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Where to eat/shop/explore in Melbourne
It’s less than two weeks till we make the move from Australia to the Netherlands - we’re definitely going to miss the country. In the course of five years of living in Melbourne, we’ve had so many questions about where we shop for groceries and recommendations for food and things to do. We tend to keep our favourite places to ourselves rather than posting about them online because we hate crowds but since we’re leaving the country, here’s a list of our favourites 😜
1. Laguna QV Supermarket - This grocer is right in the heart of the city and specialises in Indonesian ingredients. I sometimes make trips here just to get good tempeh (tempeh in supermarkets here is terrible). It also has a wide range of products that you wouldn’t expect to see, like peach gum and dried blue pea flowers!
2. Tokyo Hometown - I visit Tokyo Hometown mainly for Japanese ingredients and for its large selection of Chinese jarred condiments and dried ingredients. It is conveniently located near Queen Victoria Market, so we used to frequent it on our way to to the market.
3. KT Mart - Anything you require for Korean cooking, you’ll probably find here. They also sell a selection of banchan, as well as various types of kimchi in huge quantities, like 5kg tubs… it’s incredible.
4. Terra Madre - I’m obsessed with this place, especially the OG Northcote branch. It’s so easy to spend a hour or two here, loading up on granola, natural skincare/ toiletries, nut and seed butters made with none of the nasties, organic honey and olive oil and more. The newer branch in Brunswick is smaller and doesn’t quite retain the same vibe, but the perk is that it is just a stone’s throw away from Luther’s Scoops.
5. Anastos Fisheries - I’ve only been here once, but I was blown away by the quality of seafood. The owner Johnny is clearly passionate about what he does. They also sell scallop pies! Definitely worth visiting if you’re in Geelong or passing through.
6. Farmers markets - Produce at these markets tend to be more expensive, but it’s so nice to take in the sights of all the beautiful vegetables and fruit and bask in the atmosphere. There’s often a live band playing and sometimes you’ll even find stands selling momos or fresh stroopwafels. My favourite is the one in Collingwood.
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7. Queen Victoria market - Since moving to Daylesford, I’ve missed this place so much. It is my favourite market in the whole of Melbourne. The fresh produce section houses many Asian stalls selling things like fresh fenugreek leaves, baby round eggplants, long beans, pomelo etc. Everything’s sold without packaging and tends to be cheaper than when you shop at supermarkets or Asian grocers. It also probably is one of the few places in the city you can find such a wide array of fresh, whole fish! Imagine things like rock cod, scorpion fish, flounder, ribbon fish. They also have cooked prawns, uni, and oysters if you’re a tourist and are looking for that type of thing. The Vietnamese butchers have off-cuts (pig tails, honeycomb tripe, trotters etc) and can can mince any cut of meat for you (minimum order of 1kg). There’s also charcuterie and cheese on the other end of the market (Holy Goat cheese is so good). Honestly, this place is such a dream.
Eat: (Melbourne’s restaurant scene is world-class, but we don’t dine at fancy places very often, so our recommendations are mostly affordable eats.)
1. Soi38 - Wex is sick of me wanting to visit this place everytime we drive into the city from Daylesford. It is a little Thai restaurant in the middle of a carpark. They open for both lunch and dinner and I vastly prefer the dinner experience. Our go-tos: som tum with salted egg, tom saap, pork laab (still very good even though it seems to be just minced meat now - in the past there were slivers of pork skin running through the mix), and deep-fried intestines.
2. Korean food - Was recommended Jang Gun (Healeys Lane) by a Korean chef friend and I think it is my favourite Korean restaurant of all time?? It made me love things I never thought I’d enjoy… like corn cheese LOL. Had my first taste of naengmyeon here. The Korean fried chicken and kimchi pancake are also so good. The vibe is rowdy and hectic, and there’s often a queue. They have another branch in Carlton that’s easier to get into, but the OG is better. Alternatively, if you’re looking for delicious Korean food in a quieter and more formal setting, I’d go to Surasang. The steamed pork belly is amazing!
3. Food for home-sick Singaporeans - Sadly there’s a dearth of Singaporean eateries and restaurants in Melbourne, so I mainly cook at home if I’m homesick. But if I’m desperate, I go to Lulu’s Char Koey Teow and Gai Wong. These are Malaysian eateries and they don’t taste exactly the same as what you’d get in Singapore but they are very very good. Plus, you can never get char kway teow fried with duck egg and razor clams in Singapore (fresh duck eggs are banned and razor clams are too expensive an ingredient for the low price ceiling of hawker food)! If I’m craving for dim sum with push cart service that transports me home, I’ll go to West Lake. (Forget Tim Ho Wan unless you are looking for a more in-and-out, fast-food type experience.)
