If I weren’t too old to get a permanent visa or work sponsorship to live in Australia (seriously flawed immigration laws), Melbourne would be my home. It is the perfect city in my mind with a creative soul, a plethora of diverse neighborhoods, beautiful parks, great food, even better shopping, culture galore, it’s simple to navigate and like everywhere in Australia, super nice people abound. I recently spent 5 days exploring the city. Here’s a bit of what I found:
Andre’s Mews, 89 Church Street, Richmond
I have taken to renting apartments when I travel so I feel more connected to the city. I can cook if I feel like it, have a bit more space than a standard hotel room and get to experience a residential neighborhood first hand. The Andre’s Mews offers 11 catered luxury apartments of varying sizes and styles in a centrally located neighborhood. I splurged and went for the two bedroom penthouse apartment (pictured). It was bright and sunny, with a private terrace, full kitchen, laundry, two baths, fireplace and was the perfect romantic escape. Breakfast items of eggs, cheese, juice, milk, coffee and tea were supplied and replenished regularly. With 3 different tram lines nearby, it was easy to get anywhere in the city.
eat & drink:
Rowena Parade Corner Store, 44 Rowena Parade, RIchmond
This was my first stop after the long flight down under for a scrumptious BLT sandwich with egg, avocado and cheese. A great little neighborhood milk bar that serves fresh homemade food. I didn’t partake, but they are famous for their milk shakes and the couple next to me (ex-neighbors of the shop) made a meal of them as their first stop upon visiting from their new home in Sweden.
Cumulus, 45 Flinders Lane, CBD — the first of two Andrew McConnell restaurants I visited serving simple, straight forward locally sourced fare. It’s a small place that does a mean breakfast. I had baked eggs with Feta and a couple of baked-to-order, lemon-filled Madeleines, a house specialty. The granola with poached fruit and yogurt at the next table looked even more amazing. Very loud and bustling so beware. Dinner is supposed to be the real ticket here though.
Lupino, 41 Little Collins Street, CBD
Classically good Italian food in a low-lit yet inviting modern bistro atmosphere. Everything from pizzas to gnocchi to veal scallopine and more. Not too crazy expensive for a date-night kind of place with mains in the mid $20 range.
Golden Fields, 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda — the newest and second Andrew McConnell restaurant I dined in. A seafood heavy menu with an Asian flare. (See more)
Lladro, 224 Gertrude street, FItzroy — wood oven pizzas of the cracker thin crust variety. It was extremely busy on a Friday night with a long wait for a table and they forgot to call us when one opened up (but luckily we happened back just in time). Personally, I prefer a bit more chew to my crust but the topping combinations were spot on and a salad of rocket and parmesan made me feel less guilty about eating pizza so late.
Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets, 80 Smith Street, Collingwood — a charming little speakeasy of a bar we happened into while awaiting our table around the corner at Lladro. Lots of shaking and mixing going on behind the bar of what I assumed were specialty drinks. I ordered a Pimms Cup that was made without a blink of an eye and came full of fresh cucumber and orange. It was so good, I had another and at $10 it seemed like a bargain.
De Clieu, 187 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy — if you do coffee i understand this is THE place on busy Gertrude Street. I happened in for a lemonade after working up a sweat walking all the way from Richmond on a blistering day. I just loved how kind and accommodating the waitstaff was even though I didn’t order very much.
Hu Tong Dumplings, 14-16 Market Lane CBD — I purposefully caught the last few days of Melbourne’s annual Food and Wine Festival and signed up for a dumpling crawl of Chinatown. Of the three restaurants we visited with the sensational Tony Tan, Hu Tong was my favorite. The pan fried pork dumplings were wonderfully doughy and succulent but it was their specialty — soup filled dumplings that were most memorable.
Le Petit Gateau, 458 Little Collins Street, CBD — a French patisserie with Pierrick Boyer at the helm. He taught me how to make macarons (another Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event) and serves up a mean white hot chocolate. His inventive cakes are beautiful and are available whole or by the slice.
Boost Juice — Australia’s answer to Jamba Juice although quite a bit more expensive as is everything down under. I am partial to the Watermelon Crush with added protein boost when you need a little mid-day pick-me-up or meal substitute. Locations everywhere.
I just loved how all restaurants give you a beautifully letter pressed business card on extremely gorgeous card stock with your bill. Good design
and attention to detail do make an impression.
see and do:
Lyon House Museum, 219 Cotham Road, Kew
This is a real house the owners open up to the public 4 days a month, two tours a day to view their modern Australian art collection. The architect in me preferred the modern house to the art collection in its entirety but there were some really nice pieces to admire. And you have to commend anybody who shares their art and lifestyle with the public so readily. Most impressive to me was the modern organ that sat in the performance space (see above). Designed by the architect/owner who plays — it took an entire year to build on site and is phenomenal. This thoroughly modern affair is located in the suburb of Kew and has sadly met with disdain from its conservative neighbors. But in this case art has prevailed and the owners plan to expand to the lot next door separating home from gallery over the next 10 years.
