How I Melbourne: Lauren Eldridge

Published on 28 May 2019

Photo: Lauren Eldridge

Lauren Eldridge is a pastry chef across the Van Haandel group of restaurants: Stokehouse, Pontoon and Fatto, as well as Stokehouse in Brisbane. A newish citizen of Melbourne, she cut her teeth in Sydney at Marque, where she won the Josephine Pignolet Award in 2015. Lauren’s travels have also taken her to the kitchens of such lauded European establishments as Osteria Francescana in Italy and Le Cinq and Guy Savoy in France. Back in Australia, she joined her fellow Melbourne chefs Karen Martini and Nicky Riemer in headlining this year’s Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch in March, as part of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

She agreed to tell us How She Melbournes on the proviso that we acknowledged that she’s new here. We think it's a pretty great list, regardless. 

I know I’m in Melbourne when I am only a short walk or tram ride from the markets. Between South Melbourne, Queen Vic and Prahan we’re spoilt for choice.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was the crumpets with whipped ricotta and rooftop honey at Cumulus Inc. Before I moved to Melbourne, I insisted on having these every time I visited.

The best new thing I’ve found is the suppliers. Their proximity is much closer to central Melbourne compared to Sydney.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I go to Flower Drum. The saltbush lamb pocket is a favourite.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than the banquet menu at Lee Ho Fook. Victor Liong is among the most talented chefs in the country, so there isn't a single thing on the menu that isn't delicious, but the crisp eggplant with red vinegar is one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. If it’s your first time, opt for the banquet so you can try all of the greatest hits.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to Di Stasio. The flagship St Kilda restaurant is a Melbourne institution, and my current favourite haunt is their new venue, Di Stasio Città. Both have exceptional food and service and I'm lucky enough to live between the two.

In the mornings you’ll find me at South Melbourne Markets on the weekend, drinking a coffee from Padre and eating a pain au chocolat from Agathe Patisserie – one of the only foods that I'm willing to line up for.

My local is Embla. It has great food and interesting wine. It’s a place that I like to take friends and family but I also feel comfortable dining alone there.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here, it would be removing the wait for tables. I love the small, cosy atmosphere in many of the venues around Melbourne, but it does mean on busy nights it can be hard to find a table.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the absence of lockout laws. You can experience so much of what Melbourne has to offer in one night.

Follow more of Lauren’s adventures on Instagram at @lauren.eldridge.

Stokehouse, 30 Jacka Blv, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9525 5555, stokehouse.com.au

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