items surround me all the time and I am currently on a year-long challenge in which I try to buy only handmade or 2nd hand items. So my love for crafts is pretty huge.

pledge250x250 HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

Now, I do understand that not everybody is into making things. But have you ever thought about supporting the handmade movement by simply choosing to buy handmade? Say you have a mate’s birthday coming up, would you rather pick up something that was stamped ‘Made in China’ or would you rather buy something that was unique and lovingly handcrafted for them?

I know it’s the latter for me. Always was and always will be. And it’s not just that it’s unique. Many crafters opt to go organic and environmentally friendly by using organic cotton or by upcycling unwanted materials and junk into beautiful practical items once more. The possibilities are endless, and by supporting handmade, you not only support the handmade movement, the small businesses, you are also going green and playing your part in being eco-friendly. What’s not to like about the handmade world?

But don’t know where to buy handmade?

4608505753 f9a2591947 o HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

I have just the place. Little Shop Of Handmade is a beautiful little store next to Carnegie train station. Stepping into its threshold is like stepping into a magical world of beautiful creations and breathtaking talent. It is a little shop that supports Australian handmade in every spirit, as it not only houses the owner’s own creations, it also plays home to 60 other crafters from all over Victoria.

4608505791 118bcc64ef o HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

Bec Albinson (pictured) is the owner of this lovely little shop. A graphic designer of over 8 years, she used to design luxury gifts and personal care items from Chocolate Bar Soaps to Lip glosses for other big companies. It was mass produced, and lacking in the personal touch. Bec felt no actual attachment to her craft so one sunny Sunday afternoon, Bec decided that handmade was the way to go; resigned from her job and started up Little Shop Of Handmade .

4608505865 636ef21c2d o HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

The original idea was to be a studio/showroom for Bec as she had completely outgrown the spare bedroom at home (where many crafters originate from, myself included!). Living in Carnegie made Bec realise that there was potential for a handmade shop in the area, and when the perfect little shop front came up, she pounced on it.

4609111660 dea540afbc o HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

The magic of discovering such a shop is not something that can be described by words. Many a times when I’m in the shop chatting with Bec (it’s really easy to spend a whole afternoon with this lovely lady!), a passerby would walk by, backtrack and then come in with this amazed look on their face.

“Why have I never seen this place before?” they’d ask in wonderment. And it’s so heartwarming to watch as their faces light up at the sight of all the endearing and heart warming creations that populate the shop. Equally heartwarming is hearing the stories that Bec tells of her customers. My favourite is of the lady who told her boyfriend that he was welcomed to “buy anything from this shop” for her.

4608505585 1b799501d2 o HOT: Little Shop Of Handmade, 8 Woorayl St, Carnegie

Shopping handmade may not be the first thing you think of when you have a gift to buy. But change that thinking today, and support the handmade world. “Made in China” doesn’t need more support, neither does “Made in India”. It is time we support “Made in Melbourne” or even better yet, “Made in Australia”. Support handmade, the local little businesses and play your part in encouraging the growth of a beautiful heartfelt movement, not to mention the local economy!

NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Today we have a guest post from Foo of the Melbourne-based blog Frugal Foo, which is all about finding great value in food, travel, shopping or anything. Really quite invaluable information, and my favourite posts are Melbourne’s Food Court Underbelly and Where to eat in Melbourne for under $30 a day.

Foo has written up a review on his recent stay at Crown Metropol…which didn’t quite live up to expectations. Thanks Foo!

The Crown Entertainment complex (or just “Crown”) has become a living, growing organism, spreading it’s girth and gaining strength each time a new international hotel suckers itself to the main host. The newly opened Crown Metropol hotel is the third international hotel to join this mega entertainment precinct. The bridge across from Metropol’s Whiteman Street address, forms another artery into mother Crown and seals a symbiotic relationship exchanging a vital flow of clientele. On the Crown side of the bridge, the stream of passers-by circulate through yet more shops, cafés and a reborn food court. Mr and Mrs Foo spent a night at Crown Metropol to check it all out.

