i don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Melbourne. If only it weren’t so damn far away. And if only it were possible to move there . . . marriage anyone? Whilst I wait for that marriage proposal, here are the highlights from my most recent visit:
My neighborhood of choice this time around was South Yarra. The suburb with it all. Leafy streets with beautiful homes. Shops and restaurants galore. Every Melbournian establishment it seems, has an outlet in S. Yarra. Just two train stops from the city and bordered by some smaller more creative-type neighborhoods, you get the best of all worlds. It’s an easy spot from which to get everywhere. But then again, that’s one of the things I love about Melbourne in general — it’s so easy to get to every nook and corner.
The Lyall Hotel, 14 Murphy Street, South Yarra
A small boutique hotel on a side street with a spa, a lovely lobby bar and friendly service. I’m not sure it’s everything it thinks it is but it was a pleasant place to stay with standard rooms that include small living rooms and kitchens making it more apartment-like than hotel like. A plus in my book. Best feature: Heated bathroom floors.
See & Do
Made Beauty Space, 39 Church Street, HawthorneDo not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to Made for the bestest, most relaxing facial experience of your life. Enough said! Ok, maybe not enough. It’s more than a facial. It’s sheer heaven in a heated chair — face, back, feet all get tended to and you’ll be simply glowing & floating on air when you leave.
Ian Potter Museum, Swanston Street between Elgin & Farraday, CarltonA nice little museum that is part of the University of Melbourne showing everything from antiquities to contemporary art. Through July 2014, you too can see The World is Not a Foreign Land exhibit — an engaging look at 6 indigenous artists from different regions with a decidedly contemporary flair. Well worth seeing. Free admission.
The Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton — If you’re interested in learning about the history of Melbourne or seeing a living rainforest, or one of any sort of traveling international exhibitions, or even catching an IMAX movie this is your place. A large modern structure that sits in contrast to the World Heritage Royal Exhibition Center across the courtyard (open for tours when not housing an exhibition). $10 Admission.
Eat & Drink
David’s Country Shanghai, 4 Cecil Place, Prahan — Traditional Chinese dishes & dim sum served family style in a beautiful space designed by one of Melbourne’s top interiors firms. White washed walls, a stack of blue and white bowls and a container of chopsticks on every table sets a decidedly casual and traditional tone. Unusual dishes like beef made with tea leaves dot the menu. I was there late on a quiet rainy night but can only imagine this place is loud and buzzing most days. Highly recommended and they deliver too.
Tuck Shop Takeaway, 273 Hawthorne Road, Caulfield North — One train, two trams, nearly an hour in the pouring rain to get there. Completely and totally worth the journey. A tiny little burger joint with two tables, 3 counter seats and a school house theme right down to the Principal’s Office sign that leads to the back room. When I arrived it was empty. When I left there was a line out the door, rain and all.
Voted one of the top burgers in Melbourne, they are large, juicy, messy (I must have used 50 napkins) and truly fantastic served with twice cooked fries and house made catchup. And for dessert, my favorite thing I ate this trip: Jaffa (orange chocolate candy) flavored soft serve ice cream.
D.O.C., 326 Lygon Street, Carlton — I tried to get a table on my last trip with no luck. This time, we nabbed the last table in the very back corner late on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. And now I know why it is always so crowded. Simply the best bowl of pasta I have ever had. The Carbonara was good . . .But the Pomodoro was to die for . . .
Pinnochio, 152 Toorak Road, South Yarra — In my notes I wrote “Pizza close to the hotel seemingly California Pizza Kitchen-esque.” So imagine my surprise when the pizza was authentic and really really good. With so much on offer in the neighborhood, don’t write this place off.
Jimmy Grants, 113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy — The hippest little restaurant in town just off Smith Street in groovy Fitzroy. And it just so happens it was the cheapest meal of my entire trip and among the best. Yummy souvlaki and refreshing feta, cucumber, mint & barley salad for two, $24. I could eat here every day, especially with my favorite gelato shop around the corner to cap off the meal.
