Category Archives: Melbourne

— Melbourne —

Melbourne’s top 5 most authentic dumpling restaurants

WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 1, 2016

  • Dumplings have long been an authentic and essential part of Melbourne’s menu, but you need a special kind of help to find the dumpling nirvanas amongst the pretenders.

    Monique Bayer from Walk Melbourne, who runs Dumpling Discovery walks, takes a whole-of-city approach in her search for truly authentic dumplings hailing from all over Asia.

    “Don’t just head straight to Chinatown [Little Bourke Street] for your dumplings,” she says. Although, of course, there are some treasure to be found there.

    Monique has travelled across Asia and especially China on ‘research trips’, seeking out “rough and ready” restaurants, and the stories behind them, that perfect their regional style.

    Here are Melbourne’s tastiest and most diverse dumpling options, where $10 a plate gets you a great -value gourmet feast and a culinary culture lesson (NB: In no particular order).

    1. North East China Family

    This recently renovated gem is the home to rustic peasant food dumplings and quick turnaround service (5 to 10 minutes). The speciality here is the jiaozi, a traditional dumpling from North East China. If you can handle the heat, try the hot chilli sauce; the restaurant is renowned for having one of the spiciest around.
    Where: 302 Flinders Lane

    2. China Red

    Chinas Red is a bit of a star among Melbourne’s dumpling set, but it’s not too easy to find – it is in China Town, but deep down inside, downstairs in an arcade. Pick of the dishes is the spicy pork wontons dipped in a beautiful sweet sauce. This place is all about Szechuan style (sample a Szechuan pepper corn). Keep an eye out for the self-service wall-mounted ordering system – where the food and drink magically appear.
    Where: Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street

    3. Shanghai Street

    Come here for xiaolongbao: soup dumplings (the soup and meat is inside). In China, technically these aren’t considered dumplings, but in Australia we are happy to embrace them as such. Shanghai Street actually has four venues in Melbourne, but Monique’s tours visits the Latrobe Street one, which she says is the most “rough and ready”, closest to dumpling houses she has frequented in China. The original shop on Little Bourke Street seems to have a perpetual queue at peak times, which must be a good sign.
    Where: 64 La Trobe Street

    4. Gyoza Douraku

    While lots of places in Melbourne serve gyoza, Gyoza Douraku are the only real specialists in this Japanese style of dumplings. Among its extensive selection on the menu the duck gyoza, a more modern interpretation, is probably the pick of the bunch. Go for the pork and cabbage if you prefer a more traditional option. There is a Japanese bar kind of feel to Gyoza Douraku (shoes off, floor cushions) with and extensive sake list (more than 100) adding to the authenticity.
    Where: 147 Bourke Street

    5. ShangDong Mama

    The best dumplings Shangdong-region style (located between Shanghai and Beijing). Try the fish dumplings, mackerel whipped up into a mousse – I know what you’re thinking, but stay with us, they are light in texture and delicious. Worth a trip just to see the way ShangDong Mama folds and cooks its dumpling (quite unique in Melbourne). Don’t bother calling because they don’t take bookings.
    Where: Mid City Arcade

    Monique Bayer started Walk Melbourne back in 2012. Don’t try her 3 to 4 hour tours on a full stomach – expect to eat between 12 and 14 dumplings.

    — Melbourne —

    Review: Saint Urban, Richmond

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MARCH 5, 2016

    Does Saint Urban perfect the holy trinity of great food, smart wines and real-deal service? Leanne Clancey pays Melbourne’s latest a visit.

    Sure, we’ve all heard of Saint Francis, Saint Patrick and Saint Valentine, but Saint Urban? Not so much.

    Centuries ago, the French bishop was known as a champion of the wine industry, and now – thanks to a team of seasoned Melbourne restaurant industry pros – the Saint Urban name is enjoying a welcome revival.

    Wine-fancying locals are counting their blessings with the arrival of a stylish new wine bar named in the bishop’s honour.

    Open since June last year, it’s the brainchild of co-owners (and Richmond residents) chef Daniel Schelbert, his partner, front-of-house manager Pia Tatjana-Tukiainen, and restaurateur Martin Pirc, owner of iconic CBD wine bar, Punch Lane.

    Like their polished-yet-genial floor staff, the trio are all local industry veterans, and there’s a wonderful sense of proper, seasoned professionalism to the service.

    They know their food, and they really know their wine, so it’s very much a case of “tell us what you like, relax, and we’ll look after you”.

    The venture is the team’s take on the kind of dream neighbourhood wine bar they’ve always wanted in the area, and as a mid-week visit proves, there’s a rather sizeable and receptive market of fellow locals happy to have Saint Urban in the ’hood, too.

    Entry comes via a hidden door off a cobbled alleyway (very Melbourne), and once inside you’ll find a handsome space that effortlessly pulls off the same timeless European charm that the city’s best wine bars do so well.

    The combination of distressed walls, great lighting and arched Art Deco-style windows relay an understated sophistication, while the ersatz lived-in patina conjures memories of that particular brand of backstreet Roman enoteca or Parisian wine bar you always just stumble across.

    Taking a broad sweep of culinary cues from across Europe, Schelbert’s share-friendly menu mines the chef’s back catalogue running kitchens at the likes of Cecconi’s, The European, and Punch Lane.

    There’s a conviction apparent in well-executed starters such as the wonderfully tender octopus with smoky chorizo, guindilla chillies and tart lemon cream, though a dish of char-grilled ox tongue with horseradish and mustard fruits – while winning on all other fronts – can veer a little too far into salty-ville.

    Mains, such as the perfectly seasoned confit duck leg with creamy parsnip purée and pleasingly citric preserved cumquats, showcase Schelbert’s aptitude for well-balanced European comfort food, and cheese fans should save space for at least one pick from the thoughtful international list.

    Like its sister venue Punch Lane, fine wine is very much front and centre here and you’ll find an extensive selection of interesting old and new world wines, as well as back-vintage releases and a considered spread of wines by the glass.

    When it comes to low-lit, Euro-inspired wine bars that pair great service with a high-standard culinary offering, Melbourne pretty much owns the genre, and this wonderfully atmospheric newcomer totally fits the archetype.

    With its approachable, come-anytime informality, Saint Urban is the kind of neighbourhood haunt that might just have you checking the property listings so you can be local, too.

    Details: Saint Urban, Melbourne

    Where: 213 Swan Street, Richmond, Vic; sainturban.com.au

    Verdict: Richmond’s dining scene has finally come of age and with such a switched-on team at the helm, Saint Urban is the kind of grown-up local the area has been crying out for. Ideal as much for a solo post-work wine mission as it is for a long weekend lunch, it has all the hallmarks of an instant classic.

    Score: 4/5

    We rated: A seat at the marble-topped bar just screams ‘drink wine’, and the savvy staff know how to guide you to the good stuff.

    We’d change: Richness abounds on the menu, so it pays to take ordering cues from staff to avoid lard-on-lard mishaps.

    All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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    — Melbourne —

    The ‘gritty chic’ guide to Richmond – eat, drink, shop

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • FEBRUARY 9, 2016

    The gritty inner-city suburb of Richmond is the Next Best Thing in ultra-cool Melbourne hoods, says Megan Arkinstall.

    Less than a decade after Richmond officially became a city, things began to look glum. Succumbing to the depression of the 1890s, affluent locals sought refuge in outer suburbs and the grand homes they left behind became boarding houses for the poor.

    During the 1920s, the city became infamous as an underworld, with mobster boss Squizzy Taylor, head of the Richmond Gang, involved in everything from blackmail to murder. To make things worse, the poor suburb became even poorer in the 1930s with the Great Depression.

    But ironically it was World War II that brought some positive change to the city: there was a boom in industry (tanneries, brickworks, bluestone quarries…) and with that came a huge influx of immigrants from southern Europe and Southeast Asia.

    Fast-forward to the 1980s – when the place was swelling with students, punk rockers and Vietnamese immigrants – and the city became gentrified. Today’s Richmond is a bit gritty and haphazard, which is part of its charm, but there are hidden gems sprouting up all over the place – you just need to know where to find them.