The location has a lot going for it. One could easily spend a weekend being fully immersed within the insular world of Crown casino and the adjoining cinema, bars and restaurants, not stepping outdoors even once.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Crown Metropol is a modern hotel. The spacious lobby sets the tone with few frills and an uncomplicated neutral colour scheme. Rich timber veneers and woven wicker textures extend into our room which is a corner suite overlooking Southbank and the bay.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Gone are the sentimental trappings of yesteryear such as tea and coffee-making facilities, or a fully enclosed private bathroom. This is a hotel for the 21st century. Rooms feature large flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations and motorised curtains. Sliding panels surround the bathroom forming, at best, a semi-private place to answer natures sudden demands. That’s fine if you’re on your own, but honeymooners will receive more information about their new life partner than they may have been expecting so soon in the marriage.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

On level 27 is the swimming pool, plunge pool, gymnasium and Isika Day Spa. If nothing else, head up there for the views overlooking Melbourne.

For an extra charge, you may head up to the private lounge on level 28. Here a privileged few will sample drinks and nibbles on winter evenings while gazing over the city skyline. A special “28” button in the ground floor lift lobby suggests a sense of priority befitting top level access. Breakfast is also served on level 28 for those who have opted for the $120 upgrade.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

In-room dining comes from the kitchen of Maze restaurant downstairs. The menu promises to deliver a Gordon Ramsey experience without leaving your room. And no, that doesn’t mean you’ll be subject to a narcissistic tirade of abuse and bullying.

The in-room dining service was slow but we were kept informed of progress. My starter, the beetroot and mache salad was simple, inoffensive but a little boring. The beetroot was no different to that which I would pull out of a tin. For main, the rib eye steak served with a béarnaise sauce was better. Some effort had obviously gone into selection of produce before being expertly prepared by a chef at Maze Grill.

At $8 for a coffee from the in-room dining menu we where beginning to wish the room had instant coffee-making facilities. Curiously, there is an electric jug in the room, but no milk, tea bags, coffee, sugar or cups.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

For the great unwashed who don’t have access to level 28, breakfast is served at Maze on Level 1. For $35 you can eat an array of hot, cold, fresh baked and toasted goodies until you explode. It’s standard fare for a hotel like this. There is no chef assigned to cooking eggs to order, but all manner of eggs are readily available from the servery scrambled, poached or fried. I also recommend the smoked salmon.

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

 NOT: Crown Metropol, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Coffee is delivered to the table in a plunger ready to poor. Not that I mind filtered or plunger coffee, I have become accustomed to it on my travels at three star bed and breakfasts, but this was Crown Metropol. We asked the waiter about the possibility of a cappuccino, and after a perceptible nanosecond of inner deliberation, he explained that there would be a good 15 minute wait. Perhaps the barista was busy with orders from the level 28 set. Not wanting to create a fuss we settled for the plunger coffee as I’m sure most other level-oners who know their place would do.

Checking out is not a quick process on this Sunday morning at the Crown Metropol. The lifts at that time of morning are all full. At least one lift was not in operation while others seemed to linger endlessly at other floors. There are long queues at reception for check out. Express checkout is a better alternative.

As a romantic night away, or for a special occasion, Crown Metropol is NOT sizzling hot.  I have not given it a HOT rating since I don’t think it stands out as above average for the price I paid.  There’s just no soul here – nothing to make you feel like you have stepped out of ordinary life and into a world of indulgence.  Bathrooms need to be private and in this country tea and coffee-making facilities are standard even in the most basic motels.

Crown Metropol does recover some respectability with its functional approach toward the overall experience.  Customer service is efficiently delivered to a formula. Perhaps you might consider the Crown Metropol as a convenient place to stay in Melbourne if you can snatch a good last-minute deal from the likes of WOTIF.COM and if your favourite colour is brown.

HOT: The Italian, Level 6, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne

The Italian HOT: The Italian, Level 6, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne

Today we have a post from a new guest blogger, Huy – man about town, fine dining aficionado and on a mission to collect as many Michelin stars as possible. Take it away Huy!

Entering the foyer of 101 Collins Street never fails to take my breath away. Nothing gets my heart racing like water features and walls covered in gold leaf, and this building has both in spades. And tucked in the back of the building towards Flinders Lane is The Italian, a moody, sexy restaurant befitting of this prestigious address.

In terms of design, The Italian is pretty much faultless. I loved the dark wood floors, white linen and soaring double heighted ceilings, and the high backed red leather booths where our party was seated provided some welcomed privacy in the exposed space at the back of the restaurant. The elegant Tolomeo wall lamps that softly lit the booths turned the intimacy dial up a few more notches. All that dyed cow hide and flattering lighting makes this restaurant a superb date place. Not that I have yet lived to find out – I road tested The Italian (on the recommendation of Jetsetting Joyce) with the family.

