A visit to Melbourne is always a good idea. With a vibrant arts scene, a smorgasbord of the country’s best cafes and restaurants, graffiti-clad laneways, excellent shopping, the leafy banks of the Yarra River, and cool urban neighbourhoods, even a short break in the city will leave you buzzing from Melbourne’s endless energy.
We stayed at St Jeromes – The Hotel, which is on the third floor of Melbourne Central, where in addition to the impressive central skylight architecture, you can find Australian fashion labels like Sass & Bide and Scanlan Theodore, and in the exit laneway towards Swanston Street we stumbled on graffiti artists working on a mural, a common sight in the city. Two laneway visits are a must in Melbourne city – the narrow cafe-clad Degraves Lane and graffiti-filled (it was where Banksy created rat murals which were later cleaned up by council workers) Hosier Lane, which is also the site of one of my favourite Australian restaurants, the Spanish gem MoVida.
EAT: Gazi is a modern Greek restaurant owned by restauranteur and Masterchef Australia judge George Calombaris in the site of his previous more upmarket restaurant Press Club. Just off Flinders Street, you enter into an art-covered wait room (we didn’t have a booking and were seated in around ten minutes) and are ushered into the dining room, with a wave made of hundreds of upturned terracotta pots on the ceiling.
Bottles of Ouzo are on display, and you can also order cocktails of house made sodas like pear basil or watermelon, ginger and vanilla. We started with a trip of delicious dips including beetroot, feta and walnut praline, pumpkin and smoked yogurt, and spinach, feta ‘spanakopita’, filo pasty and seeds. But the real standout entree was the outrageously tasty Garida, which were crispy kataifi pastry-covered tiger prawns with aleppo mayo, honey and smoked almonds. We also ordered souvlakakia (small souvas) – one with haloumi and one with duck, and a red cabbage salad with currents, yoghurt and sumac mayo. And we were stuffed. And we couldn’t finish it. And it came to under $50 a head including drinks. Book.
We were lucky enough that the brilliant David Bowie Is exhibition was on the the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), but check their program of events, because they always have something worth seeing on. Then take a walk along the Yarra River at Southbank for great views of the city and Flinders Street Station.
EAT and DRINK: The Bavarian beer hall Hophaus is a newer edition (open for just over a year) to Southbank and can be found on level one within the Southbank restaurant and shopping precinct. This homage to beer has over 30 draft taps and you can get a tasting paddle of 4 beers of your choice for $10. Add to this a burger, wiener, schnitzel or some other Bavarian meal, and at daytime be sure to sit out on the leafy deck overlooking the banks of the Yarra.
Fitzroy on the city’s fringe is worth a wander, especially along Brunswick Street, where you can find quirky fashion and hipster bars. We hopped a tram from the city and opted for a rooftop drink to round out the weekend at Naked For Satan, which has a rooftop deck with some of the best views of Melbourne.