Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Food Destination: Melbourne

*This is an old post - some of the places listed here have changed hands and/or are no longer open - if you plan on visiting always check ahead of time to make sure the venue is still in operation*

Maki from Just Hungry had a great idea for bloggers from around the world to highlight their favourite food destination. For me, it could only be one place, my hometown of Melbourne. It's the capital city of the State of Victoria and it's home to 3 and a half million people. I've decided to use categories so lets begin with

Since the mornings are getting chillier, it's a perfect excuse to indulge in a luscious Italian Hot Chocolate. One of the best places I know is also conveniently located near Camberwell Train Station - it's a small cafe called Espresso.

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If the chocolate was any thicker the spoon would be able to stand up in the cup.

Afterwards we can hop on the train and go into the city in a leisurely 15 minute trip where we can continue on this chocolate excursion.

Taking the train to Melbourne Central you'll find the first of two Max Brenner stores - it's very hard to miss the chocolate by the bald man.

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Here you'll be tempted by the hug-mugs and the suckao - Suckao's are like incense burners, but instead of incense, the bowls hold pure chocolate, jugs of warm milk are offered on the side for you to add to taste.

Although starting in Adelaide, Haigh's flagship store can be found in the glorious Block Arcade, one of Australia's most beautiful Victorian arcades (I'd say the most beautiful but I might be biased). Haigh's is currently celebrating it's 91st birthday.

Also located in an arcade, this time the Royal Arcade, you can find Koko Black which was founded in Melbourne in 2003. There's a cafe but a real treat is in watching the chocolatiers at work. All the chocolates available are made in store.

845 Burke Road, Camberwell
Phone: 03 9882 4999

Max Brenner
QV Square - Level 2, 25-27 Red Cape Lane
Melbourne Central - Shop OE5, Menzies Alley, 300 La Trobe Street

Haigh's Chocolates
Shop 7-8, The Block Arcade
282 Collins Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 7673

Koko Black
Shop 4 Royal Arcade
335 Bourke Street
Phone: 03 9639 8911


Federation Square is one of the latest precincts in the city - you'll either love it or hate it. One spot I particular like is Arintji - grab a seat on the banquette with a view on the Yarra River and choose from the shared plates menu.

Now if you're got a feeling for something Jamaican, you'll need to head to Elwood and in particular to Babble on Babylon, where you should order the Jamaican Platter - you'll find jerk pork and chicken, stamp & go, callaloo fritters, festival, tomatillo chutney and voodoo chilli sauce (which has to be hottest thing ever created!). Wash it down with Jamaican Red Stripe beer, Sorrel and even Irish Moss.

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Federation Square
Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets
Phone: 03 9663 9900

Babble on Babylon
85 Brighton Road, Elwood
Phone: 03 9532 4211


There's been a renaissance in pizza over the last few years and one of the leading lights is a place called Ladro. It's success is it's only drawback - it's really difficult to get a booking, but keep trying it's worth it!

224a Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9415 7575


Although Queen Victoria Market is our biggest tourist attraction, I prefer the more approachable Prahran Market, it's also happens to be our oldest market.

Another trend over the last few years has been the emergence of the farmer's market - on 2nd Saturday of the month you'll find one at the Collingwood Children's Farm. Every Friday you'll also find a market at Federation Square.

A market with a sentimental value is the Glendale Street Market in Richmond, where every Saturday the street is closed down and a fruit and vegetable market appears.

Queen Victoria Market
Corner Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne

Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road, South Yarra

Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market
St Helier Street, Abbotsford


You'd probably be better off buying your cookbooks from Amazon but you could also peruse the shelves of Books for Cooks or The Essential Ingredient which can be found at the Prahran Market.

Books for Cooks
233-235 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 8415 1415

Other Food Stores...

September 2005 saw the opening of the first Macro outlet in Melbourne. Macro is like an organic supermarket - it's structured in the same way, with a deli, fruit & vegetables, meats, grains and general grocery items - there's even an in-store Naturopath/Homeopath and if you are feeling peckish, the Macro Cafe should satisfy those cravings.

Enoteca Sileno has been in operation since 1953 - a veritable repository of Italian delights. In the 50's and 60's Australia wasn't quite as gastronomically aware as it is these days - my mother tells the story of having to buy olive oil in the Chemist shops in tiny bottles - it was used for medicine not to dress your salad. It really wasn't until the 70's that these types of foodstuffs entered the mainstream.

Enoteca Sileno along with the delis and cafes of Lygon Street provided the true taste of Italy that was missing. It's now moved into larger premises and includes a cafe serving regional Italian dishes.

I've mentioned the book section earlier but The Essential Ingredient is really a place for those "essential ingredients", be it glassware, plates, flatware, mixers, coffee makers, or those hard to find food items. It's sells to the trade and the public so if you want one of those industrial sized stick blenders this is the place for you.

Macro Wholefoods Market
153 Bridge Road, Richmond
Phone: 03 9935 888

Enoteca Sileno
920 Lygon Street, Carlton North
Phone: 03 9389 7070

The Essential Ingredient
Prahran Market
Phone: 03 9827 9047

Food Streets...

Acland Street, St Kilda
Try if you must, but I doubt you'll resist the cake shops here. If the delights in the first window don't tempt you, then one of the other shops will! One of leading lights is Monarch - it's been operating since 1934. If you're looking for some traditional Jewish food then Scheherazade is the place for you - it's the oldest restaurant on the street, founded in 1958.

You'll also find more dining options in nearby Fitzroy Street and The Esplanade in St Kilda.

Monarch Cake Shop
103 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: 03 9534 2972

99 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: 03 9534 2722

Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
If you have some type of cuisine in mind, you'll probably find it here. It's an eclectic mix of cafe, bars and restaurants interspersed by second-hand bookshops, clothes shops, retro goods, home-wares and even a plant nursery.
Feel like Ethiopian? Go to Nyala.

