By Liz Ledden. First published on Travel Wire Asia, 22 July 2012
MELBOURNE offers a little touch of cosmopolitan Europe in Australia – think a cool, cultured urban centre, winding laneways packed with cafes, hidden arcades and interesting neighbourhoods. Melbourne attracts weekend getaway crowds for its sporting and cultural events, but these drawcards aside, there are excellent eats, small bars and cafes to explore. Here is a trio of possible pitstops on a quick Melbourne getaway:
Brother Baba Budan
There is coffee available on every corner in Melbourne, and though the city has a reputation for serving up some of Australia’s best brews, it still pays to seek out some of the better coffee establishments for a quality cup. Seven Seeds is one of the city’s more serious coffee purveyors, with an emphasis on single origin brews and blends using ethically sourced coffee bought direct from farmers from around the world, and then roasted on-site. Brother Baba Budan is one of three cafes operated by the Seven Seeds crew, with others in Carlton and Fitzroy. This outlet is named after the 17th century Islamic scholar who is said to have smuggled seven seeds of fertile coffee out of Yemen and have them planted in Southern India, thus beginning the global coffee trade. Tiny, with a rustic, industrial fitout (check out the wooden chairs suspended from the ceiling) the small space concentrates on coffee and coffee equipment – pick up a handgrinder or Aeropress with your Seven Seeds latte or single origin espresso.
Brother Baba Budan, 359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, tel: 03 9606 0449
A seriously cool Mexican restaurant, Senoritas has a more downtown NYC vibe than the generic Tex-Mex diner the name evokes. Dark and moody with Day of the Dead inspired décor, the restaurant has a lively atmosphere, perhaps in part due to its lengthy tequila and margarita menu (think jalapeno infused cocktails and rare, aged tequilas). The menu is authentic and tempting – the head chef is Mexican, and has a culinary pedigree including a stint at the Mexican embassy in Switzerland. Dishes include Senoritas take on ceviche, featuring kingfish and scallops, a delicious cactus tostada, and slow roasted pork on a corn tortilla with sides including a fiery habanero salsa. A standout is the Oaxacan tamale filled with roast duck and tamarind mole, and there’s much, much more to tempt. It’s best to come with a group to sample as many of Senoritas small plates as possible.
Senoritas, 16 Meyer Place, Melbourne, tel: 03 9639 7437
The perfect place to be on a cold Melbourne night, Double Happiness is a small vintage/retro style bar featuring a roaring fireplace, a cozy ambience and kitsch Chinese propaganda posters and trinkets decking the walls. It’s dark, moody and charmingly low-key, with its Asian theme evoking cool, off the radar finds in Bangkok or Shanghai. If you’ve been to Asia you may wince at paying nearly $10 for a beer that may set you back a $1 at a bia hoi stop in Hanoi, but the cocktails are excellent and well worth it – try the potent lychee martini to evoke holidays and happiness in Asia, or just to celebrate a weekend of food finds in buzzing Melbourne.
Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne, tel: 03 9650 4488