Lively street art or illegal graffiti?
The different cultural sectors of Melbourne have been a source of delight.
Lygon Street is the Italian enclave, where, it has been said, all tensions were eased when Italy beat Australia in the World Cup and the gelato shops all handed out free scoops to celebrate.
The D.O.C. Gastronomia Italiana group includes an espresso bar, a delicatessen, and two mozarella & pizza bars.
We loved the authentic Italian provision shop look and feel of the delicatessen where a man was cutting up fresh spinach pasta under hanging legs of ham, and two older man came in, giving greetings and orders in rapid Italian, with many hand gestures:
Next door at D.O.C. Espresso (326 Lygon Street), we settled down for warmth and a meal:
A few shops away, was a spice house with the German name, Gewürzhaus (342 Lygon Street, Carlton):
All the spices I’d ever seen in recipes and despaired of obtaining! Salts of various kinds including a black lava salt! And pink salt bowls!
And then, just across the intersection, Pidapipó (299 Lygon Street, Carlton), an amazing gelateria:
Seriously, nutella from a tap? Bring it on!
Chewy pistachio ice-cream in a fresh cone, topped with Honeyfingers honeycomb. Yum. The honey was fragrant and the comb, not too waxy:
Despite the waiter’s best efforts, we can’t say we enjoyed this meal very much after waiting more than 40 minutes for the food. There was no variation in taste in each dish and the fish tasted distinctly fishy. The unspoken grump was that we might have spent far less for greater satisfaction at a pizza joint instead.
We were there for the soft-shell crab dog, with black sesame dog slaw, coriander and sriracha sauce mayo, but could not resist trying the miso corny ice-cream dessert (miso and sweetcorn ice-cream with toasted sesame). The ingredients in both worked very well together. A good little pick-me-up before dinner.
Feast of Merit (facebook, 117 Swan Street, Richmond) was in the next suburb. What it had going for it was an even more industrial-distressed look – bare brick walls and rafters and naked hanging bulbs, and a very good conscience – a social enterprise YGAP restaurant.
“What would you recommend?” I’d asked two people who’d been there for a birthday celebration. “Anything’s good! Everything’s good!” they’d replied,”But remember to book, and remember there’s a second seating…”
We decided it was a good time as any to have ox tongue (grilled ox tongue, res el hanout, sour milk, baby radish) to start – delicious tender, flavourful pieces of meat. A good sign.
We continued with the eggplant (roasted eggplant, smoked yogurt, harissa oil, pinenuts, parsley), carrots (heirloom/ common carrots, honeyed tahini, soft egg, dukkah spices), and a beef shank on celeriac mash: All absolutely delicious – good flavours and textures. Thus fortified, we headed back out into the windy winter night.
Hot chocolate was on the agenda another cold winter afternoon. One of our party refused to cross Collins Street to the Koko Black salon because of an apparent suicide she’d experienced the day before along that very street (it turned out the man survived). So we ended up at Lindt Chocolate Cafe (271 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD):
We passed the board indicating the shops that dwelt underground, in the subway to Flinders Street Station. One name jumped out – “Cup of Truth” it said, matter-of-factly. It was so incongruous it made me laugh – like finding the Holy Grail at the back of a dusty charity shop, labelled “Holy Grail – used. 99p”.
Cup of Truth (facebook, 12 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Street Subway, below Flinders Street) was infact a purveyor of coffee, and a rather famous one at that. The shop was named for the large red cup on the counter where customers were to pay and pick up change; the honesty cup.
In the hopper for espresso was a Cup of Truth blend from Axil Coffee Roasters. While waiting, had a little chat with the barista about how the Technivorm compared with a Wilfa, and how the consistency you get from an EK grinder made so much difference to the final drink.
We sat in the subway tunnel sipping our drinks. I very much enjoyed my flat white – almost as fragrant as an Ethiopian, even though the advertised blend on their FB page is 75% Brazil Ipanema, 25% Costa Rica El Pilon.
Then some of us wandered around – across from the coffee-in-the-wall, a singing Italian barber and a publisher of self-zines. Others of us went to get our Mykis topped up, not wanting to cheat the public transportation system.
Ah, the cup of Truth.
I thought of the Bible study group I’d been visiting back in Singapore – full of philosophy postgrad students and Oxon graduates, yet even with their obvious ability to read and comprehend vast stacks of material, they did not seem able to understand the most important book of all – the Bible.
It bothers me greatly that though they have such a treasure in their hand, they have shown themselves unable to enjoy the richness it contains. On their bookshelves, on their mobiles and laptops, the fountain of truth, containing living water that endlessly refreshes awaits, yet they have barely had a little sip to sustain themselves on the journey.
And any attempt I make to get them to look more closely at God’s word is seen as disruptive. Sure, it does rather break up the pointless meandering, but perhaps that’s exactly what’s necessary.
Getting from Singapore to Melbourne
We flew Singapore Airlines (SQ207). Seatguru gives a good indication of seat layout of the Boeing 777-200 with lavatories in the middle.
This was an absolute delight to fly – a new plane that didn’t smell of a decade of pent-up butt burps and vomit and toe jam. There was ample room to stretch (at least for shortish people who don’t come up to the 1.8m mark).
Immigration at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport
Thanks to Singapore’s good relations with Australia and the e-passport feature, Singapore passport holders could clear immigration in about 5 minutes by (i) getting a SmartGate ticket; and then just (ii) getting their photo taken (has facial recognition technology really gotten so good?).
After collecting baggage, it was a snip to hand the Customs and Border Protection officers the SmartGate ticket and the Incoming Passenger Card, before making a smooth exit through the green channel.
Getting from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport to accommodation in the Melbourne City
Taxi – we didn’t want to wait around for the Skybus so just joined the taxi rank and got a maxicab. It cost us A$66 to Collins Street (including A$8 for tolls and airport fee), but had a really good chat with the cab-driver who was originally from Cambodia and had worked first in a biscuit factory in Italy before migrating to Australia.
Getting around Melbourne City
Navigation is easy in a city laid-out in a grid.
Public Transport Victoria’s journey planner helps you find the best way of getting to your destination, because for some reason, Google Maps can’t/won’t.
Bike Share – except that very few people seem to navigate the streets on two-wheelers.
Accommodation in Melbourne City
We stayed at Treasury on Collins. The space for 3 was luxurious, even the beds were spacious (2 king?-sized beds in the bedroom and one made-up from the sofa in the living room. The kitchen was equipped with a stove, microwave, fridge, and dishwasher. In the bathroom – a choice of bath or shower. The hairdryer and washing machine came in way handy.
Temperature in June
It was to me a balmy 8-15°C, an ideal temperature for the good life. The others weren’t quite as enthusiastic.
I’m compiling this for our trip this weekend, so it’ll be updated as I find new stuff. Any suggestions very welcome!
Getting from Melbourne Airport to accommodation in the city
Getting around Melbourne city
Mobile phone and data plan