How I Melbourne: Jane Harper

Published on 28 September 2020

Photo: Author Jane Harper

Jane Harper is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her fourth book, The Survivors, has just been published. Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, and The Dry has been adapted into a major motion picture starring Eric Bana. She lives in bayside Melbourne with her husband and two children.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was wandering around the fresh produce aisles at the Queen Victoria Market. My parents used to take me and my siblings there when I was younger, before my family moved to the UK when I was 14. I moved back to Melbourne on my own when I was 28, and on my first morning in the city I was alone and flirting with homesickness, so I went to the market and it reminded me of the reasons I’d been drawn back to Australia.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I arrange to meet up with a friend and they suggest eating somewhere I’ve never even heard of before. I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the sheer range of great options available herre.

The best new thing I’ve found is not exactly something you could really call ‘new’, but it was great to see The Espy in St Kilda reopen a couple of years ago after its major refurbishment.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I would be tempted to suggest afternoon tea at the Hotel Windsor. My husband Pete and I stayed there before and after our wedding in 2015, so it’s always associated with happy memories for me.

There’s no better value in Victoria than ice-cream and a beer at Beachcombers on the St Kilda foreshore. The waterfront view and the opportunity for people-watching is well worth the price.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to the Atrium Bar on 35 in the Sofitel on Collins St. It’s a gorgeous place for a drink, and the 35th-floor view from its toilets surely has to be the best in town.

In the mornings you’ll find me offering my three-year-old and nine-month-old whatever they want for breakfast (as long as it’s toast or Weetbix). Sometimes on weekends the three-year-old and I make pancakes for a change. We’ve started baking easy things as an activity to do together, and that’s always fun.

If you looked in my fridge, you might be surprised to find how many of our meals are outdoor-grill inspired. My husband Pete is a bit of master with a grill, so he gets out there most nights and dishes up something delicious.

My local is Abbey Road Café in St Kilda. It’s run by friendly people, there’s loads of space and seating and it’s a great place to go with the kids.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking in Melbourne it would be the opportunity to do it more. Before I became an author, I worked on a newspaper in the CBD and I used to go out quite a lot and tried new places. Now I work alone from a small office near my home, which has a lot of advantages, but spontaneous social situations are not one of them!

But the one thing I hope never changes here is how passionate Melburnians are about their food. It’s lovely being part of a city where we get so much joy out of meeting each other for drinks or a meal, and there’s never a shortage of people happy to recommend their new discoveries and tried-and-tested favourites.

Jane Harper’s new book, The Survivors, is published by Pan-Macmillan and is available now.