A great place for a cocktail is Polly - swathed in red velvet and rococo furniture, it really is one of the funkiest and coolest places to go.

While you are here, wander down Gertrude Street and take some time to also explore Smith Street, Collingwood for even more dining options. Don't forget to visit Jonathan the Butcher while you are here.

Nyala African Restaurant
131 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 9128

Polly Bar
401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9417 0880

Jonathan's the Butcher
122 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: 03 9419 4339

Chinatown, City
Chinese presence in Melbourne dates back from the gold rush of the 1850's. Chinatown runs along Little Bourke Street from Swanston Street to Spring Street. The famous Chinese Arches mark it's length. One of it's most famous and awarded restaurants is the Flower Drum. It even came in at No.20 in the 2004 Worlds Top Restaurant list.

Flower Drum
17 Market Lane, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9662 3655

Lygon Street, Carlton
It's Little Italy - it's impact to Melbourne dining and living can't be overstated - this is where we learnt to dine on the footpaths, to enjoy real coffee and absorb that cafe culture that we're now famous for and is second nature to us. It's hard to imagine a time when this wasn't the norm. If Italy wins the world cup, expect this street to erupt!

Be sure to visit King & Godfree (wine store), Excell Meats (butchers) and an old favourite, the Lygon Food Store

King & Godfree
293 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 1619

Excell Meats
307 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 5516

Lygon Food Store
263 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 6279

Victoria Street, Abbotsford
With the new wave of immigration from Vietnam, Victoria Street moved from it's Greek heritage to be a mecca for Vietnamese food and produce.

Running parallel and well worth exploring is Bridge Road, Richmond. Besides finding Macro here, this is the place to go to find those designer bargains. And if you also develop an appetite from all the shopping there's a fine list of cafe's in which to satisfy those needs. One favourite is Gropius - it's hard to go past one of their burgers or salads, not to mention their crepes, bountiful eggs and coffee.

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330-332 Bridge Road, Richmond
Phone: 03 9429 1072

The big night out...

One of our favourites has to be Vue de Monde, it was awarded the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year for 2006. It's move to newer premises in the heart of the city has been a total success, probably too much since getting a booking is becoming increasingly difficult. It is though, deserving of all the praise it's received. The best way to experience the restaurant is to just let the kitchen decide - you just tell your waiter how many courses you'd like, if you have any allergies or dislikes and whether or not you'll like to be tempted by things such as caviar, foie gras and white truffle.

If you'd like to see an example of the what you can expect you can follow this link to one of our meals from last year.

Another to be highly recommended is Pearl. Chef Geoff Lindsay provides what is best described as multi-cultural cuisine. The menu changes daily and if you can't get into the restaurant, try the adjoining cafe.

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On the left is the famous coddled egg toasty with Yarra Valley Salmon caviar and seared scallops and on the right, Hopkins River Beef tartare with quail egg, beetroot shoots and toast soldiers.

It would be remiss of me not to include an Italian option and there's none better than Grossi Florentino. The Florentino has been part of Melbourne since 1900 and since 1999 has been in the hands of the Grossi Family that returned it to it's former glory. Dine upstairs surrounded by the original 1928 murals of Florence - it has to be one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Melbourne.

Vue de Monde
Normandy Chambers
430 Little Collins Street
Phone: 03 9691 3888


631 Church Street, Richmond
Phone: 03 9421 4599
Geoff Lindsay

Grossi Florentino
80 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9662 1811


Go East to the Yarra Valley. Why bother with the bottle shops when wineries abound an hour a way from the heart of Melbourne. This is a perfect trip for a leisurely Saturday or Sunday.

If you like champagne, then visit Moet & Chandon's venture, Domain Chandon. Wonderful views across the winery and towards the Great Dividing Range can be seen from the restaurant.

If you're really lucky you might be here on the weekends that Yarra Yering is open. This has got to be my favourite place but be aware that the cellar door closes once the stock runs out and it seems to be happening quicker every year.

It's obvious that I do love all things Italian so I must recommend a visit to Bianchet. Though no longer in the founding families hands, it still produces wonderful wines including the rare Verduzzo. There's also an excellent cafe/restaurant attached to the winery.

If you want to taste something other than wine, then I have to recommend the Yarra Valley Diary. Unfortunately the cafe part has been closed but you can still visit for tasting and purchasing. The Persian Fetta is sublime.

Domain Chandon
Moorondah Highway, Coldstream
Phone: 03 9739 1110

Yarra Yering
Briarty Road, Coldstream
Phone: 03 5964 9267

Bianchet Winery
187 Victoria Road, Lilydale
Phone: 03 9739 1779

Yarra Valley Dairy
McMelkans Road, Yering
Phone: 03 9739 0023

That will probably make for a good start and I'll update this post when other places come to mind. Best advice is to Wander the streets, go to the markets and just enjoy.

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  1. AnonymousMay 18, 2006

    this is a fantastic summary of the offerings that Melbourne has to offer - I noticed some of my favourites as well as some that I'd never had the luck to visit!

  2. Thanks Ellie - we are lucky to have so many interesting and diverse places and I know there's many more places that I've just forgotten.

  3. This confirms all the great things you hear about cuisine in Australia. I'd love to visit.

  4. Maybe we can do a swap - I know I can't wait to get back to Italy.

  5. Fantastic review of Melbourne, glad you included Ladro which is one of my faves at the moment, love Pearl & Polly too & still waiting for the right occasion to spoil myself at Vue de Monde

  6. Thanks Ange! Ladro is such a great place but it's so hard to not order the pizza! Best advice about Vue de Monde is to just let them go for it and let them match wines to each course.


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