Culinary Corner: Melbourne

Culinary Corner: Melbourne

Written by Heather

Topics: Eats & Sweets, Life in Oz

Last week I mentioned that many consider Melbourne to be the culinary capital of Australia, and if you’ve seen my Twitter feed or recent Flickr photos, you’ve already figured out that I love food.

While I’m no foodie, and I am definitely on a budget traveler’s meal plan, I do appreciate being in a city that boasts so many opportunities for a good meal.

Since I can’t afford to live it up big, I want to share some of the tasty “cheap” eats that have caught my attention in the last two weeks. And no doubt that all of the weight I lost in week one will inch back on after the way I’ve been living in week two and three O:-)

Let’s start with the sweet:

Breadtop serves beautiful cakes, pastries, breads, and biscuits, and their displays immediately caught my attention when I walked through the food court of the QV shopping centre. I’m usually happy to look and not buy, but when a friend offered to buy me some pastries, who was I to refuse?

The pineapple ring was soft, sweet, and moist
Pastries from Breadtop

The Cupcake Family looks just like The Cupcake Bakery in Sydney. Both have enough buttercream icing on their cakes for a couple of people, so I opted for a mini cupcake and still could only manage half of the frosting. But how can you resist this: “Mini-coffee crunch: Coffee lovers, this one is for you! Coffee cupcake with crunchy walnut and coffee buttercream. Garnished with a chocolate coated coffee bean and crushed walnut.”

The Lindt Cafe topped my list as soon as I learned about it at the Lindt Chocolate Masterclass. I dragged James there yesterday (you should have seen him kicking and screaming), and he opted for a hot chocolate while I tried a scoop of black forest ice cream. The hot chocolate tasted like creamy foam (but not chocolate) and the ice cream just tasted cold. Both of us were left underwhelmed, but I’m eager to give it another shot when I’m back in Sydney. I enjoy the Excellence bars so much — surely my next trip will be fantastic, right?!

Moving on to the healthy and/or organic:

Organic2Go is tucked away (and nearly hidden) at the corner of Elizabeth St and La Trobe St. They have organic (obviously) coffee, gluten free items, and a variety of salads and wraps. After walking by several days, I finally stopped in for lunch — Feta, Roast Pumpkin & Chickpea Salad (feta, chickpeas, roast butternut pumpkin, baby spinach, pesto & capsicum). Yum!

The Soup Place (or is it “In A Rush”?) caught my eye on day one, and I chose a soup and salad combo for lunch: Spicy Moroccan Soup and Pumpkin & Ricotta Salad. I’ve also tried the Vegie & Lentil soup and just a few of their others include Tomato & Basil, Pumpkin, Lobster Bisque, Spanish Chorizo & Bean, and Greek Fish.

The not so healthy but oh-so-tasty:

My first non-cafe/quick meal of the entire trip was at Stalactites, a restaurant in the Greek precinct, with James. We shared the “good-not-great” spanakopita for an appetizer and for dinner I chose the lamb and chicken souvlaki…one of the few things that wouldn’t break the piggy bank! Don’t ask me how I managed to eat most of it, but I did.

The one place that I’ve gone and would repeat (and oh look, I did!) is Camy Shanghai Dumpling, located on a side street in Chinatown. I’d heard that it was a place listed in few guidebooks but that many Melburnians know and love it. I never have dumplings at home, and my first trip there with Dan and Paul was *heavenly* as we feasted on friend prawn and chicken, fried beef, and steamed veggie dumplings. The pumpkin cakes for dessert were perhaps the best part…imagine the best parts of the greatest donut, funnel cake, and custard you’ve ever had focused in one tiny circular bite-sized disc of joy. That’s a pumpkin cake. And I wanted more pumpkin cakes so badly that I twisted James’ arm and convinced him to join me. He fell in love with them too :-)

Lord of the Fries came as a big surprise, as I saw the sign across the street and figured it would be a greasy, nasty mess. Instead, James introduced me to the vegetarian menu (yes, the burgers are actually veggie patties), and after a late-evening snack of chips, cheese, and gravy (hold the cheese, but man, where have fries and gravy been all my life?!), I decide to return for lunch for the Spicy Burger. The chilli mayo and jalapenos offered a nice kick, and the bread was super soft — but the bun was so large and thick I couldn’t taste the burger. I’d go again, but the veggie burger at Boylan Heights just can’t be touched!