    Bridge Road revival

    The ’burb is probably most well-known for a road that could make any husband or boyfriend shudder: Bridge Road.

    This kilometre-long strip was once a thriving shopping hub of discount outlet stores that people would travel interstate for. However, in recent years a number of these bargain basements to close.

    Happily, there’s still a host of stores (Sass & Bide, Bardot, Witchery, Alannah Hill and the like) that have survived and other businesses, such as cafes and other retail stores, have slowly begun to move in.

    Start at the western end, closest to the city – it may seem like a bit of a ghost town but don’t let that deter you because it gets better; most of the good shops are in the middle section, as you near the Town Hall.

    Breakfast and brunch on Bridge

    Fuel up on a homely breakfast at Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, owned by Australian cook extraordinaire Stephanie Alexander and cheese expert Will Stud.

    Be sure to pop your head into the cheese room here, where passionate cheesemongers will educate you with a tasting (they run regular cheese and wine workshops, too).

    Another great option for breakfast is Touchwood, a local’s fave with a great all-day breaky menu and a clean, urban design.

    As well as the usual suspects, you’ll find some more creative breakfast items: crumpets with smashed banana, toasted hazlenuts and fresh honeycomb; salted caramel wholemeal waffles with strawberry dust and… nasi goreng.

    If you’re around this area for lunch or dinner and want to up the ante on sophistication, Mister Jennings is a pretty spiffy chap who serves a sleek tasting menu with matching wine. Headed by Ryan Flaherty (of Fat Duck and El Bulli fame), the menu includes high-end and innovative dishes such as kangaroo carpaccio and boudin blanc dagwood dog.

    Pick of the bars and pubs

    Boutique beer lovers will get their kicks at Slow Beer Store and Cafe, the country’s first dedicated craft beer store, offering a changing menu of four beers on tap, which you can take away in growlers or enjoy in-store along with plates of artisan cheese and charcuterie.

    But if it’s a Carlton Draught you’re after, head on down to the very eastern end of the road where you’ll find The Bridge Hotel.

    From the outside it looks like an average pub, but inside you’ll find a building split into two with an outdoor European-style cobblestoned laneway running through it.

    The menu is a good mix of modern and traditional dishes – from crispy beef salad with nashi pear, chilli and roasted peanuts to good-old chicken parmy. On Friday afternoons they host Karma Kegs Happy Hour at 5pm: all proceeds are donated to community initiatives.

    Time for a walk

    Across from the pub is the Amora Riverwalk – a contemporary hotel overlooking the Yarra River.

    There are 40 kilometres of walking and cycling tracks around the river and guests can get out and explore them using the hotel’s complimentary bike hire – better still, order one of the picnic hampers to take with you (from $170 a night; melbourne.amorahotels.com).

    From here, a 10-minute walk south will bring you to Swan Street, the beating heart of Richmond.

    Demitri’s Feast offers up an all-day brunch menu with a Greek flair – baklava French toast, broad bean falafel and ouzo-cured salmon, to name a few.

    Just one block away, Feast of Merit is also a top pick for breakfast; owned and run by YGAP, all profits go back to supporting youth education projects. So you can dine on the Forbidden Breakfast (crispy salted pork belly, fried egg, zhoug dressing and za’atar flatbread) and not feel so guilty after all.

    Boutique shopping on Swan Street

    After a good feast, it’s time to explore some of the cute boutique stores along Swan Street. Lily and the Weasel stocks local products from independent designers and artists, natural products and handcrafted pieces for the home.

    We love the candles from Melbourne-based designers The Luxuriate that come in gorgeous marble jars and your choice of copper, gold or black lids. And for your fashion fix, Royal Order of Nothing sells men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing from brands such as The Fifth Label, ELK and Elwood.

    They also stock some quirky accessories such as a whimsical necklace and charm collection by Sydney-based designer Kirstin Ash.

    Men who are in the market for a new haircut or beard trim best stop by the very cool Dr Follicles barber shop (03 9416 3999). No ordinary barber experience, here you’ll find kitsch décor, hipster barbers, and free beer for every customer. They don’t take bookings so get in early.

    Lunch or dinner on your mind?

    Time to get multicultural – try Fonda for relaxed, delicious Mexican fare. The Feed Me option is great value – for $49 you get tortilla crisps and guac’, corn on the cob, fish tacos and pork quesadilla.

    Or if you’re in the mood for Asian, shun the more saturated Vietnamese strip of Victoria Street and head to Swan Street’s Botherambo, a jungle-style eatery located in the heart of an urban jungle. The menu reads a little different here, with beef shin noodle soup, slow-cooked pork neck and Flinders Island wallaby bo la lot (mince in betel leaves).

    If you fancy something lighter – one of Swan Street’s newest and hippest eateries is Saint Urban. Located in a once dilapidated building now gorgeously restored, this bistro-style venue is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese board.

    Whereas meat lovers are spoilt for choice at Little Bertie hidden behind Berties Butchers, which claims to be the oldest butcher in Australia. Located in a car park – stay with me – this barbecue smokehouse has a changing menu of succulent meat: pulled pork or lamb shoulder or pork belly served on brioche buns with delicious chunky chips.

    Worshipping Church Street

    Running perpendicular is Church Street, famous for its furniture and décor stores (frequented by the folks from The Block). Some of our faves include Jardan, Coco Republic, Matt Blatt, Meizai and super cute décor shop The Woodsfolk, to name but a few. If you’re in the midst of a redesign, this is the place to peruse some beautiful pieces.

    Church Street leads down to South Yarra, where there’s another brilliant place to stay: The Olsen, an eclectic Art Series hotel graced with the work of Australian artist John Olsen. The view from the rooftop pool is fabulous.

    If you’re staying down this end of town, there are some great spots for dining back on Church Street. An absolute highlight is Kong. This Japanese–Korean restaurant is a loud, bright and buzzy place where diners are packed in together on rows of communal tables. But the service is spot on and the food is amazing.

    Another excellent place, perfect for a long, lazy brunch is Top Paddock . Helmed by the guys behind other cracking Melbourne establishments Three Bags Full and Two Birds One Stone, the food offering here is tasty and hearty. But what people really come here for is the coffee, brewed in a warehouse a few minutes down the road.

    I passed this cafe several times during my stay in Richmond and saw a queue of at least 10 people out the door each time (and yes, it’s worth it). Get in line, because there’s probably no better way to top off a weekend in Richmond.

    Australian Traveller Issue 65

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    — Melbourne —

    Review: The Larwill Studio, Melbourne

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JANUARY 2, 2016

    Does this Melbourne hotel have the guest experience down to a fine art? Megan Arkinstall checks in.

    Google ‘David Larwill’ and you’ll find that the late Australian artist is described as a larrikin, exuberant and loveable. But this colourful character is not immediately apparent on arrival at his namesake hotel, The Larwill Studio.

    The Art Series Hotels’ sixth property is part of the new commercial precinct at North Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. That’s right: part of a clinical hospital in Parkville, an area that’s more about green spaces and community buildings than hip and happening laneways.

    And there’s a Subway at the entrance… the ‘Eat Fresh’ kind. A curious choice for a hotel group that has built its brand around the vibrant work of prominent Australian artists.

    Party on the inside

    But inside the vibe is very different. Party tunes are booming (not unpleasantly) in the lobby, which is light-filled and spacious with high ceilings and some of Larwill’s bright, frantic and tribal-like artworks gracing the walls.

    Two young girls dressed in chambray shirts and black aprons stand (no, bop) at the front desk. “Hey guys!” one hollers energetically as we ascend the stairs.

    The check-in process is quick: I had received an email the previous day inviting me to check-in online with options for me to pay for a late check-out, hire a Lekker bike or smart car, and order a bottle of bubbles to my room.

    The girl then enquires about our plans for the evening and promptly offers up some suggestions for dinner and drinks, marking both on a map. (For the record, the dinner suggestion was Sosta Cucina, an elegant Italian restaurant on Erroll Street about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. It was worth every step in heels; the food was incredibly good.)

    Part workspace, part room

    Our guest room (or workspace, as they’re known here) is a Parkview King located on level three, which we access via an elevator and public areas adorned with Larwill’s colourful paintings – it’s certainly a funky space.

