How I Melbourne: Aaron Turner

Published on 16 August 2019

Photo: Igni chef Aaron Turner (credit: Julian Kingma)

Chef Aaron Turner has done plenty to lure Melburnians across the West Gate, first with Loam on the Bellarine Peninsula and now with his Geelong fine-diner Igni. And while he might be known for putting western Victoria on the map with those two award-winning spots (plus his side hustle, The Hot Chicken Project), Turner still has plenty to say about eating in Melbourne.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I’m on the street on a mild and overcast day and I almost get run over by a tram.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was when I accidentally went to Vue de Monde in Carlton. I had just started my cooking career and stumbled in not knowing what it was or what I was in for and it blew me away. I knew I wanted to work with the same precision and attention. The dish that I remember the most is a saddle of rabbit, with each rib bone supremely clean and a perfectly balanced sauce. I couldn’t afford to drink any wine so I just drank tap water. I think I spent my whole week’s wage on the meal but it was totally worth it

The best new thing I’ve found is emu bush, a native that we use at Igni in all sorts of ways, from desserts to a savoury native herb croissant, which we serve with lamb gravy as a dipping sauce. I stumbled across emu herb through Andrew Fielke in South Australia and it’s been a staple in the kitchen ever since.

Music-wise, I’ve been delving deep in to the record collection and re-discovering some real gems from Melbourne’s heyday of hardcore and punk: Mindsnare, Mid Youth Crisis, Within Blood, H-Block 101 and Crettins Puddle.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than a sandwich from Casa Iberica deli in Fitzroy, loaded with good salami, Manchego, olives and roast peppers.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to hit the well-worn trail that starts at Embla for a bottle and snacks, Ombra for a Spritz and cheese, City Wine Shop for a glass or two, then Tipo 00 for dinner before finishing up at Kirks Wine Bar for whatever’s needed after that. For a different kind of dazzle, I’ll take them to Sydney Road for falafel from A1 Bakery or Very Good Falafel.

In the mornings you’ll find me at work with a coffee or a piece of fruit, sorting through the produce for the day.

My regular for coffee in Melbourne is Patricia. I love the space and the standing-only vibe – and the coffee is always en pointe.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be less burgers. Outside of a really good basic cheeseburger in a diner somewhere, I’m not that into them. And once you’ve had a burger form Brown’s Diner in Nashville, all others seem pointless.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is Melbourne being Melbourne. It’s hard to describe what that quality is, but it’s uniquely a city all its own.

Take a look at what the Igni team are up to over at @restaurantigni or keep tabs on Aaron’s favourite records and latest dishes at @aaronigni.

Igni, Ryan Pl, Geelong, (03) 5222 2266, restaurantigni.com.au

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