How I Melbourne: Alice Oehr

Published on 11 May 2021

Photo: Alice Oehr

Alice Oehr is a graphic artist and designer from Melbourne who works with both paper and pixels.

Her distinct, colourful style incorporates a love of food, pattern, collage and drawing. Oehr draws for both business and pleasure, which has led her to teaching, speaking and writing on the subject. “I love to record the world as I move through it,” Oehr says,“and I use my work as a showcase for observations of the details I encounter. She is thrilled to be back at Lamington Drive Gallery with her second solo exhibition, Cake, a tribute to this light-hearted and much beloved subject. Working with a combination of printmaking techniques, Cake explores the textures and garish decorations of cakes and the romance of cake shops.

In the mornings you’ll find me having a slow brekkie at home after training, listening to PBS breakfast radio, trying not to spend the whole thing looking at my phone. I think this is my favourite time of the day – I love my morning routine.

My local is Cibi. They do great coffee and I love their home-style Japanese food.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was… Our city allows for such flexibility in food moments – the ability to fully indulge a food-phase or craving with the options at our disposal is a very Melbourne thing, and I've had many. One lifelong constant for me has been Cafe Grossi. It’s now called the Cellar Bar, and my parents took me to the original as a kid for basic pesto and truly, there’s not much more I want from a meal 20 years later. 

I know I’m in Melbourne when I am absolutely spoilt for choice for dinner options – so many different nationalities of cuisine and styles of venue, so little time. A Melbourne eve always involves a bit of hopping from one place to another; and if the weather behaves, the best nights always include some al fresco dining.

My favourite image of the city in art is… Mirka Mora's inimitable artworks in all their forms (murals, dolls, paintings, mosaics) have defined so many of my experiences of art, culture and food in Melbourne since childhood. Mirka made her art for the people of this city, encompassing its diversity, mix of cultures and vibrance. As she displayed it beyond the confines of the art world, her work resonated – and continues to resonate – with so many in Melbourne who've experienced it.

The best new thing I’ve found is… When Baker Bleu moved north to Marion during lockdown, I quit the home sourdough/focaccia movement on the spot and made the very difficult call of crowning it the greatest bread I’ve ever tasted, including in all of France. Now that Morning Market in Fitzroy is permanent, I may never make bread again.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I like to go for a set menu somewhere. Theres nothing more relaxing that signing on, sitting back and getting fed. No fights over the menu, no food envy; you can just chat, drink and be dazzled by every dish that’s placed in front of you. Whether it’s Jim’s Greek Tavern, Supernormal or Bar Liberty– to me this is always a special treat.

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to one of Andrew McConnell’s restaurants. The food and service are always just the right amount of fancy, but the experience extends to the decor and the design of the space, which I always find really exciting. Marion, Cumulus and Supernormal all provide great people-watching too. 

My go-to spot in regional Victoria is… I must admit I’m mostly a city-slicker, and if I head out of town it’s normally somewhere where cooking dinner will be the main event of the day. 

There’s no better value in Melbourne than a coffee and cannolo at Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is any supermarket that specialises in one cuisine and has every single ingredient required to cook in that style. Just seeing the packaging and reading their names gives me a real thrill of inspiration. Casa Iberica for Spanish food, Hinoki Japanese pantry, Minh Phat for a giant range of Asian ingredients, Psarakos for Greek and of course, the beloved Mediterranean Wholesalers for Italian. 

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be… I get frustrated by the assumption that food has to be fancy to be good – both in ingredients and presentation (thegram is certainly partially to blame). I find sometimes in Melbourne we have a tendency to overdo things in regards to the whole dining experience, which can make it a source of stress rather than fun. The restaurants I enjoy visiting the most often are always low on fanfare, yet still deliver on quality and taste. I love beautifully considered dishes for celebrations, but places that keep it really simple (both in menu and atmosphere) and are not too expensive bring me the most joy. 

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the wide range of cuisines that we are totally spoilt for choice with – I know my strengths in the kitchen, and I love to go out and get dishes I could never make myself. 

Catch Alice Oehr’s Cake at Lamington Drive gallery till 12 June, 52 Budd St, Collingwood, lamingtondrive.com, and follow her further adventures at aliceoehr.com and @aliceoehr.

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