My long weekend in Melbourne

I spent the recent WA Day long weekend in Melbourne, catching up with my friend Prez who moved there with her hubby last year. Lots of eating and talking, walking (10km on Friday, 6km+ on Saturday!) and catching trams.

Lots of trams

Free Tram Zone

A Free Tram Zone was introduced in January in the Melbourne CBD and Docklands – from Queen Victoria Market across to Victoria Harbour, up to Spring Street and over to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square. You don’t need a Myki card if you travel exclusively within the Free Tram Zone (no need to tap on).

I flew out from Perth just before midnight on Thursday and arrived in Melbourne at 5.30am on Friday. I like to catch red-eye flights going east because it means I’ll get there with a whole day ahead of me. Yes, that means more time to eat.

Early morning in Melbourne. Early morning in Melbourne.

Usually, my itinerary is structured around my To Eat list – every day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. This time, no list and no plan. It was good to relax and just go with the flow.

Savoury

Prez knew I’d arrive with a growling stomach. We grabbed breakfast at The Boatbuilders Yard at South Wharf – coffee and Monte Cristo jaffles. The toasties were smashing – meaty, spicy and tangy, with the tantalising crunch of pickle.

Monte Cristo Jaffle (AU$12) - pulled pork, leg ham, Jack cheese, pickles, adobo mayo, mustard and devilled egg.Monte Cristo Jaffle (AU$12) – pulled pork, leg ham, Jack cheese, pickles, adobo mayo, mustard and deviled egg.

Jubilant and powered by porky jaffles, we went laneway hopping and found Mr Big Stuff in Meyer Place. Even at lunch time it’s a dark dining room. We deliberately sat next to the kitchen so I could make use of the light from the pass. We enjoyed the soul food, friendly service and funky soundtrack.

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Soarin Strawberry Lemonade (non-alcoholic version $9.50) - cold pressed strawberry, fresh lemon juice and soda. Soarin’ Strawberry Lemonade (non-alcoholic version $9.50) – cold pressed strawberry, fresh lemon juice and soda. There were non-alcoholic versions of all the cocktails.

Kale and yams (AU$12) - candied yams, pecans and sweet mustard dressing A very juicy salad of kale and yams (AU$12) – with candied yams, pecans and sweet mustard dressing.

Hush puppies (AU$9) - made with cornmeal, bacon and cheddar, served with baconaise. Hush puppies (AU$9) – made with cornmeal, bacon and cheddar, served with baconaise.

Chicken and waffles (AU$25) - buttermilk fried chicken, rosemary waffle and spiced maple syrup. Chicken and waffles (AU$25) – buttermilk fried chicken, rosemary waffle and spiced maple syrup.

DSCF6209The fried chicken was popping fresh and succulent, with a crunchy coating and a searing hot kick not mentioned on the menu – so be warned.

Not the first time I've featured a picture of a toilet on the blog! Mr Big Stuff’s loos are pretty cool. This is not the first time I’ve featured a picture of a toilet on the blog. Can you remember the previous occasion?

DSCF0171Thank goodness their menu is on the front window, or we’d never have thought to venture inside.

Dinner was at Munich Brauhaus at South Wharf. It’s a 900-seat bier hall, cheerful and bustling on Friday night, with a traditional German band performing on stage. We shared a whole pork knuckle, served with sauerkraut, mashed potato and bier jus, plus a Munich Tasting plate – pork’s greatest hits including a slab of pork belly with crackling, a chunk of roasted pork knuckle (not a whole knuckle), pork schnitzel (again, not a whole schnitzel), and a selection of snappy smoked sausages (we meticulously sliced each one into three), with sauerkraut, red cabbage, mashed potato, apple sauce and a tiny pan of bier jus. That proved to be the perfect amount of food for the three of us, and we rolled out of there contentedly. The hospitality group behind Munich Brauhaus is also responsible for Lowenbrau, Bavarian Bier Cafe and Sake Restaurants.

DSCF6255Munich Schmankerlplatte – Munich Tasting Plate (AU$41) – crackling pork belly, Artisanal Haus-made and smoked sausages, crisp roasted pork knuckle, schnitzel, sauerkraut, red cabbage, apple compote, mashed potato and bier jus.

