Published on July 30 2019.
Kirsha Kaechele is the First Lady of Mona. One of her chief interests as an artist and curator is the space where complex problems exist – for her, they are simply a medium for art. Her book and exhibition, Eat the Problem, invade the mainland this August, kicking off with a special collaborative dinner at Vue de Monde on 6 August.
I know I’m in Melbourne when I walk out of our apartment on Queen Street and am greeted by every Asian cuisine I could dream of, and the bustle of a huge city (we live in Hobart, a comparably small town). But I really know I’m in Melbourne when I walk up Flinders Lane, past all the cool characters from a generation before me in their all black asymmetry, the ones that made the city cool, opened the hip establishments which are still the most architectural, minimalist, sophisticated; and we walk down the graffiti lane (now a set for photoshoots by international Instagrammers) and into MoVida, where I have a lunchtime sangria (with soda water instead of lemonade), Padrón peppers (one in nine guaranteed to set the mouth aflame) and my absolute favourite dish in the city, cold-smoked mackerel with pine-nut ice cream (smoke spilling everywhere when you lift the cast-iron lid), which in fact has changed to swordfish instead, a move I wish was more sustainable but I suspect is not, so they probably ought to go back to using mackerel.
My defining food moment in Melbourne was the first bite of that mackerel and getting smashed at lunch. Which I never do anywhere else, I assure you.
The best new thing I’ve found is this very ornate hot pot place on La Trobe Street. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks so good.
When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I hit Vue de Monde. We always have a blast and the food never ceases to amaze.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than… I really would like the answer to be a 24 Carrot Garden in every school, starting with the most disadvantaged. Kids growing and preparing the freshest, finest, most beautiful food, for free, for themselves and their communities. Get me a donor and we’ll be eating there every lunch.
And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to wander the city using only the laneways. My American friends are always stunned to see that you can cross a large city in its entirety without enduring a single block of traffic. It is actually a miracle. We might then try to find Above Board for a cocktail, which I never have – it remains a mystery. We give up and walk to Fitzroy for an afternoon cocktail at The Everleigh, then I tour them through the Queen Vic Market’s cheese and olives and anchovies where we feel like we are at the San Miguel market in Madrid, except we are next door to our apartment. So we go there and have a little wine with our purchases and enjoy the view, all the new skyscrapers closing in, Melbourne looking like a serious city, until it’s time for dinner and a walk back through the laneways. We could go somewhere cool like Tipo OO, but alas, I am not cool, so we go to Rosetta in the casino, which itself is corporate but the interior of Rosetta is not. And the food and wine list are so good. I always comment on the scalloped edges of the menu (pink, before the millennials caught on) and the waiter is always irritated. We order the Gaja rioja and we’re good to go.
In the mornings you’ll find me trying hard not to eat breakfast and getting ketonic for at least a couple of hours so I can really go for it at lunch and dinner, not to mention an abundant cocktail hour complete with cheese board, while retaining some semblance of a figure. But for coffee I hit Krimper (next door) and if a hangover really requires breakfast I go for scrambled eggs with chilli and feta at Kirk’s, my neighbourhood establishment.
My local is Kirk’s because it’s close, and I always run into a neighbour who rejected my dismembered rabbit image from the building's billboard (because “it was over the top” – a seniment that in no way applied to the picture of chicken nuggets that took its place, which incidentally, I think are over the top) and she is very lovely (gives me a kiss, even) despite the fact she hates my art. Which confuses and energises me, and is even more effective at getting my blood going than a cup of coffee.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be to have some kind of app that shows me where the eggs at every restaurant come from, so that I’ll know not to be scared of factory-farmed eggs when I go into a little hole-in-the-wall with enticingly exotic cuisine.
But I'd really love to see communal urban chickens in the back lanes of restaurants, those communal back areas that once accommodated the passage of human excrement, the honey-wagon lanes, all converted to gardens full of chickens that eat the food waste of every house and restaurant and render the above app irrelevant.
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is that Melbourne should just stay cool. Because it really is. It’s our urban oasis.
The limited edition Eat the Problem book, $277.77 is on sale now, and the exhibition runs at Mona until 2 September. mona.net.au/eat-the-problem
Tickets for Vue de monde x Mona: Eat the Problem on Tuesday 6 August are on sale now. $250 per person for a six-course menu with matched wines. Reservations and enquiries: (03) 9691 3888 or vueshop.com.au