As mentioned in my previous post, I was on holiday in Australia recently. More precisely, it feels like I went on culinary holiday; I have come back with enlightened taste buds and suitably enlarged waistline 🙂 / 🙁
I arrived in Melbourne fairly exhausted after 18 hours in transit, met up with my husband at the airport, and made our way to our hotel: The Olsen; Art Series Hotel located on Chapel Street. Chapel Street is the high street for shopping in Melbourne and home to some of the biggest Australian labels and designers (unfortunately, I soon realized that most of this was out of reach of my budget).
The hotel is filled with replica artwork by John Olsen (an imminent local artist) and has a great little restaurant downstairs, the Spoonbill.
Melbourne felt like a mix of a few cities to me – the “coolness” of Cape Town, parts of London (Southbank is basically the Southbank), as well as an overriding European atmosphere.
The city has retained much of its Victorian architecture; on Friday afternoon we wandered around the city centre taking it all in.
Against the new high risers and old churches, the laneways of Melbourne are covered in contemporary street art.
We found these framed photographs of the street graffiti at a market close to our hotel. I love collecting small pieces from our travels to place around our house – these will form the start of a feature wall in the study.
For me, the best part about the city is the tram system. There is something quite quaint about getting around on these electric cars, and has a fairly widespread network in and around Melbourne.
We caught a tram down to the St Kilda area one afternoon, which is the closest Melbourne city has to a beachfront. Although, it might not have been Bondi beach, the esplanade is quite charming in itself. As a born-and-bred “Vaalie” I still get excited seeing the ocean, no matter the weather conditions!
We began our culinary adventure at the Press Club on Friday afternoon, which was a perfect introduction to our holiday.
We relished a 3-course meal, ending with the best dessert I have ever had in my life (and I eat dessert). Chocolate 9 ways included chocolate mousse, chocolate infused olive oil, chocolate foam and chocolate dust.
The food was inventive without being pretentious and surprisingly, very generous.
The best restaurants are primarily located in the city centre. A couple of blocks away from the Press Club is Movida – a Spanish tapas bar.
What I most enjoyed about the food at Movida, besides it all being excellent, was that even the seemingly standard tapas are like nothing I have tasted before! Movida has become a bit of an institution in Melbourne (there are three different restaurants in the city) and has opened a branch in Sydney too!
The night we ate at Movida, we had tried to get a table at Chin Chin up the road but were turned away. Thankfully, we managed to get a table the following evening after an hour wait – they don’t do reservations, yet were absolutely packed on a Sunday evening! I didn’t mind the wait; the downstairs Gogo bar, was to me, the epitome of Melbourne cool: old-school vinyl-spinning DJs, art projection onto the laneway wall and taster of the food to come.
Asian food has become a massive influence in the food culture in Australia – given it proximity to the continent, and the influx of Asian citizens over the past twenty years.
There are noodle bars and dim sum houses on practically every corner but Chin Chin was about the whole experience – incredible tastes (my husband is still talking about the stick pork belly), pumping music, kitsch interiors and cool waiters! It was the ideal final evening in Melbourne.
My husband summed it up perfectly the day we left– Melbourne was a 10/10 stay for us. I found the city very livable, the people fashionable, the backdrop of the city enticing and the coffee astonishing.