DSCF6256Schweinshaxe – pork knuckle (AU$35) with sauerkraut, mashed potato and bier jus. Jabba the monster pork knuckle, the perfect dish to share with my pork-loving friends.

Saturday morning began at South Melbourne Markets. My mum will probably think it’s an abomination, but this fried dim sim was packed with flavour, full of robustly seasoned pork and cabbage. Established in 1949, South Melbourne Market Dim Sims is an institution, and in a battle between a fresh dimmy and an excellent sausage roll, I’d honestly find it tough to pick a winner. You can get steamed dim sims too, but I chose the less messy option for ease of eating on the go.

Fried dim sim from South Melbourne Market Dim SimsThese secret recipe dimmies are about the size of a cricket ball (AU$2 each). You are free to add more seasoning, soy sauce or chilli sauce.

DSCF0421The South Melbourne Market takeaway shop is the original location, but you can now get your dimmy fix in the city at Elizabeth Street, Swanston Street and The Emporium.

Saturday night dinner was at Nieuw Amsterdam on Hardware Street. It’s practically invisible from the outside; no sign, just a ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ welcome mat. I had my favourite meal of the trip at this New York-style bistro (with late-night basement bar). I’d return without hesitation.

Smoked mackerel croquettes with sour cream and chives (AU$10) Smoked mackerel croquettes with sour cream and chives (AU$10). Crispy on the outside, with soft and creamy smoky filling inside. Only the most generous person would want to share this. Get your own.

Pop scallops (AU$13) - scallops with popcorn, chilli, watercress and celeriac. Pop scallops (AU$13) – scallops with popcorn, chilli, watercress and celeriac. Wanky as it sounds, scallops and popcorn made a sensational texture combo. My only complaint? I wanted more.

Mac 'n' cheese souffle (AU$12) with green pea and chorizo. Mac ‘n’ cheese souffle (AU$12) with green pea and chorizo. Prez’ hubby gave me a taste. There actually is mac ‘n’ cheese inside. The green sauce is pure pea goodness. I confess, I thought about licking the plate (as it was someone else’s plate, I didn’t – what do you think I am?!)

Smokey beef brisket (AU$25) with slaw, corn bread muffin and BBQ sauce. Slabs of smokey beef brisket (AU$25) with slaw, corn bread muffin and BBQ sauce.

Blackened fish (AU$27) with black beans, Jerusalem artichokes and pistachio Blackened fish (AU$27) with black beans, Jerusalem artichokes and pistachio

Chat potatoes, butter, chilli and lemon (AU$8) Chat potatoes, butter, chilli and lemon (AU$8)

Spaghetti and meatballs (AU$19) - pork and sage meatballs, hand-rolled pasta (not spaghetti!), roast tomato and garlic.It’s called spaghetti and meatballs (AU$19) on the menu, but the flavour-packed pork and sage meatballs were served with hand-rolled pappardelle, not spaghetti. I’m not complaining about the pasta switcheroo; it was silky smooth and a joy to eat. I had to ask for a spoon so I could drink up all that peppery roast tomato and garlic sauce.

Green beans, bacon, onion and white wine (AU$9.50) Green beans, bacon, onion and white wine (AU$9.50). These beans were incredibly good and I couldn’t stop eating them. The chunks of bacon? Oh, baby.

My final meal in Melbourne was an early lunch at ShanDong Mama. Prez and I devoured 22 dumplings between us, as well as deep-fried battered lotus root stuffed with pork, fungus and dried shrimp. My late grandma used to make lotus root soup, a clear broth with pork spare ribs and slices of lotus root, rustic and always wonderfully comforting. I wish chefs would use lotus root more often, and look beyond fried lotus root chips. Wrapped in batter that was slightly greasy but just right, the lotus root still had its characteristic crunch. The plump and pillowy boiled dumplings were juicy and porky, but the beef fried dumplings were outstanding. Another place I’d happily visit again.

Pork and cabbage boiled dumplings (AU$12.80 for 12 dumplings) - pork mince, finely chopped cooked Chinese cabbage, spring onions, coriander, ginger and a dash of dried shrimps. Cabbage juice added to the pork mince for extra moisture and flavour. Medium-thick skins made in-house. Pork and cabbage boiled dumplings (AU$12.80 for 12 dumplings) – pork mince, finely chopped cooked Chinese cabbage, spring onions, coriander, ginger and a dash of dried shrimps. Cabbage juice added to the pork mince for extra moisture and flavour. Medium-thick skins made in-house.

