|melbourne adventures|

Melbourne city is one of my favourites. It feels a little eastern European; with it’s cobbled stone streets, artistic laneways overflowing with cafes and Parisian-esque chairs & tables on the sidewalk facing the street so you can people watch, the wide, sleepy Yarra river that runs through the south city and not to mention the plethora of Italian eateries to round out the European feel. Mum flew down to look after Harley so Jay & I could enjoy 4 fabulous nights down there last week.

Here are the highlights from our adventure:

//Northern Victoria countryside//

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//The Larwill Hotel//

Larwill Luxe; comfy king bed
Larwill Luxe; comfy king bed
small details (clockwise top left): pinboard with little details about the area, artwork on the walls, bathroom, view from the room, wall detail
small details (clockwise top left): pinboard with little details about the area, artwork on the walls, bathroom, view from the room, wall detail

The Larwill is part of the Art Series Hotel group, which are all named after artists and are all furnished with their artworks. The Larwill is a brand-spanking-new hotel; only completed in October 2014, so it is beautifully presented. It’s fairly low-rise with 4 floors. It’s right next to the Melbourne Children’s hospital. The entry and foyer is contemporary and minimalistic with a waiting area that had a communal table and Scandinavian furniture with pops of yellow and complete with a fully loaded book shelf.

We were upgraded to a corner suite on the Eastern side which looks directly over the city. The room was beautiful; spacious and with great little details including the hotel’s resident artworks. The mini-bar had great little Australian treats (wines, cookies, chips, nuts, etc) that were ridiculously expensive, but the bathroom products are luxurious and I thought the quirky little messages were really sweet touches.

The only but significant complaint is that when I booked the hotel, even though I was aware that it was just out of the CBD (located in Parkville), I didn’t realise how inconvenient it would be; there is no direct tram into the CBD, you have to switch at least twice, and there are no cafes or shops within a 10 minute walking distance. Because the hotel was so new, they hadn’t completed it with no restaurant, bar, cafe facilities. On our first night, after being told it was a short 10 minute stroll away, we walked 20 minutes in 41ºC heat to a recommended restaurant. It was a lovely eatery, but we arrived red-faced, sweltering & sweaty! The surrounding area is pretty dead, so we ended up driving to go out & about during out 2 night stay.

street art outside Sosta Italian Restaurant
street art outside Sosta Italian Restaurant

If you’re considering staying here, just make sure you know how to get to any other places you plan on visiting, as it might be easier to stay somewhere more central in the CBD or Southbank.

selfie
mandatory (partial) selfie!

//Crown Metropol hotel//

View from our Crown Metropol hotel room
View from our Crown Metropol hotel room

This is a seriously superb hotel. The valet greets you on arrival, arranges a bellhop for your baggage and takes your car for undercover parking. Check-in was no drama and the room…..

clockwise top left: Crown Metropol foyer, our king deluxe room & the view
clockwise top left: Crown Metropol foyer, our king deluxe room & the view
the bed, amenities & view
the bed, amenities & view

The room was super spacious and had all the little bits & pieces you expect from a 5-star hotel; quality tea & coffee, OK priced mini-bar extras, 24/7 room service, amazing views, swimming pool, day-spa, restaurant and bars, plus direct air-bridge to Crown Casino precinct with a huge variety of restaurants, bars and shopping (Witchery had a great sale!). There is always something happening; downstairs has this buzz of excitement with all the restaurants and gaming, but head up to the top floors and the pool is filled with families and kids having fun and the spa is relaxing and tranquil. The Level 28 bar is sophisticated and laid-back; perfect for a pre-date cocktail (or two) overlooking the incredible city skyline.

Crown Metropol foyer art
Crown Metropol foyer art

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We had cocktails on the rooftop bar before eating at well known Gradi for dinner. Gradi’s owner & exec chef is Johnny Di Francesco who is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules. The pizza was amazing and the cured meats are all cut fresh to order.