Bowery to Williamsburg, 16 Oliver Lane, CBD — Bialy, Lox & Cream Cheese only fancier: Beet and green olive bialy, dillweed schmear, cold smoked salmon with maxima (greens), capers and red onion. Everything I like but I wish I had substituted a bagel. Despite the not so authentic bialy, the combo was lovely in this New York inspired sandwich place tucked down an alley in the CBD. Their version of a Reuben is the number one seller and the portions are substantial by Aussie standards but thankfully, not in that NYC mile high sandwich kind of way. Part of the ongoing American craze sweeping the city but definitely with an Aussie twist.
La Miel Et La Lune, 330 Cardigan Street, Carlton — A sweet little breakfast joint in Carlton full of students and faculty from the nearby university. I don’t know what it is but i always crave a good bowl of granola when I travel. This muesli hit the spot served with poached fruit and yogurt (although I’ll never understand the need for both milk and yogurt that seems to be standard in this part of the world). The kind of place you can cozy up to your computer and nurse a good coffee for awhile.
It may seem like a lot of eating went on and that would be the truth. But what would be a trip to Melbourne without a little shopping as well. Having never ventured into Australia’s department stores before, this time I hit up both Myer and David Jones just to see what they were all about — typical department store fare. The big news in town was the opening of H&M that has taken over the entire GPO building. Just a few days in, lines were around the block with security galore.
When you are in the neighborhood of Made Beauty Space for your facial (because you should go) there are two notable entries to check out: The Woodsfolk (gifts & homewares) & Maiike Store (baby gifts & a small collection of womenswear).
Country Road — with shops around the city including in the department stores, there was a large flagship just down the road from my hotel at the corner of Toorak Road & Chapel Street. I’ve been partial to the home goods in the past but this time around, I spent some time in the apparel department. Style at affordable prices for both men and women. Kind of like the Jcrew of the Southern Hemisphere. Don’t forget, seasons are reversed Down Under.
Greville Street, Prahan — This little area full of small independent shops, is a delight to just walk around and peruse. A nice alternative to the more chain ridden main drag, Chapel Street. Great cafes as well. The Fitzroy of the south with many second locations here in Prahan.
Burch & Purchase Sweet Studio, 647 Chapel Street, South Yarra
A sweet shop with fantastical creations it is also a place to pick up the perfect food gifts for those back home.
Pictured are the two things they are most famous for: Salted Caramel sauce and gold bullion bar chocolates filled with said salted caramel.
There are oodles of fancy chocolates, jams and spreads, freeze dried fruit packets and fluffy meringues to choose from. That is if you can resist the lure of the pastry case. Oh la la!
Et Al, 186 Farraday Street, Carlton — Every trip, I make one great find and Et Al was it this time. Unstructured, Asian-influenced, high style clothing designed locally by a male/female duo. The minimalist shop is located in a small stone cottage you could easily walk by without noticing, so keep an eye out.
Many of the pieces can seemingly have a lot of fabric but look exquisite on. Other pieces that seem simple can be overwhelming. It really depends on your body. So try, try, try things on. I nearly tried on the entire shop but in the end settled on a coat and a sweater. A special shout out to the shop manager, Silvie, who was extremely patient with me and most entertaining to talk to. She graciously threw in a beautiful scarf as a birthday gift to me. How is that for an unexpected treat? And she’s made a customer for life. I’ll definitely be back on my next visit.
Et Al also carries beautiful hand made shoes by Vietnam transplant, Phong Chi Lai. Expensive but works of art. In fact, he recently was included in the the much heralded Melbourne NOW show at the National Gallery Of Victoria. Rumor has it he may have moved to Tasmania and quit the shoe biz. But talent like this is hard to walk away from – or maybe that is wishful thinking on my part. I’m saving my pennies just in case.