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.
Brunch and coffee spots, said several Melburnians, were all the attractions we needed to pay attention to in this city. To aid our quest,
Thus informed, our mornings became a week-long pilgrimage. This isn’t a buzzfeed list of Melbourne’s “top ten cafes you must visit before you die!”, but some favourites that we managed to get to. Of course, any casual review is profoundly subjective, affected by the weather that day, my mood, the interaction with the people I was with etc:
The Kettle Black
The Kettle Black (50 Albert Road, facebook)’s classic but fresh interior design was courtesy of Studio You Me (Kestie Lane, Hana Hakim). A real delight to the eyes after all the faux-industrial cafes we get in Singapore. Cafe design is truly a thing in Melbs and the rest of the Antipodes – there’s even the Eat Drink Design Awards to highlight this.
And even the plating of the food was excellent. Festooned with edible flowers, a riot of colours, you might be forgiven for expecting that brunch that looks this good must be without substance. But these (especially the hotcake and beef burger), like math-teacher-male-supermodel Pietro Boselli, exceeded expectations.
Above: the hotcake with ricotta, blueberries, pure maple, double cream and seeds; Cape Grim fully-traceable beef with house-made mustard, seasonal fruit relish and leaves on the Kettle black bun; fresh crayfish in an ash roll, with purslane and local leaves, lime and yuzu mayo.
Square One Coffee Roasters provided the house blend of 50% Ethiopian Wote and 50% Guatemala Santa Isabel. The chocolate-toffee notes were strong in my cup – interesting how un-citrusy it was, especially given the African-Latin American blend.
On the other side of the Yarra River, down a little alley, there is Manchester Press (facebook, 8 Rankins Lane).
It’s housed in one of those spaces off Little Bourke Street that was once an industry useful in the last millenium – a printing press. Some might call this gentrification, but that is perhaps too narrow a view; perhaps this changing use of space indicates the succession of generations, as observed by John Adams:
The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
and talk about how good the flat white is here – 8oz Coffee Co. providing the house blend that tasted so much like rich chocolate milk, I had to check that no one sneaked a cocoa dusting into my cup. Delicious.
Brother Baba Budan
Just out Rankins Lane, on the corner with Little Bourke Street, is Brother Baba Budan (twitter, 359 Little Bourke Street), named for the chappie who smuggled 7 coffee seeds out of the Middle East, thus breaking their hegemonic powers in the caffeine world, liberating the oppressed etc.
This cosy cafe with its distressed walls and chairs hanging precariously overhead is a Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters outpost. I didn’t know if the blend was too light to come through the milk in the flat white or if it was a barista error – a decent cup, not a destination cup. The latte-drinker liked his milk drink much better than the one he got at Manchester Press though.
Captains of Industry
And then, just on the next alley off Little Bourke, Captains of Industry (facebook, Level 1, 2 Somerset Place) – describing themselves ironically (i think) as “The practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful in traditional men’s outfitting and dining.”
It was a nice experience, sitting in a darkened space with naked bulbs hanging from a high ceiling, sharing the old table with an old sewing machine, or perched on the chairs looking out at fat little balls of sparrows flitting over Elizabeth Street.
The flat white was what a reasonable gentleman might like on a cold blustery day after having given the morning’s sermon on Luke 10:25-37:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Axil Coffee Roasters
A little further to the east, there was a long line for brunch at Axil Coffee Roasters (facebook, 322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) on the Queen’s Birthday (8 June). We sat outside braving the cold, warming in the winter sun.
The birthday boy bought me brunch and I bought him the Queen’s birthday cake. It was so lovely to catch up with the old boy over a seemingly-healthy (and paleo) breakky. Was encouraged by his singlemindedness and thankful for the great situation that God has put him in – to be working under a pastor who too loves the Word and trusts VK to do the job without needless overbearing oversight. We reminisced a little about MY and the people we met during our time together in London. Lurve-ly.
Dr. Jekyll Cafe
Met an old friend there whom I hadn’t seen in decades (wow, I’ve always wanted to be old enough to say that without exaggeration!). I had the avocado and Meredith feta mash with mint and lemon on rye toast. Not being a great fan of that fatty fruit, I was under instructions to try it out on toast at least once in Melbs. Not bad actually!
HM quickly got to summarising the years that passed since our last meeting. She wanted to know how I became Christian, knowing that I was very much against it in school, and not being of the personality to follow trends. God’s grace, I said, worked out in:
- how after investigating all the hypotheses found in philosophy, science, literature, politics, psychology etc., the Christian faith proved to have the best historical veracity of claimed facts, and the best internal consistency in the historical texts compiled in the Bible;
- the Spirit working in my heart and mind so as to understand therefore, the dire state humanity is in because of our rebellion against God (by, fundamentally, not acknowledging him as God) and the gracious salvation offered by God’s son – if only we repented of our rebellion, turned, and acknowledged God as God, and Jesus as his son, who is able and will pay for the sins of the world.
She told me how she herself was getting on – wished I’d more words of assurance to offer, but those words would be empty ultimately. What she needed was God’s assurance – found, not in some whisper in the darkness, but in the comforting words of Scripture. God himself assures us about what reality really looks like, where this world is ultimately headed, and what the purpose in our life is. And so we do not despairingly “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. Rather, we enjoy God’s gifts of food and drink and laughter in this creation, with thanksgiving to the Creator, fuel for the work to be done on earth, looking forward the new creation to come.
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