Gradi @ Crown
Gradi @ Crown

//Chandon winery//

We visited Moët & Chandon house in Epernay in France, did the limestone cellar tour, tasting and learnt about the history, and have had a romantic respect for them ever since. Domaine Chandon was the first vineyard they set up outside of France and was established in the early 80’s. I’ve wanted to visit there for ages!

Chandon winery & vineyards
Chandon winery & vineyards

We did a self-guided tour, a tasting and then ate in the restaurant.

The production & cellar
The production & cellar
Jay & I eating amazing food & drinking sparkling
Jay & I eating amazing food & drinking sparkling

//Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition @ National Gallery of Victoria//

What a visionary & legendary fashion designer who takes risks and pushes fashion, social & political boundaries with his designs. This exhibition was brilliant!

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//Out & About//

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I want to do it all again!!!

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chet faker

My current musical obsession.

A bearded beatsmith from Melbourne.

Nicholas James Murphy aka Chet Faker.

I read somewhere that Chet’s songs sound like he’s crushed up some valium and sprinkled it on his morning toast…it’s definitely music for a chillout session.

And his debut; a cover of Blackstreet’s hit No Diggity makes 90’s hiphop cool again! But it’s his debut EP Thinking in Textures” that has the most beautiful original mixes, proves that the 23 year old has a great career ahead of him.

It’s a musical mixed bag of night time, jazz infused, laid back, down beat, electro post-dubstep. Brilliant!

and an original

is this the best pizza ever? | +39 Pizzeria

the entrance on Little Bourke St

[via]

Pizza is my weakness. I’m referring to proper Italian pizza, not that tasteless cardboard Pizza Hut and Dominos peddle in the guise of “pizza”.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been slowly working my way through Sydney’s top 10 pizza restaurants (according to the SMH Good Food Guide) and I must say that although Number 3 on their list is Rosso Pomodoro in Balmain, in my heart (and tummy) it is Numero Uno!

Even though I’m in Melbourne, after last night’s perfectly paired pans, my heart has to make way for a new contender. Drum roll please…. +39 Pizzeria on Little Bourke Street.

Oh. My. Lord. it is good pizza. The perfect base; a crust that is crispy yet chewy with the beautifully imperfect shape that only hand spun dough can produce, cooked in a stone oven so it randomly leaves its charred fingerprints on the pizza lip. Topped with the minimalist of ingredients that are traditional, well-thought and executed.

the interior

[via]

last night’s blackboard

From a list of 17 pizza choices, this is what we had.

Starting with wine and an entree

the vino: Gran Sasso Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Like all of their ingredients (I mean ALL including the waiters and down to the salt & pepper on the tables) the wine is Italian. It has a medium body & tannins and tastes of smoky leather and berries, similar to a young shiraz. It’s good!

Collezione Bruschette

The collection of three bruschetta are (L) porcine mushrooms, (M) cherry tomato, buffalo mozzarella & basil pesto and (R) cannellini bean puree with speck.

Diavola

The Diavola is a spicy pizza with Italian tomato salsa, Fior Di Latte (mild cow’s milk mozzarella-style cheese), salami & chilli. Jay & I both agree that the Diavola at Rosso Pomodoro is actually better, but the base on this one….wow!

Sole E Luna & Insalata Mista

The Sole E Luna is a half Calzone pizza filled with ham and Fior Di Latte & half Margherita pizza. I am in heaven! It is possibly the best pizza I’ve ever eaten (big call I know)! We also have the Insalata Mista which is mixed leaf salad with a citrus dressing. I don’t know why I get so excited over well dressed salad leaves but this salad is so divine!

Although their dessert menu looked amazing (house-made Tiramisu & cannoli, Nutella pizza with strawberries & a variety of gelato) we’re too full for dessert. Probably just as well, since I’m waaaaay over my calorie intake for the day! But for an extra couple of kilometers on the treadmill, it was totally worth it!

+39 Pizzeria | 362 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
http://plus39.com.au/

a night with Tarbaby & Oliver Lake

Saturday night we went to a jazz performance by four cool cats from New York City called Tarbaby featuring Oliver Lake.

