No matter how much of the world I see (and despite it not being my hometown), I've never had any doubt in my mind that Melbourne is where I will end up. There is a reason that the city routinely tops those "most liveable city" lists. Though this recent move back, might not be the move back (shhhh, don't tell my mum).
In some ways, moving back to Melbourne after three years away, is like seeing the city for the first time and to be honest, I still don't feel settled after six months. Some places that used to feel familiar, still do; and others, don't. Some of my best friends have moved away, whilst some have moved back. Some of my old favourites are gone, but then there are so many new contenders to acquaint myself with.
Melbourne has changed, and so have I. Whilst our rates of change may not have been similar, I would like to hope that we've both changed for the better. It seems only fair that I follow up my London long list with some of my Melbourne favourites, both old and new. I hope you enjoy and please please please send me your Melbourne tips! L x
Melburnians are either South or North of the River people - I'm firmly in the North camp. I spent my university years living in Carlton and post-university I've called the heart of Fitzroy home. The cafes, the restaurants, the bars, the boutiques, the proximity to the city, Fitzroy Pool, nearby Carlton and Edinburgh Gardens - there are so many reasons why I love the area.
I have found myself a little unsure of how to occupy my time in Melbourne (breaking a 3-year habit of travelling every other weekend is a bit more difficult than I anticipated), other than going out for food and drinks. So I've been spending a lot of my time offsetting all of that eating, at the gym!
After really getting into boxing whilst in London, I set out to find a boxing gym in Melbourne. I loved the classes at Tribute's beautiful gym, which is owned and run by former IBO world super featherweight world champion, Will Tomlinson. But you can't really beat the convenience of a gym across the road from work, and to be honest, I actually prefer the grittier vibe of FightFit Collingwood. The trainers are super friendly, each with their own style, and the classes cater to all levels of experience.
S3 Studio is almost the complete opposite experience to FightFit. The studio is all clean lines, light, bright, and beautiful. I've become addicted to the barre classes devised by S3's founder, Josh Norris Ongso - the ballet influenced classes are the perfect counterpoint to the boxing.
ARCHITECTURE, SIGHTS & SHOPPING
Melbourne doesn't have the tourist highlights that Sydney does; our most recognisable piece of architecture was the subject of derision and controversy when it opened. But I think the city has come to love Fed Square despite the shaky start. The design by LAB Architecture has certainly grown on me and it is certainly successful as a civic gathering space.
One of the earliest memories I have of Melbourne is of the Melbourne Central Shot Tower and I probably take a photo looking up every time I'm there... It's not quite The Gherkin, but it's a pretty incredible space (a slight shame then, that it is now located in a shopping centre).
The NGV puts on consistently great exhibitions (Hokusai AND Dior exhibitions are currently on show). I just wish that there were museums/galleries like it in Melbourne; perhaps then The NGV wouldn't be quite so jam packed.
When I left London, a few of my lovely friends gifted me a membership to Heide Museum of Modern Art (they know me pretty well). The grounds and the architecture are just as much of an attraction as the art that they hold.
It's no replacement for Columbia Road Flower Market, but I LOVE Flowers Vasette. They always have interesting blooms, even if they aren't anywhere near as cheap as the ones I am used to buying!
FOOD & DRINK
Melbourne's coffee and food scene is probably what I missed most when I lived in London (sorry family and friends, but you guys were able to visit me, the food/coffee couldn't).
After visiting Allpress in London every single day (sometimes more than once a day) for 3 years, I happened to land a job at an office right around the corner from the Melbourne roastery (coincidence?).
Lune Croissanterie is fast growing a reputation for being the best croissanterie in the world (I'm not sure about the world, but definitely the best outside of France). These guys have pastry making down to an art, which you can view for yourself whilst you wait, courtesy of some clever design by Studio Esteta. There is often a queue, so get there early, especially to maximise your flavour options (once a flavour sells out, it won't be available again until the next day). If you don't have the patience to queue at Lune, then the baked goods from Babka, just around the corner, are pretty damn tasty too (order the rhubarb danish).
Napier Quarter is my local, and it I'm so glad they took over the site from the cafe that was there before... Serving Allpress coffee, with St David's Dairy milk, it's also a cosy spot for dinner and a drink.
Basically the embodiment of my aesthetic, Acoffee, is a stark white and plywood space that serves great coffee. When I want coffee and also want to feel zen, I visit Acoffee.
Melburnians take brunch pretty seriously and there are so many places serving up brunch plates that are both a feast for the tastebuds and the eyes (Melbourne cafes seem to have love affair with edible flowers). Proud Mary, Humble Rays, Top Paddock, Auction Rooms, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Archie's All Day are just some of my current favourites (though I'm still searching for that bacon naan roll replacement).
Cumulus Inc (and it's sibling Cumulus Up) is my go-to for any time of day. I guess you could say it's my Melbourne version of Granger & co. The food is always punchy with the flavours, never overly complicated, just super delicious. They operate a typically Melbourne "no bookings" policy, except for larger groups, so expect to wait for a table at normal meal times. The wait is worth it.
I've written before about how much I love the revamped Cutler & Co, another venue in Andrew McConnell's empire. It's exceptional. The wine bar next door, Marion, isn't too shabby either. Stunning interiors by IF Architecture.
Another long time favourite, Izakaya Den can be a little difficult to find for the uninitiated. Located in a basement off Russell Street, the first time I tried to find it with my family, we ended up aborting mission and eating elsewhere. To the left of the cafe on the corner, take the stairs down, and turn left (it's actually next door to S3 Studio). Everything on the menu is great, but I'm particularly obsessed with the sweetcorn fritters and the hojicha icecream.
New opening, Etta, is a small restaurant that is worth the trek to Brunswick (if you're not a North-sider). This is probably my favourite new spot in Melbourne right now. Also, IF Architecture killing it with another stunning fitout.
It had been a long time between drinks at Gerald's Bar, but I'm so glad my friend Talia decided it was time (the woman practically lives there). The cocktails are delightful, the wine list is great (according to people who actually know wine, ie. not me), and OH MY GOD the gnocchi (you need to order this when you make a reservation).
The Town Mouse is an old favourite (any restaurant that can make half a cabbage taste like the best thing you've ever tasted in your life, is pretty damn special). It's newly opened sibling, Embla, brings the Town Mouse to the city.
One thing I struggled with in London was the lack of adequate gelato options. No such problem in Melbourne! Gelato Messina is actually a Sydney transplant, but I'm not going to play the Melb vs Syd game here, because Messina gelato is currently what stands between me and the version of me with ab definition. It's on my walk home from work, plus you can accumulate loyalty points for FREE GELATI on an app, so it's pretty safe to say I won't be achieving those abs any time soon!