How I Melbourne: Jane Willson

Published on 16 May 2019

Photo: Jane Willson

A former editor of Epicure, the food section of The Age, Jane Willson has been with Hardie Grant Publishing since 2013, and in her role there as publishing director she is responsible for a broad, ambitious food-centric list that includes Victorian talents such as Igni chef Aaron Turner, Smith & Daughters’ Shannon Martinez and baker Michael James. This year, she’s fortunate to have worked with the likes of Atlas Dining’s Charlie Carrington, Attica sommelier Jane Lopes, renowned Japan expert Nancy Singleton-Hachisu, Matthew Evans, and “the New York Nigella”, Alison Roman, each with exciting upcoming 2019 books to watch out for.

I know I’m in Melbourne when it’s eight degrees on a Tuesday night and I join the queue snaking down Lygon Street for Pidapipo gelato.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was… well, first is perhaps a push, but I do have happy/old memories of sitting in the back room at I Carusi during its first incarnation drinking wine from tumblers, eating pizza, obviously, and feeling pretty happy with the world. I have tried to channel that feeling at Kaprica more recently, but you can’t go back.

The best new thing I’ve found is cheese. It’s a remarkable cellar-aged gouda called L'Amuse. My friend who sells cheese recounted to me stories of spending the day hanging out recently with the awesome Dutch affineur Betty Koster. After that, I tried her cheese. There’s a goat’s milk version too, L’Amuse Brabander. It’s been available around town since January.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I try my luck on the waitlist for a seat at the bar at Navi – part of the joy is watching Julian Hills at work. And I get to walk home.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than Indian from Bikaner in Dandenong. I’d go there for the onion bhaji alone.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, it depends how long I have. One night only? Kangaroo and pav at Sunda. A day and a night? I would head for the Great Ocean Road. Starting with lunch at The Hot Chicken Project in Anglesea, swims at Sunnymeade in Aireys Inlet, then early dinner at Ipsos in Lorne. There’s a warmth in that room created by the Talimanidis brothers.

In the mornings you’ll find me drinking coffee at home. Market Lane beans, but my partner is the best barista I know. And my granola is OK too.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be attitude. Theirs, not mine.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is farmers’ markets, Dr Marty’s secret crumpet recipe, the reliability of McConnell venues. Yes, sorry, that’s three.

Check out Hardie Grant’s latest books, or, for more of Jane’s adventures, on- and off-book follow @janeswillson (with two Ls), and @hardiegrantbooks.

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