When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By day

I spent two and a half weeks over Christmas and New Year in Melbourne. It is my hometown – not the place I was born but rather the place that I endured the pangs of teenage angst, the excitement of leaving home and the hopeful anticipation of beginning my career – in essence my transition to adulthood (although some my argue that this happened much later). In any case, it’s a city that holds a huge piece of my expat heart hostage and as Mum and Lil Chicky still live there, it has become something of a habit to make a bi-annual pilgrimage Down Under.

We shopped and hung out and laughed and did a whole lot of stuff while I was there – more of which I’ll post about soon – but mostly we ate. As with most holiday ‘diets’, calories became a distant memory and it was not uncommon for us to be tucking in to some meal somewhere and be talking about where we should have the next one!

As a result I’ve clocked up quite a few great recommendations if you happen to be in Melbourne around the City or down towards the bayside suburbs of Brighton, Mentone, Hampton and Parkdale. There are too many for one post so they will come to you in two parts – by day and by night.

Here’s where I suggest you spend your days.

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Breakfast/Brunch – for a cracking start to your day, I really liked these three:

Urchin Bar – Hampton

Ostensibly this is a Turkish restaurant and bar but serves a great breakfast and we lingered here for a couple of hours catching up over fresh juice, delicious food and great coffee. The service was friendly and laid back and whilst they were attentive, at no stage did we feel rushed by the staff. Don’t let the average website put you off and if you go, make sure you walk through the bar and snag a table in the covered courtyard out the back.

The Groove Train – Brighton

This is one of my regulars when I visit and is a particular fave for breakfast. It’s located in upmarket Church Street and when we were there, the glass doors were concertina-ed aside, opening the whole place out onto the street. I have never had a bad coffee here and my breakfast burrito wrap was chock full of scrumptious stuff. Lil Chicky’s smashed avocado concoction looked pretty amazing as well.

Parkdale Beach Cafe & Kiosk – Parkdale

If you want food with a view, then this place is for you. Perched on the cliff top overlooking Port Phillip Bay, this cafe serves great coffee and a small but excellent selection of food to both tables inside and at loungers outside under the shade of the umbrellas. Mum and I happened to coincide our visit with a Greek Orthodox New Year celebration which moved from the boardwalk that runs along the beach up to the BBQ area next to the cafe. So we decided to enjoy our warm banana bread with fresh berries and mascarpone cream from a inside table with an excellent position by the window…

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Window seats –  the view from our table

This place gets busy but there’s something so unbelievably magnificent about the location that for me, the hustle to get a seat/table is worth it.

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Lunch/Coffee and a little something – as the day goes on, you’ll need to keep your strength up so try these three:

Larsen & Co – Hampton

This calm Scandi oasis is tucked into the lane that leads from Hampton Street through to the station car park and features clean Scandinavian decor inside and 3-4 shaded wooden tables outside. The menu is not extensive but the quality was excellent – I had an amazing superfood salad while Lil Chicky enjoyed her fried calamari with orange, baby fennel, feta and mint. The portions were big – so great value for money – and the service was friendly and efficient (after all we had a train to catch). It’s worth mentioning the excellent toilet facilities here too.

Brunetti – City Square

The original Brunetti opened in Carlton in 1985 and has since expanded to include this outdoor cafe that commandeers the south end of Melbourne’s City Square on Swanston Street. The biggest problem you’ll have is choosing which of the myriad cakes and slices to have. To complicate matters even further, you can also get yourself a little tub of fresh gelati…

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Left: My delicious hazelnut and coffee slice  Right: Ice-cream anyone?

There’s plenty of seating – although not all of it is under cover – and the bird life can get a bit cheeky with any leftovers but if you clean your plate (as well you should), watching the hierarchy of sparrows, pigeons and a seagull or two oust each other for the crumbs can be quite entertaining. Of course Brunetti’s Italian heritage means the coffee is outstanding.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms  – Block Arcade, City Centre

Melbourne’s arcades are something of an institution and the elegant Block Arcade, running between Collins and Little Collins Street, is no exception. Built in the 1890s, it features some of Melbourne’s most delightful retailers and none more delightful than the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. I was told that the line to get a table is usually out the door, down the arcade and around the corner into the street but we found ourselves here at 10am on a Tuesday morning with only a 10 minute wait ahead of us – so plenty of time to window shop…

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Clockwise from top left: Window shopping of the best kind; the mirror dating from 1892; red velvet cake; chocolate and pecan tart

This place is decorated tastefully ‘of the period’ featuring a mirror from 1892, flocked wallpaper and a display of crystal wares in one of the cabinets. It can seem a little cramped when you come through the door (one-in one-out is the best way to manage the traffic flow here) but once seated there was ample elbow room for us to tuck into our sweet treats. My chocolate and pecan tart was so delicious and I have it on good authority that the red velvet cake and the crepes with fresh berries and cream were every bit as good. This is not a place to linger and chat so go for the experience and the cakes rather than the conversation.