I don’t know a lot technically about jazz. I just know what type of jazz I like and what I don’t.

Coming from a music background of traditional piano, I love jazz because it’s about soul; playing what you feel and letting the music consume you. I’m often in awe of jazz musicians from a technical stand-point because I can’t understand how they follow the music written on the page. There are times when I can’t pick up the timing. Notes, rifts and melody is often layered amongst a sort of musical puzzle, in a way that if you truly listen, its actually not confusing at all.

I’m a genuine fan of smooth jazz, which takes it’s roots from Rhythm and Blues. Tarbaby hovers on the boundary-breaking edge of that deep velvety jazz and the progressive movement. It’s made up of three explosively talented individuals; Orrin Evans on the piano, Eric Revis on the double bass and Nasheet Waits on the drums. They write a lot of their own music but reinvent covers as well.

Progressive jazz is like a jar full of bumble bees; mesmerizing, beautiful and chaotic. If you lose concentration or zone out for a second, your likely to lose your foothold in the moment. 

All About Jazz wrote that their ensemble is  “stormy sonic serenades and wondrous music that follows wide arcs of evolution…”

Oliver Lake is a progressive jazzist in the true sense of the word. The music he makes from his alto saxiphone is astounding. I’ve never heard sounds like that from a sax before. It’s groundbreaking. The almost-70 year old has been on many a stage and it shows; he’s got a comfortable and commanding presence. No pretenses, just pure musical vision and talent.

While I preferred Tarbaby’s music over Mr Lake’s, I really enjoyed the collaborative performance, which was their debut performance in Australia as part of Melbourne’s 2012 Jazz Festival. Sitting in a darkened theatre just chilling out completely with Jay’s hand on my knee and an apple mojito in my hand. What a brilliant night!

my new Tarbaby CD

Melbourne in pics

I’m in Melbourne for a week. It is freezing.
But so fun!
Jay’s been here a week already for work and I arrived Friday evening.
It’s Monday and the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, I’m working Tuesday/Wednesday and I’ve got Thursday/Friday off (to shop sightsee)!

the view out our room at the Holiday Inn
Whose idea was it to spend Friday night at the footy? 8°C, sleety & frickin freezing! Oh yeah, it was my idea! At least the Tigers won! The sign says it all… “Melbourne & Winter go together”
clash of the Wests Tigers v Melbourne Storm
hotel gym
adorable! horse & carriages in the CBD!
cafes on the cool Degraves Lane
the Williams                                              (aka me & the hubby)
dinner at my all time fave Italian restaurant Bottega on Bourke St. I eat here each time I’m in Melbourne.
Saturday night at the jazz – NYC band Tarbaby
skynet is coming
beautiful gothic church
afternoon beers at James Squire Brewhouse
watching ‘Prometheus’ in a quaint old cinema (awesome movie!!!!)
an exciting Sunday night at the Laundromat!
let the meat-a-thon Korean BBQ begin!
delicious treats at the Cupcake Bakery
hello sunshine!

mr tulk | melbourne cafe review

Three weeks ago today I was eating breakfast with 5 of my favourite people in a little cafe at the bottom of the majestic Victorian State Library in the state’s capital.

Victorian State Library

Mr Tulk cafe was recommended to us by the concierge at our hotel and we were happy to his advice.

coffee brilliance is made here
Mr Tulk interior
library archive art

This is a trendy little cafe; there are wooden tables with bench seats and large umbrellas outside, but it’s too cold so we sit indoors where there is a large communal table in the raised main dining area, surrounded by individual wooden tables and chairs.

the exterior (pic from walkingmelbourne.com.au)

We ordered;

Mr Tulk front page menu

Coffee of course (and Jay & Ian finally got their breakfast Bloody Mary)!

coffee & bloody marys!

We ate;

Mandy had muesli with rhubarb compote
Jay, Janine, Ian & Nath had poached eggs with spinach and corned beef hash
I had avocado on toast with spinach and bacon

We finish with a winter walk in the sun around the library to view the statue of St George slaying the dragon.

