A Guide to Melbourne #2

Once again I found myself down in Melbourne for a long weekend, a trip now seeming to have become a bi-annual ritual. I can’t place my finger on one exact point as to why I love Melbourne, but I think I can narrow it down to three things: the book shops, the art & craft scene, and the incredible selection of restaurants and cafes in the streets and laneways of the CBD & beyond.

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Firstly, book shops. Upon discovering Books for Cooks at its original location in Fitzroy on my first solo trip to Melbourne, I instantly became infatuated. I spent hours slowly grazing across the spines, not wanting to miss a single title that could be something very special. I left with a handful of books and continue to do so upon every visit. The titles completely vary, from classics by Nigella Lawson, Ina Garten and Donna Hay to those independently published, as well as a large collection of vintage food magazines. Three books that I have never seen in Sydney but found at Books for Cooks are Nina St Tropez by Nina Parker, Allegro Al Dente by Jill Dupleix, Rinaldo Di Stasio & Terry Durack and This Good Food: Contemporary French Vegetarian Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen by Brother Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourr. I have come to treasure each of these books and am reminded of the joy of finding them at Books for Cooks every time I use them.

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Book Shop recommendations:

  • Books for Cooks, 129/131 Therry Street
  • Magnation, multiple locations (CBD is largest)
  • Hill of Content, 86 Bourke Street
  • Readings (Carlton and Hawthorn are both great)

Secondly, the art & craft scene. Melbourne’s art galleries host exhibitions different to Sydney, so it’s always great to see what’s on at the NGV and some of the smaller galleries like the Centre for Contemporary Photography. As I was only down for the weekend, I made it only to the NGV, but luckily it was one of the most unique and inspiring exhibitions I could have hoped for: Andy Warhol – Ai Wei Wei. I have been a long time fan of Ai Wei Wei, but not of Andy Warhol. However, the exhibition had so much more to offer, not only in its variety of art mediums like sculpture, drawings, paintings, film and photography, but in its ideas, observations and statements, that left me with a much greater appreciation of Andy Warhol. The audioguide proved to be an invaluable contribution to my visit, so I definitely recommend getting one if you go.

As well as the galleries, the craft scene is best experienced by visiting the many markets on throughout the week, such as the Rose Street Artists’ Markets, and the crafty stalls around Fitzroy, such as Cottage Industry. I picked up some great food inspired earrings at Rose Street of apples and dragonfruits as well as some polkadot ones. At Cottage Industry I got some lovely warm hand-made gloves for winter, a beautiful printed tin dinner plate and a cushion with a Griffith, NSW print (my mother’s hometown). I think the cushions make for a great present or souvenir that wont add any weight to your suitcase.

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Now on to my final point, café’s and restaurants. The Melbourne CBD is spilling with incredible places to eat and drink, something the Sydney CBD is missing. In Melbourne, you can be roaming the city late at night or on a Sunday afternoon, and there will always be people about going to and from restaurants and bars, radiating a sense of excitement. You can’t help but join in on the fun, and will find yourself roaming the streets until late at night, as we did going from The Park Hyatt, to dinner at Cumulus Inc, to drinks at Eau-de-Vie, then back to Cumulus Inc for dessert and coffee, then a slow stroll back to our hotel to lie about in our robes, drink tea and reminisce on our day. It’s such a wonderful thing to have so many excellent restaurants and bars within such close proximity, with no worrying about traffic, parking, or waiting for a tram required. Anyway, enough of my rambling, here are the highlights of the delicious food we had over the long weekend:

Lunch at City Wine Shop.
The food is excellent, and it’s a nice novelty scanning the shelves of wine and picking a bottle to be served with your meal – reminds me of Europe!

Coffee at Dukes Coffee Roasters.
The coffee here is selected and roasted fresh daily, making it one of the best places in Melbourne for coffee. Coffee options are aplenty, with various espresso, black, white and filtered coffees available. They also have a great selection of pastries and small treats. I made a visit with two dairy-free cousins, so the options of almond milk and soy milk was nice & convenient.

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Dinner at Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew in Fitzroy.
Great quality burgers and sides! They make the buns and sauces in house, there is always a special board with new experimental flavours and they have gluten free buns which taste & look great! Our favourite items were the tempura broccoli & onion rings. Definitely get the tempura broccoli.

Drinks at the Black Pearl in Fitzroy.
A two-storey bar serving excellent cocktails to enjoy sitting at the bar or lounging on the comfy armchairs and sofas. We sat upstairs where you need to ring a bell to be let in, and one of the friendly waitstaff will welcome you in. Music and atmosphere is great!

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Dinner at Cumulus Inc. on Flinders Lane.
I fell in love with Cumulus on my last trip to Melbourne and was eager to return, this time better prepared with a very empty stomach. The menu is designed for sharing, and that is definitely the way to go. In our group of 4, we ordered a mix of different dishes and could not fault any of them, even the bread basket was superb and required a refill. Although, the true standouts would have to be the chorizo stuffed dates & cider onion, the Iberico jamon and the salad of butter beans, nduja, salted ricotta & black garlic. These 3 dishes alone had me considering moving to Melbourne. The roasted new season potatoes with confit garlic and sage definitely deserve a mention as well, being impossibly fluffy and flavoursome. We ordered 2 bottles or rosé, as recommended by the sommelier, which was the perfect accompaniment to our mix of seafood, meat and vegetables, so I can certainly attest to the sommelier’s assistance. We just walked in and managed to grab one of the last tables, but probably best to book! We returned later in the night for dessert to share the Rum Baba and a coffee, which could not have been a better way to end the evening. The Rum Baba was irresistibly light and fluffy, served atop a velvety, smooth layer of vanilla custard with a DIY bottle of aged rum left at the table. A dessert I’d definitely come back for…

Drinks at Eau de Vie, on Malthouse Lane.
Almost impossible to find without local knowledge, Eau de Vie is hidden behind a very unsuspecting door down a very quiet lane. You will be in complete awe after opening it, taking in the lively crowd and waistcoated bartenders zipping past with cocktails that look more like works of art than drinks, all to the backdrop of never ending rows of spirits and whiskeys and the mellow tunes of French jazz. The menu is somewhat overwhelmingly long, so I just told the bartender what flavours I enjoy in a cocktail and he invented 2 signature cocktails after only a moments pause, leaving me both impressed and with a difficult choice to make. In the end I opted for what was basically a Rose Gin Fizz – and it was perfect!

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Breakfast at Pope Joan in Brunswick.
This is a must visit for me when I come to Melbourne, I love that the produce is all local and seasonal. The place itself is huge, with a lovely garden out back and plenty of seating indoor and outside. They serve All Press Coffee and have a seasonal menu that always manages to impress. This time round it was sardines on toast, shaved fennel, fresh & smoked tomato and parmesan custard for me, and it was just lovely, not to mention beautifully presented.

Lunch at St Ali Coffee Roasters, South Melbourne.
A lovely café in an open warehouse serving artisanal coffee and offering an exciting breakfast and lunch menu. I went for the corn fritters which were nice and crisp and served with perfectly poached eggs, but I think I’ll opt for the Coconut Sago next time… My piccolo latte was excellent though.

I think that sums it all up! I’d love to hear any Melbourne recommendations you might have? Knowing me, I’ll be back again in no time X

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