Hailing from Kunming in China, Louis Li moved to Melbourne in 2007 to study film before opening famed Mornington Peninsula hotel Jackalope in 2017. Since then, he has staged a wildly successful modern art installation in Melbourne, Rain Room, and is looking to propel Australia’s Black Star Pastry, famous for its strawberry watermelon cake, to the world – a project that has just been advanced by the opening of a new store in the Melbourne CBD on Driver Lane. A devotee of art and design, Louis embraces the global art scene and continues to expand the rebellious and dynamic Jackalope Art Collection.
Here’s how he does Melbourne in style.
In the mornings you’ll find me reading an issue of Brutus magazine on my rooftop terrace with a home-made green smoothie.
My local is St Ali in South Melbourne; they do the best coffee in my neighbourhood. I love it so much we collaborated with them to introduce their coffee blends into both Jackalope Hotel and Black Star Pastry.
My defining food moment in Melbourne was having the tuna tartare with crushed peas at Cumulus Inc. Flinders Lane used to be a frequent hangout of mine for project meetings and other activities and I always found myself coming back to Cumulus for this dish. I’m obsessed with its simplicity and sophistication.
The best-looking dining room in Melbourne is Victor Churchill. A handsome 12-seat marble bar surrounded by theatrical copper arches, dry-aging room, charcuterie counter and a well-stocked pantry. Certainly not your everyday butcher shop experience.
I know I’m in Melbourne when I drive along Beach Road on my way home from work, seeing the palm trees silhouetted in the Port Phillip Bay sunset.
The best new thing I’ve found is the MGX Burger at Bar Margaux. It’s a perfect late-night supper. It’s not a new thing for the city, but having been overseas for the past two years, it’s new to me!
When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to NGV to see a current exhibition, then make the short walk over the bridge to Hosier Lane to appreciate some street art. A dinner at Supernormal with my all-time favourite lobster roll, then end up in The Lui Bar with Melbourne’s skyline at night.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than the famed chicken sandwich from Hector’s Deli. The OG Richmond joint is my go-to.
My favourite place to stock up on supplies is South Melbourne Market. It’s close to where I live, and it is simply the best market in Melbourne.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be… I was devastated when Lau’s Family Kitchen closed in The Prince precinct. I would do anything to have their lamb spring rolls and salt and pepper whiting on a regular basis.
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the Momo (the Japanese white peach) oolong super-grade tea from Lupicia at QV.
Black Star Pastry’s newest branch is at shop 4, 8 Driver Lane, Melbourne, blackstarpastry.com; follow Louis Li’s further hospitality and art adventures at @blackstarpastry, @jackalopehotels, @rainroomaus and @_louisli.