Sadly I couldn’t cover all the places I wanted to go, even in two weeks! That just means I’ll have to return to Melbourne to check out the rest:

Lentil As Anything, a vegetarian restaurant where there are no prices and no bills — you pay what you feel your meal was worth in an anonymous box!

Klik Cafe — just around the corner from the hostel with a sign saying “voted best muffins”…we shall see!

Basement Cafe — just a few doors down from Klik with a cool layout.

Bimbo Deluxe — who doesn’t want to give $4 pizza at least one shot?

Pancake Parlour — walking past a place with “pancake” in the name is enough to make me stop and do a double take!

Max Brenner Chocolate had a crowd every time I walked by…a must-visit cafe if the full tables speak for themselves.

I’m sure there are heaps more places I need to explore and taste…after all, this is Melbourne, and I’m on a budget.

And while it may seem that all I did in Melbourne was eat, I did plenty more than that. Check out an upcoming post on things to see and experience in the Melbourne CBD and beyond!

Featured image by xb3 on Flickr, via Creative Commons

12 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Laura Neidert says:

    You know, speaking of food, I did try Boylan Heights recently after reading your earlier blog post and it was VERY tasty. I love the name “Lentil As Anything!”

  2. Claire says:

    Next time you’re in Melbourne – for chocolate, try Koko Black (google it). I think it’s better than Lindt…

  3. Dennis says:

    I haven’t been commenting, but I’ve been reading… sounds like things are going well! Your food adventures sound like fun!

    • Heather says:

      Aww, thanks :-)

      Yes, I’m realizing my food adventures are what I’m centering my experience around — after looking for fun meetups and tweetups!

  4. Rebecca says:

    LOVE!!! Lord of the Fries….(and all fries in Aus and NZ for that matter. Steak fries, just the way I like them!)

    They have Max Brenner’s in SYD, check it out…the iced drinks are soooo good in the summer.

    Pancake Parlour wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I think it was a little too pricey for what I was expecting. Give me IHOP anyday!!!

    And back in SYD, please tell me you have had a pie from Harry de Wheels. I drool just thinking of them….

    • Heather says:

      I haven’t had the pie, but I will add it to my list for when I return to Sydney! I’m finally getting out of bed in Adelaide, and I’m already wondering what I’ll find to eat today O:-)

  5. Nicole says:

    Heather, thanks for letting me live vicariously through you as I read about the mini-coffee crunch cupcake from The Cupcake Family! I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to resist trying that one. πŸ˜‰ Also, I just wanted to tell you that I love all the links you always add to your blog – I’m sure it takes a lot of time & effort, but it’s great for your readers to be able to get a better sense of where you’ve been & what you’ve experienced. Speaking of which . . . how have you not yet gone to the Pancake Parlour?! I checked out their menu & they have pancakes AND salads – Heather, this place is all you!! πŸ˜‰

    • Heather says:

      I ran out of time! I wanted to go on a day I consumed less gluten, but that day never came πŸ˜‰ I’ll head back to Melbourne at some point to stay with my new family in Ballarat, so I will go then — trust me :-) We could always spend a couple of days there if you’d like…

      • Nicole says:

        I wouldn’t mind spending some time in Melbourne if it works for you – actually, when I originally went to AAA to look into flights to Sydney, the travel agent informed me that I MUST see more than one area of Australia if I was going to be traveling so far from home & I tend to agree. I suppose I can take a brief trip to Melbourne even if you’re not able to – or even just a day trip somewhere not far from Sydney. :)

  6. You are making me HUNGRY :) Nice roundup! There are actually a few Max Brenners in the Sydney area, too… Haven’t been yet bc I’m waiting for my boyfriend to take me like he said he would… and pay the bill πŸ˜‰

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