Grab your Myki travel card and hop on the Melbourne tram, because you have some work to do. The foodie scene in the capital of Victoria, on the southeastern side of Australia, is a gourmand’s playground.
A testament to Melbourne’s international culinary chops, Cake Street in St. Kilda is famous for its string of Polish and Eastern European bakeries. The veritable Monarch Cakes (103 Acland St., (+61) 3-9534-2972, www.monarchcakes.com.au) has been pumping out its famous silky chocolate Kugelhupf cake from this quaint storefront since 1934. Many of the recipes were inherited from the family’s original shop in Poland—and everything you see is made from scratch.
Order: You have to get the Kugelhupf—don’t try to pronounce, just point! While you’re there, dig into a Polish cheesecake too, which is made with a 100-year-old recipe.
Find your way through the graffitied laneways for Spanish tapas at Movida (1 Hosier Lane, (+61) 3-9663-3038, movida.com.au). This long-standing favorite is a Melbourne institution, with four iterations and counting in the city. Each branch is a little different, but we’d recommend the original spot off Flinders Street. Expect a mix of creative bite-sized tapas and bigger ración to share.
Order: We loved the house cold-smoked Spanish mackerel, spiced chicken salad, and duck liver pâté and foam on brioche. Or just get one of everything!
Melbourne has long been a champion of coffee, but now the city’s picking up some donut chops too. Artisanal bakers are popping up in the laneways to serve these meticulously crafted sweets. Try Short Stop (12 Sutherland St., www.short-stop.com.au), where donuts are made fresh all day behind the counter and you can count on a good long black to match.
Order: We have nothing but praise for the Earl Grey and Rose and the Bourbon Crème Brulée (US$4.50) donuts. Except that they didn’t last long enough.
One of Melbourne’s greatest assets is genuinely awesome coffee. Even if you don’t know your Aeropress from your elbow, the baristas at Seven Seeds (106-114 Berkeley St., (+61) 3-9347-8664, sevenseeds.com.au) will get you sorted with beans from Latin America and Africa. The place balances out its hipster farm-grunge-chic surrounds with earnestly helpful staff and great food, too.
Order: Ask one of the servers to walk you through the day’s beans, as they shift seasonally. Try a short black roast for maximum flavor; or a short white for smoother sips.
For a sure-fire beer experience, pull up a stool at Little Creatures (222 Brunswick St., (+61) 3-9417-5500, www.littlecreatures.com.au). The tap house is huge and happening, with open-air seating and a “sampler” board (US$11) that features a smattering of seasonals and signatures, including the rightly well known Little Creatures Pale Ale.
Order: Try the citrusy IPA, and the Rogers’ beer, which balances caramel and hops.
Where to Stay
Cool Kids: Hole up at The Prince hotel in St. Kilda, one of Melbourne’s artsier neighborhoods. The boutique design hotel sports stylish rooms, spa-like bathrooms and several notable restaurants. Though it’s not in the center of town, The Prince is in a great neighborhood for live music, harbor sunsets and beach bumming—there’s a stretch of sand just across the street.
From US$156, including an awesome breakfast. 2 Acland St., St. Kilda, (+61) 3-9536-1111, www.theprince.com.au.
Classy Cats: The sophisticated Lyall Hotel & Spa is located on a quiet, leafy street in South Yarra. The neighborhood is a go-to for great brunch—don’t miss Two Birds One Stone (twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au)—and upscale shopping, along Toorak Road and Chapel Street. The hotel itself is an all-suite deal, though the rooms are a little drab. Excellent service and a super luxurious spa make up for it.
From US$200. 16 Murphy St., South Yarra, (+61) 3-9868-8222, thelyall.com.
No trip to Melbourne is complete without one thing: wine. Famous for excellent pinot noir and chardonnay producers, the Mornington Peninsula, south of the city, is a great way to explore the region’s wine circuit. Here are a few of our favorites.
Start at the rustic, open-air Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove (33 Shoreham Rd., www.montalto.com.au), where you can sit outside and contemplate your wine in peace.
Then head to Port Phillip Estate (263 Red Hill Rd., www.portphillipestate.com.au), an architectural marvel with sexy, sleek interiors and floor-to-ceiling views of the vineyards.
Just for fun: Round off a romantic day with a dip in the Peninsula Hot Springs (from US$30 per person, www.peninsulahotsprings.com), where you can join the crowds or opt for an intimate private grotto.
Where to Stay
Big Blue Backyard is one of the coolest places I have ever stayed. A warm couple, Paul and Lisa Dempsey, runs this unique property, with three “hideaway” cottages scattered among a huge plot of forested land. A maze of arched trees and blooming bushes lead to dramatic cliffs overlooking St. Andrews Beach. Paul is a trained chef who cooks up a storm: the rate includes a bountiful in-room breakfast spread, and you can also arrange private dinners. I’m still daydreaming about Paul’s peppercorn steak with its jus. It’s a must if you’re in Mornington.
From US$515 per night. 56 Paradise Drive, St. Andrews Beach, (+61) 3-5988-6011, www.bigbluebackyard.com.au.
Getting Around: You’ll need to hire a car to get around. Try Hertz (from US$50 per day, www.hertz.com.au). Alternatively, check out Top Drops private wine tours (from US$42 per person for full-day tour, www.luxurywinetoursvictoria.com.au).