Just after Christmas I did the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done in my life and booked a flight to Australia, leaving just 3 days later. Having been offered a new job before the holidays and being given a start date of two weeks into 2018, I found myself with time on my hands and a yearning to see my best friend who moved to the other side of the planet in November. So on New Year’s Eve I boarded a 22-hour flight and made my way Down Under.
I last went to Australia on my gap year almost 10 years ago. I spent only 2 days in Melbourne, one of which was taken up by a tour of the Neighbours set, much to my utter despair, having not watched the soap since the 90’s. I was excited to return and get a real feel for this city that my best pal had left me for.
One of the things I knew about Melbourne is that it is a hub for amazing food and I couldn’t wait to experience the best of what it had to offer.
Breakfast & Brunch Spots
On day one, Milly and I popped out for breakfast. I had already managed to partially defeat the jet-lag and was keen to get my bearings. We headed to The Mayday Cafe around the corner from Milly’s home in Richmond, where I ordered their delicious chia seed based breakfast bowl ($16), decorated for Instagram with freeze-dried strawberries, macadamia nuts, kiwi, granola and banana.
Melbourne is a bit of a health hub, so Acai bowls and delicious juices are easy to find. One banger of a cafe that serves both of these is Pressed Juice, which we visited in the CBD (Central Business District) one weekend. The temperature was beginning to soar, and an ice-cold smoothie bowl was exactly what we needed. I ordered a Mango & Coconut smoothie bowl ($11) which was topped with crunchy granola and a dried pineapple ring, and washed it down with a Smooth Peanut Butter smoothie made with Cashew Mylk
Banana, Peanut Butter, Dates, Raw Cacao and Vanilla Bean; thick, sweet and indulgent ($9.50)
Back in Richmond not far from the girl’s place, is Reunion & Co where we all went for brunch one Sunday. Though service was a little slow and disjointed, the menu was exciting. Livi ordered a plate of juicy mushrooms on toast which she raved about for the rest of the afternoon, while Milly, Kate and Tessa all had bagels and I went for one of the sweeter dishes: Banana Bread with mixed berries, kiwi, more banana, super sweet caramel and a generous scoop of peanut butter cream cheese on top (approx $17) The banana cake was moist and fluffy, the fruit sweet and juicy and the cream cheese velvety and rich.
As I was on holiday with my best friends, my happiness levels were pretty high, but they did begin to dwindle in the final days so we headed to the Serotonin Eatery where their ethos is based around eating a plant-based diet to ensure the body, mind and earth all function at their best. This is a restaurant-cum-wellness and exercise centre, and the menu has been encouraged to promote health and happiness. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable about their food and happy to talk you through the menu. While Livi and Kate enjoyed the Medicinal Waffle, I couldn’t resist the Positive Pancakes made with dehydrated organic ground banana flour, served with house-made banana nice-cream, berries + coconut yoghurt, topped with organic agave, fresh strawberries + roasted almond (approx $22). The pancakes were light and fluffy, the compote sweet and runny and the “nice” cream sweet and fresh. I also added a quenelle of peanut butter on the side for good measure, and one of their fruit “bluices” made with pineapple, strawberries, banana + orange.
Lunches & Dinners
I had good intentions for 2018 and was hoping to take advantage of Veganuary to try and cleanse my body of all the pigs in blankets I ate over the holiday, however, I didn’t want to restrict myself while on holiday. Luckily Melbourne is the kind of place that welcomes veganism so it was quite easy to order vegan when we dined out (most of the time!) One spot in particular which caters for Vegans and Veggies is Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street. Mills, Livi and I went there one evening for supper and found it difficult to choose between so many excellent options on the menu. I shared a starter of Jack “fish” Tacos ($10) ended up opting for the Baked Gnocci, Vegan and gluten free Gnocchi with cumin spiced cauliflower, heirloom carrots and zucchini, served with a zesty chermoula pesto, golden raisins and crushed pistachios ($20) but it was Livi who chose the dish of the day with a rich and full bodied laksa, with fragrant lemongrass, turmeric & coconut broth filled with rice noodles, oyster mushrooms, bok choy, tofu & crispy tempura eggplant. Topped with crushed peanuts, Asian herbs & an aromatic chilli oil. ($19).
