We may have arrived in Melbourne late into the night, but from the very first moment I saw its dazzling city lights, I was smitten. Often described as a grown up version of our hometown Wellington, and being just as varied but more laid back than London, it was no surprise that I felt completely at home in Australia’s second largest city. It is stylish, filled with culture, and has everything a food-obsessed traveller such as myself could want! I used to dismiss all those reports calling it one of the most liveable cities in the world as skewed promotion, but frankly I’m now a convert and it’s on the list as a possible future home for a certain someone and I.
With only a couple of days in the city, we decided to leave the suburbs for our next visit and mostly stick within the grid of the CBD. Not that this was in any way limiting. Visits to the National Gallery of Victoria, Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance, walks along the Yarra River and a spot of shopping was more than enough to hold our interests. There was also plenty to sate our appetites; we only tried but a slither of Melbourne’s eateries but from what I tasted, I was impressed. It reminded me a lot of London’s food scene where the whole world is at your fingertips, there’s something to cater for every budget, and great places spread all over the city. We pretended to be Melbournians and brunched with the best of them, wandered around the city, then checked out some of the wide range of cuisines on offer…
Hardware Societe, Hardware Street
We learnt very quickly that Melbournians take brunch very, very seriously and if you want to go to the popular places you need to be prepared to queue. Despite having lived in London, a certain someone and I are not particularly good queuers but we made exceptions for both Hardware Societe and Grain Store, two fantastic cafes in the CBD. The line at Hardware Societe moves pretty quickly and since we weren’t fussed about sharing a table, we were seated with two of their glossy hot chocolates in our hot little hands, within half an hour. Hardware Societe wears its French inspiration proudly with dishes like duck au vin and croque madame, but their most popular brunch offerings are probably the baked eggs and their spin on an eggs benedict which comes with either lobster or pulled pork!
Grain Store, Flinders Lane
Where Hardware Societe’s brunch offering felt over-indulgent, we left Grain Store with a lighter spring in our step. The food here is equally hearty and filling, however it felt altogether more fresh and vibrant. Don’t believe me? Go look at their menu and you’ll find dishes like raspberry coconut rice pudding or asparagus gnocchi with zucchini flowers. As tempting as these were, we couldn’t look past classic brunch offerings like the sweetcorn fritter with poached eggs and avocado, and the bacon and egg bagel. Some tea, juice and Bloody Mary’s later, we were more than ready to start our day.
Lee Ho Fook, Duckboard Place
When Melbourne’s huge and diverse Chinatown is a mere ten minutes walk away, Lee Ho Fook needs to deliver Chinese food which is a little extraordinary to really pull in the punters. This is not the cheap and cheerful or quick and dirty Chinese restaurant which you randomly stumble upon, the Chinese food here is a bit more special. At first glance, their dishes seemed classic, however we read a little closer and noticed it was peppered with Australian ingredients, some fusion combinations, and a modern twist in execution. The best bits we enjoyed were the elegant bites of raw kingfish with ginger pickled kohlrabi, spring onion dressing, before diving into the steamed Goolwa pippies in aged shao xing wine, rice noodles and garlic stems, with a comforting side of fried rice!
Bar Lourinhã, Little Collins Street
If you still like to share but Chinese isn’t your thing, then I would highly recommend Bar Lourinhã. This cosy tapas bar has been serving creative yet comforting Mediterranean food for the last ten years and shows no sign of slowing down. Being huge fans of Spanish tapas and Portuguese cuisine, we couldn’t resist stopping in for a late afternoon glass of cava and some small tapa, but wished we had room for their raciones. Our morcilla and mackerel bites were splendid, the poached prawn had us tempted for more… I would come back in a heartbeat to indulge in dishes like the grilled lambs tongue or octopus!
Omakase at Kappo, Flinders Lane
I had no idea where we were headed for dinner until we arrived at a nondescript door in a part of town which looked decidedly shut up for the evening. A certain someone rang the bell, the door opened and we stepped into the moody Japanese den that is Kappo. We then spent the next few hours perched at the small kitchen bar indulging in a nine-course omakase menu with wines to match; it was insightful, entertaining and mostly, very delicious. Some of the dishes, despite being meticulously executed and plated just didn’t work for us, but when they were good, they really sung. Favourites included the Kappo version of a seafood tartare, the incredible otoro nigiri, and a grilled wagyu beef which was just heavenly. Save this for a special occasion – the exquisite Japanese food and experience at Kappo is worth savouring!
Get Your Beauty Sleep at QT Melbourne
Our Melbourne base to rest our weary selves after the long days of sightseeing, shopping and eating was QT Melbourne. The hotel is one of the city’s newest and brightest stars, which is unsurprising given its excellent location in the CBD and the sharpness of its design. It is seriously one of the most chic properties we have had the pleasure of staying in; from lobby to restaurants to rooms, everything has been curated with fashion, luxury and comfort in mind. There’s a dash of quirkiness and sense of humour thrown in there for good measure too. Our QT King room was decked out with a gel-topped bed which just sucked you in, a little corner lounge, a minibar that would make you blush (everything from chocolate, beard grooming kits, to kinky supplies), a stunning bathroom with a well-pressured shower, his and her’s vanities and flash toiletries. If we didn’t have so many places to be, I would have happily hunkered down in that room for afternoons of relaxation. Even if you’re not staying, pop in just for a gander or a drink – the rooftop bar is a great place to start your night out on the town!
Have you been to Melbourne? What did you think of the food scene there?
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