I like Italian food, but don’t often find myself in Italian restaurants when I dine out. It’s sad, but I have begun to associate Italian food with the slap dash pasta dishes made with dried pasta and Dolmio sauces that have become a staple of my home life diet. You see, I’m male, in my early thirties, single – and I usually want a break from routine when I’m eating out. And so it was a joy to be reminded of the variety, sophistication and plain deliciousness of Italian cooking at The Italian.

I have always found the length of Italian menus laughable and The Italian’s menu continues the tradition of offering so much choice that I was a bit lost about what selections to make. The specials that night threw an additional two starters and three mains into the mix!

This is the point in the review where the wheels come off a little – I cannot remember the details of everything our party of six ate. I do recall that we weren’t particularly hungry and decided to share a few plates of fish topped bruschetta to start. It was heavenly, and a testament to the wonders of what good ingredients can do for a simple dish.

For my main, I had pappardelle with duck and mushrooms (one of the specials) which, despite being over salted, was still a very satisfying melt-in-your-mouth, stewish pasta dish ($26). The rest of the family also enjoyed their mains, with the most vocal praises being heaped on the char-grilled rib eye with shitake and oyster mushrooms ($39) and the grilled Yellowfin tuna with potatoes, asparagus, olives and basil ($37).

Take a hot date to The Italian. Don’t skip the starter because chances are that your date will be so impressed, you’ll probably wind up having “dessert” at home.

minilink HOT: The Italian, Level 6, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne

HOT: The Graham Hotel, 97 Graham Street, Port Melbourne

In the last of Gourmet Chick‘s guest posts series, we take a trip to Port Melbourne to sample some gastropub fare. Gourmet Chick is a Melburnian living in London who writes about food in London and around the world (including Melbourne) at www.gourmet-chick.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @msgourmetchick. Thanks Gourmet Chick!

When is a gastro pub not a gastro pub? When it is The Graham Hotel in Port Melbourne, which has gone so far down the gastro path that you can’t really call it a pub anymore.

Drinking is still an important part of The Graham experience but it is drinking from The Graham‘s extensive wine list over a long lunch or drinking a cocktail at the wine bar around the back. The main pub area has been entirely converted into a restaurant which is filled with smart white clothed tables where diners can look out the picture windows to watch the street life go by.

There is also a lovely private room which accomodates 28 people and is where I ate on my most recent visit . Helpfully for groups The Graham offers a $59 two course menu which is great value for food of this calibre.

 HOT: The Graham Hotel, 97 Graham Street, Port Melbourne

The food is modern Australian sporting lots of Asian and Meditteranean influences. To begin, a trio of chilli barbecque prawns ($21.50) which were served on an Asian salad of green paw paw and thai basil. The prawns had a lovely fiery kick to them although mine had been slightly overcooked giving them a slighly acrid charred flavour.

Goats cheese tortelli ($16.50) was a small serving of wide pasta layered over stuffed zucchini flowers and ricotta. This was a really light and fresh pasta dish.

 HOT: The Graham Hotel, 97 Graham Street, Port Melbourne

Rice crusted snapper ($34.50) was served with a beautifully crisped skin on top of tempura eggplant and prawn fritter. Fresh seafood doesn’t really get better than this and the fritter was the perfect accompaniment.

Throughout our (rather long) lunch the service was fantastic. Two of our friends at the lunch had babies with them and the waitress held their babies for them while they ate. This was a lovely touch that was clearly going above and beyond what is expected and it allowed the babies’ mothers to actually enjoy their meals.

The Graham is run by twins Tony and Peter Giannakis and is a real stalwart of the Melbourne restaurant/gastropub scene. My latest meal there showed why people keep on going back to it.

Here at MEL: HOT OR NOT we also love south-of-the-river gastropubs The Palace by Luke Mangan and O’Connell’s Centenary Hotel.

You can check out the rest of Gourmet Chick‘s guests posts on Sunburnt Country and Naked Japan.

minilink HOT: The Graham Hotel, 97 Graham Street, Port Melbourne

HOT: Coffee Hit, 81 Church Street, Hawthorn

One of the pieces of feedback I received from the MEL: HOT OR NOT Reader Survey 2010 was that you wanted to see more reviews from other people. I’m decisive, but I’m not necessary the Gospel According To Joyce.

That’s why you’ll be seeing more guest posts soon, from previous guest-posters to newbies. Today we welcome Melbourne blogger Ceri (otherwise known as Healthy Party Girl), who checked out great coffee in Kew. Thanks Ceri!

image001 HOT: Coffee Hit, 81 Church Street, Hawthorn

For those that complain about the lack of decent cafes in Kew, your prayers have been answered by Coffee Hit.

