Monday, September 23, 2013

MELBOURNE: Eating and Shopping

What I love about Melbourne is how laid back everyone is, most shops don’t open until 10am and it has a real European feel to the city. You can get food anywhere at any time. Most of the laneways come alive after dark with pop up cafes and restaurants, and then there are the regular ones that are always open. And of course the famous streets like Lygon Street or Fitzroy streets where the restaurants are never ending. I spent a fortnight in St Kilda once, eating my way through Fitzroy Street, and didn’t even tip the surface!

This trip because I was by myself and it was winter and a bit cold out, I tended to eat in cafes for lunch and grab takeaway for dinner. There was a fabulous Chinese place, North East China Family, specialising in dumplings around the corner from my apartment at 302 Flinders Lane. From observations, service left a lot to be desired, but the food was amazing, so takeaway is probably a better option! A really great Thai, Ratee Thai, in Port Phillip Arcade opposite Flinders Street Station. Great service, exceptional food, very busy, but they close at 7pm.
I also went to the Queen Victoria markets and bought food to cook, reheat. I bought the most amazing butter chicken pie and teamed it with Lord of the Fries fries topped with Indian style Mango topping. Lord of the Fries is a franchise that is everywhere in Melbourne and I love them! You can buy varying sizes with varying toppings. They also do burgers etc, though I usually only get fries. Another franchise I tried out whilst there was Pie Face. I had one of their egg and bacon pies and was sold. I am not normally a huge franchise fan, but these two are quite good.
Queen Victoria Markets are a favourite place of mine, not so much the wares, but the food. It is always busy and always full of more than you could ever purchase or stomach! There are all the fruit and vege stalls, with seemingly something different at every stall. The fish and meat sections are a blast, very loud with everyone competing with each other to outsell. Then there are cheeses, olives, and stalls from every nationality. Lots fresh and ready to eat, lots to take home for later. There is an amazing cake and bread stall on the corner as you enter from Therry Street (just off Elizabeth), their Macaroons are to die for and that is where I got the Butter Chicken Pie from too.
On my last visit there I was looking for breakfast and had for the first time ever, Dutch pancakes. I had a choice of toppings, but went with lemon butter and was asked if I wanted cream with that, of course I said yes. The pancakes were divine, cooked in the lemon butter, so it is crunchy on one side of the pancake and the cream – proper thick dairy farm cream from Tassie was unlike anything I have ever tasted. Every time I think of it I salivate and have never, ever had cream like it since. These were top of my list as I headed to the market. There were every bit as good as last time – you purchase them from the little Italian cafe in the food court area. The Italian always looks good, but I can’t go by those pancakes!
I escaped one windy day and had a late lunch at Chocolateria San Churro near the State Library, on the corner of Little Lonsdale and Swanston. I love hanging out near The State Library as there is always something to see, but this day was way too windy and I was hungry. So I got a window table overlooking the Library front lawn and over indulged in Spanish Churros with a chocolate dipping sauce, ice cream and strawberries and an Iced Chocolate. Good thing I had walked heaps and it was a decent walk back to the apartment that day!
Lunch the following day was a bit more refined. I took time to relax with a late lunch, after a heavy morning of shopping, at Caboose Canteen in City Square Park, Swanston Street. It was drizzly, but warm, so I ate outside but undercover. It was quiet but much to see and the service excellent. Their specialty is Steak Frites and of course I had to have that. It was outstanding.
My friend, M, introduced me to Brioche, on Queen Street. It’s Melbourne’s best sour dough bakery, and the Raspberry Brioche I had for brunch was indeed outstanding! I also had brunch on another day with M and S, at a very hipsterish cafe on High Street in Northcote called Gypsy Hideout. An amazing array of breakies to choose from, I had eggs and chorizo on Sourdough, rather spicy but delicious!
I’m not a fan of shopping, can’t stand shopping centre and can think of nothing worse than an hour of shopping, let alone a day. It’s mostly as the kind of things I would like to buy just doesn’t seem to exist in this cookie cutter world of crapola! And also I find it a vacuous waste of time when I could be reading, or taking photos or watching a film or doing something interesting.
But I do need to purchase things and sometimes need to shop.
In Melbourne I find I actually enjoy the experience. There seems to be superior shops and a better way of shopping. I adore the laneways for that, it feels like you are exploring the city and yet finding gems to buy on the way.
Even so, I usually don’t spend that much time shopping in Melbourne. However, this time I outdid myself. Mostly as I was after a few things, specifically new red shoes, so I did cover a lot of ground shopping wise!
I rarely leave Melbourne without something from Quick Brown Fox, mostly accessories and some clothes, they have always had great shoes. They are in Sydney also, but I rarely get there anymore. There is one just near the entrance to Degreaves and I bought a great pair of green flats, so soft and comfy with little holes cut out of them, I wish I had bought a pair in every colour (except the yellow, don’t do yellow!).
I got some very lovely reddish sunnies at a newish French store, with a range of accessories from exy to reasonably priced. It was in one of the laneways, but I cannot remember where, it was teeny and the lady who I chatted to delightful. She imports most of the items from France.
I went a little mad on scarves, buying some from the Markets, Target (even Target in Melbourne is better than ours!) and St Kilda.
Acland Street, St Kilda is a great little place to shop. Boutiques, bookstores, cafes and the world famous Cake Stores!!!! I bought some earrings and a brooch and Rose Garden at the Walk. It’s another favourite that entices me every time. Claude Dalbarn I adore. My fabulous cherry red wallet was a sale purchase there about 4 years ago. This time I got a classic black crocheted poncho and some scarves. Readings bookstore also packed with a zillion books I want to read.
Acland Street is also full of cafes and restaurants, it’s a short walk to Luna Park and just beyond that the famous St Kilda pier, walk back along the water front past the classic Espy Hotel (home of RocKwiz) and back up Fitzroy Street for more shops and restaurants that you would need months to work through.
This visit I had caught the tram from Federation Square and got off on Fitzroy Street and cut through the back way directly along Acland Street, a bitterly cold day so not diverting to the pier.
But really it’s the cakes that you go to Acland Street for, I can’t go past the Strawberry tart and the Chocolate cream filled brandy snaps!

Another favourite shop is Minotaur Books, on Elizabeth Street. It is a nerd and geeks mecca. Filled with books and graphic novels dedicated to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Popular Culture, and littered with dolls, toys and memorabilia. You can walk in during the day, and walk out and it’s dark, and not realise so many hours have passed. The crew there really know their stuff and are great to listen as they chatter amongst themselves. I bought a moving Tardis this time, and some great Star Wars pieces for my sister’s birthday, including Lightsabre Chop Sticks!

I ended up with two pairs of red shoes, a funky casual pair in red patent from a shop in Australia on Collins and a really classic cherry red wedge reduced down at Myers.
But really, if you want good shopping, just stick to the laneways and back alleys, you’ll always find something.
But then of course, there's always Tiffany!


Simon said...

Must go there - and soon!

Cathy said...

These posts only tip the iceberg of things to do!!