Blessed are those who get to say ‘I’m a local’ in Melbourne, just ask them. There’s something elusively romantic about this city and its surrounding suburbs, you want them to love you as much as you love them. From the culturally erupt west side to the edgy northern suburbs and clean cut southeast, it’s a city for everyone. Melbourne is far and away the best city to live like a local, and it doesn’t matter if you want cheap beer in a laneway or hotcakes covered in edible flowers and served on a bespoke ceramic plate, whatever it is you’re looking for you’ll find it somewhere.
By: Madeleine Gleeson, founder of The Local Lab| Venue: Kitty Burns
You’re going to want to start with a coffee, which I don’t drink, sacrilege I know, don’t tell the others! In Melbourne, coffee isn’t a beverage, it’s a religion and the temple is ST. ALi in South Melbourne. Not only do they brew the best beans in Melbourne, or so I’ve heard, but also their vegan treats are what dreams are made of.
While you’re in the area you should definitely check out the South Melbourne Market, in particular Store 6, a food store located in a corner of the food court. With everything made fresh in store daily, they are able to emulate the feeling of eating at your grandparents farmhouse with their fresh cakes, muffins and pastries.
If your idea of the perfect breakfast contains the words ‘raw’, ‘vegan’ or ‘organic’ you’ll have to make your way to Combi Coffee in Elwood. This concept café has become an institution in it’s own rite, with a loyal cult following that can regularly be seen lining up for peanut butter cup smoothies and kombucha on tap.
For lunch I recommend heading to Jimmy Grants, owned by George Calombaris, they make the best souvlaki’s in Melbourne – also their hot chips with feta will blow your mind. They’re scattered all over the place so have a little Google and find your local.
If you feel like something a little bit sweeter for lunch I recommend Higher Ground (CBD) but if you’re not going to order the ricotta hotcake, don’t bother going. Local secret, the hotcakes go down even better with a glass of their 2010 Cuvee.
In my world, it’s always a great time for dessert. So if you find yourself venturing around the Abbotsford area, Kitty Burns is a crucial stop off. They serve up Bistro Morgan donuts daily… go on, treat yourself!
Then, when the sun goes away the true locals will play. For dinner you really just need to pick a cuisine and then narrow it down from 1000 options to make a final decision. So, let me narrow it down to some of my favourite places for you. If you’re craving Vietnamese, go to Sapa Hills (the Footscray one is best).
If you’re not brave enough to cross the Westgate, settle for Miss Chu and make sure you try the satay chicken with red rice. Also, if you’re a three-desserts-a-day sort of person like me, throw an ugly donut in, thank me later.
If you want Japanese then you want Mr. Miyagi in Windsor, no questions asked. Get there early as the wait can be up to two and a half hours on a busy night. No stress though, just head out the back to Yuki’s and order a Hello Kitty Sour cocktail to get you through.
Do you consider Taco Tuesday a weekly ritual? Then you’re going to want to hit up Fonda Mexican – there are a few around so again, Google to discover your local. The corn chips and guac are insanely good so be careful not to fill up on them! You don’t want to leave without trying the chicken taco.
Dreaming of pizza? Figo in Elwood is the best pizza you’ll get outside of Italy. I’m unsure whether the staff can actually speak English or not (plus, who cares?), but there’s something about being surrounded by the Italian language that makes eating pizza so much more intimate.
Now, if you’re just after a pub meal, you can’t go past The Station Hotel in Footscray, it’s the worst kept local secret but their steak is by far the best you’ll find in the whole state. Their thick cut potato chips are the perfect addition to the dish and even the salad is delicious. It’s not the cheapest place on the list but it’s guaranteed you’ll leave full.
If you’re the kind of person who would also love to sink your teeth into a burger, I recommend Leonard’s House of Love of South Yarra or Easey’s of Collingwood both of which I can take no credit for discovering – fellow Melbourne local and the king of all things heart-attack-inducing, The Hamburgler shared his favourites with me and I’ve regretted asking every day since.
For drinks, I recommend Lily Blacks. I discovered Lily Blacks by accident one Saturday night, curious as to what was behind the door below the bike. My friend and I were the only two in the bar and as I sipped on a Lion and Rose I knew I had uncovered one of Melbourne’s hidden treasures.
A city of many temporary pleasures, the key to Melbourne is to do your research. Look up which bands are in town and hit up a gig or check out the National Gallery of Victoria’s website and see what exhibitions they have on. There’s usually a food truck park floating around or some description of food festival. We locals are always on top of these things and it is natural for them to be packed full of people, however we are not very generous with this information so you’ll have to discover them for yourself.