I thought I’d wrap up the list of places I got to eat at during my Melbourne trip last week. Here are the non-dessert eateries and what I thought. In general everything was amazing and delicious. A few places still manage to make my drool go ballistic and I catch myself reminiscing those wondrous moments of foodgasm quite often. However for me, a few places definitely didn’t lived up to the hype nor the price tag.
Just a reminder: when eating in Melbourne make sure you have cash. Restaurants and eateries in Melbourne do not split bills, and the majority of places accept cash only (unless you’re going to a higher priced eatery where they might accept card).
Worth the hype (and the price):
The Hardware Societe is one of Melbourne’s most popular brunch spots. It has gained massive popularity and as a result, there is an always-present waiting list for a seat here (especially in the weekends). The hype does not disappoint. Cutely decorated with gingham prints, jam jars and an offbeat vibe, this little cafe really packs a punch impression wise. The cuisine is French in nature and personal opinion, cooked to perfection. They also sell organic produce and free range eggs here so the quality of the food is guaranteed to be fresh and wholesome. Portions are decent and can definitely be quite filling depending on what you order. Pictured above is their Fried Eggs , and pictured below is their Baked Eggs with Chorizo Sausage, a popular recommendation.
The price range is typical brunch price: most items (like the ones above) are around $15-20. Their coffees and hot chocolates are also of impressive flavour, as mentioned earlier in my Melbourne desserts review. Overall I would say this is one of the must-eat places in Melbourne, especially if you’re looking for a spot of breakfast in the city. Just be careful you come decently early on weekends, and avoid the lunch-hour rush on weekdays. (On a side note I’ve deduced that it was a terrible idea to blog about my favourite food places in the middle of the night. My stomach is protesting profusely and seems very unimpressed that I’ve been unable to provide it with this sort of luxury these past couple of days. )
Manchester Press has also been deemed one of the best breakfast spots in Melbourne (as well as a popular hangout for hipster types to sit around sipping coffee and making polite conversation about architecture). Tucked down a brick-lined alleyway off Little Bourke Street, it sports a really, really nice industrial-chic interior. The entire space gives off a re-modelled warehouse vibe, and I fell in love with the quirky touches thrown in here and there (like the giant bowling pin statue) even before I tried the food.
Manchester Press is famous for two things: bagels and coffee (art). I don’t often preach about my love for bagels, mainly because I was scarred with several unglamorous experiences of trying to cut and chew through an impossibly hard bagel, to no avail. The bagels here however, are quality. No doubt about that. They even provide you with an extremely sharp bread knife to prevent those awkward situations where you spend 5 minutes doing a vigorous cardio exercise in attempt to saw off a particularly stubborn piece. I recommend trying their open bagels, particularly the Salmon Open Bagel with capers or the Fruit Bagel with mixed berries in mascarpone and pistachio. Both are divine.
Don’t forget to order a coffee too – apart from some very decent coffee, the guys here do some crazy cute coffee art as well. So make sure to ask the waitress about it and you too can enjoy a perfect hispter-approved Instagram opportunity. Just look at this little guy. Doesn’t he look like the absolute epitome of hip?
Thai-fusion seems to be a particularly popular cuisine in Melbourne. I didn’t get an opportunity to try the highly recommended Chin Chin, however Red Spice Road really surprised me with its beautiful taste and overall atmosphere. For the price (around 30-40 for a shared main), the portions were not only really good but had a lot of meat. Between the four of us we ordered three mains:
Crispy duck with mandarins, coriander and gingered chilli sauce
Twice cooked lamb ribs with mint, lychee and avocado salad
(and the iconic) Pork belly with apple slaw, chilli caramel and black vinegar
All three meats were so tender they melted in my mouth. It was a little ridiculous. I was partial to the lamb, but the pork belly is without a doubt a must try. Cloaked in caramel and black vinegar, the taste was exquisite. Accompanying salads, like at all fusion places, had interesting flavours that provoked an eyebrow raise or two (in a good way). They certainly complimented the meats well and the two were perfect waltz partners in my mouth.
Pictured above: Crispy Duck, Lamb Ribs and Pork Belly; top to bottom.
Didn’t live up to the hype:
I really wanted to love The Grain Store, I did. It was a lovely space, clean and minimalistic interior with soft tones and beautiful flow. The menu looked promising, and the service reasonably polite (albeit a little hesitant at first). Perhaps it’s simply an unfortunate mis-order on my part, but when I received my food I was more than disappointed. Somehow I managed to miss the fact that the salmon I ordered was a salmon salad. And so came my pile of greens accompanied by around three thin slices of “orange cured salmon” and a deep fried poached egg.
