How I Melbourne: Isobel Beech

Published on 10 June 2022

Photo: Isobel Beech (photo: Claire Summers).

Isobel Beech is a fiction writer, copywriter, and freelance editor living on Wurundjeri country.

Her first book, the non-fiction How to Be Online and Also Be Happy (published by Hardie Grant) was a sort-of guide to living online and not letting it destroy you. 

Her second book, Sunbathing – a novel about friendship, the Italian countryside, and recovery from grief – was released 3 May via Allen & Unwin to widespread acclaim and rave reviews from The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald, among many others. It was Readings’ Fiction Book of the Month for May.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I can meet friends for knock-offs, go for dinner, then to the pub, find a late-night bar, walk home, and never travel more than a few blocks.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was walking down Smith Street as a kid with my mum and brother and grabbing a hot, crunchy spanakopita at Melissa for lunch.

The best new thing I’ve found is Bar Holiday in Carlton or the new Skydiver Records. Love a low-key, well-lit watering hole. 

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I simply must go to Jim’s Greek Tavern. There’s no doing anything by halves at Jim’s. You’re going to be leaving at what my step mum calls “pussy’s bow” (so full that the food’s practically up to the little bow around your neck. You’re a cat in this scenario.)

There’s no better value in Melbourne than a bag of six hot jam doughnuts at the Vic Market, a banh mi at N Lee in Collingwood, a pho at Pho Hung in Preston, a barbecue chicken ramen at Shop Ramen, or anything at all at Soi 38.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to pay a visit to the Marquis of Lorne. Fun, loud, good food, and makes you appear very popular because you run into approximately one hundred people you know. Also very keen on taking people to Gerald’s, or Supper Inn for a 2am feed.

In the mornings you’ll find me brushing my teeth, feeding my cat, then jumping on the train with a coffee and listening to some unhinged hyperpop on the iPhone. I don’t have a morning go-to café at the moment because I moved to East Melbourne and haven’t quite found The One yet.

My local is The Retreat on Nicholson Street in Abbotsford. The perfect, round-the-way, leafy-street pub with frosty pints, footy on the TV, and shots in the front bar. And Raffles Place, the "carrot" cake and lobak are my favourite.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be BREAKFAST. Breakfast. Please, for the love of God, whoever’s in charge of the breakfast in this city, give the people what they want. Coffee, juice, eggs, toast, bagels, pancakes. Warm. Quiet-ish. The paper should be around so as to do the quiz. No soba noodles or ancient grains necessary. And please nobody else go there, I can’t line up for breakfast anymore. Breaks my heart. 

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the long-standing places. Sometimes it can feel like the shiny new stuff is encroaching on the old, but there are so many mainstays and Melbourne institutions that are still thriving and it’s such a beautiful thing.

Sunbathing is out now via Allen & Unwin, and is available at all of your favourite book stores, including Readings, Hill of Content and Paperback Bookshop. You can follow Isobel Beech on Instagram at @isobelbeechdotcom

You might also like