The best thing about 2016 was going to Melbourne, which happened because Emirates gave me a ticket. Not just any ticket, either, a business class one. There are plenty of perks to having your own media platform, but in five years of g&hing about town, this one was the best.
Emirates business class is a dream. Usually when I fly across to Australia to visit my sister I’m compressed into a tiny seat, with nothing but a cup of tea for company. It’s worth it for a sister’s face and some stellar food tourism, but the journey in itself is not fun. This time, I didn’t want to get off the plane. Every seat had a mini bar. My meal was three courses. The wine list sported some of the most famous drops in the world. For three short hours I lived the high life. I did not drink responsibly and fell asleep face down on the bed the minute I arrived at the Novotel on Collins St, only to wake in the middle of the night, groggy and disoriented.
Other than the obvious (stellar wine list), the reason for this behavior was because there’s bar at the back of the Emirates business class cabin. You can go there at any time (except take-off and landing obvs). I had a champagne cocktail and chatted to the man behind The City Lane, a Melbourne-based lifestyle website. He’d been flown to Auckland by Emirates. It was a blogger swap of sorts. Yes, I know, we are stupidly lucky.
I spent four days in Melbourne. Mostly eating. These were my top seven things.
It would be safe to call it the most hyped café in the city. Hidden down a tiny street near Southern Cross Station, this place is as big as a cathedral, with whole trees inside and three storeys worth of air above your head. I ordered the most boring thing on the menu by accident and so I can’t really speak for the food, although they did nail those scrambled eggs. Come for the spaciousness and the coffee and the people watching. Come to be seen. Come to marvel at that tree hanging out inside a building like its normal.
Garden State Hotel
Back along the river on Flinders Lane there is another huge space, an old pub that’s been refurbished and named after everyone’s favourite noughties hipster film, Garden State. The name is appropriate because this place is pretty much a giant green house in the middle of the city. It has a restaurant and bar bordering a glass-roofed three-level interior courtyard, filled with hanging plants. Kiwi claim-to-fame, the light fittings are Douglas + Bec.
I was told by multiple people to visit this tiny little rooftop bar, which you enter by walking down a fluorescently-lit corridor and taking a lift to the top floor. I went twice and it was packed both times. Alive and bustling with people drinking wine, craft beer and cocktails amongst the towering buildings of Lonsdale St. It’s a uniquely Melbourne experience.
Everyone knows this place, chef Andrew McConnell’s most famous. It’s said to the be the inspiration for our very own Depot, and, no doubt because of this hype, I usually avoid it. Not this time. I went for a lonely breakfast and I didn’t feel lonely at all. I ate the best porridge I’ve ever had in my little life. It tasted like creamy clouds and was served with citrus marmalade, clotted cream, and a shot of whiskey. I still dream about it.
Victoria St Pho
Auckland has a disappointing lack of brilliant, cheap Vietnamese options, and Melbourne has a whole street. Of course. Victoria St is little Vietnam, and the pho is wonderful. Fragrant, tasty broth and tender meat served with great piles of herbs and trays of condiments. Everyone comes here. It’s loud, and the restaurant I always seem to go to (Thanh Ha 2) plays obscure documentaries on a tiny screen in one corner.
In 2016 I came to the conclusion that I don’t like cocktails. It was a stupid conclusion. The truth is that I don’t like most cocktails, I don’t like sweet ones or fruity ones or creamy ones. I like dry cocktails, classic cocktails… cocktails made with mostly hard liquor. There’s no better place to find them than The Everleigh, a twenties style cocktail bar located above Belles Hot Chicken on Gertrude St. They only serve classics, and their specialty is “bartender’s choice”, when your server quizzes you on what you like and the bartender creates your dream drink. The Everleigh taught me that I like dirty martinis. There’s no going back.
Auckland is luckier with ramen, but there’s still no ramen I like better than what you get at this hipster hangout on Smith St. Steaming bowls filled with top quality ingredients make for some mega flavours, and the pork buns are also incredible. Shop Ramen warms my heart, every time.
Thanks to Emirates for giving me a chance to experience Melbourne, and their business class cabin, both were unforgettable.