Pardon me, Pastor, pass the pasta

The torchlight beams hop about the dirt path in front and then above, and occasionally, behind us, as our boys, Alex and Max, guide the way into Sassafras. The mountain dark and colossal cold presses down. Fern trees are all about, like extras in Avatar, for we’re in the Dandenongs. To our north a wooden building appears. It’s a church.


At least it was. Now, it’s a restaurant called Dine Divine. On the phone, a week ago, Janine was insistent.


“We must go to the old church Sunday for they have a brilliant pasta night.”


Mine host and restaurateur Trev punches our order into his iPad with one finger. He’s had a successful career, and splits his time between Southbank, his farm and this converted place of worship. He could be retired, but I know there’s nowhere he’d rather be. He likes a yarn.


Janine, Garry and I have the carbonara. It’s magnificent. Creamy and luscious, but possessing subtle flavours, while the pasta is bouncily solid, as it should be. The ham is salty and necessarily complementary, and the dish is equivalent to the food I had at Jamie’s Italian in January. Anyway, we know his restaurant juggernaut is a genealogical lie, for Mr Oliver was born in Essex.


Garry and I each have a Crown Lager, and I remember a time, back in the simpler, pre-globalised 1990’s when these represented a beery extravagance, and were something to be enjoyed at a Christmas function, when the boss was shouting- Quick! Davo! Get a couple more Crownies. We’ve still got ten minutes to go! Or you were on the lunchtime lash, at somewhere precariously bohemian, like Café Junction in the Adelaide Casino. Now, a Crownie’s unreconstructed flavour and nose seems as sophisticated as a night at the Dapto dogs.


When in Ireland on their honeymoon some dear friends ventured into a pub for lunch. Brett considered the blackboard menu above the bar, and asked the waiter, “What’s in the Guinness and steak pie?”


With unblinking eyes, the young local looked through and past Brett, and replied in an unironic monotone, “Guinness.” There was a pause. “And steak.”


So, my wife had the Guinness and steak potpie, and declared it the best she’s ever feckin’ had. A couple bowls of chips are inhaled. Folks sometimes forget that it’s easy to butcher a chip, to mix food industry metaphors. These are an ornament to the spud. We eat them as if we’ve been wandering the desert for over a month, except we’re in a temperate rainforest.


Is there a better soft drink than a Lemon, Lime and Bitters (LLB)? Of course not. I just read that it’s customary for Antipodean golfers to take it after their round, and I must rebut this as bald-faced nonsense. But Alex has one, and for a few minutes it’s the best event of his brief life.


The LLB is superseded by the arrival of his sticky date pudding. He is nine, and eating chocolate dessert inescapably descends into an unholy hybrid of unwatchable reality TV, horror schlock, and Animal House food fight scene. It becomes difficult to tell if he’s gobbling the pudding, or vice versa.


Again, I wonder at what age he’ll possess a fully-functioning mouth, and we’ll be able to throw out the drop-sheet. It seems a while off. Inserted between the almost medieval-black castle of pudding, and the elegant bathtub of ice cream, is a golden lattice of toffee. He makes a suitable mess of this too.


On the flight home, Alex announces it as a Victorian highlight. For me, it is too.


Dine Divine is warm and wonderful, and sits geographically and gastronomically at the centre of Sassafras.


We’ll be back.


About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Nice Mickey.

    Out of interest, you didn’t spend a night in an apartment on Sturt St, Southbank on the weekend did you? To explain, I thought I saw you putting out pizza boxes as I went past? But sounds like I have that one wrong.

  2. Well-spotted JTH. We did spend three nights at that location. Took the boys to their debuts at the Docklands and the MCG, where your Cats and the Hawks treated us to another ripper.

    Some friends were also staying at Sturt St and we watched the Crows and Demons over pizza and Pepperjack shiraz. Sunday morning’s concussion- when you saw me- was nearly as bad as Rory Sloan’s. I’m being put through the protocols to see if I’ll get up for Friday night.

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Footy weekend restaurant reviews … I like it!
    Italian in the temperate rainforest sounded v good Mickey!

  4. Mickey, I passed one metre from you, but I was thinking, and you had your head bowed in dutiful respect to the last whiff of the box of a Mexican with extra chilli. It was only when I turned back some 20 meteres away that I realised by which time you’d hitched your dacks and were on your way. I was heading for the ABC.

  5. Punx Peter says

    Mickey, my aim is to one day order pork from a synagogue converted to the same. Super read as always

  6. Thanks Mathilde. We loved our few days in the Dandenongs too. Good friends, log fires, and lots of fresh- very fresh air. The boys and I spent some time at the Olinda footy club playground too. It was a treat!

    Sorry, JTH. I was less than observant at that point, but recuperated well, thanks to some altitude training.

    Punx Peter- I reckon there’s a story in the various subsequent uses to which churches have been put. Off the top of my head I’ve been in family homes, nightclubs, restaurants and school-houses.

  7. I just find it ridiculously coincidental that that happened.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, I remember when my group of mates all turned 18, we’d all chip in for a box of Crownies for whoever the birthday boy was. We thought it was a classy way to legally start drinking. Now, I’m totally agreed with you on the Dapto dogs analogy!
    Is there a better sounding, more fun to say place name than Sassafras?

  9. Rick Kane says

    The Dandenongs are a delight and Sassa (nobody calls it that and I shouldn’t either) is always a good stop. So not Melbourne! Love your story and that Alex experienced one of those best evas moment.

    Happy to say never fell for Crownies. Domestic beer wearing a tie.


  10. Could never understand all the fuss about Crownies, Mickey.
    Thankfully our tastes have become a little more discerning when it comes to beer.

  11. Luke- Sassafras is a great name, and I’m torn between wondering if it could be the setting for a Disney animation, or a film like Fargo. Maybe both.

    Rick- love “Domestic beer wearing a tie.” Or possibly one of those t-shirts with a tuxedo printed on the front.

    Smokie- agreed. I always thought that I was supposed to enjoy a Crownie more than I did. Gee, that Pentridge Pale Ale on tap at the North Fitzroy Arms goes a treat.

    Sorry, JTH, I’ve probably killed off any chance of a CUB sponsorship!

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