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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

RIP Vlad “Vlado's” Gregurek

Vlado's Restaurant
61 Bridge Road

Richmond VIC 3121

+61 3 9428 5833


It was with some sadness I learnt of the demise of Vlado Gregurek today – first from a nun named Sister Mary, then from ‘the Age’ in an email (all the best recommendations as to his character).

His restaurant, Vlados, is a Melbourne institution. Vlados serve meat – steak to be precise. No pommes frites. No veg… aside from a bowl of sauerkraut. No chicken. No fish. Just meat.

I was taken there when I was ten years old, wearing a maroon rugby jumper with a sky blue skivvy underneath. That night left a deep impression on me.

Their logo looked like something Copperart™ had knocked up, and I looked up at my enthusiastic father, his cheeks aglow and eyes atwinkle, with some doubt and trepidation. “This place has the best steaks in Melbourne” my father opined, and I was led bug eyed within the hallowed halls on Bridge Rd into what looked like a dark ethnic person’s lounge room with a big poster of cows on one wall.

You didn’t have to cut the meat much. “You can cut it with the side of your fork” (Dad again).

When we left I was so stuffed I couldn’t sit straight in the car, but had to lean back as the blood rushed from my brain to the over stuffed haggis (sans bran) that was now my stomach.

Apparently Vlad spent some time as a refugee in Paris, where the concept of steak only restaurants is not exactly nouvelle, though his twist on coming to Australia of omitting the pommes frites was. High food? Well, in some traditions yes, since it was “the best quality you can get.” But he brought super fancy steaks to Melbourne long before the concept (which is anathema to me) of having a massive chunk of wagyu on your plate. And he made a fortune doing it.

The menu is the same now as ever. You start with sausages, then move on to a tasting plate; which has such delicacies as liver, pork neck, hamburgers, tongue, etc. Then you get to choose your cut of aged steak – three choices (eye fillet, porterhouse or rump) – which you eat. With cabbage. Finally, strawberry pancakes… and a bag to throw up in.

Vlad won an Order of Australia, and rubbed shoulders with the literarti, glitterarti and blockedarteri of Melbourne town. You cannot tell me Channel Nine management didn’t make a regular pilgrimage from Bendigo Street for decades; he cooked for James Packer’s wedding after all (which marriage – the one that lasted???). I can just see Darryl Sommers down there hoping to be noticed and making bold statements like “Ah… beuf bleu, eh Vlad?”

Vlad died of cancer at 81, which just goes to show that with the right genetics, an all meat diet is the tip top thing to get you past the average age of popping your clogs. It’s much like the inventor of LSD, Dr Albert Hoffman dying at age 102 (see where taking drugs gets you?).

Which leads me to a short poem in the style of Private Eye magazine:

Vale Vlad

Farewell then Vlad Gregurek,
You made us steaks, and we ate them.
Who would of thought Australians
Would have a predilection
To eating meat and drinking booze...
You had the name of an impaler
But no one was scared of you -
Except for cows.
Good work. (I never liked Cowes anyway)

Read a proper article on Vlad here at the Age (and from where I pinched the above photo - attribution!):