A month ago I booked myself in to a professional development course in Melbourne. This was before we got ourselves a puppy! So it was with a slightly heavy heart I farewelled Rob, Nigella and Claudia at the airport last Sunday.
Despite this, as I drove into Melbourne in a taxi, I felt excited and glad to be back. I like Melbourne, in short bursts of course. I find Sydney a bit showy and besides a picturesque harbor is not such a novelty to someone who has grown up in Hobart. I’ve been to Melbourne frequently and love the restaurants, laneways and shops. We have our favourite haunts. But as I was heading there on my own for work, I had deliberately decided to try some new experiences. Stupidly I forgot to take a camera.
First off, I’d picked a hotel right in the city centre. Usually Rob and I choose to stay in Richmond. Hotel Causeway is a small hotel in one of the laneways off Little Collins Street. I dumped my suitcases and headed to Flinders Street station. The novelty factor of the large shopping centre called, that and the fact I’d realised I hadn’t bought any Christmas presents yet! But I was completely overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. I did find a few shops that we don’t have in Tasmania and ticked off a few people on my list. I also hit IKEA and that was a lot of fun! Getting it all back to the hotel on the tram was awkward though.
I had done a little prior research on restaurants, I went through the Gourmet Traveller book and picked out a few places that were new or we hadn’t tried before. Armed with this list, I’d pick one and try my luck, as I had no reservations. Even though I dined alone, I didn’t mind, I could concentrate on the food that way. So I tried the following places:
Coda: After a hard day shopping, a glass of burgundy and a few small dishes at the bar hit the spot. I have a soft spot for sang choy bao, so I tried the Quail lettuce delight, with lup cheong, shitake mushroom, coriander and water chestnuts, quite delicious. Next was a smoked trout fritter and paprika aioli, suitably moreish, before a crispy herb crumbed lamb cutlet with lemon and some steamed broccolini.
Rockpool: I’d heard about the wagyu burger, and wanted to try it out. After a brisk walk over to the Crown complex, I walked down the dimly lit wood lined corridor to reception. They let me know it would be half an hour before I could have a table, but I was happy to sit at the bar with a beer and read through the extensive and impressive (but totally out of my budget) wine list. Once seated I ordered a calamari entrée and the burger. The fried calamari was tender and came with a Romesco sauce. The Burger was as impressive as it sounded, piled up high on the plate, a soft bun, a thick juicy burger with bacon, gruyere cheese and pickle. It was worth the wait.
Cumulus Inc: I had braved the breakfast at the hotel on the first day, it was bad. Packet cereal, white shop toast and the worst coffee I have drunk in awhile. It seemed criminal to keep eating there (especially as it was an internal room with the worst music in history playing a little too loudly) so I headed out for breakfast on my second morning. I walked up the swanky Collins Street, with all of the beautiful shop fronts (at 6.45am it didn’t matter that I couldn’t afford to go in them!) and then walked over to Flinders Lane to find Cumulus Inc. By now I seriously needed coffee, the first latte disappeared quickly and gave me a chance to check out the place. Light and airy with a long bar overlooking the kitchen. Deciding to be virtuous I chose Bircher muesli and orange juice, and a 2nd coffee. Worth the walk, I laughed when I spied Miellerie honey for sale at the counter. I told them (quite proudly) that it’s the best honey!
MoVida Aqui: After a big day at the course I wandered in the humid evening over to the bigger but younger sister of MoVida. Overlooking a terrace to the dome of the Supreme Court it was buzzing on a Tuesday night. I got a spot at the bar, and deciding to be appropriately flippant in my choice of drink, a glass of sangria (Rob via text did warn me not to drink too many!) Over some olives I chose a couple of tapas and a main. It would have been better to be there with at least someone else to try paella, but I soldiered on alone. The Cantabrian anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet was delicious and gone in a flash, followed closely by a fresh baby sardine. Next up was the main of slow-roasted lamb with a dark sauce. It was so tender and I had plenty of bread to soak up the sauce with. I really didn’t need them, but I couldn’t resist the Churros with hot chocolate. Damn. They were good. Crispy fried but soft inside, perfect for dipping into the molten chocolate. It felt wicked, but I didn’t care. I walked slowly back to the hotel to lie down for awhile!
Grossi Florentino: Undaunted by the previous night’s excess, I was determined to make the most of my meal times on the final day. I slipped into the little Cellar Bar on the side of the main Grossi restaurant. Greeted by the two waiters with a very enthusiastic “Buongiorno” (especially pre-coffee and at such an early hour), I settled into a table by the window overlooking the pavement. I quickly ordered my first coffee to get the brain working. I decided on slow cooked poached eggs, smoked salmon, hollandaise, on a homemade muffin. It was a most civilised breakfast, with classical music playing in the background, and two very formally attired waiters bustling around ensuring all the customers were happy. It tasted as good as it sounds, and truthfully my choice was all about the sauce! I love hollandaise.
Café Vue: On a rushed walk from the final session of a course to a meeting on the other side of the CBD I dropped into Café Vue for a takeaway wagyu pastrami baguette. The baguette had a nice chewy crust and I hadn’t had the wagyu pastrami for ages. Rob and I used to buy a few slices of it from the Wursthaus and eat it simply in a Jean-Pascal baguette. Unfortunately I don’t think they stock it anymore. Would like to head back to Café Vue again, the menu and the cute macarons in the glass cabinet were enticing. Picked up a few of the Vue de Monde business cards with Tom Samek’s quirky paintings on them as bookmarks.
So there you have it, my culinary adventures in 4 days. Fun. Delicious. Indulgent. Satisfied for the moment, I can’t wait to return with Rob in the new year.