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Cumulus, Inc. in Melbourne was, without hesitation, the best dining experience I had while on the continent of Australia. Is it fair to build up a meal so boldly for a restaurant that changes its menu frequently, if not daily? Perhaps not. However, I'm not the only one to sing the praises of Cumulus, Inc. and its head chef Andrew McConnell. A staple of Flinders Lane since 2008, McConnell has built up a reliable reputation for not disappointing his patrons. Unassuming in its decor and atmosphere as well as its simple printed-on-paper menu, the restaurant McConnell founded and the food he and his team deliver need no flashy packaging. Pascale Gomes-McNabb designed a bar and dining room with an open kitchen that is light on frills and classic but far from cold. It is warm enough to allow the experience of dining and sharing a meal to take precedence. Cumulus, Inc. is open all day for everything from a perfect coffee (this is Melbourne after all) to a French cheese platter to a five course meal in the evening. It also hosts private events in the Arc 1 Gallery, which is attached. Reservations are recommended but smaller groups or singles may find a table on a walk-in basis. If the Curry Cauliflower is on the menu, do not miss it. It changed my mind about the humble vegetable forever. I also recommend leaving room for dessert. If you're into seafood, the place is renowned for oyster options (I, however, am allergic and was unable to sample them).
Melbourne is one of the great street art capitals, and Hosier Lane is its most famous laneways. Be sure to explore around the area as there are a few lanes that are full of colorful works.
"I'll meet you under the clocks." It's a phrase you'll hear thrown around Melbourne by locals all the time, but what does it mean? Flinders Street Station is not only a Australian icon but it's Melbourne's heart. Being the Metropolitan train hub, with a major tram stop out the front doors and at the end of St Kilda Road, meeting "under the clocks" is an easy place for people to wait (with comfortable concrete steps to act as a seat!) or meet people. So who are you going to ask to "meet under the clocks" when you visit Melbourne next?
You can’t leave Melbourne without taking the time to explore at least one of the cities laneways. The cities most popular laneway, Hosier Lane showcases the best graffiti and street art talent in the city. Due to the nature of street art, the laneway is constantly changing and no two visits will be the same. The Australian kings of rock have been immortalised along this AC/DC Lane, where stencil graffiti baring their image line the walls. Be sure to spend an evening at Cherry Bar, frequented by local up-and-coming artists and touring bands. On Little Burke Street, between Swanston and Exhibition Streets, you’ll notice the city changes as you make your way into Chinatown! Explore the shops full of Asian fashion and beauty products before dining at HuTong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane – home of the cities best Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings.)
Stroll the laneways or visit one of the many museums; Melbourne is the city for art lovers. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Melbourne’s most well-known art gallery. It has a free permanent collection and regularly hosts major exhibitions. If you are interested in Australian artists, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia is entirely dedicated to exhibiting some of Australia’s most prolific artists, including Sidney Nolan and Howard Arkley. Melbourne is famed for their street art and Hosier Lane is one of Melbourne’s best examples of this work. Stroll along the laneway, opposite Federation Square, and take in murals, instillations and freshly painted street graffiti. For something a bit different, the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI) is one of only a handful of galleries dedicated to the moving image.
Aerosol-wielding artists from around the world have left their mark on Melbourne. Hosier Lane, declared a “graffiti tolerance zone” by the city council, contains the area’s densest collection of spray-painted masterpieces. —Chris Baty Photo by Meena Kadri. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
Travelling for 30 hours with little food and less sleep, the idea of a four hour cycle around Melbourne is daunting. But fuelled by sugary treats and with a marine in tow, I make it around the Laneways of the city, along the river to the Botanic Gardens, traverse the Southbank, undulate throw tourists, explore Fitzroy and make it all the way up to Carlton for afternoon tea at the infamous Brunetti's. A city exploration on a city bike with city experts.
Melbourne is by far one of the best cities I have ever lived in! A cross between San Francisco and London, the city perfectly combines the old with the new. Many of the buildings exude an old world feel; while the coffee shops, bars, art galleries and restaurants pulse with a new world vibe. Melbourne is the place to be for artists of any genre, but especially if graffiti is your medium. While Melbourne can boast about its National Art Gallery, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, and the Centre for Contemporary Art, some of its most brilliant artistic treasures can be found on the sides of the buildings, down narrow alleyways. What makes the street art culture of Melbourne so unique is that the city actually supports it! They encourage graffiti artists and promote their work in tourist brochures, and city informational guides. It is a constantly changing exhibit, and the best part is you never know what you’re going to see around the next corner. Melbourne is super easy to get around, either by foot, free shuttles, or the tram lines. Hosier lane is Melbourne’s most famous graffiti laneway, but simply wander through the alleyways of Collins and Bourke Streets and you’ll be amazed at what people can do with a can of spray-paint.
