A Guide to Melbourne

I  managed to get a week off work, and deciding not to venture too far, I headed down to Melbourne again! I just love the city of Melbourne; full of bustling café’s, restaurants and bars, hole-in-the-wall art galleries, little boutiques, an excellent public transport system of historic and modern trams and a population of happy, friendly and sociable people. For me of course, food is of the highest priority and importance, and Melbourne certainly delivers in this department…

BREAKFAST:

Pope Joan: This was one of the best café’s I’ve ever been to! I love it because all the produce is locally sourced. The coffee is one of my all time favourites, All Press, and other drinks include Calmer Sutra chai, homemade hot chocolates, fresh juices and Bloody Mary’s. The food is phenomenal, my mum and I had the most delicious breakfast here. I had the potato, carrot & kale bubble ‘n’ squeak, poached egg, kimchi, sesame and my mum had the avocado, goats feta, poached egg, corn bread, pea & caper salsa. I’d recommend both dishes equally, but the bubble ‘n’ squeak was particularly interesting! (Side note: I asked celebrity cook Rachel Khoo at her book signing what her favourite place in Melbourne was, and she said Pope Joan!)

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Tall Timber: Inventive, delicious & healthy food! This place does it so incredibly well. It was a cold morning in Melbourne, so I ordered a black coffee and the vanilla oat and chia porridge w/ spiced pear, honey labna and pistachio crumble. It arrived at the table so promptly and I could not get over how beautiful the presentation was! And it tasted even better than it looked; the creamy porridge, crunchy pistachio and caramelised pear was such a divine combination – a very unique and special dish that I will find myself craving for again and again. My mum ordered the banana and pistachio loaf with espresso mascarpone and just loved it, but it was a very generous serving and very much a dessert-style breakfast. I definitely recommend this place for breakfast, and it’s conveniently just a short walk from the Prahran markets.

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Three Bags Full: Excellent coffee and fresh, yummy food featuring an all-day brunch menu. It definitely suits the creatives around Abbotsford, sprawled over 3 rooms with plenty of room to work or study over a coffee and something to eat. I’ll admit the food wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, but the produce is super fresh, the coffee is excellent, it has a great atmosphere and is in such a nice, quiet neighbourhood, only a short walk along the Yarra to Abbotsford Convent. Also, I noticed they stock some insane looking donuts from nearby café Proud Mary’s (whose menu looks really good). I loved my smashed avocado with Yarra Valley feta, cherry tomatoes, grilled corn and quinoa salsa but the toast was a bit soft and mum enjoyed the green eggs and ham but the ham was very thick and a bit too heavy for breakfast.

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LUNCH:

Café Vue: We had a nice quick lunch here, but it was nothing worth raving about. The service is very good and the prices are reasonable. I like the look of their lunchbox deal but we were after something light, so opted for the lentil soup. A nice amount of spice and served with a nice crusty sourdough roll.

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Shandong Mama Mini: A hole in the wall dumpling spot that is very popular, and I can see why. The mackerel dumplings are delicious! They are filled with fresh mackerel mixed by hand with coriander, ginger and chives. The outside is crispy, the inside is juicy and you can taste each fresh ingredient. I can see why Neil Perry is such a fan! (See: http://travelinsider.qantas.com.au/experience/foodie-experiences/australia/where-to-get-australias-best-value-asian-street-food).

Belle’s Hot Chicken: Speechless. I can’t put into words how juicy, crispy, fresh & spicy the fried chicken at Belle’s is. I had high expectations, after Rachel Khoo told me how much she loved it, but these expectations were met & exceeded! I ordered the dark meat (drumstick & thigh) medium-spiced with a side of pickled veg and braised collard-style greens. The dark meet was so delicious and juicy, and the seasoning was like nothing I’ve ever tasted – be warned that the medium is really quite spicy! I can’t see how you could go beyond this level of heat and still enjoy all the other flavours. The greens really helped cut through the heat and were so flavoursome and addictively good. The pickled veg were seasoned with a bit of turmeric and were nice, but too acidic to eat with spicy food, and the chicken comes with a few pickles anyway. Whether you’re a fried chicken fan or not, Belle’s will not disappoint! Ask the lovely staff what the specials are, and hopefully you can get the yummy greens!

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DINNER:

Cumulus Up: Cumulus Inc. has a downstairs and upstairs restaurant, each having a different menu. The upstairs level is slightly more formal and has a tasting menu, which my mum and I ordered. For an affordable $65, we had an incredible selection of food; far more than we could manage. Our favourite dishes were the fried chickpeas, roast potatoes, iceberg salad, ricotta dumplings with burnt butter & pine nuts and the dessert, rhubarb hibiscus jelly with coconut gelati & ginger beer granita. A lot of the dishes were very heavy (e.g. there was a duck waffle with foie gras & prune – too rich for a tasting menu…) so the salad was the perfect palate cleanser and the dessert was a lovely refreshing way to end the meal. If I went back, I’d order a glass of wine, the ricotta dumplings and a dessert. But if you’ve got a good appetite, the tasting menu is great value! (Below is a picture of the potatoes, not a very good pic, but they were so darn good I had to put it up).

