The Travelettes Guide to Melbourne
Melbourne is sometimes incredibly stressful, and I find myself getting anxious and on edge in my free time and days off from work. “But it’s so cultural!! You must be in love with the city!!”, I hear you Travelettes cry, and yes that is correct. However, there is so bloody much to see, do, eat, drink, explore and discover, that I constantly find myself writing scattered notes upon hearing friends’/critics’ reviews of new places to check out that it just ends up being a circling big mass of confusion in my brain.
photo by Amanda
I don’t know where to turn, which tram to take and where to begin as the overload of choice in Melbourne spins me around and I constantly feel I’m missing out on something awesome in another area of the city despite always being busy!
But never fear. I have compiled a finely tuned and painfully edited “Perfect Day in Melbourne” that covers the expanse of the city. A city that has so much individuality it hurts!
There are few things in the world that will get me up at 6am, but trawling markets are one of them.
Camberwell market (in the South-East Suburb of Camberwell) is an institute in Melbourne, famous for its awesome range of second-hand treasures and vintage keepsakes that can be found with a bit of patience and plenty of rummaging. There are roughly 370 stalls that begin selling at the crazy hour of 7am – 12pm on Sundays and they attract crowds of 8,000 throughout so be warned: its reputation of being such a successful market means that the early bird really does get the worm, the vintage tea-dress, the leather satchel, the old school typewriter… you name it! Get there as the sun rises and the higher the chances are that you’ll discover someone’s trash is your treasure for a good price.
After the morning’s exercise (shopping is my cardio don’t ya know?), it’s time for breakfast.
Tyranny of Distance.
From Camberwell station (a convenient stone throw from the market grounds), grab a train to the Melbourne inner suburb of Windsor and head straight to the ultimate cool cats café of Tyranny of Distance.
photo by Javier Candeira
Like many of Melbourne’s quirky cafés, it is full of mismatched furniture with retro comfortable sofas littering the wide open space and graffiti adorning the outside walls, but Tyranny’s owners had commissioned several Melbourne artists to decorate the airy warehouse. Everything is recycled, from the second-hand furniture, to the feature of a totem pole of gas bottles in the middle of the floor that have been turned into a giant lamp. And with it being an open old warehouse garage, a polished concrete floor and raw metal beams rough it up a bit.
photo by Melbourne Cafes Photo Blog
Enough about the look, what about the food? Eat there. Just do it. A well recommended brekkie is the potato rosti, sautéed baby spinach, bacon and avocado topped with poached eggs, however for the starved brunch /lunch-goers, please get on the zucchini and pumpkin tagine. This café is well-known for their homemade flat-bread which was baked to perfect and its warm softness made me weep.
Of course I got to try and get some exotic nature into the perfect day, it’s Australia!!
When the sun is shining, don’t head down to St Kilda unless you want hoards of young backpackers and kids running amok on the dingy unimpressive beach. Get to Brighton Beach on the Sandringham train line and see beautiful sands, sea and a magnificent view of Melbourne from across the waters. The beach house boxes are pretty cute too and make for some memorable photos to save of your day.
Photographs above by Jasmeet Mohi
But after all that fresh sea air, the belly will get rumbling very quickly…
Nutritious lunch, anyone?
Another warehouse eatery in another inner suburb, but this time in my northern neighbourhood of Fitzroy. This place is MASSIVE and it’s a good job it is as it’s so damn popular.
Photograph by Cheryl Seah
Vegie Bar is the place to go for vegetarians or those who like a wide range of organic gluten-free meals… or just those who appreciate the art of making healthy food cheap and tasty. The hugeness of the place still retains an element of dimly lit cosiness where you can chatter with friends, or sit alone at the window watching the strange, artsy and interesting people of Fitzroy wander past.