Twice a week, Melbourne’s beloved Mountain Goat Brewery throws open its doors—and taps. Make friends by buying a round of the signature Hightale Ale or award-winning Surefoot Stout. In a town where half the men seem to make their own beer, this microbrewery’s recipes are among the best. A recent batch included a Belgian blonde ale aged for nine months in oak chardonnay barrels. Corner of North and Clark Sts., Richmond, Wednesday and Friday starting at 5 p.m., 61/(0) 3-9428-1180, goatbeer.com.au. Image courtesy of Valentyn Volkov/Alam. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
Of all the cities in Australia, Melbourne is the one fussiest with its morning cup of joe. Here are five tried-and-true coffeehouses that have survived the city's critics and can be proudly considered Melbourne’s finest. 1. Brother Baba Budan – 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne Brother Baba Budan's funky warehouse-style café in the city center has minimal seating available, meaning that there is a real focus on good coffee, fast. 2. The League of Honest Coffee – 8 Exploration Lane, Melbourne You know that a place that takes the time to roast its own beans has a great blend. If you have a preference for milk, the blend is extremely flexible with all types but still tastes great black. 3. Seven Seeds – 114 Berkeley St, Carlton This company lives and breathes coffee, roasting its beans on-site and taking the time to educate consumers; in fact, I’d go as far as saying that they are the leaders in Melbourne’s constantly growing coffee scene. 4. St Ali – 12 – 18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne Here's another coffeehouse that roasts its own beans. It’s hard to decide which coffee to have here as everything is so good, though I’d recommend the house blends. 5. The Little Mule – 19 Somerset Place, Melbourne A bike-themed cafe, the Little Mule does blends well if not a little bitter sometimes, but overall it’s the perfect smooth mix that you crave when drinking the first coffee of your day.
Melbourne’s “National Gallery of Victoria” is home to some incredible works of art. Not only does it have a fantastic permanent collection, it also hosts some of the world’s most incredible artists via its rotating guest exhibitions. I happened to be in Melbourne during this incredible exhibit by Ron Mueck. His sculptures capture every tiny detail of the human body (down to the hair follicles) and play with scale. He takes things that we normally view as small (such as a newborn baby) and makes them huge and vice versa. It is a crazy, unlikely combination that really works. The detail of his work is almost eerie. There are times when you look at his sculptures and expect them to come to life at any second. Ron Mueck’s work is showcased around the world, so if you get a chance, you should definitely see it. If you’re in Melbourne, don’t leave without making a stop at the National Gallery. It is located at 180 St. Kilda Road and is easy to reach by foot or tram. I also recommend going up to the second floor to enjoy an afternoon tea while you’re there.
One of the best places to enjoy Thai food in Melbourne is Chin Chin, which also serves local wines (they have Old World wine options, too). Chin Chin doesn't take reservations, but there are plenty of places to wet your whistle (or change your plan) within a few blocks if there is a wait. I highly recommend chef Benjamin Cooper's food. So many great choices.
Dumplings are my favourite food group. Yes, in my diet, they make up a whole food group of bite-sized, juicy deliciousness within a soft, preferably thin dumpling skin, which is then dipped into a bowl of soy sauce and freshly chopped ginger—oh my, my mouth is already watering. On my quest to find the perfect dumpling, I've tried many of Melbourne's fine Chinese establishments, but there is one that always has me coming back for more: Shanghai Village. With an unassuming cream façade and plain green-and-red signage bearing both Chinese and English on Little Bourke Street, Shanghai Village doesn't scream that it is the best—and possibly cheapest—Chinese restaurant in town. The turnip cakes are light and tasty, the Chinese broccoli is crisp and fresh, but these aren't the reasons why you're here. Taking the first mouthful of the pork dumplings with chili broth blows my mind. They're soft from the broth but intensified with flavor from waiting for me to begin eating. The chili is quite strong, strong enough that it will knock out any cold you might be catching, but it's worth it for those delicious pork morsels, wrapped tight in their skins. My complaints would be that at times the standard dumplings can come out a little wetter or soggier than desired, or the closing of the dumpling skins can be rushed. The food is also relatively plain—garnishes are neglected—but for the best Chinese food in Melbourne, I'll take it.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are beautiful and easy to get to. It's an easy escape from the city, where you'll be surrounded by beautiful trees and plants as well as birds. A great place to relax and soak it up—with or without the picnic.
Caffe e Torta is a nice little place for breakfast or lunch, operated by a charming family. All four of us in our party enjoyed breakfast. I loved my poached eggs and smoked salmon. The cafe is located at the end of the Royal Arcade, at Little Bourke.
Melbourne’s market culture is obviously very much alive and, in the case of Queen Victoria Market, has been since the 1870s. Food stalls to try: Börek; Bratwurst Shop & Co.; American Doughnut Kitchen; Gozleme Turkish Café; Le Croissant des Halles; Pizza by Nature; La Cantina; Sushi Kissaten; Pide Bread Bakery; Spanish Donut Van. Photo by John Laurie. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.
This three-floor, indoor-outdoor place is a fun spot to while away a day or an evening in the company of friends. They offer a full list of hotdogs of various kinds, a wide selection of booze, and music on vinyl.