A fresh, new café and soon-to-be roasting house, Coffee Hit boasts young baristas with over twenty years of experience between them, the best Veneziano coffee, homemade food, and a fresh outlook on the café scene. I discovered this one just recently and will be making my way down as often as possible from now on. They’re so new that they don’t even have a website or business cards, and the most obvious address is taken by the just-sold store in Westfield Doncaster.

image005 HOT: Coffee Hit, 81 Church Street, Hawthorn

The young, funky team have already acquired regular customers and on Sunday afternoons they come in for a late breakfast and a chat, sharing the space with new faces that have discovered the recently opened corner shop. Owner Troy likes to have his fingers in as many pies as possible and is looking forward to starting the in-house bean roasting as soon as possible while juggling a young family and still being all hands on bar.

I shared an early afternoon snack with a friend while chatting to Troy as he demolished the eye-catching breakfast salad: poached eggs, bacon, feta, capsicum, rocket, avocado and croutons. In fact, all the food looks amazing. The counter displays home made muffins, paninis, tarts and slices – everything is made in-house apart from the bread & croissants which are brought in from a quality bakery in Port Melbourne.

image003 HOT: Coffee Hit, 81 Church Street, Hawthorn

Other drool-worthy menu items include the Hit Man Breakfast (complete with home made hash browns) and the Breakfast Bruschetta (smashed avocado, tomato, fetta and white balsamic) but the one thing you must try is the coffee. Troy and Sean effortlessly smash out perfect lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos with gorgeous latte art and a cheeky grin. It’s obvious these boys have a passion for coffee and that’s before the cup even reaches your lips. Take a seat out the back or soak up the sun and the view with the paper at the big table in the front section.

It’s the details that really make Coffee Hit a lovely place to visit, from the Aesop products in the bathroom, the fridge full of organic bottled beverages, the menu clipboards hanging from hardware pegboard and the fresh daisies in little bottles all around the place, all giving Coffee Hit that fresh, laid-back and modern feel.

If you can’t get to Kew, you might be lucky enough to pass by one of their associated mobile coffee carts at Elwood Park for the occasional race day Sunday or on Burwood Highway (outside Beaurepairs) on weekday mornings. But for me, I’m hanging out for a latte from one of Troy’s own roasts. Lovely!

minilink HOT: Coffee Hit, 81 Church Street, Hawthorn

NOT: Naked Japan, 99 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

As promised last week, here’s another guest post from the lovely Gourmet Chick, this time venturing to Albert Park. Gourmet Chick is a Melburnian living in London who writes about food in London and around the world (including Melbourne) at www.gourmet-chick.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @msgourmetchick. Thanks Gourmet Chick!

It’s not that Naked Japan is a bad restaurant, it’s just not the sort of restaurant you would recommend your friends cross town for, so on that basis I have given it a NOT.

First the good things. Located in leafy Victoria Avenue in Albert Park, Naked Japan is a casual neighbourhood restaurant.  No bookings are required and if you want to eat alone there is a counter lining the window with stools that sole diners can happily perch at.  The interior is fairly small and no frills with a handful of tables and an open kitchen so that every now and again you become momentarily distracted by a wok flaming or a chef shouting.  They also run a takeaway service and a steady stream of customers pile in to pick up bags of Japanese goodies from the counter.

The menu contains all the Japanese favourites such as sushi, soba noodles, tempura and bento boxes.  All the meals are presented on beautiful Japanese crockery that is so nice looking that you can’t help but think whether it would be possible to steal it.  Naked Japan also offers plentiful refills of green tea which is always a winner in my book.

 NOT: Naked Japan, 99 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

To start, gyoza ($6 for 5) looked the goods with their pastry skin straining to accomodate the stuffing of meat, cabbage, ginger and onion.  However the gyoza had a slightly greasy feel to them and I think they had been pan fried for a little too long.

 NOT: Naked Japan, 99 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

Salmon teriyaki don ($14) was a dispiriting looking meal as the salmon glowed a lurid orange through the brown teriyaki garlic sauce.  The salmon was perfectly cooked but the whole dish was quite boring with no real depth of flavour.
 NOT: Naked Japan, 99 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

A better option was the Nabeyaki Udon ($12) that came to the table steaming hot in a generous bowl of broth filled with thick white udon noodles and topped with fried prawns, chicken and vegetables along with a poached egg. If you do happen to be in the area and make your way to Naked Japan then this is the dish to order.  Otherwise I think there are better Japanese restaurants in Melbourne.

