Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dining on Duck

When I was in Melbourne recently, I wandered the city for hours on end. I find that the best way to come upon unexpected photographic opportunities. So it was that I found myself in Chinatown (Little Bourke Street), just before midday and just as the skies opened and rain pelted down. I sheltered across the road from this little Chinese restaurant - City BBQ Chinese Restaurant - photographing people darting about under the shelter of a rainbow of umbrellas, neon lights reflecting perfectly in the rapidly-forming puddles. But there comes a time when a girl has to eat, so, attracted by the ducks hanging in the window, I stepped into the City BBQ restaurant.
I was greeted by the sing-song babble of Mandarin, the rhythmic chopping of cleaver through duck meat and happy laughter. It reminded me instantly of being in the backstreet Beijing restraurants that I had frequented with my (compulsory) interpreter/minder in 2001 and 2003; and I settled in for a long, slow lunch that would see me through the wettest part of the day. They were selling Peking Duck for A$25.80 for a half bird and A$45.80 for a whole bird and, sitting close to the couter and the 'duck chef' in the window, I could see that sliced duck meat on a bed of steamed rice with Chinese greens was definitely the favourite meal of the day for most of the Chinese diners. Many were obviously regulars - they came in, said a word or two, sat down and a meal was presented to them within minutes. I find something intensely gratifying about sitting in a simple Chinese restaurant, surrounded by Chinese and immersed in the sound of Manadrin. It's the stuff of many happy travel memories for me - and I can never have enough of those.

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