At this polished Greek restaurant, try wood-fire-roasted pork belly with white beans and apple skordalia, and beef brisket souvlakakia. Photo by Guy Lavoipierre. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.
At this tiny café, try Australian dishes such as coddled hen egg with mushrooms and foraged herbs; golden beetroot salad with cow’s milk curd, walnuts, seeds, and wildflowers. Photo by John Laurie. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.
Although this is a franchise (there's one in the Lower East Side of Manhattan), it's worth a stop for the pork meatballs and burrata. The staff is friendly, and it's a good option when you can't bear the wait at nearby Chin Chin.
While the Age Good Food Guide gave it one-hat, and it had been recommended by countless locals, I had yet to experience Maha. Sitting in the chic laneway restaurant near Flinders Street Station, I settled into the comfortable cushions and admired the Middle Eastern-inspired decor, made up of interesting textures and glass sculptures in colors that danced across the room, illuminated by cabinet lights. I went a la carte as I was short on time, but the best value is from the set menus. The duck breast with honey and cocoa nib roasted local parsnip, puffed grains and a second plate of walnut crusted beef cheek, with a side of sautéed greens were the meals I chose for the night. The beef cheek almost melted in your mouth with the sweet onion and lemon giving it a sweet-and-sour quality. One thing I love about Maha is that the chefs are always innovating the cuisine they serve. Take the "Boat Smugglers Stew"—prawn filled snapper, pork belly, tamarind, saffron, and tomato with nigella seed flat bread—that is said to have been created when Delia met a smuggler on his travels and managed to be invited to his home for a meal. If you're pressed for time or prefer a lunch option consider their burger and beer lunch option. At $18 it's a steal and the burger flavor changes each month. All of the menus cater for any dietary problems including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan.
Whilst walking down the steps to reach the enchanting blues of the ocean. I couldn't help but be drawn to the way the light way contrasting on the top of the dry grass pictured. Also with the softness of the sea and rugged rocks in the background I thought It made a fantastic picture.
Food and everything in general is pretty pricey in Australia, so when a handful of friends recommended MissChu, I figured it must be good. I walked over from Queen Victoria Market (in Melbourne) and decided to eat in. It gets quite busy at lunch but I managed to snag a seat. There were great choices on the menu but I decided on the Wild Rice and Quinoa with Seared Atlantic Salmon and a Coconut Pineapple Crush. The food was done well and for the price—I was impressed. While I was in Melbourne and Sydney (where they have outposts as well) I went back several times and tried things like the rice paper rolls, the steamed dumplings and the coconut crushes. What I didn't try were the alcoholic versions of the coconut crushes—so I'm going back.
Coming in off the streets of a typical windy and wet Melbourne winter's day, it was a welcome relief to be able to relax next to the fully stoked fire. My gaze flickered over the menu, from which names like "Mr Fu," "Communist Manifesto," and "Dixie Mission" leapt out at me—this wasn't a bar for those without a little sense of humor. Adorned with Chinese lucky cats, Chairman Mao figurines, and a Dragon flying overhead, the bar is a cozy retreat from the city streets. One fun aspect of this bar is that it takes the popular Asian bubble cup drinks and gives them a twist, creating fresh alcoholic versions with familiar boba pearls or jellies in the bottom. While the prices are a little high, the flavors, service, and atmosphere of the bar are the reasons I'll keep going back when I need that touch of fun and luxury to my night out. (The pictured cocktail—and my personal favorite —is the "October Revolution," with plum wine, elderflower, grapefruit, lemon, and egg white.)
Do you know what a borek is? I didn't until I went to Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market. I love visiting markets when I'm traveling and of course I had to go to QVM. While circling the halls and eyeing what I wanted to buy and eat, I noticed a stall that was packed with people. There were so many people in line and standing around the stall waiting for their food. I looked at the sign and it said Borek. I decided to walk around for a bit and wait till the line subsided before I went to see what the fuss was about. A borek is a Turkish pastry that is baked or deep fried and filled with savory filling. I bought two boreks, one spinach and cheese one and a lamb one. They were $3.00 and soooo delicious. I can understand why the stall is so busy, delicious and cheap...not a small feat in Australia!
One of Melbourne's top picks for ambiance and great food is Cookie. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of my entrée to visually back up my claim. You'll find Cookie on the first floor of a multi-level walkup. Additional establishments occupy the other floors. It's my understanding that this hip and spacious Thai restaurant has been around since 2004, and it shows no sign of slowing down. The night I was there was certainly evidence of that. The service was good and the food delicious, while the crowd looked to be young, hip, and trendy. A few levels up is a rooftop beer garden, casually set and equipped to show outdoor films in the summer months. I admired the urban skyline views, AstroTurf flooring, and outdoor patio table and chair seating.
Section 8 is a fun, casual place to hang out outside and have some cocktails. It's partially covered, and has some heaters too. We were here on a beautiful summer day and had a great time.
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