From inner city pubs, laneway hotspots, Asian eateries, country hotels, scenic wineries and rustic craft breweries, Victoria’s spectacular love affair with food and wine continues unabated. With new restaurants, bars and cafes popping up every week, the only trouble visitors have is choosing where to go. Start your Victorian food and wine adventure in its capital Melbourne, which is a maze of hidden laneways, opulent bars and exclusive restaurants just waiting to be discovered.
For a nice place to stay, check out the boutique Cullen hotel. Take a tram or taxi to the CBD and have lunch at Spring Street Grocer positioned on Melbourne’s grand plane tree-lined Spring Street (known as “the Paris end of town”), beside the glittering Princess Theatre.
Have lunch at Cumulus Inc perhaps sharing slow-roasted lamb with cracked wheat and freekeh salad, or heirloom tomatoes and burrata. After lunch, wander down Flinders Lane for galleries including Anna Schwarz, Little Bourke Street for designer fashion boutiques, Bourke Street Mall for department stores, Little Collins Street for contemporary menswear, and women’s retailers including Scanlan and Theodore.
Stop in at DeGraves Lane (off Flinders Lane) lined with cafes, for a reviving coffee or afternoon tea, one of the city’s favourite spots for caffeine. The Block Arcade is a fine example of 19th-century Melbourne, renowned for its etched glass canopy, mosaic tiled floor and intricate wrought iron. Listed on Victoria’s Heritage Register, it also features boutiques and cafes.
For dinner options, try the very fine dining at Vue de Monde. Located on the 55th floor of Melbourne’s iconic Rialto Tower, chef and owner Shannon Bennett’s restaurant, boasts sparkling skyline views which extend to the ranges far on the horizon. Bennett produces a la carte and degustation wonders – piped, pressed, brewed and blow-torched, that surprise and delight. A protege of some of the world’s most respected chefs, such as Roux, Ducasse and Pierre White, Bennett’s technical skill and discipline are hallmarks of this experience.
Take a Melbourne Foodie Tour with respected local food writer Allan Campion. Over three-and-a-half-hours, explore the lanes, alleys and grand boulevards of Melbourne, enjoying tastings at the latest food hot spots including Ganache Chocolate and the iconic Phillippa’s Bakery. The tour explores the Flinders Lane precinct before heading to Ombra Salumi Bar for a lunch of beautifully prepared salumi, salami, preserved meats, pizzas and salads.
After lunch walk to the Southbank precinct, drop in at The Arts Centre Melbourne and see what is on during your stay. Continue along the banks of the Yarra River to the Crown Casino complex with its high-end fashion stores and restaurants. Tonight, attend a performance, or dine at the casino complex, perhaps French-style at chef Guillaume Brahimi’s Bistro Guillaume or at Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill.
Head across the road to Prahran Market check out the stallholders wares, and have coffee at Market Lane Coffee. Wander along nearby Chapel Street and explore the vintage stores, including Chapel Street Bazaar for retro homewares and collectables. Further along you will find Australian clothing designers including Alannah Hill and accessories specialist Mimco.
Take a tram to St Kilda and have lunch at the beach, or, head to Melbourne Zoo where you can see koalas, possums, little fairy penguins, cockatoos, emus and kangaroos.
Before dinner, have a drink at Bar Lourinha, then a five-minute walk along Meyers Place will bring you to the top end of Bourke Street and Grossi Florentino. Melbourne’s long history of Italian migration means the city is imbued with excellent Italian food and Grossi Florentino is a stellar example. Soaring frescoed ceilings, dark wood panelling and the charming waiters darting across the floor in their chic white jackets and bow ties, instantly transport you to the north of Italy. As do chef and owner Guy Grossi’s menus, and the wine list, served across the three dining spaces within the opulent building: the casual Cellar Bar, Upstairs and The Grill. Be sure to order Grossi’s signature dessert, La Mela Di Murano (a glass toffee ball filled with apple sorbet, served on a bed of pearl tapioca).
In the morning, collect a hire car and drive to Healesville in the Yarra Valley, Victoria’s oldest wine-growing region, just an hour east of Melbourne. Check in to the Healesville Hotel in the main street, a heritage building constructed in 1910, featuring comfortable boutique-style accommodation. Some rooms feature open fireplaces, while downstairs, the elegant dining room, complete with soaring pressed tin ceilings, serves regional produce and local wines. The hotel is a good place to base yourself for a day of wine tasting.
Another option is the five-star, beautifully restored Chateau Yering Historic House Hotel, with 32 luxury suites and stunning rural views. There are over 60 wineries in the Yarra Valley to choose from, with the majority being small and family-owned. Choices range from big names such as Domaine Chandon, Yering Station, TarraWarra, Coldstream Hills and De Bortoli Yarra Valley to boutique operations such as Gembrook Hill, Medhurst Estate, Jamsheed, Mandala and Hoddles Creek. Architect-designed TarraWarra, owned by fashion retailers Marc and Eva Besen, is one of the most popular destinations with its fine wines supplemented by an impressive art gallery and restaurant serving modern Australian food with magnificent views). Perhaps book a tour, to make the decisions easier, and to ensure that someone else drives for you.
Following breakfast, collect a hire car and drive two hours to the picturesque town of Daylesford, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Check in to the stunning Lake House, a place of pilgrimage for local and international foodies, renowned for its exquisite food and setting. Chef and owner Alla Wolf Tasker is a revered chef in Victoria whose dedication to fresh produce has led to her working closely with local farmers to produce the ingredients she features on her menus. Today, her philosophy has spread throughout the area and The Lake House is known not only for its restaurant but also its cooking courses, orchards, kitchen garden featuring herbs and edible flowers, and award-winning cellar.
Taking in the waters at the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa is a must-do at Australia’s premier spa destination. After a $13 million redevelopment in 2008, the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa is open daily, and visitors can enjoy traditional communal bathing in The Bathhouse and The Sanctuary, or book in to The Spa for a more private experience. From private healing mineral baths, to massage, facials, body wraps and polishes, manicures and pedicures, The Spa has been rejuvenating and reinvigorating people since 1895.
Return to Melbourne the next morning (1-hour and 15 minutes), stopping at the colourful, lively Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, on the way. Have breakfast or brunch at the award-winning Marios Caf© then wander along the strip, taking in an eclectic mix of alternative fashion, florists, design stores, live music, bookshops, bars and cafes. Nearby Gertrude Street is known for its edgy fashion, furniture, textile and jewellery stores, while Smith Street Collingwood, a short walk away, is also worth a look for vintage clothing, fashion and homewares.
If time permits, treat yourself to an early dinner at Cutler & Co,where an old metal works factory has been transformed into one of Melbourne’s most celebrated restaurants featuring the stunning, refined cooking of chef Andrew McConnell.
Written by some of Australia’s most prominent food and wine writers, edited by Lisa Hudson. Courtesy of Tourism Australia tourism.australia.com