Beef fried dumplings (AU$12.80 for 10 pieces) - beef mince, onions and chopped dried shrimps. Special ShanDong mama recipe with black pepper sauce. Beef fried dumplings (AU$12.80 for 10 pieces) – crisp yet silky skins with a filling of beef mince, onions and chopped dried shrimps, made from ShanDong Mama’s special recipe with black pepper sauce.

Fried lotus root stuffed with pork, fungus, dried shrimp and ginger (AU$10.80 for 3, each cut into two). Fried lotus root stuffed with pork, fungus, dried shrimp and ginger (AU$10.80 for 3, each cut into two).

Featured in this post – savoury

The Boatbuilders Yard
23 S Wharf Promenade, South Wharf VIC

Mr Big Stuff
16 Meyers Place, Melbourne VIC

Munich Brauhaus
45 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf VIC

South Melbourne Market Dim Sims
Stall 91, South Melbourne Market, Cecil Street, South Melbourne VIC

Nieuw Amsterdam
106–112 Hardware Street, Melbourne VIC

ShanDong Mama
7/200 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC

Sweet

Salted caramel (left) and nougat (right) gelati from Spring Street GrocerGelato for morning tea, that’s how it goes on holiday! Salted caramel (left) and nougat (right) gelati from Spring Street Grocer. I also bought my sister Juji a packet of Wondersnack Bacon and Bourbon Popcorn from here.

I love Brunetti. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a must-visit for me every time I’m in Melbourne. There are several outlets around Melbourne but the Brunetti Cafe on Lygon Street in Carlton is the flagship store. The spectacular displays of cakes and pastries are mesmerising.

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DSCF0217I am yet to eat gelato at Brunetti – I just can’t go past the cakes and pastries. There are salads, pastas and sandwiches too, if you can fight through your self-induced sugar coma.

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DSCF0222I note that Brunetti is not immune to the ‘stuff served in jars’ craze.

Espresso panna cotta, Brunetti Prez’s espresso panna cotta

Coffee eclair and lemon tart, BrunettiI changed my mind multiple times and in the end, couldn’t decide between two items, so I got them both – a coffee eclair and mini lemon tart.

Filled with soul food and pastries, I was perilously close to ruining dinner, but there was no way I could resist a scoop of durian ice cream at Helados Jauja, just up the road on Lygon Street.

Helados Jauja - durian ice cream Helados Jauja’s durian ice cream was magnificently stinky. Helados Jauja’s ice creams are made from the real ingredients (no added flavourings or pre-mixes), and you could certainly taste (and smell, oh yes, smell) the durian.

Saturday morning began with fried dim sims at South Melbourne Market, then a tram ride for cakes in St Kilda. We took a slow walk along Acland Street, gazing at the window displays, agonising over what to have. In the end, I chose the double-decker vanilla slice at Le Bon Cakes, with layers of flaky pastry, topped with a thick dusting of icing sugar that got all over me (totally worth the mess)!

Acland StThere are many windows like this on Acland Street. It’s extremely difficult to choose.

Le Bon CakesThe view from our table at Le Bon Cakes.

Acland StMacarons at Le Bon Cakes.

Passionfruit cheese cake Passionfruit cheese cake

Strawberry vanilla slice Strawberry vanilla slice

Vanilla slice My vanilla slice was pretty damn good.

DSCF6303Acland Street, St Kilda.

Luna Park Luna Park in St Kilda is one of Melbourne’s icons. This historic amusement park opened in 1912 and has been operating almost continuously ever since.

Dex2rose Nitrogen GelatoOn one of our walks around the Melbourne CBD, Prez snuck in the Pinoy Colada sorbet at Dex2rose Nitrogen Gelato – made with coconut milk, pandan and Tahitian lime, topped with gula melaka (palm sugar) and toasted coconut flakes.

Featured in this post – sweet

Gelateria Primavera, Spring Street Grocer
157 Spring Street, Melbourne VIC

Brunetti Cafe
380 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC

Helados Jauja
254 Lygon St, Carlton VIC

Le Bon Cakes
93 Acland Street, St Kilda VIC

Dex2Rose
377-379 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC
(access through Racing Club Lane)

Day trip to the Mornington Peninsula

We took a Sunday drive to Mornington Peninsula(1+ hour by car from Docklands), stopping at regular intervals for food and drinks. The weather forecast was for heavy rain, but we were very lucky with our timing, safely under shelter every time the rain came down.

