Like a particularly bountiful windfall from the indigenous black sapote tree, the fruits of our recent trip to Australia to launch Mr & Mrs Smith down under have been falling thick and fast onto the blog. We’ve already tapped Hilary Doling of Luxury Travel & Style Magazine and Gourmet Traveller editor-at-large Leo Schofield for their insider knowledge of where to eat, drink and stay in Sydney, and now it’s the turn of the movers and shakers we were lucky enough to meet at the full-to-bursting Smith launch party – held in cool art deco hideaway The Prince in Melbourne.
The city’s style set were out in force to celebrate the opening of our new Melbourne office, and plenty of tastemakers from the arts and culture scenes, including Film Victoria CEO Sandra Sdraulig (responsible for bringing all the biggest British and US movies into Australian cinemas), were there to sample the cocktails and raise a toast to our Antipodean success.
Also at the launch, I bumped into Veronica Ridge, editor of The Age Epicure, the food and drink supplement of Melbourne’s biggest newspaper. Her culinary advice is eagerly devoured by Melbournians every Tuesday, and what she doesn’t know about the city’s restaurant scene just isn’t worth knowing. It was her who told us about the new trend among the city’s restaurants to not accept reservations – thus guaranteeing big queues down the street, and equally long column inches in the foodie press. Here are her top tips on where to go if you should ever find yourself hungry in Australia’s second-largest city.
Attica The chef at this Ripponlea restaurant has embraced the Danish ethos of incorporating less-than-obvious natural ingredients, and has applied it to what he can find in the Melbourne area. His beautiful, experimental dishes contain stuff like tree moss and seaweed taken directly from the beach, and they’re an absolute must-try.
Movida The Spanish influence in Melbourne is very big at the moment, and Movida, which specialises in genuine Northern Spanish tapas, is right at its forefront. The restaurant gets booked up well advance, so if you can’t bear the wait then try its much smaller sister establishment Movida Next Door, which is, erm, next door. The food may be slightly different and the ambience a little more café-like, but it’s still a great experience.
Veronica’s other Melbourne favourites include Cumulus Inc, which serves excellent tapas in lovely, laid-back café surroundings (no booking required) and Cutler & Co – the hot new fine-dining ticket in town.
We also had a long chat with James Campbell of the Herald Sun, who eagerly told us about his favourite places to eat Italian food in Melbourne. The city has a long-established Italian community, so there are no shortage of trattorie in which to find excellent, home-cooked dishes from the bel paese…
Solarino (273 Little Collins Street; +61 (0)3 9663 2636). This tiny informal restaurant in the city’s laneways manages to be both stylish and cosy – not an easy feat to pull off – and serves up wonderful pasta and salads. It’s also a great spot for breakfast.
Il Bacaro A fixture on the city’s dining scene for more than a decade, this high-end Italian restaurant specialises in seafood-dominated regional cooking, and is rightly proud of its extensive and expertly chosen wine list.
The Italian Roberto Scheriani’s establishment on Collins Street has become a foodie favourite because of the chef’s dedication to fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The signature dish of tuna carpaccio with marinated anchovies is unbelievably good.
To sum up, we absolutely loved Melbourne – we were made to feel very welcome and, though we had limited time to explore the city properly, we did spend one afternoon wandering the laneways (Melbourne’s small Victorian alleys, which are jam-packed with boutique shops and cafés). It’s just as well we did, otherwise we’d have never stumbled across the über-cool Chiodo, in the basement at 114 Russell Street. Run by Andrew Chiodo, the store, which oozes cool and calm, sells a wonderful selection of streetwear fashions, accessories and leather goods.