St George slaying the dragon

Mr Tulk | State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
ph | 03 8660 5700
hours | Mon-Thu 7am-5pm; Fri 7am-8:45pm; Sat 9am-4pm

grill’d | burger review

Those who know me, know I love a good burger.

I could go so far as to say burgers are one of my favourite foods!

Janine was in amazement when I told her I had never heard of Grill’d Burgers before considering there is one right near us in Darling Harbour (having since gone there, I do remember actually seeing it before but it didn’t register at the time)…

My first life changing moment with my Grill’d burger occurred on Degraves Lane in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago.

Grill’d Burger is seriously good. Seriously cool. Seriously mouth-watering. Seriously burger. There is no ridiculous fancy-pants Turkish bread or aoli. It’s the perfect beef (or chicken/lamb/veggie if that’s your thing) burger pattie with classic accompaniments like pineapple, beetroot, egg and bacon.

Grill'd Degraves Lane (photo from LittleCupcakes)
the clever wall art
wall @ Grill'd Darling Harbour

For a moment, I am lost in the menu. So many delicious burgers. So little tummy space.

the menu

How can I go past the Summer Sunset; grilled 100% lean beef, avocado, crispy trim bacon, golden pineapple, salad, relish and herbed mayo. For $0.80 I get extras of beetroot and pickles.  It’s a towering inferno that I can’t fit my mouth around, but it is seriously good. 

Summer Sunset burger

Jay goes for the Mighty Melbourne (or called the Almighty in Sydney); grilled 100% lean beef, tasty cheese, crispy trim bacon, free range egg, a couple of slices of beetroot with salad, relish and herbed mayo.

Mighty Melbourne (aka the Almighty)

The chips deserve their own shrine. For starters, they aren’t fries! They are chips. They are fat, crispy, herbed potato on the outside and fluffy starchy goodness on the inside. You can get them served with several different dipping sauces (herbed-mayo, tomato sauce, tomato relish, sweet chilli mayo).

chips

Jay orders with a lunchtime beer which, hurrah! comes in pints.

a pint of Little Creatures pale ale

Whatever your burger preference, Grill’d has it covered. And its all good!

Check here for Grill’d locations, but if you live in Oz they are located in 5 out of the 8 states. 

Joy!

aerial ping pong | guest post by Nathan

Some facts about my friend Nath;

  • I’ve known him since I was 13-ish
  • We were on the swim team together for 5 years
  • For about 2 weeks in year 10, I had a crush on his twin brother
  • I used to beg him and Grant to dress the same (much to their disgust)
  • He’s a fantastic electrical conductor; he’s a Sparky who’s been seriously electrocuted a couple of times, and
  • He was hit by lightening while out sailing.
  • He once ate raw oysters off a rock with me at dawn
  • He’s quite stubborn
  • He was one of my husband’s groomsmen
  • Last year he ran through the pitch-black jungles in Borneo following a tribe of headhunters
  • Last year he married a wonderful girl named Mandy who has turned out to be one of my good girlfriends
  • He makes a good home brew
And he’s my guest blogger today! Here is his wonderful account of our Melbourne adventure to an AFL match…
.
Words by Nathan:
ψψψψψ

To the unobservant eye it was just like any other ordinary Saturday, it was June 11th 2011 and it started just like every other, I woke up as I have done each and every Saturday since the day I was born. But that is where the similarities ended.

