January 14, 2024
Living somewhere affects the recommendations you give to visitors. Instead of one traveller passing on their “top tips” to another that feature big attractions and unique lodgings, you tend to build up habits and preferences that make for a less show-stopping kind of list. However, after a particularly full-on period of work and travel, I’m in the perfect mindset to appreciate a quiet weekend in Melbourne, frequenting my favourite places with my favourite person (and our dog). I’ll also note that I’m a recent transplant to this southern city, and thus completely underqualified to give my recommendations – not that it’s ever stopped me before.
My time in Melbourne has been a tug of war between health and hedonism. To be fair, there’s nothing quite like the lure of an old pub on a blustery winter night, and an abundance of pints once you step inside. Yep, it’s pints here. Don’t even think about asking for a schooner (the definition of a happy medium – the Goldilocks of beer. But that’s a rant for another day). Here, the schooner is few and far between. We’re in pint country now.
The places in my round-up are scattered across the city in no particular order and I’ve really just put them together in a self indulgent exercise of “my perfect weekend”. Bear with me. I’ve been here for just over two years and I’m still working through a list of places that I’ve been meaning to visit since I moved. There’s so much to do and see (and eat)(and drink) that if you’re visiting, you’ll probably need to make a few trips to fit everything in. I keep almost finishing this journal and then coming across photos of places that I’m like “shit!! almost forgot to include ____”!!
First and foremost, don’t bother waking up early. It took me a while to adjust to the city sleeping in, but it does. Enjoy the guilt-free sleep in. Once I tried to go for a run at about 6am (when I was in my living-on-the-Gold-Coast health era) and I left the house to find an apocalypse vibe and one solo dog walker.
For breakfast, head to New Order or Terror Twilight for top notch coffee, and for brekkies that walk the line between too-crazy-for-breakfast and not boring. It’s a hard one to walk and I often find that Melbourne cafes err on the side of unusual (if I had to choose a phd topic, it would either be “why are iced lattes more expensive than hot coffee” or “why is it so hard to find a classic eggs Benny in Melbourne”. I digress). Terror Twilight in particular serves up bowls, broths, and Japanese inspired brekkies that are different from anywhere else I’ve found. I love it.
If you opted for New Order out of the choices above, stop in at the Royal Botanic Gardens, more commonly known as “The Tan” for a wander. The sprawling green space features my fave cactus garden and some stunning views of the city skyline.
If you’re keen to spice up your morning caffeine intake, the Mont Blanc at Carlton gem Good Measure has found TikTok fame of late, for good reason. It’s as pretty as it is delicious, and the Good Measure interiors basically look like the cabin of my dreams.
My friend Charlotte recently introduced me to the cafe of my dreams on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy: Sonido. Aside from the Colombian fare (and house-made salsas, ready to be slathered on your arepas), the chaotic-kitsch interiors are what my dreams are made of. From the vintage maps and posters adorning the walls to the pineapple lamps and enamelware, it is completely up my alley. The Colombian hot choccie is thicc and delish.
It’s no secret that I’m partial to a sanga, and sandwich connoisseurs are absolutely spoilt for choice in this fine southern state. While there are a few contenders (Hector’s Deli in Richmond & Fitzroy and the brekkie muffin from Hugo’s Deli in Richmond are standouts), Nico’s Deli on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy is my fave so far. Take a friend, choose two, and go halves.
By now, I’m sure that your feet are tired, and your thirst is waiting to be quenched. For brews inside an industrial warehouse that features both disco balls and glorious monstera, proceed immediately to Bodriggy Brewing. If you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to stray too much further afield, it’s just a short stroll from Bodriggy to The Old Raffles Place, which is the “retirement project” of the couple Alan and Carol and warms my heart with the no frills decor and stiff, sickly sweet (and dangerously cheap) Singapore slings.
Whenever we have houseguests, I drag them to Flinders Street station to experience one of my favourite things ever: the Photo Booth. Tirelessly maintained by Alan Adler and recently taken over by Christopher Sutherland, the combination of film, instant gratification and the uniqueness of it just gets me good. Make sure you take gold coins. If you don’t come prepared and you need to break a note, there are an abundance of American candy purveyors nearby that have mysterious supplies to otherwise unobtainable Zappo flavours. Watermelon is my holy grail.
Seeing as you’re in the city, you make as well do The Melbourne Thing and go to a rooftop bar, of which the aptly named The Rooftop at Curtin House is my fave.
While you’re there, Soi 38 is my pick for dinner in the city, which is tucked in the middle of an underground car park and dishes up take-no-prisoners-spicy-level Thai delicacies. I haven’t been to Thailand but I hear that it is authentic. Once I accidentally set a table on fire here in an incident involving a bbq, but we all laughed it off and as far as I am aware I’ve not been banned from the establishment.
If you miss out on a spot at Soi 38, never fear. Before I moved to Melbourne I hadn’t been exposed to the wonderful world of dumplings, but I am now enlightened – and you can be too. Head to one of the many venues in Chinatown and tuck into plates of juicy dumplings (it’s a kind of soup-filled dumpling, not just an apt descriptor as I had originally thought) and greens doused in oyster sauce, washed down with a crisp imported lager.
I can hear you already, saying, “But Juliette – these are almost exclusively food and drink recommendations?!”, and, dear reader, this is a fact of which I am acutely aware. It is probably the reason why the only pair of jeans I owned when I moved here (oh, to live in the sub-tropics) are no longer a boyfriend fit and look more like skinny jeans from circa 2009. While there are certainly a myriad of other activities to do and sights to see in Melbourne, the restaurants and bars are one of the best things about the city – so dive in, tummy hungry and jeans ready to unbutton. Bone apple teeth!