Let me say this right now: Melbourne is really, really expensive. It’s not, like, Tokyo expensive, but it is more expensive than all but four other cities on Earth. Upon arriving in Australia (if you come from Canada or the US, at least), the sticker shock is pretty extreme. I think my weight loss during my first weeks in Australia was 40% heartbreak and homesickness and 60% feeling like I couldn’t really afford to eat. So none of the places on this list are cheap cheap, but they are a helluva bargain compared to most places. That’s the thing about living in Melbourne–you start to feel like a $30 restaurant meal is exceptionally cheap.
According to the Atlantic, the classic cocktail has made a major comeback, thanks in part to Don Draper. As I mentioned, Melbourne does food and drink exceptionally well, and this is particularly true of cocktails. Unfortunately, because spirits are exceptionally expensive in Australia, a nice cocktail will cost you around $20 in most places. Since I was a broke international student, I tended to be more of a beer girl, but I splashed out on a cocktail here and there.
Here’s where to find cocktails that are worth the expense:
When it comes to coffee, Melbourne has ruined me. The city and its residents take coffee very, very seriously, and consequently they do it very, very well. It’s not just the coffee itself that’s exceptional; the cafes are too. Melbournians are fiercely resistant to coffee chains–they all but rejected Starbucks when it opened, and promptly closed, a number of stores. Each Melbourne cafe is one-of-a-kind, a reflection of the personality of both the owners and the neighbourhood.
Since returning to Canada, I have been dying for a flat white, which is an Australian invention and my coffee drink of choice Down Under. If you ask a barista here for a flat white, they look at you blankly until you order a triple short no-foam latte, which is as close a substitute as I can find, but which doesn’t come close to the real deal. First-world problems, right?
As far as I’m concerned, the following represent the best of the best:
As I’ve mentioned previously, Melbourne has a whole lot going for it. A week and a half after my return to Canada, a lot of what I’m missing–other than my lovely, multinational group of friends–is gastronomic. Melbourne’s food, drink, and coffee culture is world-class, but you have to do a little searching to find the really great spots…that, or read Broadsheet.
I wanted to compile a guide to some of my favourites in Melbourne so anyone visiting can find the gems without doing all the legwork, and so I don’t forget them myself. The guides that will follow in the next few days or weeks will be highly subjective and northern-suburb-biased. As I think I’ve mentioned previously, the Yarra River separates the northern and southern suburbs in a surprisingly drastic way. If you live in the northern suburbs (as I did for the duration of my stay in Melbourne), you don’t tend to visit the southern suburbs very often, and vice versa. I spent very little time south of the river, other than to visit my ‘British’ (and British-affiliated) St. Kilda friends. The fact that I was able to maintain a friendship with so many southern-suburb people is a true testament to how much I enjoyed their company, because getting to them via transit was a real drag.
I also should mention that there were many highly-regarded Melbourne spots that I wasn’t able to visit, for lack of time and/or money. In my last weeks in Melbourne, I had a ‘Melbourne Bucket List’ of all the places I wanted to try out and all the things I wanted to do, but I never did get to all of it. I guess that’s the thing about visiting a place–you never get to do and experience everything, no matter how long you stay.
So here goes…
I’m ‘home’. As in, at my parents’ place in the Okanagan. Canada. It’s where I belong, as my mum pointed out last night when she picked me up at the airport. I know that in my heart of hearts, and it’s why I decided to come home, but that doesn’t really make it any easier at the moment.
It was an emotional week, leading up to my departure. I spent as much time as I possibly could with my lovely international group of friends, eating and drinking, in many cases in excess. I’ve written about this in another post about living overseas, which isn’t quite right yet. I’ll post that as soon as I can find a way to capture all that is special and difficult and wonderful about building a new life in a new place.
For now, I am spending a couple of days at my parents’, re-orienting to BC time, having a few good cries, recovering my inevitable post-flight illness, and getting ready for what I know will be an exciting next chapter.
And…I have many Melbourne posts to share with you!
Omid Jaffari adores truffles. The mushroom kind. The culinary delicacy that grows underground in very precise circumstances—in the roots of oak or hazelnut trees in a handful of regions with certain soil and light conditions—and is dug up by specially trained pigs or dogs.
I didn’t know anything about truffles (other than they are delicious and well out of my price range) until my first conversation with Omid. He and I had spent months crossing paths nearly daily, both frequenting the same café, but never speaking or acknowledging our recognition of one another. He was intimidating—small, handsome, stern—until, suddenly, he spoke to me.
Fifteen minutes later, I walked away intrigued, slightly bewildered, and sufficiently enthused about truffles to order a $49 truffle pizza that very night.
Such is Omid Jaffari’s infectious passion for food: it can compel you to drop four days’ food budget on a single meal. It is not surprising, then, that he has successfully turned this passion into a successful career as a chef and food blogger, stylist, and photographer.
As he puts the finishing touches on desserts for a catering event—individual chocolate-dipped vanilla bean ice cream bars creatively served on small tree branches—Omid tells me that he believes “good food has good atmosphere, and vice versa.” You can tell when food has been lovingly created.
“You can be an unhappy person if you eat bad food, and you will be a happier person if you eat good food. That is basically me.”
It’s hard to find a beautiful iconic photo of Melbourne. As smitten as I am with this city, it lacks the obvious natural, photogenic beauty of Sydney. It doesn’t have a picturesque harbour flanked by the commanding facade of the Sydney Opera House. Melbourne’s magic is in its details, so I can understand why tourists who pass through too quickly to take a good, close look don’t get what all the fuss is about. Sydney’s charms are obvious, but Melbourne’s are subtle and unique.
Throughout these last weeks in Melbourne, I’ll be posting some themed guides to this magical city Down Under. Until then, I wanted to share some of Melbourne’s little charms. For my first months here, I couldn’t walk two blocks without seeing some detail that I wanted to take a photo of. Here are a couple of collages from the thousands I’ve taken.
So those of you who have been here (here being my blog) before can see that there is some change afoot. First of all, I lost the hideous amateurish banner (made by me, and only meant to be a temporary placeholder but used for far too long) and replaced it with something much prettier, thanks to the graphic design skills of one Jennifer Windsor. Also, the name of the blog has changed. I still love the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on which my old blog name was based, but Chelsea Tells Stories felt like a more appropriate name going forward.
I love maps. I love them as design elements in their own right, and as representations of place and experience. After being left in Paris at the age of 19, the city had a special significance for me, and I had an old map (actually a piece of wrapping paper) on the wall of my bedroom. It represented the city and its monuments, but it also represented my traumatic and ultimately triumphant experiences there, and my constant craving to take off and discover new places.
In summer 2010, my dear cousin (and then-housemate) Hannah and I logged a lot of hours drinking coffee outside Moka House in Cook Street Village (Victoria). Many of those hours were spent talking about everything under the sun, and many more were passed working out our style statements. My ever-wise and always-stylish friend Monika (“Bohemian Dramatic”) had recommended the book to me, and days later Amazon delivered it to my doorstep.
To be perfectly honest, at first glance I didn’t find the concept particularly appealing. It seemed like fluff, and something too close to a ‘personal brand,’ which is a term (if not a concept) I really loathe. How could I possibly sum up the complicated reality of how I am in two trivial-seeming words? And even if I could, why would I need or want to?