I’ve been here SO many times and have ensured I’ve tried and tested many dishes. They don’t over-work the food, keeping it rustic in a home-style of cooking. You get bang for your buck as the portions are epic (Mae Goreng eaters be excited) and the specials board is always exciting and inventive. The stuffed mushroom with a heart of quinoa and ricotta, surrounded by roasted vegetables remains my top ‘foods that must exist in heaven’ and get in one of the vegetable juices or smoothies for a health injection. There is no way you could possibly be unhealthy here, unless you order a generous slice of the homemade gluten-free strawberry cheesecake. It is never a regrettable decision though.
Two photographs above by Wei-Hang Chua
Melbourne is famous for its constantly changing weather and should have the slogan “Four seasons in one day”. The only way to win against the elements is to pack sunglasses and an umbrella in your handbag as whatever weather you began the day with can change in a split-second. But if it begins absolutely pouring with rain, Melbourne’s art scene can save the day. There are constantly photography exhibitions going on which are predominantly free and plentiful. The question is where are they? And when are they? Now here’s an insiders tip on knowing what’s on, new, hip and happening: BROADSHEET.
It is an online magazine featuring Melbournes best cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and the galleries. Under the ‘art and entertainment’ or ‘events’ tab, you’re sure to find something that will occupy a rain or shine afternoon. It’s fantastically written and constantly updated with an in-depth directory which allows you to search for a bar/café/gallery/restaurant according to what meal you fancy or what location you are aiming for and can really help you formulate a list of ‘Places to Check-out’ if you want to be real organised.
Going to Melbourne? Add Broadsheet on Facebook to get constant updates of hustle and bustle or download the iPhone app and you’ll never feel lost or bored. Ever.
With dusk settling, it is time to make the most of the bustling heart of the Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District). The great thing about the city is that the gems of good restaurants are hidden away, but once Melbournites get wind of great food, you have to get there early in order to not age 10 years in the queue.
This is the case with the critically acclaimed Mexican restaurant ‘Mama Sita’. It’s situated above a 7-Eleven with a discreet door that only gains attention when the queue for the taste-bud arousing Quesadillas spills out onto the street. If one sensibly arrives earlish for dinner, a 20minute wait at the bar allows you to get familiar with the wonder I call the Paloma cocktail (Tromba blanco tequila, Jarritos Toronja grapefruit soda, fresh lime, salt rim). Their tequila is 100% agave which is tequila in its truest form that is claimed to not give a hangover from hell, and I’m usually ready to accept the challenge of testing this claim.
The menu isn’t massive, but the quality of the food makes up for it. The well-priced soft shell tacos (especially the grilled fish one) and the mushroom Quesadillas are winners, but get corn on the cob. The subtle spices and the melted cheese are so blindingly good that you don’t care how much gets stuck in your teeth! The only problem with Mama Sita is getting down the steep narrow staircase with your satisfied belly and avoiding jealous glowers from hungry queue dwellers. Tough luck chicas, get there early!
top two photographs by de-stijl
This bar was my first bar experience of Melbourne. Mama Sita’s drinks list dominates over the bar selection here, but it’s the great atmosphere and the setting that constantly draws me back! And I would be broke if I sipped exotic Margaritas 24/7. This bar is nestled in China Town down a small alley of dumpling restaurants and is set in a space full of assorted wooden benches and crates for the seating and tables. Two shipping containers line the edges and within there is the bar in one, and the toilets in the other with tarpaulin stretched between to shelter us from any rain.
Photograph by urbnTHNKr
Fairy lights adorn the graffitied walls and the bar glows dimly as the music pumps, sometimes with the odd famous DJ surprising the decks and the patrons. Heat lamps keep you warm teamed with decent priced drinks make it the perfect setting to drink the night away.
Photograph by wellingtondany
If you successfully fit in all this in one day, then congratulations. You’ll be satisfied, cultured up to your eye-balls and with a full belly of delicious food. You may also be mildly drunk but as long as Mama Sita’s tequila does what it says on the bottle, tomorrow won’t be too dreadful. Armed with your Broadsheet iPhone app and confidence to explore the city to the Nth degree, you can set off and cram even more into another day, but even if you had a hundred years of exploration time in Melbourne there’ll always be more just when you think you’ve seen it all.
Happy Travels. xx