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Tipo 00: Titled after the brand of Italian flour used to make their fresh pasta, of course Tipo 00 know what they’re doing and serve up some of the best pasta you’ll have ever tasted. Being very popular, reservations are a must. You’ll find yourself surrounded by locals, Italian families and young foodies. Mum and I shared the braised globe artichoke heart, almond & parmesan and the grilled squid, pickled fennel & black capsicum to start. Both were simply divine, but my favourite was the artichoke as it’s one of my favourite ingredients and takes me back to my trip to Rome, but Mum just loved the squid; it’s freshness and lightness. For the main I had the squid ink tagliolini and Mum had the king prawn linguini with tomato and capers. Both were beautiful, but how hearts still lied with the entrees which set the bar too high! I was eyeing off the asparagus tortelloni, the stinging nettle risotto and the potato dumplings with braised duck & porcini mushrooms at the table next to us too…Next time! We had the lemon myrtle, almond & mandarin pannacotta for dessert to share, which was only ‘nice’, the freeze dried mandarin being the highlight. Tipo 00 – a must visit for some delicious, authentic Italian! The limoncello spritzers were an excellent aperitif and the wine list is great too.

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Lucy Lui: We had the most incredible feast here with a couple of friends who live in Melbourne, and it was the perfect place as the sharing plates were a great way to dine in a small group and try a bit of everything. Highlights were the peking duck dumplings, steamed barramundi and scampi dumplings, steamed blue cod and the slow roasted lamb shoulder. Amazing food, awesome atmosphere, extensive wine list and a very helpful & knowledgable sommelier. Be sure to book!

SNACKS/COFFEE:

Smith & Deli: Amazing vegan baked goods. I’ve tried the sticky pecan challah bun, shortbread dipped in chocolate w/ pecan praline, the lamington donut, the vegemite scroll and the potato pesto salad. All delicious. All I would get again.

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South Melbourne Markets:
I come here purely for Agathé Pâtisserie and the freshly shucked oysters. Everything at Agathé is exquisite, but the Kouign Aman is my favourite. As for the oysters, they’re $1 each so an absolute bargain. Help yourself to the lemon wedges, tabasco and other condiments.
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Brother Baba Budan: My favourite coffee in Melbourne. The Seven Seeds blend changes regularly, but it never disappoints. They have a few treats in the cabinet, but I come just for the coffee which you can also buy freshly ground to take home.

Convent Bakery: Heading up to Abbotsford Convent makes for a great little escape from the city. We have a family friend who is an artist in one of the studios (http://abbotsfordconvent.com.au/visit/creatives/kate-shelton), but even if you aren’t there for the art, the bakery is a good enough reason in itself. They use 2 masonry wood fired ovens built in 1901, producing such incredible bread. I love the fruit loaf, but there are lots of other great pastries and sourdough loaves too.

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Queen Victoria Markets: Come and sample the cheeses and wine for free, and if you aren’t from Sydney or Melbourne, stock up at the Gewurzhaus spice store! The produce here is also fantastic, and they have all sorts of unusual ingredients you wouldn’t find at the supermarket.

SHOPPING:

Books for Cooks: Find every cookbook under the sun here. From old cooking magazines, vintage collectables and all the new releases. I’ve found so many treasures here including Allegro Al Dente: Pasta & Opera.

Peter Alexander: Peter started the pyjama trend, so I always buy my PJ’s here because they’re the original and an Australian brand. They’re amazing quality and the cosiest, softest fabrics.

MagNation: I spend hours flicking through all the food magazines here, and pick up my favourites like Cherry Bombe Magazine and Gather Journal.

Let’s Cook: Great place to find cooking utensils, especially for patisserie.

Keep Cup: Visit their HQ, one of their stockists or order a personalised cup online like I did. Perfect to keep in your handbag to avoid using paper takeaway cups.

Chapel and Church Street: I like to stroll along this enormous street and visit the op-shops and cafes. Chapel Street Bazaar is worth checking out.

QV Shopping Centre: Has quite a few nice stores, including Aesop, Incu and Zimmerman.

Emporium Melbourne: I come here for Jimmy Grants in the foodcourt (their grain salad is the BEST), Marimekko, Peter Alexander, Oroton, T2 and Top3.

The Block Arcade: Stunning arcade, that is almost as beautiful as Sydney’s Strand! There’s a Gewurzhaus store here too.

Hope these were some useful tips! Enjoy X

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