I mean the flavours were nice, I especially enjoyed the egg. However egg is always nice and deep fried anything tastes nice, so I wasn’t too sure how much I was digging the entire thing. Overall it felt like I ate a mouthful of leaves and a nicely done egg. For the price of almost $20, this wasn’t too impressive. My friends ordered the brioche and portobello mushrooms. They looked pretty, but again small. If you’re still set on going here, I recommend trying The Hardware Societe too. For a similar price range I think the latter is a much more unique and satisfying experience.
So on a windy Saturday night, a group of us trekked down Flinders Lane in an attempt to catch a spot at Cumulus Inc. Of course it was overly packed and brimming with customers. We were kindly told to come back in two hours. Not satisfied, the following Monday we went again. Supposedly the least busiest night of the week, this time we were triumphant in landing a table.
At this point I’d like to make a disclaimer of sorts. I understand that Cumulus Inc is one of Melbourne’s top restaurants, run by one of Australia’s top chefs, Andrew McConnell. This is my personal opinion on how much I enjoyed this restaurant. You could say that as an amateur, I wouldn’t know how to appreciate fine cuisine. And that’s true – I only know what tastes good and what tastes less so. So here is my honest opinion.
Cumulus Inc’s cuisine is meant to reflect their mantra: quality ingredients that make simple, quality food. We ordered four dishes to share (for three people, 4-6 dishes were recommended): one appetiser, two “charcuterie” dishes (cured, preserved meats) and one main. The appetiser was smoked whole prawns and aioli dip. We then enjoyed some rather nice pastrami and I was delighted by the gherkins that came with it (I’m rather partial to gherkins). However by the time we finally received our main ($36 grilled pork chops), I had long forgotten about the other three dishes. It literally felt like I hadn’t eaten at all. The pork chops had a nice flavour but again, nothing unique or ground-breaking.
We left with half-empty stomachs. Why I felt this place was overhyped wasn’t because of the small portions (for a affordable fine dining restaurant, that’s acceptable), but because the flavours were completely unmemorable and even (dare I say it) generic. I guess ideally one is meant to appreciate the simple yet delicious flavours of the underlying ingredients. However Melbourne spoils its foodies with too many eateries that offer an overwhelming array of flavours. For that price and those portions, I would expect gorgeous flavours that would leave me wanting to impulsively order another serving. Again, this is just a personal expression.
If you’ve never tried pho (Vietnamese rice noodles), try it here. You’ll fall in love. The noodles are so soft and supple it’s a little crazy. They taste indecently good for noodles. If you’ve tried pho and you’re still not a fan, never fear. Pho Hung has over 300 other menu items to keep you happy and satisfied (I have no idea how the head chef manages to remember how to make them all). Check out the dessert section for some “flaming” desserts that might prove rather exciting. The price is ridiculously cheap, at around $10 for a giant bowl of noodles. In conclusion: best pho. Period.
This is one of my all time favourites: soup dumplings or xiao long bao. Shanghai Street Dumpling does the most authentic soup dumplings I’ve had outside of Asia, for a really cheap price. They come out steaming hot, with the pastry at a perfect thickness. Make sure to suck the soup out before you bite into the whole thing or else you’re in for one hot, messy (albeit delicious) surprise. One dish that I possibly love even more than the traditional xiao long bao (I know! Blasphemous) is their Chilli oil wontons with peanuts (pictured below). The taste is heavenly. That’s all I can say.
Beware that there’s often a huge cue at lunch times! If the wait is too long, try their new store on La Trobe Street. Oh and also try their Fried mini buns if you still have room left. Delishhh.
Queen Victoria Market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and weekends. To get the best atmosphere come along on a sunny Saturday or Sunday morning for a spot of breakfast. Grab a few Turkish böreks for $3 each. Grab the most adorable mini pizza and choose from a variety of coloured crusts. Grab some fresh strawberries for dessert, and well. That’s your morning meal sorted.
The Lygon Street branch has been said to taste especially good. These are quality gourmet burgers. The beef is really, genuinely beefy. They’re also dauntingly huge. It’s a battle getting it to fit in my mouth for a decent bite. I’m a really impatient person so this is slightly frustrating.
A Greek restaurant that opens past midnight, if you’re ever feeling pekish in the middle of the night fret not: you can grab the best souvlaki in town for only $12.50. They’re a monster to eat, but they’re oh-so good you just can’t stop until it’s all gone.
Authentic ramen that almost tastes like Tokyo. Try the Paiku Ramen or the Spicy Spareribs Ramen. Will not disappoint ramen lovers. I’m also rather addicted to the Lotus Chips and indulge in the fact that they must be healthier than potato chips… right?
Sudden realisations: I ate an offensively large amount of food in Melbourne.