Melbourne is one of the only places in the world right now where the American dollar still has an advantage so while this is true, I recommend a jaunt through this city on your way to check out the newly trendy Tahiti.
~ Syl Tang
Breakfast at the outdoor patio at the Melbourne GPO houses the Federal Coffee Palace has a surprisingly good range of eggs, croissants and coffee.
Corner of Bourke & Elizabeth Streets
03 9662 2224
Australians do not drink black filter coffee so if you like it with milk, ask for a ‘flat white’. Duh, it’s not an ‘Americano’ down here so if you must go black, ask for a macchiatto. (If it’s too crowded the QV down the street has an outdoor coffee and tea bar with superior people watching as all the city treks through here for morning meetings.)
We also like Café Panette for their greasy breakfasts. Avoid the sausages.
For lunch there’s a good bit of local flair on Hardware Street near Little Lonsdale. The posh glass enclosed Italian place (with no signage) has the best vanilla panna cotta with berry compote.
Dinnerwise, we like the people watching at the glass wall enclosed Chocolate Buddha. This communal table, mod faux-Asian spot is great for seeing the amateur comedy and music in Federation Square. Plus one of their bartenders was an Australian Idol finalist.
corner of Flinders and Swanson
03 9654 5688
Serious dinning can be had with other people who flock from all over the world for Flower Drum. Don’t forget, you are technically in Asia. If you can round up at least two or more people, order a couple days in advance, you can do one of the chef’s banquets which will give you access to the chefs extremely creative dishes.
17 Market Lane
03 9662 3655
If you just aren’t feeling Chinese, Le Restaurant is the other big name in town.
03 9653 7744
25 Collins St
Or for Italian, you could go with Becco which has the advantage of having late night bar, Bella Vista Social Club right upstairs.
11-25 Crossley St
03 9663 3000
If you can’t get a reservation there, try for Grossi Florentino, which is popular for the suckling pig and suckling lamb
80 Bourke St
03 9662 1811
People talk about the nightlife in Chapel St but a tour of good bars in Melbourne is like a tour of the alleyways between Flinders Street - Flinders Lane and Bourke Street - Lonsdale Street. The key ones are Block Arcade/Block Place (off Little Collins Street), Degraves Street (off Flinders Lane), and Hardware Lane (between Bourke and Lonsdale Streets).
Start at Hairy Canary. Sweet little wine bar.
212 Little Collins Street
betw Swanston and Russell
03 9654 2471
Skip over to their sister spot. Don’t be afraid of the seriously sketchy alley. Canary Club. It’s not a club really at all but more like a place to have tapas and a brew. The alley can be found off Russell St between Little Collins and Bourke.
6 Melbourne Place
03 9663 1983
I also dig the Chaise Lounge. It’s like the owners had a good time at Les Caves du Roy and tried to recreate it but were too drunk to actually capture the décor. Um, or the posh crowd. Lots of questionable red velvet chairs and Michael Jackson tunes.
Basement 105 Queen Street
03 9670 6120
There is nothing palace like about the Gin Palace. A serious dive, they might have gotten the furniture on dump day. Clientele heavily focused on their liquor and the group they came with.
190 Little Collins Street
03 9654 0533
Former bank and they kept the bankers. And a shaker set for the Cosmopolitans served here. Watch out for the "working girls".
The Saint. Saint Hotel
54 Fitzroy Street
03 9593 8333
This bar is why you read us - we're not afraid of the cat in the bag: no one else likes to divulge but Ellis Street Lounge is at 16 Ellis Street. Don't just show up. It's a reservation only speakeasy. Make one so you can get your old fashioned cocktail and cigar. Obey house rules which means gentlemen must behave as so. You can call up to 15 minutes before but if you don't, you're not going in.
Ellis Street Lounge
03 9827 4032
Go to Nicola Finetti’s actual shop. Her work is somewhere between Yohji Yamamoto and Voyage. Lots of wearable little jackets, flimsy white and black cotton things and an abundance of lace and velvet. Shirts come in around $200 and no one else will have them.
16 Albert Coates Lane, QV
03 9663 7886
Cactus Jam carries a tremendous range of clothing. From the low-end, Fornarina etc to the high end Chloe, Eley Kishimoto – they also have the best collection of Sass and Bide in town. The department stores (David Jones, Myer) also carry big Australian names such as Lisa Ho, Kit Willow and Peter Morrissey, but I like the service at Cactus Jam.
12 Albert Coates Lane, QV
03 9654 0472
Across the way you’ll find Christensen Copenhagen, which Vogue Australia pulls from frequently. All the major Australian names plus some of the expected international ones, Diane Von Furstenburg and Louboutin. A big selection of Christian Lacroix which I like because he can be hard to find outside of Paris.
17-19 Albert Coates Lane, QV
03 9650 7130
I love the Spanish chain shop Mango – they’ve rebranded themselves as MNG – whatever – stupendous cheap basics with European flare. A must visit. If you love chains, the other ones you won’t be able to find stateside are Witchery, Jigsaw and Accessorize (out of the U.K.) and Kookai.
345 Bourke St.
03 9650 8899
Word to the wise. Don’t come to Melbourne to buy U.S. labels – they won’t be cheaper, instead sometimes twice as much. Instead pick up Bonds t shirts, Collette Dinnegan, Marcs (which is like the Club Monaco of Australia), Alanah Hill (who is at 17 Howey Pl). The one exception is Nine West which though twice in price has stock that U.S. shops may not get. Also Esprit and Country Road have shops everywhere here.
Spend your day time on the beach at St Kilda. It’s pretentious and wishes it was St Tropez, but so be it. Just don’t go in the water. A recent bacterial problem which arose from heavy waters in Melbourne has all sorts of oddities still washing up. Have lunch at the Stokehouse on their upstairs outdoor patio where you’ll have to out-attitude them.
30 Jacka Blvd
03 9525 5555
If you go straight to Australia from NYC, it’s a grueling 34 hours door to door. I like to break that up by spending a week in Tahiti, where the over-the-water bungalows, gorgeous people, and vanilla will overwhelm you. We like the unbelievable deal at www.nyctotahitinonstop.com where $2495 is direct air (12 hours) AND 6 nights/7 days including hotel. Then fly to Australia!
The flight is still long – my crosswords are never enough! – I bring good music. Right now I like
Hotel Byblos, Vol. 3 which has the hot hot hot songs The Weekend and San Salvador which was all the rage when I was in Switzerland for New Years.