    The workspace is a good size, but the huge windows that overlook Royal Park makes it feel truly spacious and light. The carpet, walls, curtains and bedspread are all neutral colours allowing the two large artworks to really take centre stage.

    These are complemented by bright and quirky décor such as an orange and grey throw and fluoro yellow geometric cushion on the bed, and canary-yellow industrial wire pendant lights hanging by a blue cord. It’s hard not to feel happy in a room this playful.

    But it’s the small touches that really hit it out of the Royal Park. A white perforated hardboard on the wall replaces the usual hotel compendium.

    Local inspirations

    Attached to it with bulldog clips is all the information you need for your stay – suggestions to ‘Stay Inspired’ by exploring the area, and an ‘Art of Wellbeing’ guide of things to do around the hotel: the GM hosts morning jogs, if you care to join him, use the yoga mat to get your ‘om’ on, or join a free gym class.

    The mini bar list includes some pretty awesome snacks such as a Freckleberry, Parmesan Bites, Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and, fittingly, a canvas and paints for creating your next masterpiece.

    Of course, being an Art Series Hotel, there’s a collection of art books in your room to learn some tips or you can take a tour of the hotel’s (real) art with a curator.

    Toiletries are by evo and make for a humorous bathroom experience.

    Use the Rain Helmet (commonly known as a shower cap), the label of which reads ‘designed as a water-repelling head prophylactic’, or the Soap Dodger (AKA body wash) that promises to erase vile smells down the drain.

    Roomy but…

    The bathroom itself is spacious with plenty of bench space, the shower is over the bath but has a good, strong showerhead, and there’s a full-length mirror.

    The only shortcoming is the towels – they are small and thin, which is a shame considering the hotel’s attention to detail everywhere else.

    However, the pièce de résistance is the bed. Specially designed by A.H. Beard, it’s ridiculously comfortable. We wake refreshed, keen to have our first taste of Melbourne coffee, but the on-site cafe and bar Smith + Singleton is not yet open. (And Subway will just not cut it, I’m afraid.)

    But it turns out that with just 10 minutes on a tram we can be in those aforementioned buzzing laneways, ready to paint the town red, perhaps just as Larwill would have done.

    The Details: The Larwill Hotel

    Verdict: The Larwill Studio is a great value, beautifully curated stay overlooking a lovely green park. It’s just 20 minutes from the airport by car and 10 minutes from the CBD by tram.

    Score: 3.5/5

    We rated: The room styling is fun, the bed was dreamy, the service was on the ball, and there was free wi-fi.

    We’d change: The only problem in-room are the towels, which felt a little cheap. Its location means it’s a little too far for walking explorations, but if you’re happy to tram it or hire a Lekker or smart car, then it’s definitely worth considering.

    Notes: We paid $188 for a Parkview King. Cafe and bar opening December.

    Where: 48 Flemington Road, Melbourne; artserieshotels.com.au/larwill

    All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

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    — Melbourne —

    Winner: Overall Best Travel Experience of 2015… Melbourne

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 17, 2015

    Drum roll… And the winner of Australia’s overall ‘favourite travel experience 2015’ in Australian Traveller’s People’s Choice Awards is…

    Winner – Melbourne

    ‘Creative capital’, ‘culinary capital’, ‘Australia’s most livable city’ – Melbourne has been called many things over the years, and the best bit is: they’re all true. With more world-class restaurants than you could poke a sourdough batard at, you’ll struggle to eat better anywhere in Australia. Nowhere else quite does low-lit wine bars and atmospheric late-night dining like Melbourne. Few other cities could compete with its vibrant festival scene, iconic sporting events and jam-packed cultural calendar, either. Winter visits call for tailored coats, cosy cafes, boutique shopping and fabulous art galleries, while summertime is sweet for rooftop bars, garden picnics, outdoor cinema and relaxed, al fresco aperitifs.
    The runners-up

    2. Tasmania: Tassie has long been known for its rugged nature and peaceful isolation, but with sophisticated dining and a hip arts scene now in the mix it’s morphed into an unbeatable weekender.

    3. Sydney: Few places could rival Sydney’s unique mix of laid-back living, stunning natural beauty and iconic architecture. And those beaches? They’re the envy of
    cities around the world.

    4. Far North Queensland: With pristine ancient rainforest, stunning beaches and the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep, Far North Queensland is
    an outdoor playground second to none.

    5. Broome and the Kimberley, WA: The Kimberley’s vast, desolate beauty is marked with spectacular gorges and waterfalls, while Broome’s famous Cable Beach is one of Australia’s best.

     

    ALL THE RESULTS: Australian Traveller’s People Choice Awards 2015

     

    Want to book your ultimate break? Head to

    Booking.com logo

     

     

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

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    — Melbourne —

    5 most exceptional cups of coffee in Melbourne’s CBD

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 5, 2015

    Filtering out great artisanal coffee brewers from simply good ones in Melbourne CBD’s caffeine-drenched, rabbit warren-like laneways takes pure commitment, writes Steve Madgwick.

    Fiona Sweetman spends her days trawling the world’s most mercurial coffee capital in search of greatness, as part of the Hidden Secrets Tours ‘Cafe Culture’ walk. Faithful to their southern European coffee-nook roots, Melbourne’s nouveau cafe elite are powered by a cupful of philosophies. Of course, Melbourne coffee must be ethically sourced, but the best also demand it to be seasonal, traceable and locally roasted, too. Your barista must possess PhD-like knowledge and the venue should effortlessly exude the latest ‘coffee couture’ décor.

    Often their coffee is more traceable than their locations and you may have to sit (if at all) on a communal table in a tight space. But that’s part of their charm, says Fiona. Let’s try a modern Melbourne cuppa a few different ways.

    1. Cup of Truth (the hole in the wall)

    The Cup of Truth seems like it’s from another indeterminate era; part hipster future, part film noir past. Owners Jon Freeman and Courtney Joel fill Campbell Arcade with scents of takeaway (only) varieties served with a double shot of cafe improv. “Stay high, stay dry,” says Joel. In a hurry? Simply throw money into the red ‘honesty cup’ on the counter.

    The brew: Coffee by Axil. Try the single origin of the day.
    Peckish: Peach, bourbon vanilla and almond muffins.
    Factoid: Campbell Arcade featured in the 1957 film On the Beach, with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.
    Address: 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway (under Flinders Street)

    2. Dukes Roasters (the feel-good factor)

    Dukes Roasters embraces Melbourne’s ‘social enterprise’ vibe with a few sips’ worth of every cuppa sold here going to the not-for-profit Ross House Trust, which offers facilities for community organisations. Inside, the subtly crafted décor feels effortless, the fab-patterned floor tiles living comfortably with the ribbed blonde-wood wall panels.

    The brew: Coffee by Dukes, Collingwood. Try a simple espresso.
    Peckish: Chocolate-covered shortbread.
    Simply stunning: The crockery here feels like it’s straight from classic Italian cinema.
    Address: 247 Flinders Lane

    3. Brother Baba Budan (Melbourne coffee royalty)

    Brother Baba Budan was a vanguard of the CBD’s current artisanal coffee buzz. This perpetually lively hub is funky and cosy (read small) with a dozen useable seats – plus some unuseable ones latched to the ceiling. The takeaway service can be positively humming at peak times, but brave the lines because the super-brisk baristas are adroit at caffeinating the fussy mass.

    The brew: Coffee by Seven Seeds. Try a soy cap.
    Peckish: Nutella doughnuts.
    History lesson: Baba Budan (the man) was said to have smuggled seven coffee beans to India from the Middle East in the Middle Ages, hence introducing coffee to the world.
    Address: 359 Little Bourke Street

    4. Patricia Coffee (coffee for tea drinkers)

    Housed in an old lawyer’s office at the end of town that puts the B in CBD, Patricia offers a varied selection of strong-flavoured but lighter-textured coffee. Walk over the tiled ‘Standing Room Only’ sign at the entrance into a charmingly vibrant white-tiled space illuminated by a neon ceiling sign in the shape of the word ‘sunshine’. Why Patricia? It’s named after the owner’s grandma – awww.

