A fun thing about working at the opera is that twice a year we swap performance spaces with the (Australian) ballet and head down to Melbourne for a time.
Melbourne is a pretty wonderful town and everyone has their favourite haunts. Here are a few of mine that I visited on my most recent stay in December.
Man - so hot right now. This place is on the cnr of Russell and Little Collins street, through an innocuous looking doorway, down the stairs, past the black curtain and there you are. This place has got to be my new favourite Melbourne place. My first visit was on this most recent trip to Melb - I took myself there after a concert midweek. Their kitchen is open until midnight so it's a fantastic late night option if you're looking for great japanese food late at night in the CBD.
More than the food, however, the place has a wonderful vibe - fun soundtrack, great long room full of people sitting up at the long bar (comme moi!) or at little high tables against the opposite wall. The food is without exception, quite delicious - clean flavours, beautiful presentation and delightful service. Have you ever had umeshu (japanese plum wine) ? This is a great place to try it - straight up on the rocks, delightful ! Siphon coffee ? It's a bit of a hobby horse of mine (#espressoainttheonlywaytodrinkcoffee), but really, it's just SO lovely - the perfect after-dinner coffee to follow the clean flavours in a japanese meal. It's a very light brew and it's served in a delicate glass tumbler - it feels comparable to drinking coffee like wine. At Izakaya Den they use Sydney Single Origin beans - I love the panama.
Everything I ate was delicious - when I went along by myself, they looked after me very well. I was offered most dishes as a half-serve so I could try a few different things. The eggplant was delicious, the pork fillet katsu with cabbage (coleslaw-esque) salad, very tasty, beans with tofu , clean + lovely, but best of all was the wasabi tuna tartare with taro chips. I'm not a great wasabi-fan, and there was a fair hit in the tuna, but I LOVED it. The taro chips was a lovely salty, fried counterpoint... mmm
Izakaya den was a very fun place to be, with a great vibe, very, very enjoyable food and a late night kitchen. This is going to be a Melbourne season fixture.
A great new player in the Melbourne landscape, I LOVED Mammasita. To be honest, I was catching up with a good friend that I hadn't seen in a long time over dinner at Mammasita so I might not have paid as close attention to the meals as I otherwise would have !
We both had a fantastic time - from the margarita, to the guac + chips, crab tacos, ceviche, pork something... everything was really fresh tasting and delicious. The place was full of people having a similarly good time, the service was informed and friendly - I'd go back in a heartbeat. (Sorry - no photos this time !)
Persimmon at NGV
How many of you know about Persimmon ? I discovered this one with some colleagues a while back - SUCH a lovely place for a civilized, delicious + peaceful lunch. With a beautiful outlook onto the NGV garden, the space is flooded with natural light, with fun decor (as befits a gallery) and spectacular Dibbern glassware (my fave) !
By comparison to many of the ridiculously OVERPRICED, unimpressive places around the southbank area, Persimmon is INCREDIBLE VALUE for money. Check out the lunch special, 2 courses + wine for a very good price (that I've since forgotten).
The latest undertaking of the 7 seeds folk, this place is on Gertrude St (oh how I heart Gertrude St). The best coffee I had in Melbourne was here - JUST delicious. Truly complex, roasty + quite creamy flavours. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. When I came here for lunch, I had their their veal roll - like a serving of vitello tonnato on a roll... um, delicious.
It's a busy place, but worth a visit.
There are lots of other places to mention - regular favourite Journal (I could eat the mozarella + prosciutto baguettes EVERY DAY of my life), France Soir (DE-LIGHT-FUL bistro where the evening might go: Pastis, baguette, foie gras, wine, steak tartare + chips, wine, creme brulee, coffee and you'd be the happiest person on earth), Nihonbashi zen (where I enjoyed their plate of sashimi, but went CRAZY for their CRAZY cream cheese-tofu in dashi... ??! Amazing.) Books for Cooks (one can't even imagine how much I love this place - made some EXCELLENT purchases that I will probably rave about in due course...) Mamma Vittoria's pasta (343 Smith St, Fitzroy - GO HERE, you don't even KNOW ! Passionately well-made pasta - ricotta, spinach basil ravioli, feta + LEMON MYRTLE ravioli are my faves) and French Brasserie (whose kitchen I could spy on from my bedroom, but which was booked out when I tried to go on my last night)........ but that's all for this time.
Until the Autumn !