Melbourne is a city that makes me wish I could clone myself six times over. I can put a lot away, for a skinny girl, but really there is just not enough room in my insides for all the delicious food on offer in Melbourne that I wish to eat.
This time in Melbourne, I didn’t look at any art, and I didn’t go to any live shows. I adore the live music/pub scene in Melbourne, and did actually have plans to go and see rockabilly trio ‘The ReChords’ play a gig in Fitzroy, but those fell through at the last minute. But if you get the chance to see them play then you definitely ought to – because they are excellent and lots of fun.
Yep. This trip to Melbourne was all about the food and coffee. And one of the best things about the Melbourne food scene is that you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy some truly amazing meals.
Dead Man Espresso 35 Market Street, South Melbourne
Full disclosure – I used to work at Dead Man. I was an employee for 5 or 6 months back in 2010, and rate it as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It’s a beautifully fitted out cafe, uses coffee from Melbourne specialty stalwarts Seven Seeds, Market Lane, and Small Batch, and uses locally and sustainably sourced produce to make amazing food. I truly don’t give a shit that I’m probably biased, because I’ve sent many friends there over the years and not one has ever been disappointed. I ordered green pancakes with smoked salmon, edamame salad and a poached egg ($18). I was full before I’d eaten half but just had to eat the whole damn lot because it tasted so damned good! My old boss plied me with coffee, and if you’re a black coffee drinker then you really can’t go past the batch brew, served in custom-made Ingrid Tuft ceramic mugs.
Queen Victoria Markets cnr Victoria and Elizabeth St, Melbourne CBD
No foodie’s trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit to the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The produce is super-fresh and priced amazingly. We were lucky (canny?) enough to be staying in a hotel located just a five minute walk from Queen Vic, and I loaded up on breakfast supplies on my first day there – fig jam and light rye sourdough bread and a big chunk of manchego cheese. We also went in on Saturday morning to drink pourover coffee from Market Lane, and eat $3 boreks (we bought spicy potato, lamb, and cheese and spinach). Whether you decide to shop or not, the atmosphere alone makes it well worth a gander.
Auction Rooms 103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Auction Rooms is another perennial favourite of mine. They’re essentially the showcase cafe for Small Batch coffee roasters, and those guys are tearing it up on the coffee scene at the moment. Additionally, with industry lynchpin Kris Wood overseeing the coffee machine it’s next to impossible to get a bad cup there. A bonus? They’re licensed. Consequently I ordered an espresso AND a glass of prosecco to start my lunch with. ALCOHOLIDAYS WOOOO! Pro-tip – when dining alone in Melbourne, you can pretty much instantly make friends with all of the waitstaff by ordering a black coffee and a bevvo straight off the bat. But then the food. I ordered some unpronouncable Mexican-inspired dish that was essentially a big pile of tortilla chips with black beans, shredded pork shoulder, cheese curd and a fried egg. Seriously to die for.
Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant 23 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne
This place is not fine dining, but for a quick and inexpensive weeknight feed you can’t go past it for value. The floor tiles need a good bleaching, the tables and chairs are made of plastic, and you have to help yourself to bowls and cutlery and tea from a side-table near the door. We had the pumpkin fried cakes (more like a dessert than anything else), steamed vegetable dumplings, and pork dumplings in a Sichuan soup. Each serve of dumplings came with 15 pieces, and are ‘street-food’ style with a thick dough wrap. We bought a six-pack of Tsingtao beer from a nearby bottle shop, and even with the $2pp corkage charge, the entire meal (for two people!) still only came to $23.50. If you love dumplings and don’t mind roughing it a little, you’ll enjoy yourself here.
Wonderbao Shop 4, 19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne
Wonderbao was a place I hadn’t known anything about before arriving in Melbourne. But as I was eating my way around, I was doing a bit of Instagramming (because if you eat out and don’t Instagram it to make other people jealous, did you even really enjoy your food at all?), some food blogger liked one of my pics and I hopped over to her account to check it out. And she had taken about a hundred photos of the food at Wonderbao, and it was less than a ten-minute walk from my hotel. And it was cheap. I do love a food option that caters to two of my less awesome character traits – tightness and laziness. So I ordered the ‘classics’ mixed pack for $9.50, and received four fist-sized bao. My favourites were the char siu pork and the egg custard. I wish I could have gone back.
Wide Open Road 274 Barkly Street, Brunswick
Wide Open Road is another specialty coffee roaster, in the ‘so-hipster-it-hurts’ suburb of Brunswick (I say that with all affection – I am guilty of being a bit of a middle-class-hippy-asshole myself, but Brunswick is honestly *this* close to being a complete parody of itself). Mysteriously, Wide Open Road almost NEVER gets mentioned in terms of ‘awesome cafes to visit in Melbourne’ which is wrong because the place truly is awesome. I had a ‘magic’ on their ‘Bathysphere’ house blend, and an espresso of their origin which was served with a little info card. And because they are (YES!) licensed, I also had a Bloody Mary.
I ordered the thick-cut bacon (more like a ham steak, really) with a potato and gruyere cake, chipotle mayo, beetroot relish and poached eggs ($18.90). The potato cake was crispy on the outside and perfectly oozy in the middle. Recommended.
I can’t detail every place I ate, or had a coffee in Melbourne, because that would get boring. But I will quickly note a few other places that are worth checking out
Babka – the classic bakery on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. I picked up a slice of the honey pecan pie ($6), and sat in front of the State Library back in the CBD and ate it, before I went and picked up my bags to return the airport.
Atticus Finch – winebar in Brunswick. I met up with a friend here for an early evening drink. Cosy, relaxed atmosphere, local wines and beers, and clever bar food.
Huxtaburger – I didn’t make a special trip to these guys, but they happened to be catering a peripheral event for the International Coffee Expo. I got invited down by a group of industry mates, and the Huxtaburger crew were out the front with two giant barbeque grills, serving burgers and hot chips. I got the ‘Denise’ ($10) which came with jalapenos and chipotle mayo.