…. Melbourne has once again been voted as the most livable city in the world – and has maintained that top spot since 2011. Incidentally Dhaka, Bangladesh was ranked 2nd Last out of 140 cities surveyed …. hardly surprising really.
My weekend in Melbourne was just fab. It was all to do with the company I kept – Amara and Maeve showed me a real good time! Lots of chatting and catching up, and of course eating good food and drinking lots of wine. We ended up not doing much sightseeing but rather just experience what’s known as Australia’s city of culture, ably lead by local Melbournian Amara.
The hotel brought back some memories for Amara – mostly pleasant (you can ask her the story yourself!) but it was a great location, close to Southern Cross Station and easy access to the Skybus and airport. Perfect for us three who were jetting in and out at different times. And we got an upgrade to a suite at the hotel which is always good.
Friday night saw Maeve and I have a few glasses of wine waiting for Amara’s arrival – I am rather out of practice with this drinking lark! But I managed, such a trooper. Amara somehow made us a last sitting reservation at Maha which is owned and operated by one of Australia’s celebrity chefs – Shane Delia. I became aware of this guy through a foodie magazine I had bought in Bairnsdale, so was dead impressed we were going to sample Middle Eastern delights. Let me tell ya the food lived up to the hype.
We went for the 4 course tasting menu and although it was a lot of food, we got through a good portion of each course, making sure we left room for the next course. Favs for me were beans portion of the Lebanese sausage & beans from the 1st course, the scallops in the 2nd course (who does not like scallops??), the roasted lamb shoulder in the 3rd course followed closely by the cracked wheat pilaf, and the creme caramel in the 4th and final course. The doughnuts stuffed with turkish delight did nothing for me (neither interests me independently) but Amara was a happy camper! We washed it all down with a lovely Aussie white and Amara had a glass of arak (I forget which one). Had I not consumed a few glasses of wine before dinner, I would have gone for a glass too, but it seemed too dangerous at 53% proof. Getting sensible in my old age!
Brunch is one of my all-time favourite meals out and from what I heard from Imogen, brunch in Melbourne is something to behold. It did not disappoint! A bit of a sideline ….. it was such a pity Imogen and I could not connect here in Melbourne. Imogen stayed at Lok’s house in Banepa, working on an AusAid-sponsored cervical cancer screening research program in Nepal for 10 months and we became good mates. When you drink milk tea and eat dal-bhat every day, you tend to dream about the coffee and food you miss, and there was many a discussion on the best brunch places on Bowen Island, Vancouver and Melbourne. Imogen now works for the Burnet Institute and is currently heading up an HIV related program spanning a number of developing countries including Papua New Guinea and had just flown out there for work purposes. I was really really disappointed I missed her!! She will have to come to Bowen – won’t you Imogen?!
Back to the all-important brunch in Melbourne. A place called Seven Seeds located close to the university. All those times when Amara flew back to Melbourne from Vancouver to continue her MBA studies, we all thought she was working like crazy. Not! She was hanging out at Seven Seeds sampling the unbelievably yum brunch and lunch menu.
This place is primarily a coffee place, a micro-roaster in fact that happens to serve great food along with it’s award winning coffee. Melbourne has quite the coffee scene (I thought I had died and gone to heaven). After a quick long black aka americano while waiting in the line up, I then had a Pour-Over. Not being anything like a hipster, I had no idea what the heck this was, but Amara told me I could not leave without trying one. So I did. It’s just another way to brew coffee but takes the bitterness out and gives a very smooth palate. Portland OR is where the pour-over concept first started and Melbourne’s Seven Seeds picked it up a few years ago. I am sooooo far behind. It takes a bit of time to prepare, like a properly poured pint of Guinness, and after the wait, the pour-over coffee was indeed very smooth and easy to enjoy. It seemed to me it was the pinot noir of coffees.
And now to the food. I had forgotten how unique a flavour sumac provides, and it’s such a beautiful colour, it really enhances any dish. After the Middle Eastern fare the previous night, I chose a smoked carrot breakfast salad with poached eggs, dusted in sumac – absolutely stunning. My gawd, so divine. Maeve had a posh porridge – chai-flavoured with rhubarb compote which was scoffed pretty fast, and Amara had a smoked salmon benny. I think it was the only time there was silence at the table while we savoured our food. Mind you, it was a bit of a wait but it was worth the wait.
On our walk from our hotel on Little Collins Street to Seven Seeds on Berkeley St, Carlton, Maeve and I noticed so many relatively new buildings with all the colours of the rainbow adhered to the outsides …. bright yellow, red, blue, orange and green. Kinda cute when we saw the first one but it got a little tedious when so many buildings had glass and metal appendages … all very samey. What I did like about Melbourne was the older buildings, looking sturdy and ample, a nice change from the relatively new city of Vancouver.
We also walked through a market similar to Cork’s English Market which is called the Queen Vic Market. Stalls and stalls of fresh fruit and veg at a fraction of the cost of Aussie grocery stores. (btw I found day to day living in Australia to be far more expensive than in Canada!). And then on to the specialty stores – cheese mongers, butchers, fish mongers, organic chocolate shops and more specialty coffeehouses. Glorious selections galore!
We had fully intended to head to the Dreamworks exhibition at ACMI but what with the sun shining and all, we thought we would stop for a glass of wine in Fed Square beforehand. Bad idea. We ended up meeting a few of Maeve’s Irish friends for an hour or so before she headed off to the airport for her flight back to Sydney. Amara and I continued on to meet a tuxedoed-friend of hers before he headed off to a swanky fundraiser. Needless to say we were not included.
Melbourne is really a great city to hang out in. Everyone seems to head downtown at weekends for shopping and people watching from coffee houses. And they return in the evenings for a stroll along the River Yarra, stopping off at any of the hundreds of bars and restaurants along the river walk. With over 4.5 million people living in the metro area, you would think it would feel big city-ish but it didn’t. It’s about the same size as Vancouver but it feels a lot more hometown-y, despite it’s multicultural population where over a quarter of it’s dwellers were born in another country. It truly is a very livable place.
It was great to meet up with Amara and Maeve, just a ton of fun in a very neat city. They were really awesome to travel down from Sydney for the weekend 🙂 xo