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And then there’s the best-laid plans and all that…

The Local on Como – Parkdale

I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and when Mum and Lil Chicky discovered this place, they couldn’t wait to tell me and put it on the ‘visit list’. Unfortunately it was closed for the entire time I was in Melbourne so I had to be satisfied with peering in the window…

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Awesome Audrey mural at The Local on Como (there was also a purple coffee machine!)

…so I cannot tell you anything about the coffee, the ambiance or any of the vittles on offer. But it must be pretty good – Lil Chicky does not do bad coffee. And the mural was worth the walk on a mighty warm Summer day.

That completes my haunts by day. You may like to pause (as we did often) and ready yourself for the next installment – my favourite culinary haunts after the sun went down. They’re coming soon…

Happy Days…

So Mum is here for a visit and since her (and her partner Alan’s) arrival last Wednesday, it has been a busy time with little chance of the daily blogs I’d planned to keep you all appraised of our Days Out (and In)…so here’s a little summary thus far…

Wednesday – Arrival Day
Much chatting and catching up over their best coffees since the start of their trip on May 9th (Go London…yeah!).  Checking them into the local hotel, marvelling at how big the room is compared to everything else they have stayed in and then off to The Boaters Inn on the riverbank in Kingston to eat fish and chips, drink wine and gaze dreamily at the Thames (which, on Wednesday, was dappled in soft Autumn sunshine).  My specialty Spag Bol for dinner…with more wine.

Thursday – Lewes-and-Brighton Day
Off to the county town of Lewes this morning to see all the places that Alan remembered from his childhood there…as with all nostalgic meanderings, he said everything seemed a lot smaller than he remembered.  We also walked around the castle, through the gardens at Southover Grange and visited Anne of Cleves cottage before walking back up Keere Street…very steep cobbled street that apparently the Prince Regent who became King George IV drove his carriage down on the strength of a dare…and they say his father was the mad one! 
Then it was on to Brighton and a visit to the Royal Pavilion, the pleasure palace of King George IV whilst he was Prince Regent (is there a recurring theme of reckless behaviour here?) This was my second visit and I had forgotten how truly spectacular and OTT this place was so def. worth visiting and taking the audio guide on your visit.  We then wandered along Brighton Pier before deciding that we were rather peckish so we found a fab Italian place in Brighton’s The Lanes and waddled out of there for the drive home at about 8.  Speaking of the drive home, we had a little trouble finding the turn off back to the main road and took a scenic drive along the coast for a while hoping to find another connecting road…Plan A having failed abysmally, we turned around, drove back to Newhaven and found the turn off…

Friday – Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus Day
Friday was tourist day in the capital and I have to say that I enjoyed the top deck of the hop-on-hop-off bus very much…it was really quite relaxing to be absolved of the need to take any photos (because it wasn’t all new and overwhelming like last time) and to just enjoy the ride in the sunshine (yes, sunshine again!  Very blessed we were…)  After a couple of hours of winding our way through the busy streets, we ‘hopped off’ at The Tower of London with enough time for lunch at gbk (scrumptious burgers) before meeting the Yeoman Warder (more widely known as Beefeaters) for our guided tour.  He had a few grisly stories to share, a typically English (dry) sense of humour and a ‘way’ with the ladies…but did you know that they come highly qualified for the job?  They have to have served a minimum of 22 years in the Army, Air Force or Marines and have reached the position of Sergeant Major and they (all 35 of them) live in the Tower of London with their families until retirement at 65…needless to say they kind of inspire ‘good behaviour’!

We then ‘hopped on’ a river cruise back to Westminster Pier – more witty commentary and interesting facts – before ‘hopping off’ and wandering past the Houses of Parliament, up Whitehall (past Downing Street and Royal Horse Guards), into Trafalgar Square and then along Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace… again I was struck by what an ‘ordinary’ looking building Buckingham Palace is, particularly when compared with Westminster Palace (aka Houses of Parliament) but if you are ever here in July-August, def. check BH out the inside – it’s amaaaaazing!…

…and then the only thing left to do (well that we had any energy left for) was to ‘hop on’ the bus home….and have Chinese takeaway for dinner…

Saturday – Day-Off Day
Saturday was my relaxing, houseworking, catching up day so J was despatched with said parent and partner to buy satnavs and posting boxes (look out chicky, there are a-comin’) before the visitors decamped to Hampton Court Palace nearby…in the drizzle…so I can’t really tell you what they got up to other than that there was jousting, a mock wedding and a lost umbrella.  Then it was pizza and Eurovision with J and the kids last night…makes you realise how small these flats really are when there are 6 people in them!

Sunday – Getting-Organised-For-All-The-Other-Days Day
Today the sun has finally broken through the clouds and we are all just puddling around here at the flat and the travellers are having a little breather before they set off on their big NW odyssey tomorrow morning…

So there you have it…a longer blog than usual but consider yourselves updated!