Banjo's curried chicken pie Banjo’s is a bakery franchise that I got my first taste of at Salamanca Square in Hobart. The pies are pretty good and I enjoyed my curried chicken pie, which was filled with chicken chunks and vegetables in a mild curry sauce.

Banjo's pies Banjo’s pies

Red Hill Cheese The Red Hill Cheese cellar door tasting room is set in tranquil bushland.

Cheese tasting plate ($10) at Red Hill Cheese Cheese tasting plate ($10) at Red Hill Cheese. We started with the mildest, the Prom Picnic, a mild, nutty pecorino-style sheep cheese (where the cheese knife is) and worked our way around to the Venus Blue sheep’s milk blue cheese. My favourite was the second cheese, Cheviot, a mature sheep milk cheese. Vegetarians/vegans: Red Hill cheeses are made with vegetarian rennet.

Mock Cider shopWe stopped by Mock Red Hill‘s farmgate store for apple cider and apple cider vinegar. The non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice is terrific too.

DSCF6566Cider tastings are available at the Cider Lounge.

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Ice creams - fruits of the forest, strawberry, blackberry, Sunny Ridge FarmIce cream break! Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm ice creams are made onsite. There’s strawberry picking when they are in season, a berry-themed shop, gourmet tastings, and a dessert cafe (think ice cream sandwiches, strawberry kebabs, and Belgian chocolate fondue with strawberries for dipping). From left to right: fruits of the forest, strawberry, blackberry.

Fish and chips in FlindersThe Flinders Fish and Chips shop used to be famous for its homemade vanilla slice, sold in enormous brick-like portions. The shop is now under new management and there is no vanilla slice to be seen – though the fish and chips were excellent. I had snapper, chips and two very tender calamari rings.

A quick drink at Hotel Sorrento We stopped for a quick drink at Hotel Sorrento.

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula official tourism site (watch out for the auto-play video)

Banjo’s Bakery Cafe
Shop 2&3, 96 Main Street Mornington, VIC

Red Hill Cheese
81 William Road, Red Hill VIC

Mock Red Hill (Cider)
1103 Mornington Flinders Road, Red Hill VIC

Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm
244 Shands Road, Main Ridge VIC

Flinders Fish and Chips
5/33 Cook St, Flinders VIC

Hotel Sorrento
5-15 Hotham Road, Sorrento VIC

On our way back from Mornington Peninsula, we stopped at Middle Brighton Beach so I could photograph the iconic bathing boxes (beach huts). There are 90 or so colourful bathing boxes along this stretch of beach between Dendy and Gould Streets. Only Bayside Council ratepayers can own one of these treasured bathing boxes, and they are not permitted to be rented or sublet. Many have been passed down through generations. I was not the only crazy tourist braving the chilly winds and rain to photograph the beach boxes (thank goodness for my understanding friends) – there was even a bride and groom posing for photographs, her skirt threatening to take off like a parachute.

Beach boxes, Middle Brighton Beach Bathing boxes, Middle Brighton Beach

Beach boxes, Middle Brighton Beach

Laneways and street art are among my favourite subjects to photograph in Melbourne. Everywhere we went, I was compelled to take pictures.

South Melbourne tram station Love this mural at South Melbourne station, which includes the South Melbourne Market opening hours. We caught the 96 tram to St Kilda from here, after a snack at South Melbourne Market Dim Sims.

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DeGraves Lane Degraves Street

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DSCF6690We had breakfast right here in Degraves Street on my final morning in Melbourne – toasted brioche buns filled with bacon and scrambled egg from Xspressomondo.

DSCF0038Oliver Lane

ACDC LaneFormerly called Corporation Lane, this laneway was renamed AC/DC Lane in 2004 as a tribute to legendary Australian rock band AC/DC.

ACDC Lane Angus Young of AC/DC

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ACDC LaneThese portraits were from a photographic exhibition by Jay Hines called ‘Backstage at Cherry Rock 015’, a rock festival held at the Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane.

DSCF0076Strachan Lane

Hosier Lane, home to the marvelous Movida and some remarkable street art. Hosier Lane, home to the marvelous Movida and some remarkable street art.