    The brew: Coffee by Market Lane, Proud Mary and Seven Seeds. Try a speciality filtered option.
    Peckish: Limited selection of pastries.
    Need a rest: Take a load off on one of the bright orange milk crates outside.
    Address: Corner Little Bourke and Little William streets

    5. Krimper (a truly hip space)

    Hidden away down a back lane in an old warehouse behind a minimalist façade, Krimper nails Melbourne’s latest coffee chic décor. The reclaimed space, complete with water-blasted exposed brick, maintains an utterly personable vibe despite the potentially cold industrial dimensions. It has more room to move and foodie options than others on the list.

    The brew: Coffee by Proud Mary. Splash-out on an affogato espresso.
    Peckish: Duck in Pan or Prawn Pancake.
    Centrepiece: The 100-year-old steam-powered lift car dining booth.
    Address: 20 Guildford Lane

    Something stronger? Bar Americano (A splash of Italy)
    Bar Americano wins the ‘feels like it’s in southern Europe’ award, inside and out. It’s an unashamed tribute to simple Italian indulgences – espresso during the day, Negronis and other cocktails in the evening, uncomplicated bars snacks. Only 10 people standing (or more likely leaning) at any one time. Heed the tiled ‘Do Not Spit’ sign. Quirky personified. Address: Presgrave Place

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    — Melbourne —

    Melbourne’s top 5 ultra luxury day spas

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JULY 11, 2015

    Gone are the days when you had to trek Victoria’s countryside to find high-end primping and pampering: now you don’t need to leave Melbourne’s city limits for premium day spa experiences. So slip on a robe and put your feet up, these are the top 5 ultra-luxe spas in Melbourne (Words: Elizabeth Abbott).

    1. Chaun Spa at The Langham

    High above Southbank’s crowds the Chuan Spa offers a tranquil retreat where pampering meets inner tranquillity. Chinese culture and aesthetics define the Chuan Spa experience, so go with the (Feng Shui) flow and try the Tao of Detox package. Featuring exfoliation, an algae wrap, massage and facial you’ll leave with skin plumped and mind and body aligned. Stay zen after your detox with a dip in the salt water Jacuzzi, and take in the spectacular views across the city skyline.
    Try it: Tao of Detox, $399 for 150 minutes

    2. Crown Spa at Crown Towers

    There aren’t too many places that do justice to the word regal , but the Crown Spa is one of them. Plush lounges and velvet curtains set the scene for indulging in a truly lavish experience with the Pure Gold Radiance Facial. Products from premium brand La Prairie are combined with specially selected masks and heat treatment to leave you looking refreshed and radiant. It’s no wonder celebrities are frequently spotted here: it’s glitzy, glamorous and you’ll be treated like royalty.
    Try it: Pure Gold Radiance Facial, $305 for 90 minutes

    3. Park Club Health and Day Spa at Park Hyatt

    The Park Club Health and Day Spa is a hidden oasis within the hustle and bustle of the CBD. With décor that would be equally at home in a Roman palace, the Park Club is inner-city luxury at its finest. Opt for the Ginger Renewal treatment and you’ll leave smelling as good as you feel, with lavender exfoliation followed by a ginger oil massage it’s sure to make the stresses of daily life fade away. Perfect for sneaking out of the office for a long lunch break – just don’t let the secret out!
    Try it: Ginger Renewal, from $229 for 90 Minutes 

    4. Aurora Spa, The Prince Hotel, St Kilda

    If spas were people, Aurora would be that friend who always looks chic and collected, with her hair effortlessly perfect. This simplicity and sophistication defines Aurora, including its signature botanical skincare range Aspar, which has caught the eye of many (it’s now even offered in Qantas’s First Class lounges!) Leave a big space in your diary for a trip to Aurora: the all-day Pure Spa Escape is an indulgence not to be missed. Including a steam room treatment, massage, caviar facial and a manicure or pedicure, the Bliss retreat provides the perfect little escape from reality.
    Try it: Pure Spa Escape, $695

    5. Mansion Hotel and Spa at Werribee Park

    It’s hard to believe this idyllic retreat is just a 30-minute drive south-west of the CBD. The spa is housed within a 19th century mansion, set upon sprawling manicured gardens that leave you feeling as though you’ve been transported to a scene from Downton Abbey rather than outer Melbourne. Get the ladies together for a day trip and spoil yourselves with the Girls’ Day in Package, including champagne, cakes, hand and spa treatments and use of all the spa facilities. The Mansion Spa offers the perfect little getaway, and you won’t even have to leave Melbourne.
    Try it: Girls’ Day in Package $185 per person

    — Melbourne —

    Review: Noir Bar, Melbourne

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 23, 2015

    Like Hollywood stars prepped to perfection, the sweets emerging from Melbourne’s sultry Noir restaurant now have their own venue: Noir Bar. Margaret Barca satiates her sweet tooth.

    The discreetly dark Noir restaurant exudes its own subtle style on Richmond’s ever-more-hip Swan Street.

    It’s known for its seasonal ingredients, unusual combinations and exquisite presentation. And it’s always worth checking the dessert menu to decide if you should, perhaps, leave room. The answer is inevitably ‘yes’. One of the reasons is Noir’s pastry chef Jérôme Soubeyrand, who has worked at London’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Hélène Darroze’s Michelin-starred restaurant at the Connaught.

    Now owners Peter Roddy (the restaurant’s head chef) and Ebony Vagg have taken their desserts even closer to heaven, turning their upstairs wine bar Swan Street Social into Noir Bar, with a focus on cocktails and desserts.

    A hefty door and a modest sign are all that indicate the entrance to this sweet spot, creating a clubby feel. Signature charcoal walls give a subtle noir effect, and a chandelier of massed antler horns adds a… who knows what? Maybe a hint of Scandinavia? Whatever, we love it.

    The wine list is short (but very good) and there are boutique beers, but cocktails and dessert wines are the go here. Ask the staff to make something special for you. For us, an Espresso Martini seemed the perfect foil for the sweets to come and the Raspberry Caprioska is a divine twist on a classic.

    While the bar menu has some savoury offerings (the truffled pecorino polenta chips are irresistible – order your own and don’t even think about sharing them), it’s all about the afters.

    For stellar good looks it is hard to go past the Vacherin, spiky and pastel pink – like a fairy hedgehog (pictured). The baby-iest meringues sit on a rose pink cream and hidden beneath is a flavour-dense raspberry sorbet. Delish.

    And, as our waiter suggests, excellent with a blush-pink dessert wine, a Greystone Gewürztraminer Botrytis from New Zealand’s Wairarapa Valley.

    The lemon tart comes with a side order of drama – it arrives flaming to caramelise the top, with a quenelle (chef speak for a shapely scoop) of Campari and orange sorbet and another of ruby grapefruit bavarois.

    It’s a delicate trio, with three types of citrus (that makes it a health food, doesn’t it?). For chocolate devotees, the Chocolate Marquise is rich and bitter, with a passionfruit macaron, and a Middle Eastern accent of pistachio and pomegranate. Other possibilities include a rhubarb soufflé with liquorice ice-cream; and cute petits fours.

    If you’re after a sweet end to your evening, Noir Bar may be just the place.

     

    The details: Noir Bar, Melbourne

    The verdict: Move your party to Noir Bar from Noir – or from any restaurant – for dessert and drinks. Or, what the heck? Forget dinner and just have cocktails and cake.
    The score: 8/10; very good.
    We rated: A smart bar with a low-key ambience, friendly staff and heavenly desserts.
    We hated: Choosing! We’d love a platter with a selection. And the music could have been a touch more moody and… noir.
    Where: Upstairs, 175 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne.
    Notes: The bar opens Tue–Sun, 5pm –1am. There’s a happy hour from 5–6pm.

    All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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    — Melbourne —

    Bars, pubs, crackling fires – how to embrace Melbourne’s winter

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 11, 2015

    We challenged the clever people behind the Melbourne’s Bars and Pubs app to choose the city’s best crackling fires for a warming winter drink in the coolest venues around town. Here are their remedies for a Victorian chill…

    1. Captain Baxter, St Kilda

    The crackling fireplace of this St Kilda hotspot is a great counterpoint to dark and stormy ocean views outside. On Sundays the Captain Baxter has a three-course, Korean-inspired lunch for $45 per person (book ahead).

