How I Melbourne: Gary Mehigan

Published on July 15 2019.

Photo: Masterchef Australia judge Gary Mehigan

Most nights of the week he’s putting Australia’s culinary hopefuls in the hot seat. Now, it’s Masterchefhost Gary Mehigan’s turn as we press him on his favourite places around town. Before he was a regular presence on TV, Mehigan was taking Melbourne diners on a journey through the wild and wonderful world of molecular gastronomy at Fenix, the Richmond restaurant he opened with Raymond Capaldi in 2000. Today his venue, The Boathouse in Moonee Ponds, serves café favourites on the banks of the Maribyrnong.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I’m wearing my scarf and sunglasses at the same time, sipping a truly great coffee and listening to the trams rumbling past.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was back in 1991 walking up and down Victoria Street in Richmond and checking out all the Vietnamese and Asian grocers, butchers and fishmongers. Lots of super-fresh whole fish, whelks, sea cucumber, coriander, fish sauce, broken rice, wood ear fungus, shredded pork skin, fresh cheung fun, plus a big bowl of Hanoi pho and a crisp banh xeo – I was hooked for life.

The best new thing I’ve found is Lune Croissant. It’s a 30-minute drive but it’s worth it.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I hit Prahran Market and buy up big. Gary’s Meats, Arthur’s Poultry, Pino’s Fine Produce, Claringbold’s Seafood are my regulars, plus Damian Pike for mushrooms and asparagus, Whisked for my eggs and butter and Maker & Monger for a stupendously good cheese.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than breakfast. I’m bold enough to say we put breakfast on the map in Australia, if not the world. And that doesn’t mean eggs and bacon. The rise of the breakfast bowl and breakfast salad, tricked-up bao buns, multidimensional breakfast burgers and the most sophisticated pancakes you have ever seen are proof of Melbourne’s superior breakfast game. It’s the best meal out with friends by far and it doesn’t break the bank.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to all my favourite restaurants and bars to show them a proper Melbourne experience. We always start at Bar Lui at Vue de Monde, then head to either Sunda, Embla, or a Melbourne institution. I like Grossi Florentino, Melbourne Supper Club, Cumulus Inc, Marion, Café Di Stasio or Flower Drum. We’ll end the night at Eau de Vie, The Supper Club or Siglo.

In the mornings you’ll find me walking the dogs in the park come hail, rain or shine. But really it’s just an excuse to stop and fuel my addiction for good coffee at Coffee and Soul.

My local is Millstone in Claremont Street, Malvern because Alice Wright’s pastries are divine. Her pavlova tarts and tiramisù are my favourites.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be nothing. Melbourne has one of the best food scenes in the world.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is all the beautiful parks and gardens. Even though the rest of Australia complains about our weather, it’s the changing seasons that make our city so wonderful.

Masterchef airs at 7.30pm Monday-Thursday on 10. See Gary on the show this week and next, as the competition heats up ahead of the final on 23 July. Follow all the twists and turns on Instagram @masterchefau and, when it's all over, keep up with Gary's adventures on @garymehigan.

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