In a good way, of course.
It only took me a couple of meals and a bit of exploring to come to the conclusion that Melbourne must be one of the best food cities, well, anywhere. The diversity of cuisine alone is astounding: authentic Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Chinese, Greek and Italian are all easily available. The city's markets are fantastically well-stocked and vibrant. The coffee excellent. And there are meat pies. The only downside I can think of is cost, but this is largely based on my parsiminous Bangkok mindset, and reckon you're more likely to find tastier and more varied budget eats in Melbourne than say, New York City or Paris.
I was fortunate enough to eat at two of the city's upscale restaurants, Cutler & Co. and MoVida. We had a wonderful meal at the former, which had one of the most interesting dessert menus I've ever come across. Now, I'm normally not much of a sweets fan, but with creative and delicious sounding dishes as Ginger granita, coconut sorbet, fresh lychee; Toffee apple, fromage blanc, spiced short bread & cider jelly; Steamed pear & suet pudding, liquorice ice cream, confit lemon; and Chestnut ice cream, burnt butter cake, frozen chocolate crumbs & Cognac, ordering dessert was an imperative, not an option. My Chocolate ice cream sandwich, vanilla parfait & salted caramel was wonderful, but then again, I'd probably be happy with a plate of warm dirt as long as it was topped with salted caramel.
Cutler & Co. 55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne 03 9419 4888 www.cutlerandco.com.au
MoVida is a ridiculously popular tapas restaurant that normally requires reservations months in advance, but we were lucky enough to be able to slip in just before the place filled up on a wet and cold Sunday afternoon. L and I shared a dish of braised oxtail and ordered several great tapas including the wonderfully salty dish pictured below, "Hand filleted Cantabrian artisan anchovy on crouton with smoked tomato sorbet":
MoVida 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne 03 9663 3038 www.movida.com.au
But perhaps the most satisfying meal of my visit was the absolute antithesis of upscale and took the form of a grubby Chinese restaurant in Footscray called 1+1 Dumpling Noodles. The restaurant, which Phil has previously written about, has a largely predictable northern Chinese menu, but with a few obscure but delicious Uighur/Western Chinese dishes thrown in. These included la mian, the famous Uighur dish of hand-pulled noodles fried with lamb, bell pepper and tomato (shown at the top of this post), spice-dusted lamb skewers, and a deliciously tart and crispy cucumber salad:
1+1 Dumpling Noodles 84 Hopkins Street, Footscray, Melbourne 03 9687 8988
Between meals it was constant stream of excellent coffee and much-missed Western baked goods. My favourite place for both was Pellegrini, an old-school 'espresso bar' that is considered by many emblematic of 1950's Melbourne. They also do a tasty apple strudel:
Pellegrini 66 Bourke Street, Melbourne 03 9662 1885
Slightly more refined pastries were available in the CBD:
and Acland Street in St. Kilda had a string of cake shops that looked impressive, but that were mostly hit and miss in terms of flavour:
I particularly enjoyed the huge variety of tasty Greek and Turkish pastries:
and of course, Aussie pies. The pie below was taken at Dinkum Pies, a rural Victoria bakery in the midst of upscale cafes on Block Place:
Dinkum Pies 29 Block Place, Melbourne 03 9654 6792
We spent a morning wandering around the halls of Victoria Market, with me drooling at the Mediterranean-style dishes I could never even dream of getting in Bangkok:
But this being Australia, we naturally settled on eating pies:
And for some reason I felt compelled to order a comically immense bratwurst:
A fittingly greedy end to what was essentially an indulgent but tasty visit.