    2. Grace Darling Hotel, Collingwood

    Take cover from the howling wind and pelting rain at this adored local’s secret which serves a weekly-changing sunday roast, complete with roast vegetables and gravy. The menu at the Grace Darling has a strong emphasis on local and sustainable produce, too.

    3. The Alderman, East Brunswick

    Think mulled wine, Scrabble boards and moody lighting – very Brunswick! Snuggle up in a booth and order some nibbles for a perfect afternoon. Or be on the lookout for the next opening night art exhibition date. (03) 9380 9003

    4. Aer Bar at the European Bier Cafe, CBD

    Melburnians have an infatuation with rooftop bars, and winter doesn’t mean this love affair has to end. The Aer Bar is fully weather proof with its floor to ceiling awnings and retractable roof. Cuddle up with your dearest by the fire with plates of tapas.

    5. James Squire Brewhouse at The Portland Hotel, CBD

    Winter calls for indoor activities and next to James Squire’s fireplace, in the snug Portland Hotel, is a fully operational in-house craft brewery. Take the free tour through the full process of beer-making.

    6. The Rainbow Hotel , Fitzroy

    Some of the country’s finest blues performers grace this friendly establishment at weekly live music gigs. There are over 100 different beers on hand, so you can park yourself by the fire with a glass of rare or limited edition liquid gold. therainbow.com.au

    7. The Water Rat Hotel, South Melbourne

    This history-laden hotel not only holds ‘whiskey club’ tastings in front of its fireplace, but also six-course Australian Wine Dinners. You can pick the featured winemaker’s brain at the Water Rat as fine food and vino are served ($110 pp).

    8. The Leveson, North Melbourne

    A Melbourne favourite for a hearty Sunday brunch – The Leveson opens at 11am with a specially designed cocktail menu and free gift bags for kids! And you’re greeted by a toasty fireplace as you enter. Come here after a morning Queen Vic market run.

     

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    Melbourne anyway you like it

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    — Melbourne —

    Melbourne v San Francisco: Which city is the artisan chocolate queen?

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 4, 2015

    Melbourne and San Francisco are the chocolate capitals of their respective countries. Hannah Foster sets out to determine which city is really raising the (artisan chocolate) bar, reviewing and comparing the best chocolatiers in both cities. San Fran or Melbourne…

    Melbourne and San Francisco might be 12,000 kilometres apart, but they have a surprising amount in common. Both often referred to as their country’s most ‘European’ city, they enjoy thriving multiculturalism and a competitive foodie culture. And, happily for chocoholics, both cities have a well-established artisan chocolate scene. But when their chocolatiers go head to head, let’s see which city comes out on top.

    Melbourne’s choc top 5

    1. Koko Black (City, Carlton, Chadstone, Doncaster, Highpoint, Queen Victoria Markets)

    Dominating Melbourne’s luxury chocolate market for more than 10 years, founder of Koko Black, Shane Hills, has since expanded his chocolate empire across Australia and New Zealand. Koko Black’s specialty is a large and very classy range of individual chocolates and truffles. Special flavours: Tasmanian honey and Melbourne’s Bakery Hill single malt whisky.

    2. Monsieur Truffe (East Brunswick)

    Specialising in single origin chocolate, these guys are hipper-than-thou with environmentally friendly packaging and largely organic ingredients. Got to try: Monsieur Truffle’s dark and milk gianduja 180g blocks, absolutely packed full of organic hazelnuts imported from Piedmont, Italy.

    3. Mörk Chocolate Brew House (North Melbourne)

    Opening just this year, Mörk is hot chocolate heaven. They don’t serve tea or coffee at this pretty little café on North Melbourne’s busy Errol Street, just four different ‘house’ hot chocolates, five ‘specialty’ hot chocolates and two cold-water-based chocolate drinks. For a little bit of drama: The Campfire Chocolate comes with a toasted marshmallow and smoke (when you lift up a reversed, stemless wineglass).

    4. Pana Chocolate (Richmond)

    Stepping into this bright and feminine space, the smell is not that of your typical chocolate store – instead there’s chai spice, camomile and a hint of coconut. That’s not such a surprise since Pana Chocolate specialises in raw, organic, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free chocolate blocks and eye-catching single serve cakes. Exciting bite: With exciting products like its raw lamington, it’s no wonder this little Melbourne company has 150,000 Instagram followers.

    5. Cacao (City, St Kilda, Doncaster and Highpoint)
    Cacao’s décor is as eye popping as its product range, but if you can look past the bling, its individual chocolate selection ($2.10 each) is well made. The ‘Apples’ chocolate is a good choice, made with milk chocolate ganache flavoured with calvados and cinnamon, enrobed in dark chocolate and decorated with a pretty white floral transfer.

    San Francisco’s flavoursome 5

    1. Recchiuti Confectioners (Ferry Building and Dogpatch)

    Inspired by the fresh ingredients available at the Ferry Building markets where Recchiuti Confectioners now has its flagship store, the founder, Michael Recchiuti, started experimenting with different infusions and classic European chocolate making techniques. The result is his beautifully presented store with a wide range of individual and boxed chocolates, bars, dragées and snacks. Moreish: His Malted Dark Milk Revolutions are like Malteasers for grownups!

    2. Dandelion (Mission District and Ferry Building)

    These guys give Monsieur Truffe a run for their hipster-cred and challenge Mörk for hot chocolate supremacy. You can enjoy small batch single origin bars and a hot chocolate in their café on Valencia Street while watching the bean-to-bar chocolate making process occur in Dandelion’s factory on the same site.

    3. Tcho (Westfield)

    Founded by former tech publishing millionaires, Tcho produces ‘New American Chocolate’ which is made in San Francisco and shipped and sold nationally. With a slick website (naturally), modern minimalist packaging and clever tasty organic products. You really have to: TCHunky TCHOtella bar with hazelnut butter and sea salt, making Tcho a must-try for the full San Francisco foodie experience.

    4. CocoaBella (Westfield)

    CocoaBella is a chocolate store rather than a chocolate producer, stocking a beautifully curated range of chocolates from both Europe and America. They’re one of the few places in San Francisco that you can try American chocolatier Christopher Elbow’s range. His chocolates are brightly coloured, brash and full flavoured. If you had to pick one: The strawberry balsamic-filled chocolate is incredible.

    5. Ghirardelli Chocolate (Westfield, Union Square, Ghirardelli Square, Palace Hotel)

    Ghirardelli Chocolate, now a large and hugely popular chocolate brand in America, is one of San Francisco’s most famous and successful exports. Founded by a European immigrant who moved to San Francisco during the gold rush, Ghirardelli is now famous for its individually wrapped filled squares. The chocolates are generally very sweet and lack some of the love that small batch products enjoy, but they are still crowd pleasers with a lot of American charm.

    And the winner is…

    Both cities have a lot to offer chocolate lovers, but which city comes out on top?

    • For quality: Melbourne wins here, with Melbournians demanding the very best.
    • For taste: again, I have to give this one to Melbourne, with more complex and natural fillings and a real passion for single origin chocolate.
    • For packaging/store presentation: San Francisco is a winner here, especially with Tcho’s uber-cool packaging and the city’s more adventurous and appealing store designs.
    • For range/variety: Melbourne comes out top, though this is a close call since both cities offer a lot of choice.
    • For creativity: the Americans have it on this final criteria – their sometimes loopy but usually lovely creations really push the boundaries.

    Melbourne – artisan chocolate capital of the new world!

     

    An escapee from corporate law, freelance travel writer Hannah Foster is a Melbourne local who blogs at northmelbournelife.com and contributes to a number of other lifestyle publications. 

     

    — Melbourne —

    #61 – Fairfield Tea Gardens time capsule

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 1, 2015

    Step back to turn-of-the-century Melbourne to the quirky Fairfield Park Boathouse and Tea Gardens, number 61 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. Nominated by: Leona Edmiston, fashion designer.

