Tuesday, July 26, 2011

eating Melbourne

I have just had a delightful visit to Melbourne to see my friend Anna and tick off a rather large list (I should geekily admit it was actually a spreadsheet) of things and places to eat.

The standard of service and value at cafes in Melbourne is brilliant.  After being shown to a seat, water, glasses and menus are provided, and orders are taken by your waitperson.  New Zealand cafes - can you please take a leaf out of this well-written book and give the lazy counter-service, DIY-everything, (non)service style a miss?!  I love breakfast out, and couldn't get enough of breakfast menus in Melbourne. I don't think I once saw eggs benedict on offer - hallelujah! Here's a selection of what was enjoyed...

 Five-grain porridge with winter fruit compote at the smartly pared-back De Clieu

 Homemade crumpets with leatherwood honey at Birdman Eating

Shakshouka - baked eggs with roasted red pepper and marinated Persian feta at cumulus inc

Grilled field mushrooms with herbed goats chevre, rocket and toast at Pearl Oyster

Just to show what a priority food is in Melbourne - check out some of the crowd of people waiting amidst overflowing dumpsters for a table to breakfast at the oh-so-cool St Ali.  Sadly our meals were lukewarm  but the coffee (beans are roasted onsite) was excellent.

Some other highlights...

I just loved Gewurshaus, which was just around the corner from Anna's place in Prahran.  The loveliest little shop crammed with beautifully displayed spice blends.  I brought home wee bags of merlot salt, Tahitian vanilla salt, Viennese christmas sugar and masala chai sugar among others to experiment with.

We didn't eat out at any big-name restaurants, and everywhere more casual has a 'no-bookings' policy which makes for some long waits but fun times.  Dinner at the brand new Chin Chin (contemporary Thai) was great fun, eating at the bar watching the chefs at the starter station, the menu of which we ate our way through almost entirely - amazing value.

Dinner was washed down with a refreshing jug of punch - Vietnamese mint, vodka, lime all featured among other things?!

Pork roll-ups with braised suckling pig and herb salad (the pancakes were freshly steamed in bamboo baskets and divine..)

Scallops with crispy pork and green chilli nahm jim

We had another beautiful dinner at Gigibaba - the (many-coursed) banquet was immense but delicious - the braised lamb shoulder below came out last of all so was hard to do it due justice but it was demolished all the same...

Finally a couple of my favourite Melbourne sweet treats to finish...

Burch and Purchas - their Sweet Studio on Chapel St is definitely worth a look. Check out the wall containing specimen jars of the ingredients they use in their 'lab'.

We picked up 4 of their incredible little cakes courtesy of a voucher Mrs Cake had received when over there for the Food and Wine Festival.

A bombolone (vanilla custard filled donut) from Baker D Chirico in St Kilda - I have been dreaming of these since my last visit to Melbourne 5 years ago - the perfect ratio of custard to doughnut.

Ice cream at Jock's  - I loved the hokey pokey with huge chunks of honeycomb


  1. wow! you really maximised your eating opportunities. At first I thought those crumpets were pies with butter on top! Yum! Now I want a bombolone... might pop into Nikau as taking the afternoon off x

  2. Forgot to say re: service.. love it when you go places and are greeted, seated and given menus & water - so simple but leaves such a good impression. Love Floriditas & Nikau (and others I can't think of at the moment) in Wellington for that.

  3. Hehehehe a spreadsheet! To think you're not sick of them after judging day...

    Have bookmarked this for when I finally make it to Melbourne - all the places look great, so thanks for documenting!

    I have to say that I'm quite fond of eggs benedict but it is everywhere and fairly samey. Also the hollandaise is very very rarely made with butter. What's the deal with that?! We're in NZ right?

  4. Oh wow, everything looks so good, especially that custard doughnut.. yes please! I might be heading to Melbourne later in the year, think I'll start putting together a list (er, spreadsheet?) after reading this post!!

  5. Wow. I've been to Melbourne a few times but now got a whole new list of places to go! I've never heard of Gewurshaus but will be checking that out ... Viennese Christmas Sugar?!! That sounds so good!!!

  6. You guys all seem well-traveled. Hubby and I are off to England in September. Any suggestions for places we must eat? I'll check back later to see if you have any ideas.

  7. You have a blog? Me too! Thanks for all the tips on Melbourne, I've got a week booked there in October. My little brother is a chef there and I'm sure will have a list a mile long of places we have to go to eat, but I will be looking forward to popping into the other shops you mentioned.
    Amy - speech therapist and Posh Porrige fan :)

  8. Wow - you sure did your research well. Excellent choices. As a Wellingtonian who made Melbourne my home more years ago than I care to remember, the pay at the counter thing whenever I'm home drives me nuts. But if you want to change that in NZ you've got to develop a tipping culture. Melbourne's great hospitality comes from waiters earning tax-free dollars for making your experience memorable. If patrons start rewarding good service - it keeps getting better.


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