Every now and then I need a bush or a beach fix. A tree or a sea top-up.
Recently, a kind soul introduced me to the Yarra Valley. As expected, there was mountains, there was trees, and there was food.
On that note, our tour included Healesville’s Innocent Bystander. The space is stunning and provides plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy on a rainy day: wine and cheese tasting counters, an artisan bakery, and a full restaurant menu.
Because it was a particularly stormy day, we had already eaten well into the Yarra. So on this occasion, we were in just for dessert. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake and, portion to price, it was of Vegie Bar standards. The cake itself was an indulgence in chocolate – I am a chocolate overeater but I was completely beaten by this slice of cake. Even after sharing it around, I had to leave a few bites behind!
I loved meeting the Yarra and will be keen to stay in touch.
336 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, VIC 3777
Bathing in goat’s milk, commuting to school by chopper, sailing on a yacht with an ensuite for every bedroom … I can only describe my first experience at The Hardware Societe as ‘luxury-for-breakfast.’ Perched at a marble table by the laneway, my first meal at this café was brioche with rosé-scented pear, dulce de leche, and pistachio praline. Fit for a queen.
Recently, friends visited over an extended weekend and The Hardware Societe immediately sprang to mind. This time, we dined amidst the café’s fine white walls and beautiful teacup montage. Our orders included oatmeal with poached pears and macademia crumble and bircher with berries and macademia crumble.
We were thoroughly satisfied with our meals, but did look on with envy at Emma’s decision: the two-in-one skillet scrambled eggs with chorizo and filled baguette, served on a wooden board.
With its restaurant decorum, The Hardware Societe is definitely a special treat. On most occasions, you’ll have to queue for a table, even on weekdays; menu items cost slightly more than similar meals in other “cafes” (but well worth the extra dollars); and most importantly, every bite of your meal will be an experience to remember.
120 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’ve never been able to walk past this Latin café without a sense of FOMO. Its brightly decorated walls always seem to beckon “Come party!”.
This week I accepted the call to enter and discovered Sonido! truly is festive through and through. From the entrance to the bathroom, the café is busy with colourful South American objects including traditional posters, record covers, bags, hats, and percussion instruments. As the quote goes: “I AM LATINO I CANNOT KEEP CALM” – a welcome sentiment on a winter’s day!
Although the menu is limited, the items are a treat. We ordered arepas – traditional maize cakes, available in ground yellow or white corn. I opted for arepas de queso, white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides. Simple, yet also comforting and novel. Other options come with sides of scrambled eggs, beef, black beans and feta, and chorizo. Empanadas, a range of sweets, and “Friday Night Specials” are also on offer.
Arepas de queso: white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides
From “¡Hola” to “Adiós” my experience was thoroughly cheery and unpretentious. I’ll definitely be back for more soul-warming treats this winter. Sonido! is also open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and offers an array of South American drinks.
Quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, and honey yoghurt
Captain Melville is the latest addition to my list of C&Cs and best-value restaurants.
My introduction to this establishment was the most chic ‘casual’ dining experience I’ve had. At accessible prices, the meals looked akin to those from Melbourne’s most popular dining establishments. I ordered the quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, honey yoghurt and the Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle.
Reviews claim the restaurant serves pub-style food, but the food is more pub-inspired – fancy meals with pub labels. (There was certainly no shame around my sister ordering a ‘chicken parma’ that night!). The menu also caters to a range of occasions /food envy complexes/ diets, offering single serve /tapas-style items, share plates, and large meals.
Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle
In addition, Captain Melville’s website claims food is sourced from “ethical and sustainable Victorian farms and producers of the region traversed by the rebel bushranger himself.” And with alcohol and coffee as after-dark options, what’s not to like?
Completely booked out on the Saturday we visited, Captain Melville is clearly a favourite for a fine casual night out.
Address: 34 Franklin St, VIC 3000
Pretty South Melbourne is known for drawing a crowd. Hearts swoon over heritage listed buildings, terrace homes, and cobble stone lanes; coffee and food geeks willingly spend mornings waiting for tables; and consultancies claim to be the king of cool. Here are a few of the jewels in South Melbourne’s crown, worth the visit – and even worth the wait.
They had me at ‘hello’.
St Ali boasts leadership in coffee roasting, but their genuine-hipster-cool staff definitely round out the experience, and then some.
When I first arrived, a staff member showed me to my table, sat with me, and then introduced me to the menu. And when I asked what sort of chai they served – she responded “How do you want it?”.
With staff who’ll chill wit’ chu like they’re your new friends, dope tunes, great premises, and fantastic interior design, St Ali provides a party you’ll want to keep coming back to.
Fig, prosciutto, hazelnut, basil, and honey salad
12-18 Yarra Place,
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Whether it’s a macaroon fix or an extended brunch, a trot to Chez Dre will provide you with some generous culinary lovin’. Our first visit down its cobbled path was for a sneaky peek at their patisserie range. On arrival, we discovered a treasure chest of beautifully manicured cakes, guaranteed to impress at any dinner party.
Approaching the counter, we were welcomed with an entire board of quarter-sized macaroons and asked if we’d like to sample some. “Would we?!”. This was a step up from free cheerios at the butchery!
With this kind of hospitality, this patisserie and boulangrie is also a delightful place for a breakfast or brunch date. There’s an array of treats to choose from: almond and chocolate almond croissants; organic hot chocolate; Moroccan-style baked eggs; croque monsieur; and much more.
Rear of 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205
South Melbourne markets
If you happen to be in South Melbourne, I’d definitely recommend also stopping in at the markets. From chicory to fresh dumplings to an array of nut butters these markets are a great place to get your weekly fruit and veg.
322-326 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Three Bags Full is one of my favourites.
First, the menu is crafted with the utmost thought, with most options seeming to treat and delight:
- Beetroot cured salmon with pea, feta, and corn fritter; avocado, rocket, dill sour cream, and lemon (pictured)
- Overnight braised pulled pork on brioche bun with celeriac remoulade, and house made barbecue sauce
- Roasted mushrooms on toast with confit garlic, rosemary, goats cheese, and almond dukkah
Beetroot cured salmon with pea, feta, and corn fritter; avocado, rocket, dill sour cream, and lemon
There’s also some serious coffee on offer, as well as a delicious range of fresh juice mixes, smoothies, and milkshakes.
In addition, Three Bags Full is set within an old Abbotsford Italianate building, which provides as much comfort and pleasure as the food it serves. Within these red brick walls, you’ll find yourself in the company of some intriguing design: a ten-pin bowl lane-communal table, bright upside-down teacups, and industrial chic light fittings.
So, a wonderful experience all round, and one that I’d happily recommend to anyone.
Facing a cobblestone alleyway, Wonderbao is one of Melbourne’s more recent ‘bao’ havens. Their approach is just as much ‘downtown Chinatown’ – authentic, cheap, simple – as it is ‘now’ – fresh, fun, minimalistic.
Wonderbao serves several delicious varieties of bao, including:
- Braised pork belly gua bao
- Roast pork belly gua bao
- Da chicken bao
- Cheung chay bao (chinese sausage)
- Choi bao (veg)
- Nai wong bao (custard)
Choi bao and Braised pork belly gua bao
Yum. And each bao is priced between $2-4, so they’re genuinely street treats.
Kitchen-sized, seating is limited so be prepared to order to go.
Address: Shop 4/ 19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 (by RMIT University)