4. Leonardo’s Pizza Palace - When our extended family visits, this is our top pick because it can accommodate a big group, is relatively affordable, and the food is accessible to everyone (who doesn’t like pizza?). The flavours are so fun - my favourite is the Chinese bolognese - and they give you ranch to dip your crust in! Another pizza haunt of ours is Harley & Rose.
5. Cafes - Chefs are the best people to ask for recommendations because they often share the best places that are often under-hyped. I was told about Babajan in Brunswick by a chef that I met (I’ve not visited since Babajan relocated to Carlton). Great bread (I love the simit), great vegetarian options and their lahmacun (pictured above) really leaves an impression. None of their food is strewn with edible flowers or is made for the ‘gram (thank goodness). Another cafe that I like but is out of the way is Rat the Cafe in Thornbury - frankly I’ve only been once, but I still think about their toasted and heavily buttered pumpkin bread.
6. Bread, pastries - Ok Lune Croissanterie is the standard place to go, but we love the microbakery Oven Street Bakery more. The cheesecake, kouign amann, and Turkish bread is worth the trip to Brunswick alone. It’s also awfully close to Ratio Cocoa Roasters, which you can go to for ice cream and chocolate bars after. If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend Small Batch Cellar Door. Get their tiramisu pastry!!
7. La Tortilleria - Lunch here is the perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon. Our favourite is the ceviche tostada. They also sell their packaged tortillas for you to take home.
1. Mornington Peninsula - Cape Schanck has one of the most beautiful walks in the whole of Victoria in my opinion. The best part is that there’s a proper platform for you to walk on and it’s not too difficult (our older family members can do it). Minimum effort, high reward! We always have dinner at Red Gum BBQ, which serves just the kind of food you want to sink your teeth into after a long day, but I’m really keen to try Many Little Bar & Dining (modern Sri Lankan).
2. Turpin Falls - Best swimming spot in the summer. Not too deep and incredible view from the top.
3. Mount Baw Baw - I didn’t know you could ski in Victoria (or Australia for that matter) but apparently you can! We spent a day here with friends and had the best time (even for someone like me who often chickens out of thrilling activities.)
4. Daylesford - This is where we currently live, so I might be biased! One day is sufficient, in my opinion, to experience Daylesford. On your drive from the city, stop at Trentham Falls - you get a lovely view just a few steps from the carpark. On sunny days, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be a rainbow over the falls (see pic right at the top of this newsletter). Drop by the Daylesford Farmers Market before brunch at Pancho or Wombat Hill House. To work off brunch, take a leisurely walk around Daylesford Lake or visit Hepburn Springs to taste the mineral water (bring your bottle if you’re into this kind of thing). In autumn, especially on days of intermittent rain and sunshine, you can try your luck foraging for pine and slippery jack mushrooms on Telegraph Road (please Google some images of the mushrooms beforehand). For a less vigorous or outdoorsy activity, you might want to go to the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa or join a farm tour at Daylesford Longhouse (which won Australian house of the year and happens to be where I work for!). Cap off the evening with dinner at The Surly Goat, my recommendation for a nice meal in town.
5. Great Ocean Road - Cliche, but if you’ve never been to Great Ocean Road, have you really been to Melbourne? If you’re after a daytrip, have fish and chips at Apollo Bay Seafood Cafe and ice cream at Dooley’s Premium Ice Cream (try the vegemite ice cream)! For a longer stay, Lorne is a good place to linger. I particularly like Ipsos, a Greek restaurant. Hikes that I enjoyed were Swallow Caves and Erskine Falls (I can’t 100% recall if this is the right name). The trail for the latter can be muddy, which makes it both challenging and fun. Blanket Bay is a good place to camp by the sea.
6. Footscray - You don’t have to venture out of Melbourne to go exploring - Footscray is a suburb, just a short train-ride away from the city centre. I’ve never eaten more pho than when I lived in Melbourne and Pho Hung Vuong in Footscray is my pick so far. There’s also an Sicilian pastry place, T. Cavallaro & Sons (warm hospitality and the best cannolis) and a slew of Ethiopian eateries in the area if you’re craving injera! I also never leave Footscray without a crispy pork crackling banh mi from Nhu Lan Bakery. The durian layer cake from HS Cakes next door is to-die-for to a durian-deprived Singaporean.
7. Brunswick - If you want to explore Melbourne without needing to take a train or drive, the neighbourhood to explore is Brunswick. Lots of interesting little shops, good food (like Very Good Falafel/ Tochi Deli), and a whole line of op shops. Op shop (opportunity shop or thrift store) culture is big here and you can score some great deals depending on how patient you are.
Ah Australia, you’ve given us so many memories… This weekend will be spent with four different groups of friends and on Monday, our stuff will be whisked away, to a shipping container departing for the Netherlands 😳 Very very surreal.
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