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High lunch on Brunswick Street

"There is no denying rooftops are hot right now. Something about escaping the demands of everyday life high above the hustle and bustle below appeals to all of us. It is a way for people to clear their minds and see a bigger picture." Mandy & Kelvin Slater - FSR

Last Friday I went out to lunch with the mothers of my grandchildren. We had been going to drive out to Sunbury for lunch with my niece and my sister but alas for them they have all gone down with COVID, so we decided to have lunch anyway. And this is where we went - Naked Upstairs in Brunswick Street - the rooftop bar in the Naked for Satan complex. I think the downstairs lounge is not currently operating but upstairs certainly is. It might look deserted in the picture I took on arrival - above - but we were one of the first arrivals - I think every table was filled by the time we left.

As you can see from the photographs the setting is pretty spectacular and also very Brunswick St. grunge. There are 180º views of the city and surrounds and as the day was gorgeous and as there was also plenty of shade - well when we arrived anyway - the ambience was just perfect. Industrial chic, views, wonderful company, what else could you want? And a quick peek at 'best rooftop bars' lists, has Naked Upstairs on all of them and also sometimes at the top.

Well - maybe better food. From 12-4pm the prices are cheap - $12.00 for every dish. But the dishes are small - even the mains - and really not that great. Nic and I shared three entrée sized dishes - which I forgot to photograph, although I found two of them on the net - Prawn skewers and fillet steak skewers. The third was potato croquettes. So tapas style food I guess - and to be fair to these photos I did have two skewers of prawns. And looking at these photographs I now wonder whether I was being unkind by saying the food was disappointing. That relish on the prawns was sort of tasty but somehow not tasty enough - and honestly I thought it was all a bit cold. All three entrées. Maybe the kitchen is down in the cellars and it's cold by the time it gets to the top.

My daughter-in-law's fish main though was only a tiny bit larger and I don't think she was all that impressed either. In fact we were so hungry that we ordered a bowl of chips as well. Well you can't go wrong with chips can you? No you can't. And it's not just me, we all agreed that the food was a bit disappointing. Ambience - 10 out of 10, food maybe 5 or 6. And having now discovered that various foodie sites rave about the tapas style food I am doubly disappointed. What do they see that we didn't or are they just too influenced by the setting.

And here is a quick aside on the name - Naked for Satan. It's not what you think. It's actually named for one Leon Satanovich a Russian immigrant who worked, from 1928 as a cleaner/caretaker in the Moran and Cato grocer's building in Brunswick St. The same building in which Naked for Satan is now housed. When the depression came, Satanovich - now called Satan, started making illegal vodka in the clear.

"the combination of Melbourne’s soaring temperatures and the heat generated by the burners under the stills was unbearable. Satanovich often worked close to naked, distilling vodka in nothing more than his underpants. This moonshining was a guarded secret and those who came to partake, used the code phrase, “Let’s get Naked for Satan”.

Nice story but also somewhat tantalising. What happened to him? Did he get caught and jailed or did he go on to make a fortune? And it's not just his name that has been taken over by Naked for Satan. It's the vodka too - as the speciality of the house in drinks is infused vodka. These are made in-house and promoted heavily. Well vodka is trendy too.

As is Brunswick Street of course. When our sons were single and living together with a friend in neighbouring Nicholson Street, we would visit every Sunday and have dinner somewhere in Brunswick Street. I always felt horrendously suburban - and old - there - as indeed I still do, but I do love it. It is lined with cafés, and, as I discovered one Christmas, is the perfect place to go Christmas shopping as, in between the quirky cafés, representing all the major ethnic cuisines, there are quirky gift shops, book shops, prestige stationery shops, flower shops, Simon Johnson providor and T2, to name just a few. Then there is the grunge. The street art, the decorations on the café frontages, the sculptures and the overall buzz.

On the day that we were there it seemed to be back to its old self, with lots of people, and mostly open and busy cafés and stores. I tried to find out if it has suffered through the pandemic and did find that back in August 2020 there was indeed a 6% increase in shop vacancies, but I have to say I did not notice many of them on Friday. But then it's quite a long street and we were only in the busiest section.

One thing is for sure - the rooftop trend will continue. Because of COVID we want to dine in the open air and a rooftop is a really good place to do that. I imagine that in winter there will be heaters and suchlike to make it all cosier. I noticed that a favourite old haunt of ours on Brunswick Street - The Provincial also has a new rooftop section, and I'm pretty sure that rooftop bars are rife throughout the city. I heartily approve.

And then to really put the shine on the day I bumped into an old work colleague of mine on the way back to the car.

The flowery kind of photos above are because my last week's photography challenge was flowers. I particularly liked the white swirls which were somehow flowery and the exposed bricks within the swirls that looked a bit like butterflies.


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