    Design-wise and style-wise, people love experimenting in Melbourne,” declares Leona Edmiston. The fashion veteran takes inspiration from unusual places, though.

    Just 10 kilometres north-east of the CBD, “the Fairfield Park Boathouse and Tea Gardens is one my favourites,” she says.

    “It was built in 1908 and sits on one of the bends in the Yarra. It’s adorable, charming and old-world, in a stunning location.

    “You would never think you are in the city. It’s like walking back into history.”

     

    Return to: 100 Amazing Places You Haven’t Been to Yet

     

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    — Melbourne —

    The Melbourne Cup (shopping) form guide

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • OCTOBER 15, 2014

    The Melbourne Cup is here and we all know what that means – it’s time to let loose in Australia’s shopping capital. Chanel Gallen has done all the track work and found the top 10 places to shop during the carnival. Go forth and spend…

    Brunswick for unique

    Brunswick Street is a colourful mix of boutique stores, young up-coming designers, unique jewellery and recycled fashion. It can be a bit hit and miss, but it’s a great place to find one-of-kind pieces. Many of the cafes serve breakfast all day, so it doesn’t matter what time you start your expedition.

    Designs on Chapel Street

    Scanalan and Theodore, Sass & Bide, Alice McCall, Shakuhachi; designer hub Chapel Street houses them all. Cross over to Toorak Road to find handmade designs, quirky accessories and delicious leather goods.

    530 reasons to shop at Chadstone

    Shoes, frocks, clutch purses; it’s all under one roof at Chadstone Shopping Centre; 530 stores to browse, all bustling with spring offers. Try David Jones for on-trend fascinators and hats. You also go in a draw to win a trip to New Yorkif you spend more than $350 at selected stores till the end of October.

    Collins on top (end)

    If your Melbourne Cup budget has no cap, try Collins Street for top end designers like Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. If you find the designs in your head are much more in vogue, why not pop into Adriano Carbone to collaborate on an outfit or perhaps take his advice on a tailor-made suit.

    AJE – not just for celebrity

    Sparkle and sequins are so hot right now and Fashion label AJE does them well. Its outfits are flying off the rack to celebrities like Jessica Mauboy, Jennifer Hawkins and Carissa Walford. Lacquer Boutique stocks its latest season stock in Melbourne.

    Factory finds

    Nothing screams bang for buck like DFO so head to South Wharf’s Direct Factory Outlets to start hunting. Bargained out? Take a short stroll to South Wharf Promenade for a well-deserved long lunch while you admire your purchases. Here you’ll find a delicious blend of food and beverage venues set in restored cargo sheds next to the Yarra River.

    Low-Bridge clearance

    Well-known brands Alannah Hill, Country Road and Claudia have their warehouses along Bridge Road where you can pick up clothing and accessories at clearance prices. No point having the right frock if you don’t have the right undergarment! Brands United on Bridge Road stocks Lovable, Davenport, Berlei and Crystelle.

    Shoez frenzy


    Shoez, OMG Shoez. If it’s shoes you want then Zomp on Little Collins Street is for you. Roberto Del Carlo has squealishly cute wedges, sensible attire for the grassy race venue. Wedges and flats by 2 Baia Vista are a more affordable option and they even have a selection of colourful handbags to match. Drool! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HjIljJd-o0 

    The Queen of fascinators

    Queen Vic Markets is a stylish inner-city hub, running since 1878. Head to pop-up store Colour in Spring (only open Saturday and Sunday) for bright beautiful fascinators. For the guys, Hascglo has a great range of stylin’ fedoras and flat caps.

    Tour de shop

    For fuss-free shopping, why not book into a shopping tour? Melbourne Shopping Experiences offers a Bargains & Bubbles Tour covering back-street warehouses, pop-up sales and outlets with a glass of the good stuff. Private tours allow you to design the itinerary whilst guided by local knowledge.

    — Melbourne —

    Review: Sheraton Melbourne – big brand quirk?

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 17, 2014

    Trying too hard, not trying enough… There aren’t many boutique hotels that perfect the balance. Sheridan Wright visits, Sheraton Melbourne, a new favourite that promises to do just that

    Melbourne has always been better known for boutique than brand – so the inclusion of a ‘big name’ hotel in its famous laneways was never going to be easy.

    Yet this is precisely what the new Sheraton, on the CBD’s Little Collins Street, has attempted, from a location virtually on top of local (and tourist) favourite, Meyers Place. You can almost hear the clink of ice in each well-made negroni from the concierge desk.

    On entrance, you would be forgiven for assuming this is just like any other Sheraton. There are the well (if conservatively) dressed staff, the clean and crisp lines; the ‘nothing overdone’ décor. Closer inspection, however, suggests that the style, form and quirk factor of this location has not been ignored: feature lighting throws patterns from the ceiling, while intricate fleur-de-lis-inspired metal detailing on the stairs leads from the ground level upwards. Well played, Sheraton!

    In typical Sheraton style, check-in (located unconventionally on Level 1) is bathed in natural light from wide glass panes behind the bistro. The overall effect is fresh and clean – a little like the staff members who are a touch slow off the mark (teething problems, perhaps?) yet are so cheerful and helpful that forgiveness is irremissible. Then there’s the fact that, despite having only booked a basic room, we’re directed to the 14th floor – a little confusing given the meagre price we’ve paid for the privilege of staying on what is traditionally the penthouse level, although not a gift horse I’m about to inspect the mouth of.

    Sheraton rooms tend to be the parsley of the hotel world – pretty to look at and tasteful enough, without causing any offence – and in this, the hotel chain has not detoured from protocol. Our room – adequately sized and tastefully finished in dark wood, silver and taupe – is sophisticated enough to please interstate and international visitors, although Melburnites who’ve come to love the individualism of localised offerings (The Cullen, I’m looking at you) might feel that their home town isn’t as well represented here as it could be.

    Then again, you don’t come to the Sheraton without expecting the standardised Sheraton aesthetic – and of this, there are upsides. Like the famous pillow-top Sheraton bed. It’s a bed so comfortable you can organise for one of your very own to be delivered to your home, and after a night here, it’s a tempting (if expensive) thought. For who wouldn’t want to sleep on a bed that feels like an eight-hour hug?

    The bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom itself, and twice as appealing. Natural light flows into a deep, contoured bathtub and rain shower, flattering your vanity in the large mirror. It is thus a shame that the offered toiletries are nothing in quality, design or volume that you wouldn’t find at a more budget hotel – where is the organic, the exclusive brand, the five-star here?

    Musing this over calls for a saunter down to Level 3, which in itself reveals an interesting conundrum: head out into the sunshine for a tipple in the outdoor Terrace Bar, or grit your teeth and stick with your commitment to the spa, health centre and pool? Admittedly the 20-metre, two-lane lap pool is something of a haven itself, stocked with mountains of fresh towels and flooded with (you guessed it) natural light. Even if you’re not much of a swimmer it’s worth a wander in here just to make for the steam room, which is big enough to seat a small convention.

    Be warned, however, that there is every chance after a swim and a steam that intentions of dinner and drinks will be swiftly thrown out the window, along with any lofty ambitions of walking around the corner for a visit to the Archibald-winning portrait of Heath Ledger at La Chinesca (though take it from a local – it’s worth doing). If that’s the case, don’t fear, the Terrace Bar is equipped with cushy chairs to collapse into, cosy gas fireplaces to keep you warm and is open and airy enough to become somewhere even locals would happily spend an afternoon in the winter’s sun.

    Indeed it’s here that perhaps best illustrates the balancing act this Sheraton keeps, between hotel and locale: among potted feature plants, white umbrellas and a drinks list mixing high-end international wines and spirits with local heroes, is the sweet spot they’ve been looking for, between five-star classicism and Melbourne charm.

    Even if you overdo it with the Barossa reds, the 11am check-out means a decent sleep in before you’re forced to leave. Sheraton Melbourne, you’ve won us over.

