My recent visit to Melbourne with Julia was my first trip back to the city since I lived there for three years as an 18-year-old. I was excited to show Julia the places I love and explore what was new in the city, as well as to get a taste of what regional Victoria has to offer.
A lot has changed in the six years since I lived here - new restaurants, cafes, green spaces, apartments. Melbourne has the world's most restaurants and cafes per capita and is forever changing, which makes it an exciting city. It's easy to see why Melbourne was voted the most liveable city in the world in 2015. There is something for everyone!
Our trip was short but sweet. We stayed at Crown Metropol and consumed ots of food, walked down lots of laneways, drunk lots of coktails, took lots of photos and watched lots of people. Here are our highlights and must dos for when you travel to this culture rich city!
The Press Club
The Press Club was founded by Master Chef star, George Colombaris. It's situated in the old Herald building, which is how it got its name. We were lucky enough to dine at The Press Club Projects, a small experimental kitchen that seats only 14 people. The chef cooks all the meals in front of you so you can learn, ask questions and then enjoy your meal. We had eight courses that were specially prepared by Colombaris' research and development chef. The Press Club was the highlight of our trip and a foodie's dream!
Chin Chin is Asian fusion at its best! It won number one spot in a list of 100 top places to eat in Australia and after dining here we can see why. Chin Chin is known for its flavoursome spicy curries, duck salad, banana leaf grilled salmon and pork belly, plus an extensive wine and cocktail list and an out-of this world dessert menu. It has a no reservation policy so there can be a wait for a table, but it's worth it!
Dinner by Heston
We arrived at the restaurant via a dark hallway, thinking we had reached a dead end before a sliding door let us in. It felt like we had entered a secret restaurant with an Alice In Wonderland feel. The service is what you would expect in such an exclusive restaurant and the food is exceptional! Each dish has a story behind it, based on 600-year-old British recipes. The signature dish, meat fruit, is a creamy and sweet chicken liver parfait that has been moulded inside mandarin jelly. I ordered the lamb and was so impressed by the flavours. If you have a sweet tooth you must try the post-dessert treat of ice cream hand made in front of you on a trolley using nitrogen gas.
Good coffee isn't hard to find in Melbourne, there are cafes everywhere. One of our favourite coffee spots is Padre Coffee, a quirky cafe in Royal Arcade.
Floating over the Yarra Valley
Yarra Valley is located 50 minutes from Melbourne city centre, though you feel like you are miles away from the city. There are so many open spaces and long winding roads. Yarra Valley is not short on things to do - vineyard tours, wine tasting, hot air ballooning, garden tours, an animal sanctuary, Tarrawarra Museum of Art, afternoon tea and antique shopping.
We woke in the early hours of the morning to meet our hot air balloon pilot for an hour-long float over the Yarra Valley. Views of vineyards, green valleys and rivers - it was picture perfect! We watched the sunrise and were given a tour from above of the vineyards, estates, listened to stories of marriage proposals and had plenty of photo opportunities. This is a must-do in the Yarra Valley!
Bliss in Mornington Peninsula
After the Yarra Valley we moved onto beautiful Mornington Peninsula for a night at Port Phillip Estate. Mornington Peninsula is well known for its food and wine culture and vineyard tours, beaches and hot springs. We joined a day tour with Elite Day Tours and had lunch at Green Olive, visited a winery to learn about wine making, had one of Mornington's famous vanilla slices, visited the Portsea Beach boat shed and bathing boxes. Finally, we soaked in the natural baths at Peninsula Hot Springs.
Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne
After three years living in Melbourne I thought I had seen all of the sights. It turns out I hadn't even scratched the surface! The Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne is a three-hour walking tour of some of the laneways, arcades and cafes. Our tour guide knew Melbourne like the back of his hand and we got taken to places you would not think to venture.
Julia and I love to treat ourselves every now and then, and we found a cute doughnut store on Degraves Lane called Doughnut Time. Some of the flavour names include Zero Chill, Yasss Kween, The Mugatu, and The Cookie Monster. Degraves Street is known for its cafes, cupcake shop and boutique shops.