For cheap Japanese restaurants that the blog has previously rated HOT, try Don Don, Sushi Ten and Ramen Ya in the city.

To catch the last of Gourmet Chick‘s guest posts, come back next week for her trip to The Graham Hotel in Port Melbourne.

minilink NOT: Naked Japan, 99 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

HOT: Meddlers Hair Salon, 67 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

Today we have another guest post by Poppy, my blogging buddy who’s the author of Poppy Gets a Life (you can read her previous guest post here).

We all know the best way to find a good hairdresser (or doctor or manicurist or barista) is to ask someone in the know for a recommendation. Here’s Poppy’s take on her new hairdressers, Meddlers. Thanks Poppy!

 HOT: Meddlers Hair Salon, 67 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

Despite working in the cosmetics industry, I maintain my relatively low-maintenance approach to personal grooming.

Hence, when my usual hairdresser departed Botanica in the city, I conducted a quick once-over on my loyalties to the salon itself, and decided that a change of location was in order. And, now that I no longer work on Collins Street, it made sense to find a hair salon closer to home.

South Yarra is overflowing with salons catering to the wealthy inner suburbanites, so when a friend recommended Meddlers I was relieved to have a positive personal experience to run with.

With a cut and blow-dry costing $84 for women and $68 for men, Meddlers isn’t a bargain-hunter’s dream. But the price point does deliver in a number of key areas.

A selection of tea is available while you wait, served in delightful T2 crockery. And not just a single cup of tea; an entire teapot is included in the setting served on a vibrantly coloured wicker tray.

The large communal colour table is strewn with the latest magazines and a copy of today’s Age. I was happy to see quality men’s magazine GQ and industry heavyweight FashionTrend, but disappointed not to see a Vogue or Harpers Bazaar.

NewSalon Interior51 HOT: Meddlers Hair Salon, 67 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

The appearance of quality male-oriented literature reflects the salon’s heritage of male styling. Gary and Chris, Meddlers‘ owners, have been in partnership for almost seven years now and run the training side of men’s salon brand American Crew in Australia.

Gary’s educational flair became apparent during the final stages of my hair dry, when he helpfully offered some tricks on how to handle an irritating curl that likes to appear in my fringe – something no other stylist has ever bothered to share.

I was delighted with the cut and the styling – unlike many other experiences, I walked out of the salon with just the right level of volume and swing in my hair. Not too much so as to look bouffant, not so flat that I look like an Addams Family long-lost cousin.

The salon is located on new premises on Toorak Road. The separate, dimly lit wash and colouring room sports comfortable leather recliners with built-in back massagers. The setting was peaceful, without requiring strange pipe music. In fact, I don’t remember hearing any music in the salon at all.

 HOT: Meddlers Hair Salon, 67 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

And the all-important question: did your stylist leave you in peace, or bombard you with inappropriate personal questions and tales of their drunken weekend misdemeanours?

Usually I like to be left alone during my cut, and Gary was happy to chat to Chris who was working beside us while I browsed the Good Weekend Magazine. When I did seek to engage him in conversation he became animated and delighted to chat about the history of the business. I’m sure as our relationship evolves it will be easy to reach a balance.

All in all, the combination of an experienced, no-nonsense stylist and a relaxed, beautifully turned-out salon results in Meddlers being a HOT winner.

(All photographs thanks to Meddlers)

HOT: Sunburnt Country, Melbourne International Comedy Festival

I love having guests bloggers and today I’m handing over the hot seat to Gourmet Chick, a Melburnian currently living in London who still knows what’s hot and what’s not in Melbourne.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival starts soon on Wednesday 24 March until Sunday 18 April 2010, and if you’re a bit bamboozled by all the acts on offer, here’s Gourmet Chick‘s guest post on comedy cabaret show Sunburnt Country starring Rosa The Russian Beautician and Friends. Thanks Gourmet Chick!

She sings, dances and waxes.  She is Rosa the Russian Beautician played by Melbourne comedian Marney McQueen, who returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year with a new show, Sunburnt Country.  I caught a slightly different version of the show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival last year (where it won rave reviews) and found myself laughing so hard that my laughter turned into those snorting laughs that are highly embarassing.  Luckily I was spared public humiliation by the fact that everyone around me was also snorting with laughter.  What more can you ask for from a comedy show?