One afternoon we made the journey down to Mornington Peninsula so we could spend the day baking ourselves on the beach. The journey was a mild nightmare because of track closures over the holidays (it took 3 buses, a tram and 2 trains to get us there) so we were famished by the time we arrived, and we made a bee-line for The Winey Cow for lunch. Their all-day menu is packed with delicious brunch favourites and East Asian inspired dished (including a bao-bun burger that Kate enjoyed) but I opted for the Crispy calamari, pickled sweet chilli, watermelon, citrus aioli, milk roll ($22). This sweet, soft roll was stuffed with perfectly crisp calamari which was caked in golden breadcrumbs and topped with plenty of sweet, refreshing watermelon. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does.
In the pursuit of decent vegan food (and wine) we headed to The Corner Hotel (Hotel means “pub” in Australian, apparently!) on one of my first days, where tables can be found beneath a canopy of greenery and an open roof. This place doesn’t look like much from the outside (in fact, it looks a bit miserable and sad) but it was actually so glorious we returned again later in my holiday. Needing to line our stomachs we ordered food, and I chose the Jungle Chicken Salad ($18) but went for the vegan option, where chicken was replaced by avocado. With wild rice, dates, chilli, onion, herbs, almonds coriander mojo, this was one of the tastiest salads I have had in some time, and extremely filling even without the meat.
The shitty thing about Winter is that rosé isn’t a drink you can really order in London, and that’s where a trip to Australia in January really came in handy. Chasing rosé season to the other side of the planet, my first sips of the pink stuff came at The Corner Hotel with a bottle (or 5!) of Bertain et Fils Rosé ($45) which was pale, light, dry and refreshing.
Another excellent rosé can be found on the roof of Naked For Satan which provides decent views of the CBD and much more of Melbourne. For about $11 a glass you can get a glass of Spanish rosé to be enjoyed while you watch the sun go down.
Onto a different pink tipple: before heading down the river on a boat tour one afternoon, we got ourselves a table on the floating pontoon of Arbory Afloat. With the temperature up in the late twenties, we all were gasping for something refreshing and decided to try the local Melbourne Gin Co. G&Ts which came garnished with pomegranates and elderflower Fever Tree tonic.
Melbourne doesn’t really do shitty coffee, and dairy alternatives can be found in all cafes because Veganism is totally accepted there. In Reunion & Co, I enjoyed an utterly delicious Iced Chai Latt, sweetened with honey and with a spice of cinnamon. Other excellent coffees can actually be found for $1 at Seven-Elevens and local IGA stores, too. Good for budgets, though dairy free isn’t an option there.
Australia is known to be a fabulous destination for wine lovers, and on the hottest day for two years, the girls and I went on a tour of some of the Yarra Valley’s best and most beautiful vineyards with Chill Out Wine Tours. The tour (approx £85 per head) included our transport to Mornington which was an air-conditioned minibus (it was 41 degrees outside by midday) and visits to four vineyards, with tastings at each and lunch at one. The tastings included small servings of 6 wines at each, with the opportunity to buy bottles of any that we were particular fans of. Lunch was a feast of pizza (mostly vegetarian options) and a dessert of brownies which we saved for the final vineyard where we paired it with a delicious dessert wine before jumping back into the van to head back to Richmond, all a little tipsy and laden with our purchases.
It was the absolute highlight of the holiday and completely worth the Sunday morning hangover the next day.
It might be a torturous and uncomfortably long journey, but if you find yourself with the opportunity and hunger to head to Melbourne, you’ll find yourself with plenty of options to eat and drink, and you won’t find it too expensive, either. Melbourne is a great destination if you want to keep to a healthy or considered diet, or if you happen to be vegetarian, vegan or obsessed with rosé. It was a delicious holiday and a perfect destination for any foodies looking for adventure.