    The details: Sheraton, Little Collins Street, Melbourne

    THE VERDICT: You’d be happy to pay these prices for the location alone, but in a hotel where the light is flattering, the beds are great and the wine list well-chosen, there’s every chance you won’t feel the need to step outside at all.
    The score: 16/20; great
    We rated: The location, the natural light throughout and the great little Terrace Bar.
    We hated: The less-than-luxe toiletries, and the fact you can hear your neighbour’s doorbell when they get room service.
    Notes: Prices start at $260; more than comparably worth it.
    Where: 27 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria
    Contact: 03 9290 1000; starwoodhotels.com

    NB: All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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    — Melbourne —

    Your Shot Winner: The boxes of Brighton Beach

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 15, 2014

    “This photo was taken very early on the morning of the Labour Day holiday at Brighton Beach,Victoria. These boxes have been photographed too many times by many different people. I wanted to take something different so I shot them from an unusual perspective. And yes, my tripod did get very wet!”

    Brett Florence

    Think you’ve got a winning photo?

    Send your best Australian travel image to photo@australiantraveller.com For your image to be considered, it must be sent in high-res (300dpi at a minimum of 10cm wide), with your contact details and a short description of the photo.

    For this photo, AT reader Brett Florence has won a Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 lens (model number A009), valued at $1699. This lens is the apex of Tamron telephoto zooms in a compact package that is the smallest in its class. Vibration Compensation image stabilisation boosts the low-light shooting capacity of this fast-aperture lens, while Tamron’s proprietary Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor delivers speedy, quiet, accurate autofocus, which captures those decisive moments.

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    The pick of our readers’ pictures: the best of Your Shot

    — Melbourne —

    Melbourne’s undiscovered African restaurant heartland

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JUNE 5, 2014

    Try not to pop a vein Sydney, but Footscray, 10 minutes out of Melbourne’s CBD, is emerging as the most sought-after place for some of North Africa’s finest cuisine. In our search to find Australia’s best multicultural restaurants, we stumbled upon this enclave fast becoming known as the place to get your Ethiopian food fix .

    Become familiar with the national injera, a sour-dough flat bread used instead of knives and forks to scoop up the rich curries and spicy stews. Often served in large communal bowls, Ethiopian food is best shared, and finished with a freshly ground Ethiopian coffee. With most mains hitting the 10-to-12 dollar mark, Greta Stonehouse discovers that dining this well has never been tastier value, finding these five culinary gems nestled around Footscray.  

    Ras Dashen – Smell the authentic Ethiopian coffee beans

    If the online praise for Ras Dashen is anything to go by, this Ethiopian restaurant is an absolute gem. Special dishes are the spicey khey wat and the doro wat, both Ethiopian-style curries cooked in a rich onion base and infused with the traditional berbere spice mix. Also worth trying the Ethiopian coffee, described as something in between an Italian espresso and a Turkish coffee. 121 Nicholson Street, Footscray – 03 9687 3293

    Dinknesh Lucy – For some home-made injera

    Dinknesh Lucy is one of the only Ethiopian restaurants in Footscray to make its own injera. Special dishes are the zil-zil tibs, long strips of partly dried beef braised in spices, or the Bozena shiro, lamb served in a spiced chickpea flour gravy. 227 Barkly Street, Footscray – 0403 574 217

    Addis Abeba – Good for special tibs

    Dishes to try are the ‘special’ tibs, small chunks of tender lamb cooked with onion and green chillies and the vegetarian combination, five different curries atop a spongy injera. 226 Nicholson Street, Footscray – 03 9041 2994

    African Taste – African fusion style

    Just south of Footscray, try another style of African food, combining eastern and northern African with Sudanese flavours, at the African Taste Cafe. The signature dish is undoubtedly the Genfu African Fufu, like a gnocchi but made with toasted barley flour and served in a spicy creamy sauce – 124 Victoria Street, Seddon – 03 9687 0560

    Café Lalibela –One of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in Melbourne

    Established in 1998, Café Lalibela is one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in Melbourne. Go for the traditional chicken wat, a smokey stew infused with berbere and garlic topped with a tender drumstick and a hard-boiled egg. For the ultimate feast pair this with an imported Ethiopian beer. 91 Irving Street Footscray – 03 9687 0300

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    And after your meal? Take a wander through Melbourne…

    — Melbourne —

    Review: Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne – Sweet enough?

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • MAY 12, 2014

    A celebrated Melbourne stay reopens as ‘the world’s premier dessert hotel’. Serena Renner gives it a taste test

    The scent of vanilla icing lies thick over the lobby. There are no cupcakes in sight, but an oversized glass jar magnifies its contents of Minties, jelly beans and little bags of fairy floss.

    “Hey, I haven’t seen this stuff since I was a kid,” says my mate Robbie, reaching for a packet of Wizz Fizz. In an instant, two adults become kids at a lolly shop, except our cashier counter is the reception desk of Melbourne’s renovated Adelphi Hotel.

    After it was forced to close last year due to financial difficulties, the 34-room boutique property, one block from Cumulus Inc. on trendy Flinders Lane, reopened in November with new owners, a cream-and-dark-chocolate look devised by local design firm Hachem and the promise of sweet surprises.

    The hotel’s website calls the place “the world’s premier dessert hotel” and describes swinging couches, pillow fragrances and a new restaurant that whips up dessert-themed cocktails. It sounds like a decadent dream. Or maybe a recipe for a massive headache.

    After checking into a king suite – outfitted with mid-century-style furnishings, steel surfaces, velvety pillows and a black-and-white carpet reminiscent of licorice allsorts – I opt for a pre-dinner dip in the ninth-floor pool.

    The rooftop deck may soon feature a bar and barbecue, but the famous cantilevered swimming pool will always be the highlight: two metres of it jut out over Flinders Lane, with glass walls that look down on passing cars and pedestrians, inducing vertigo in swimmers.

    In the spirit of sweetness, two friends join us at the hotel’s new restaurant – ostensibly a dessert bar, though it serves dinner – called Om Nom. It’s 7:30pm, and the place is noticeably empty considering its location and head-chef Christy Tania, who’s worked with such greats as Alain Ducasse. We flag down our waitress and enquire about the ‘liquid desserts’: cake- and pie-inspired concoctions spiked with liquor.

    She tactfully suggests the hotel’s versions of martini and daiquiri cocktails are more popular. Maybe the dessert concept hasn’t caught on? I opt for a Margaret River sauvignon blanc to pair with shared starters of Wagyu sliders, caramelised scallops, an antipasto sampler and Japanese buckwheat noodles.

    The antipasto, with its kalamata olive madeleines and a melon-and-prosciutto gelato, is the star of the savoury courses. Truthfully though, none of the dishes is outstanding. But we didn’t really come for the savoury stuff.

    Neither did Om Nom, a fact which becomes even more apparent with the arrival of our desserts: chocolate soufflé, lemon meringue pie cocktail and a dish called ‘Basil Garden’. Each plate reveals painstaking attention to detail, especially the Garden, in which scoops of vanilla, olive oil and honey ice-cream are carefully encased in a chocolate-shell ‘pot’, topped with basil gelatine and edible flowers, and sprinkled with cocoa ‘soil’. It tastes as good as it looks. 

    Sitting beneath the reflective copper ceiling at the end of our meal, I start to feel like a blob of nougat inside a candy wrapper. Thank goodness my room is just upstairs. I say goodnight to my friends, waddle up a few floors and collapse on the plush bed, only to find a caramel-coloured macaron taunting me from the nightstand. I can’t resist. I eat half then crawl under the covers, which are fluffy like whipped cream.

    I only have myself to blame. I came for indulgence, and the new Adelphi served it with a cherry on top.

    The details

    The verdict: A unique hotel building gets the design update and creative concept it deserves. But the dessert bar, while tantalising, doesn’t stand up to dinner at nearby restaurants such as Cumulus Inc., Chin Chin and Ezard. Instead, go for the last course of the night.

    The score: 15/20; great

    We rated: The design­ – it’s playful without being gimmicky. Complimentary extras – such as a drink at the restaurant, house-made fairy floss and macarons – are irresistible. Herb-infused bath products by Appelles wash away the sugar hangover.

    We hated: Om Nom’s waitstaff will need a little more enthusiasm if they’re going to convince Melburnians to eat dessert for dinner.

    Where: 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

    Notes: Rooms from $270 include wi-fi, local phone calls, mini-bar snacks and refreshments, as well as a welcome drink at Om Nom.