Heide Museum — a bit outside the city (not the easiest trek on public transportation but do-able) is an unexpected and beautiful center for Modern Art with the Victorian and modern homes of the original owners turned into galleries, plus shiny new gallery space, sculpture gardens and more. I found it a bit confusing to navigate the property but relished in the concept of a laid back afternoon amongst art in a beautiful setting.
Bring a blanket and picnic out in the gardens or eat at the Cafe Vue run by one of Melbourne’s most celebrated chefs. I got a picnic box (beautifully presented but not all delicious) at the cafe and ate in the gazebo overlooking a pasture of cow sculptures made of corrugated metal.
The museum’s shop has a very nice selection of goods, many of which are locally made. I recommend at least buying some jarred honey from the on site bee hives.
Outdoor Cinema — doesn’t seeing a movie outside sound romantic and wonderful? The Rooftop Cinema which screens more vintage films and Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens for more recent releases, are two such venues in the city during summer months. The former was already closed for the season and I was sadly rained out on the night of my tickets for the latter. Too bad because I really wanted to see a movie under the stars.
I found researching the shopping in Melbourne a bit difficult to do. While I was armed with information on select design minded shops scattered around the city, until I got there for myself I didn’t understand how and where to spend my time effectively. My favorites were Gertrude/Smith/Brunswick Streets and I had to go back twice before getting my fill. I was taken aback by the sheer quantity of shops along Chapel Street (l did spy a Karton pop up shop to my delight) and wish I had found the area sooner because I’m sure there were great things to be had along this street that seemingly went on for miles. I strolled along High Street from Chapel Street all the way into East Prahan. I could have taken the tram but then I would have missed some of the great places that have established themselves in the more up and coming stretches and the most charming Victoria Gardens park:
LUKE Furniture, 214 High Street — the local Herman Miller distributor, this shop also has a really nice selection of art and accessories. I was oh so tempted to roll up a rug and try to carry it all the way home.
Fenton & Fenton, 471 High Street — furniture and oddities
Safari Living, 579 High Street — this gift and homewares shop was my impetus for walking all this way. And I have to say it wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be in my eye. Not a bad collection of stuff mind you, just nothing I hadn’t seen before or couldn’t easily find at home.
I’m sure you could spend years exploring the Central Business District (CBD) and still not find all it has to offer. Every little laneway opens up a complete world of hidden treasures. Plus you have all the standard chain and department stores along the large boulevards. Honestly, I was a bit too pooped to fully participate and was glad after I made my purchases up on Albert Coates Lane to head back over to Fitzroy, which reminded me of what Melrose Avenue was like back in the early 80s — design minded, forward thinking, somewhat sparse and just a little bit grungy:
Left, 161 Gertrude Street
This was my favorite shop in the entire city. A small, minimally designed boutique displaying a particularly well curated selection of Japanese designer clothing and accessories. I know, who goes to Australia to buy Japanese clothing at inflated prices? But to me, shopping is just as much about the experience of finding nice things wherever you are. This place reminded me a lot of the little shop i owned in Los Angeles in the early 90s (A Red Wheelbarrow in the Beverly Connection) and after spending an hour or so chatting with the owner, trying on clothes, modeling purses and buying the most exquisite Yohji Yamamoto coat and the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever owned, she threw in a bottle of Comme des Garcons perfume and I felt like if I lived there, we would be friends. Now that’s an experience even if after just a few hours in the city, it left me without any more money to spend.
Other stores of note in the area (I only browsed for the most part):
- Toolz, 120 Smith Street — unstructured Asian influenced clothing
- Books for Cooks, 235 Gertrude Street — any and every cookbook you can imagine
- Third Drawer Down, 93 George Street — quirky gifts just off the main drag
- Spacecraft, 225 Gertrude Street — silk screened home wares and gifts
- Ganim’s Store, 61 Brunswick Street — another well curated selection of items, this time for the home
- Aesop, 242 Gertrude Street and other locations — outrageously expensive all natural and botanical skincare line now available in NYC so don’t bother lugging back home as I did. But do go in and explore every shop you come by as each is uniquely designed and wonderfully inventive. Their sales help is also extremely well trained and the packaging divine.
A wonderful little book, The Melbourne Design Guide offered great recommendations of things to see and do from the design community’s perspective. Other research was accomplished by reading my favorite magazine, Vogue Living Australia and following these blogs regularly:
But most of all, I find just walking to be the best strategy of all.