SUNBURNT COUNTRY by Marney McQueen 2 528x1024 HOT: Sunburnt Country, Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Sunburnt Country is a comedy cabaret show where McQueen plays several characters, the well established Rosa the Russian Beautician  (who has her own Facebook fan club) along with four new characters: Karen Barnes a border security guard at Melbourne Airport, Annabel Sarah Victoria Winters-Smythe of Armadale Galleries, Damo Greggs an Australian recently returned from a life changing Contiki tour around Europe with a stopover in Bali and Raelene Dreggs a Gold Coast mother who’s daughter Shana is in jail in Bali after being found with ecstasy in her rollerskates at Denpasar Airport.

DSC 2353 2 2v1 HOT: Sunburnt Country, Melbourne International Comedy Festival

I can’t vouch for the new characters but I can say that on the strength of Rosa the Russian Beautician alone this is one Comedy festival show that is well worth seeing.  Never have you seen a woman make a leopard print catsuit and a mullet look so attractive.  I left the show with a sore stomach from laughing and still singing “Honour Your Bikini”, Rosa’s signature song, in my head.

Catch Gourmet Chick‘s guest post next week when she heads to Naked Japan in Albert Park. In the meantime, check out Gourmet Chick‘s fabulous blog about food in London and around the world (including Melbourne) and follow Gourmet Chick on Twitter @msgourmetchick.

NOT: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland poster NOT: Alice in WonderlandToday our resident film guru Yalin brings us his view on Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland. While I quite enjoyed the 3D effect and admired Alice’s beautiful dresses, I did feel that it lacked the magical wonderment of the original Lewis Carroll book, with its predictable good vs evil plot. Our guest blogger’s conclusion? ‘Burton disappoints with Alice’. Take it away Yalin!

Tim Burton is a director with a very distinct view of things. He tends to show the beauty in some of the most unlikely characters, embrace the dark and review a new good within it. Some might say he is the Mad Hatter of the world of cinema.

However, his latest film Alice in Wonderland is a disappointing experience. It is slow, boring, conventional and so not Burton. It seems Disney has pulled on the reins.

The story is loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s famous work. I say loosely because the screenplay written by Linda Woolverton imagines Alice’s return to Wonderland/Underland, where pretty much only the characters remain intact. Alice is now a young woman trying to define her individuality. So, at the most opportune moment, the White Rabbit pulls her down the hole once again in an adventure where she will determine not only the destiny of Wonderland/Underland but also her own

The Wonderland/Underland she returns to has been ravaged by war and left rotting. She’s given the treatment of the savior, but she must first acknowledge it herself. Pretty standard fare, isn’t it? Good work, Woolverton.

The story goes in starts and stops. At points, the action picks up but is not fueled enough to propel the viewer throughout the entire film. I felt a bit like Alice growing and shrinking again and again; it felt tiring. The dialogue also isn’t very polished, as some of the most memorable characters of the story never get a good line. The focus is obviously on the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen, who have the best lines and scenes. On that note, both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter live and breathe these characters. I cannot imagine someone else doing a better job.
On the other side of the fence though, Anne Hathaway feels awkward and fake as the White Queen. She wants to be over the top for Burton but ends up out of place. Nicole Kidman would have made a better White Queen, especially since she’s used to quirky stories from working with Baz Luhrmann.

Leaving the story and the acting aside, the set and costume design are fantastic. This is the one place where Burton seals the deal and delivers. The fantastical land is brought back as a gothic forest complete with intriguing animals and insects. From the Red Queen’s digitally-enlarged head to the Mad Hatter’s green eyes, from Alice’s pale skin to the creature animation, the visuals are wonderful.

The visual kudos cannot save this film though from what it is: a boring, conventional aimed-at-children’s story. I especially cannot forgive how the Mad Hatter’s charisma, built so meticulously by Depp, is completely destroyed towards the end with what might seem a harmless act. I cannot spill the beans completely here as there might be some of you still wanting to see the film even after reading this.

All in all, if I were the Red Queen, I would have said “Off with his head!”

How to make lor mai gai – Gourmet Chick post

DSC07763v1 How to make lor mai gai   Gourmet Chick post

In the second of my three guest posts for my good friend Gourmet Chick (who’s away from her computer on holiday at the moment) today I’m going to direct you to my guest post with my recipe for lor mai gai or steamed glutinous rice in lotus leaves, a too-tired-to-cook freezer staple in our household.

If you’re interested in reading the first guest post, check out my instructions on how to make dumplings.