    Contact: 03 8080 8888; adelphi.com.au

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    — Melbourne —

    The Melbourne you’ve always wanted to meet: CBD & Southbank

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 29, 2014

    An odd relative who isn’t easily forgotten, Australia’s most eccentric, culture-hungry city consistently builds upon its rich history, engaging locals and visitors alike. Melburnian Sheridan Wright has the cheat sheet to what’s happening right now in the city you’ve been dying to meet. This time, the inner-sanctum: The CBD and Southbank.

    Unlike many of its interstate cousins, Melbourne’s CBD is not all business and no pleasure. The laneways are as tempting as ever and this city still has its finger on the pulse. Pulse of what however, is anyone’s guess; she’s an eccentric ol’ dame after all.

    Skip the morning rush and start your day off late with a brief trip to Paris via La Petite Crêperie (corner of Little Collins and Swanston streets). Despite being ‘to die for’ good and served direct from the cutest little street stand you’re likely to find (complete with French music) they also happen to be ridiculously cheap. This, of course, leaves more money for shoes or a real trip to Paris. For $4 you can treat yourself to a sugar and lemon classic or for $5 you can savour the chestnut puree; order three.

    If you prefer your brunch at leisure and served by some of the best wait staff in Melbourne, head straight to Cumulus Inc. (45 Flinders Lane). Whether you have the house-made crumpets with whipped ricotta and rooftop honey or the Shakshouka-baked eggs with roasted peppers, it’s impossible to go wrong. If it’s racing season (or you don’t need an excuse) it’s also the perfect place for a champagne breakfast.

    If you take your coffee seriously you should walk off your crêpe or Cumulus feast with a stroll to Patricia (Little Bourke Street), which arguably serves the best coffee in the CBD despite being standing room only.

    For all the initial aesthetic criticism, Federation Square (Corner Flinders and Swanston streets) is a highly utilised space. ACMI offers films, exhibitions and even vintage video games (remember Pac Man?). It’s a perfect place to kill time and hide from the fickle Melbourne weather. Alternatively, skip across the square to the NGV: Ian Potter Complex, offering more than 20 galleries displaying work by Australian artists.

    Shopping in the CBD is a case of trash and treasure. If you’re after brands and lots of them, then head up to Melbourne Central (Corner Swanson and La Trobe streets). Here you’ll find everything from Armani Exchange to Witchery. The entire centre is housed around a light-filled atrium encasing a beautiful brick tower (a former ‘shot’ factory, as used in early weaponry) built in 1888. Who said shopping and historical education don’t mix?

    If you prefer your treasures a little more ‘limited edition’, head to Christine Accessories (181 Flinders Lane). This ode to fashion is the basement brainchild of Christine Barro, and it’s the best-kept secret (well, was…) of the truly stylish. Don’t let the humble name fool you – this is where your new favourite piece of jewellery is waiting.

    Next, head up nearby Bourke Street and into Crossley Street to Madam Virtue & Co. It’s decadent vintage couture like you’ve never seen, lovingly curated by owners JC Lloyd-Southwell d’Anvers and Dean Hewitt (under the astute observation of lady-of-the-manor ‘Maude’, a well-dressed Sharpei). Be prepared to be draped in luxury and fussed over – don’t fight it.

    Now that you’re on a roll, head to the Paris end of Collins Street (north of Swanston Street) for some above-the-line decadence. You might need to re-mortgage your house first, but Miss Louise Shoes (Shop G4, The Westin, 205 Collins Street) offers walls of satisfaction for those with a fixation on footwear. From Jill Sandler to Valentino, it’s the sort of store that would give Carrie Bradshaw convulsions… not to mention that Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès are all within a stone’s throw away. Fingers crossed for a sale.

    Needing some post-shopping sustenance you should take yourself out of the hustle of mid CDB for some reprieve and head towards Southbank. The Atlantic (Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman Street) offers a damn fine oyster and champagne bar, or if seafood isn’t your thing, touch base with Neil Perry’s star offering Rosetta (also in the Crown Complex). The Italian-style menu is only made better by the stylish (leaning towards decadent) décor of chandeliers, marble and floor-to-ceiling windows.

    Revived and ready to go back into the fray, head back city-side to visit Lily Blacks (12 Meyers Place). She is a lady with serious cocktail tastes.With one of the more impressive collections of bitters this side of the border, it’s got bartender credibility in spades. Sit at the bar, talk to your tender, and watch your ice being hand-chipped from a giant block.

    Next, it’s straight from serious to salacious at Madame Brussels (Level 3, 59 Bourke Street) located just around the corner. Named after a real life madame from the 1880s, it’s a virtual wonderland of beautiful young things in tennis outfits. If it’s a hot day sit on the deck, grab a monogrammed parasol, order a gin garden and enjoy the view (both human and skyline). Continue the silliness with chive, chicken and mayo sandwiches for dinner… then cupcakes for dessert. Pure Melbourne.

    Finish the evening with some of the artistic x-factor our cultural capital is known for with a show at Chunky Move (111 Sturt Street, Southbank). This contemporary dance company is on par with some of the best in the world and new artistic director Anouk Van Dijk is taking the already respected company to thought-provoking heights. They tour extensively, however a chance to see them perform in their home city should not be missed.

     

    MORE: 

    Meet Melbourne’s Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood

    Camberwell and Richmond as you’ve never seen them before

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    — Melbourne —

    100 Greatest Holidays of Australia: #20 a weekend dining in Melbourne’s restaurants

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 1, 2014

    Score 8.6

    The big names. The daring menus. The six-month-long waiting lists. Yes, Melbourne has some truly exceptional restaurant experiences on offer, but what we really love about this city is that you don’t need to go high-end, to go high-end. Good food is just about everywhere, as Tom Neal Tacker’s awesome little itinerary demonstrates: “Start early Saturday morning at Queen Victoria Markets with a coffee at ‘Bratwurst corner’, then roam at will. Go by train to Box Hill for a simple lunch of dumplings and/or noodles and food shopping. Dinner choices abound in and around Smith Street/Gertrude Street in Collingwood. Sunday morning, take a grazing stroll in South Melbourne Market or Footscray Markets and their surrounding cafés. It’s possible to do both but exhausting. Hop on a tram back to the CBD and pick a smart city restaurant for dinner.” Then do it all again in the morning. More info: Visit Melbourne

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    — Melbourne —

    100 Greatest Holidays of Australia: #90 thwock up to the Australian Open Tennis, Vic,

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • APRIL 1, 2014

    Score: 7.865

    We all know that one person who, having been to the Australian Open once, just keeps on going back each year (“if you’d been, you’d understand why” is the kind of thing they sniff when you ask). Melbourne is brilliant year round, as we all know (just re-read #20), but being in town during the Open adds an extra layer to the experience, especially during those days you’ve got tickets into the stadium. For best results, book a hotel that lets you combine the best of Melbourne night life with daily walks to and from the Yarra-side Melbourne Park. We like: The Lindrum, Adelphi Hotel and The Westin.

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    — Melbourne —

    Melbourne’s Mediterranean gourmet food safari

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • JANUARY 15, 2014

    Daphne Hatzistavros migrated from Greece as a 14-year-old with her family and settled in Melbourne’s eastern fringes. Inspired by an upbringing rich in cooking, she spent much of her adult life running takeaway bars and market stalls, until six years ago.

    “I wanted to open somewhere dedicated to traditional Greek cooking, where people could pick up authentic ingredients and be inspired to cook traditional Greek cuisine,” says Daphne.

    So, Alpha Food Market was born – a Santorini-blue delicatessen with everything from fettas, olives and oils, to frozen spinach pastries, bougatsa (traditional custard pie) and coffee beans, which have journeyed across the Atlantic to Oakleigh. It’s just one of the authentic Greek eateries in this Melbourne suburb, which celebrity chef Maeve O’Meara has described as “a total Hellenic immersion”.

    In fact, she’s added Oakleigh (and a host of other destinations) to her Gourmet Safaris for 2014. Book in for a behind-the-scenes taste-test of Oakleigh’s best. From $115 per person.

     

    MORE: Just for the foodies.

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