Hosier Lane Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane Hosier Lane

Melbourne Exhibition Hall The Royal Exhibition Building. The opening episodes of Masterchef Australia 2012 were filmed here.

'Batmania' by Kathy Holowko at Federation Square Atrium. The installation features 200 flying bats. ‘Batmania’ by Kathy Holowko at Federation Square Atrium. The installation features 200 flying bats.

DSCF0252The unique bridge you see to the right is the Webb Bridge, designed to resemble a Koori eel trap. Not surprisingly, some people refer to it as the Eel Trap Bridge.

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Under the bridge

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Not bad for a long weekend, eh?

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  • Caro Hind

    That array of eclairs at Brunetti – how can you possibly make a decision when faced with that?!

  • Wen Yang Lee

    Amazing post TFP! I visit Melb almost yearly. And every time I am there, I am sold! Its a lovely city in Winter. The convenience and the character filled streets are so enticing :D! Brunch is easily the best meal there for me.

    • Cheers! This was only my second time in Melbourne, and I think I like it even more than before. Now that I have a good mate to visit there, I think I’ll be visiting more often.

  • riotgeek

    Wonderful post! This made me both homesick and hungry. Next time you’re in Melbourne, check out Il Dolce Freddo on Lygon St – the best gelato in Melbourne (possibly the world.) :)

    • riotgeek,
      Cheers, I will keep that in mind. I’d like to visit Melbourne more often. Might have to try to make it an annual long weekender thing. :D

  • You’re reminding me how overdue I am for a trip back to Melbourne – it’s been a couple of years! What a great weekend of feasting :)

    • Yeah. Same for me with Sydney. Been way too long – but I am booked in for Syd later this year. Counting down, ages to go.

  • Sadiepix

    Oh, how I love it when you post lots of sweets and bakeries!! Everything looks so amazing! I’d never have been able to choose just one item! Looks like a great city. I wish Americans would come over to the “pie” side. I’d love to have (or own!) a place that served savory small pies like y’all have. Yum.

    • Melbourne definitely brings out my sweet tooth. I liked Melbourne (of course) but I think I emerged from this short trip liking it even more.

  • Craig Hind

    Gosh I really need to get back to Melbourne! Everything looks so yummy and amazing.

    Nice photos as well by the way. I particularly like the one of the strawberry drink towards the top.

    I always think that the Luna Park face in Melbourne is quite scary looking. Not nearly as friendly looking as the one we have in Sydney. But then clowns are supposed to be scary right?

    • Craig,
      How did I miss your comment?! I think I finished this trip liking Melbourne even more than I did before. Sydney is still #1 for me though, as far as favourite cities other than Perth. This trip, I brought my 23mm and 18-55mm lenses only and found they did the job for 99% of the shots I wanted to take. The other 1% was some of the cityscapes… I might have taken more shots and better ones if I had the 55-200mm as well. I almost didn’t take pictures in Mr Big Stuff (strawberry drink) – it was so dark, even though we made sure to sit right next to the kitchen, where the light shone in through the pass. But I couldn’t help myself. :) I haven’t paid much attention to Luna Park pictures so didn’t realise there was any difference between Melbs and Sydney crazy clown face. I’ll have to look more closely. And yep, clowns are always a bit creepy/scary, even if you don’t have a clown phobia.

  • Alice Yue

    Wow the Schweinshaxe looks amazing! So crispy and and enticing. Btw, I’ve been a long term reader of your blog although I don’t comment frequently. I also recently started my own nutrition and travel blog and if you are interested please feel free to have a look around. The link is: http://www.thefoodstoliveby.com/. I was also thinking of making Australia my next stop to visit, so much amazing food and scenic places as shown though your blog :D.

    • Cheers, Alice (apologies for the lateness of my reply). Australia is a great place to visit, and yes, lots of great food and experiences to be enjoyed here.

  • Wow! All that food looks yummy! Making me jealous. Hopefully Perth will have the range of offerings Melbourne carries one day. How long was that long weekend – there’s quite a bit of food consumed.

    • Shaun, I was there for 3 nights – arrived Friday morning and flew out Monday late afternoon. There’s not really as much food as you might think – I actually skipped a couple of meals. Didn’t have dinner on Sunday night, for example, and didn’t have breakfast on Monday morning.