I have just returned from a fantastic mini vacay to my favourite Australian city – Melbourne. And apart from attending the most amazing 3 day International Convention which brought friends from over 60 countries together – I may have also done my fair share of wining and dining. Here’s what went down:
As I stepped out of the taxi at the uber cool Ovolo Laneways Hotel on Little Bourke, I could already tell that this was going to be my kind of place. Hub and I have stayed in many locales and hotels through Melbourne – like The Crowne Towers, The Prince, and The Blackman, and while all these places are fab – we seemed to be always travelling to The Ovolo side of town to wine and dine. So you could only imagine my unbridled excitement at the prospect of just walking to some of the city’s best restaurants and wine bars. Plus, the uber friendly staff and the many little personal touches – a welcome Loot Bag with treats, complimentary beer and water from the mini bar, wines and beer at reception between 6-8pm, a selection of pastries that you can grab in the morning while making yourself a Nespresso – made this hotel a great stay.
After checking in, I trotted off down one of the laneways to meet my friend Renata at The Cellar Bar on Bourke St. This is an old Italian establishment with a great wine list and downstairs from the well loved Italian restaurant Florentino (didn’t dine there. Next time). After a Bellini, we then sauntered across the road to Madame Brussels, which has been a long time favourite of mine. It’s a fun, rooftop garden party setting with retro tables and chairs and friendly staff in cute outfits who serve jugs of cocktails and really delishy finger food. Not fancy-pants finger food, but the stuff you want to eat like homemade sausage rolls and toasties.
The next morning I made the pleasant 15 min walk through Chinatown down to Hardware Societe on Hardware Lane for breakfast. This is a great brekkie destination and I’m very partial to their omelettes. It was then a day of shopping in the CBD at the mecca complex – the Emporium Melbourne. And as it was raining, I may have stayed there for 5 hours. Time does fly when you’re trying on clothes. My sister, escaping from her family and mother in-law before she committed a heinous crime, met be in Myers where we went straight to The Tea Room and had a lovely glass of Champagne. It was just what the doctor ordered, and gave us the energy to continue shopping. (Could be the very reason why they have a Champagne bar in the middle of Women’s Wear).
Our next stop was to the hair salon Saint Louie in Russell Place to get our hair convention ready. Now, Glams, you may be aware of the fact – I get my hair done a lot. Especially at Channel 9. My hairdresser friends there are all amazing. And I’m frequently disappointed when I go to a salon and pay exorbitant money for a less than average do. So I was stoked with Christophe from Saint Louie and his skill with the blow dryer – a truly great BD. Sis was also happy with her cut and BD! The Neapoli Wine Bar next door is also handy, if for example, your sister’s hair is taking longer than yours, and you might like a glass of Italian Shiraz while also showing the bar how fabulous your hair is. Just saying.
It was soon dinnertime, and so, across the road from The Ovolo to Rosa’s Kitchen on Punch Lane we went. This is a homely Italian restaurant with great pasta, a super cute Italian waiter, a lovely Sicilian Red and a scrummy flourless orange cake for dessert – good times were had by all.
The next night’s dinner was at Punch Lane Wine Bar Restaurant (virtually next door to The Ovolo). This has that true characteristically Melbourne ambience – a warm, cosy space lined with bottles of wine on racks, great unpretentious food, comfortable seating, and most important – perfect subdued amber lighting. Just the ticket for a small group or a romantic dinner. It was hub’s first night in town so we enjoyed the latter.
The next night was the much-anticipated Mamasita’s booking. This highly popular Mexican restaurant on Collins St only take bookings for a minimum of 10; so because we were in town with many friends – we pre-booked a table for a 6-8:30pm sitting. By the time we arrived, people were already lining up. It was hectic. Especially when you glance up over your tortilla and catch the hungry eyes of someone at the front of the queue. Awkward. We went with the 65-dollar menu that was laden with food, and while not every dish in the banquet was massively tasty, it’s a really fun place to dine with friends. And the jugs of margaritas (hello, obviously) do not go astray. Still, the hero dish: the street style grilled corn on the cob. Incredible!
On our last night, I booked George Calombaris’s Hellenic Republic in East Brunswick. This is a 15 min tram or cab ride from the city but well worth it. I could not fault this delicious Greek banquet. (Really hungry now!) Plus, when you do go with one of their banquet menus, and perhaps find yourself especially partial to the Tyri saganaki with peppered figs – you can just orfder more without extra charge. But, be warned – you get A LOT of food and you simply must make room for the chilled rice pudding with salted caramel and almond shortbread.
So, on our last morning in Melbourne, which was already turning on the charm with clear blue skies and sunshine (typical): we had breakfast at The European – just around the corner from The Ovolo on Spring St. and quite the Melbourne institution. I had ricotta cakes with zucchini and rocket and the hub had a dirty old Croque Madame. And so our trip to Melbourne ended. Sad face.
So now, several kilos heavier, I have returned to grey old Sydney. Sigh.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In just one month from today, we will be on a plane to our next adventure: New York. Stay tuned.