It was the first morning of our long Victorian weekend and although all participants may not have acknowledged it, as travelling through Paris a visit to the Eiffel tower is a given, when in Melbourne a sporting event at the MCG is a necessity. A few distractions before the big event were inevitable, I had to have a shower and brush my teeth, breakfast and coffee in some cute little cafe, knitting in Federation square, catching trams and cheeky beers at noon. All things to pass the time before the main reason for visiting the southern state of Victoria – Geelong Cats V Hawthorn Hawks at the “ G “ (that’s what Victorians call the Melbourne Cricket Ground)

The evening was always going to be cold so the correct attire was required to ensure maximum comfort and enjoyment. We all purchased new scarfs to support our team. It might have been viewed as an attempt to blend in with the local Victorians and we definitely didn’t let on that our first choice would have been to watch the Rebels or Storm play. I like to believe that Geelong embraced its six newest and relatively uneducated AFL supporters along with a Hawks supporter who took time out from feeding his 10 month old son a greasy McWhopper burger to inform us of the unlimited interchange rule and the confusing time keeping methods.

The first bounce was everything we could have hoped for, cheering supporters, giant pom poms behind goals, soul warming takeaway food, icy cold beer and scantily clad cheerleaders … maybe the cold weather kept them away? It is difficult to understand how the umpires keep their jobs as the extreme number of knock ons, forward passes and offside infringements that were missed was unbelievable.

Putting the umpires deplorable performance aside, the game was played at a fast pace and the athleticism of the players was unquestionable. I’m not sure if this is the correct terminology for the code of football but the MVP for the game was never in doubt after a first half bag of 6 goals from Podsy (he plays for our team the Cats and a goal is when they kick the ball between the two tallest sticks), The Go To Man, target el Podsy. Not wanting to rub salt into the wounds of the Hawks but Podsy was undefendable, be the man 10 foot tall and bullet proof.

The 63 thousand 4 hundred and 76 strong crowd definitely got their money’s worth. From the unquestionably talented busker outside the “ G “ to the short queue for food and beer along with a game of aerial ping pong between two of the great teams in the League a fantastic evening was had by all including the six newest, scarf wearing  Geelong supporters.

To be serious the game was great to watch live and the result was not decided until the final siren with only 5 points the final margin. Watching Buddy Franklin run around only proved he is an amazing talent and although he played on the unsuccessful side that night he stood out not only on stature but in his performance.

The final siren went and with the crowds dispersing and every tram overfull to bursting with people we decided to leg it back into the city and burn off some of the calories we had partaken in that evening. Although walking back to our hotel was not the ideal scenario…

AFL was the winner on the night!
Geelong Cats 13.10.88 v Hawthorn Hawks 13.5.83
.
the end
.
Nath & Mandy; on the way to the game
Janine & Ian; on the tram to the game
Mel & Jay; on the way to the game
63,476 supporters to be exact!

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*We initially found the points scoring confusing, but once it was explained it was actually pretty cool. Here is the best way I can explain the scoring: 

(My goodness! It’s like an equation!)

andiamo cafe | degraves lane | melbourne

Degraves Street and Lane in Melbourne are named after two brothers who were pioneer settlers in the mid 1800’s. They arrived from Tasmania in 1849 and set up grazing farms in Melbourne. The streets are located near Flinders St Station and Degraves Lane is famous for it’s European cafe culture.

Degraves Street Melbourne

My first walk down Degraves and I’m transported back to Montemarte in Paris; it’s cobbled stone street, little hole-in-the-wall coffee vendors, green & white lattice chairs and the abundance of cafes and little specialty stores. It’s so cute!

Degraves Lane
Degraves Lane

The six of us eat breakfast at Andiamo Cafe which is a really cool space; rustic chunky wooden furniture, recycled industrial accessories on the tables and a giant over-sized brown paper butcher’s roll on the wall on which the menu is written. It’s busy and packed full of people wanting Sunday brekkie and coffee. We’re squeezed into a communal table with chunky wooden block stools.

Adiamo cafe

 We drink; coffees and fresh juices

coffee
freshly squeezed juice

We eat; 

big breakfast (poached)
big breakfast (scrambled)
big breakfast with avocado
French toast with Andrew's sausages
Mediterranean breakfast
Special: Mexican breakfast

I have the Mexican brekkie; it’s a flour tortilla heaped with fresh grilled corn, wilted spinach, poached eggs and avocado salsa. I’m in heaven!

Andiamo cafe | 36 Degraves Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph |  03 9650 8060