Published on 2 October 2019
My defining food moment in Melbourne was my first degustation dining experience, which was at Ezard in its heyday. Discovering MoVida – the original – and with it, share plates and vibey, sexy Melbourne laneway dining was another big landmark.
I know I’m in Melbourne when I hear the Formula 1 cars racing around Albert Park Lake from miles away; hit football traffic on Punt Road; see people running the Tan at dusk; pass hundreds of people in line (in the rain) waiting for their next MIFF session; come around the bend on Alexandra Avenue with Como Park and Howard Lawson’s charismatic apartment blocks on one side and the Yarra on the other.
The best new thing I’ve found is Monou, a lovely little Japanese spot in South Melbourne that's detail-oriented but super relaxed. And the lemonade at Above Board in Fitzroy – it's exactly the right amount of liquid lemony tartness, served ice-old. It tastes how I imagine fresh lemonade from one of those old-school stands tastes (or should). And the coffee éclair at the Euro Lounge Patisserie, a totally unassuming little spot serving house-made pastries in an arcade in Armadale.
When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I order the oysters, go hard on multiple starters, get the extra main and say yes to the wine pairing.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than dumplings at Shandong MaMa, and the $15 fruit-and-veg box at Pino's Fine Produce at Prahran Market on Sundays.
And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to drag them to all my favourite places in Melbourne – the ones I feel really epitomise or say something about the city right now – and whinge about the fact they don't have enough time to see everything. Currently a tour might include Napier Quarter, Città, Sunda, Mesob, Embla, Arlechin, Kirk's Wine Bar, City Wine Shop, Marion and/or Supernormal, Bar Lourinhã, the espresso bar at King & Godfree, Leonardo's or Leonard's, Babajan and my partner's restaurant Half Acre. See – not enough time! In the event of a hangover, it's off to Juanita Peaches. Beyond food, I order them to visit at least one of the NGV Australia or International and take a walk through the Botanic or Fitzroy gardens. And Heide, if there's time.
In the mornings you’ll find me at Archie's or Napier Quarter in Fitzroy if it's Monday to Friday. And at Kanteen in South Yarra if it's the weekend. It's a total locals’ hangout by the river, where the dogs sometimes outnumber the humans.
My local is Bistro Thierry because its relaxed but charming, the steak is excellent, and you can BYO. I also must mention Sozai, for my Japanese fix. Pub-wise, it's the Mt Erica.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be that more of our chefs and restaurants and bars got the worldwide recognition they deserve. And I'd be happy to see Instagram-focused cafes close forever. Syringes on food? Why?
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the classics. France Soir, Di Stasio, Jim's Greek Tavern, Pelligrini’s, Punch Lane, Bacash. I hope they stick around until my children's children are around. And, of course, our obsession with good food and drink. It's the best.
See what Katya has been editorially directing over at broadsheet.com.au and follow her further adventures on Instagram at @katyawachtel.
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