Thursday, 2 January 2014

These are a few of my fa-vour-ite things {Melbourne}

When I work in the the Queen Vic markets I often end up becoming the tourist information centre as well. This is in due to the corner location of the wine shop and the fact that we are actively offering wine tasting and so are pretty approachable. I love it when people ask for suggestions of what they should eat/drink/see in Melbourne so I thought I'd share some of my favourites here (warning that it is fairly North-centric)

Carlton Gardens
I used to walk through these gardens almost everyday. It is a beautiful oasis right on the edge of the city. Filled to the brim with possums it can be quite freaky at night as they all stop and watch you as you walk past. There is a fabulous water fountain on the edge of the gardens in front of the old exhibition building. A lovely park for a picnic.

 A close-up reveals that this little fella doesn't enjoy having water spat on his willy by a turtle.

Almond Croissants
The ultimate pastry. Melbourne is an addicts Utopia with many fine providers. Three of my favourites in no particular order are:
Babka in Fitzroy
The French Quarter Patisserie in North Melbourne
Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie in Essendon
The pictures below are from French Quarter Patisserie. I do have plans for a croissant-off in the future.

 That's a pain au chocolat in the middle- divine
Beautiful moist frangipane in the middle of the croissant

For me Haighs milk chocolate has just the right balance of bittersweet cocoa to milky creaminess. Melbourne has many fine chocolatiers but I have not found another chocolate I like so much. Of course it isn't a Melbourne thing exclusively, Sydney has a store or two and it originated in Adelaide; but whenever I visited Melbourne it was 'a thing' to go to the beautiful Haighs store in The Block Arcade and stock up.

Wine Bars
City Wine Shop-Fairly iconic although oddly no-one much talks about it outside of Melbourne. I guess it is where the locals go to drink. And drink well. What can I say... Stunning wine list (you can find Barolo and Chablis by the glass on a regular basis) in a distinctly European setting either out on the street, tucked in at the bar or around the large communal table in the back. And if you love something you can buy a bottle to take home with you.

Hell Of the North- Open the bright yellow door and you are in ..... well, it definitely ain't hell. This place rocks my world and it is one of those little tucked away places that Melbourne is famous for. I have heard the food is great but can only attest to the quality of the wine list- we used to pop in here and spend our budget on a couple of amazing wines off the ever-changing (and always brilliant) list by the glass then have to go home for cheese on toast.

The Carlton Wine Room- Elegance abound. The space feels intimate (although it is quite large), the staff are friendly and passionate about wine and the by the glass list is filled with unusual varieties. A wine geeks paradise as well as being somewhere perfect to bring a special friend for a bit of luxury. Again I haven't eaten here but the food looks and smells amazing. If eating here is out of your budget, across the street you can find one of Melbourne's best pizzas (see DOC below)

DOC Pizza and Mozzarella Bar- if you decide to go to Lygon Street for Italian food my best advice is to wander up and down to build your appetite then turn off into a side street. Apart from a few exceptions the best is found off the beaten track. DOC doesn't take bookings for less than 6 people but it is worth waiting for a table (this is from the girl who the patience of a 6 year old on Christmas morning). My best advice is to bring a bottle of something nice (you can BYO wine) and ask for a glass while you are waiting for your absolutely exquisite traditional Italian pizza. The Nutella calzone must be experienced too.

+39 Pizzeria- The CBDs answer to DOC. They do take bookings but have such a large space that you can often squeeze in unannounced. Superb traditional pizza, chewy and salty in all the right ways.

Melbourne has so much gelato you are completely spoilt for choice. Fitzroy has recently acquired N2 and Gelato Messina, both getting rave reviews, but I have a soft spot for the old traditional gelato. Casa Del Gelato in Lygon street is the real deal. Their gelato is made fresh daily by a talented Italian fellow and has been for more than 30 years. For $7 you can get an enormous cone, dipped in chocolate and stuffed with deliciousness.

Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
The first time I came to Melbourne I stayed in the city in Bourke street and was a little alarmed at how difficult it was to find a good casual restaurant at night. Because I had no idea about Melbourne (and this was before the food blogging revolution) I just wasn't looking in the right places. I have a lot less trouble finding restaurants in the CBD now but I still think the best places are on the city fringe.

For an out-of-towner wanting to wander and find something good I don't think you can fault Fitzroy. Yes, it's hipster and some places are over-priced but for variety and ease it is still the hotspot of Melbourne dining for me. A lot of the places I am going to list are not the top restaurants, just relatively affordable places that a real Melbourne girl likes to eat. These places are all in Brunswick Street, the number in brackets is the street number.

Alimentari (251)- fresh interesting top-notch breakfasts in a lovely little casual cafe/deli. They also do delicious baguettes for lunches and takeaway meals.

Madame Sousou (231)- walk past, peek inside and I guarantee you will want to go back. It is the cutest little French restaurant and the interior is as charming as it gets. This is higher priced but the quality of the food is excellent and it is backed by a great little wine list.

Pho 54 Mandalay Bay (183)- away from the main hub of Brunswick St (closer to the city) this is nice clean (as in healthy) Vietnamese food without the hefty price tag. Their Pho is great, the steamed wantons superb and you can BYO. Not as cheap as Footscray but quick service, friendly staff and a lovely casual environment.

Alpha Ouzeri (342)- a really cracking Greek restaurant with affordable (HUGE) portions, and super delicious food. We first tried ouzo here and have since become devoted fans. Service is incredibly friendly and they will do their best to squeeze you in if they can (best to book). I almost always get the lamb souvlaki (served with greek salad, baked potatoes, pita and tzatziki)- enormous and amazing for $24.

Vegie Bar (380)- whether you are travelling with a vegetarian or not, this place is a must. The menu is enormous and covers everything vegetarian/vegan from curries to raw meals and desserts. I have never had a bad meal and it is a great recharge of vegetables after too much holiday eating. If in doubt, get a selection of things but make sure you order the salad- it is a plate piled high with every vegetable you can imagine- a rainbow of goodness.

Mao's (263)- fresh spicy Hunan-style Chinese food. Really interesting dishes without the usual boring Westernised options and not too expensive. The staff are always efficient and friendly too and you can BYO.

Now that I live across town I don't get to these places as much as I would like to. One of the joys about Melbourne is that there is so much good eating everywhere you rarely need to travel but I think it might have to be one of my new years resolutions to explore my city a bit further.

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