Published on 11 October 2019
My defining Melbourne food moment was trying to reach for a very large jar of lupini beans at Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick, only to accidentally smash it on the lino. A kind yiayia standing nearby grabbed my hand. “Don’t worry,” she assured me, “I won’t tell anyone.”
I know I’m in Melbourne when I see a line of people waiting outside the latest ramen joint/croissanterie/hot pot restaurant/rainbow grilled-cheese place. I try and remain agnostic to the unending Sydney-Melbourne sparring, but Melbourne wins, hands-down, on its patience to line up for food.
The best new thing I’ve found is the dunkachino at Assembly in Carlton. I don’t even know how to describe this beautiful creation. Basically, it’s a hot chocolate with filter coffee in it. It’s not a mocha. No! The barista, Kiri, will quickly correct you on that. (See, a mocha has espresso in it.) Trying all of the different combinations of chocolate, milk and filter coffee is the best part of the dunkachino. My favourite is dark chocolate with oat milk. It kept me going through Melbourne winter.
When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I double-check someone else is picking up the tab. And then I head to Longsong and trust Dave Moyle, one of TSP’s food editors, will plate up something great. I once ate swordfish there that I swear changed my life.
There’s no better value in Melbourne than the vegetarian noodles at Hi Chong Qing in Carlton. People make a big thing about this place being on the ground floor of a UniLodge, but this is so much better than all the $10 meals I subsisted on during university (read: one vegetarian focaccia and a large soy chai, please). The broth tastes like nothing I've ever eaten – it almost has a medicinal quality, there's an incredible depth of flavour. Hi Chong Qing's owner, Kevin, quit his office job and went to learn how to make these noodles from a master in Chongqing, in south western China. He knows what he's doing.
And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to cook them dinner. I don’t think it’s immodest to say our home throws a good dinner party. Wine would be from Blackhearts & Sparrows, mussels from Mike at Melbourne Farmers Markets, bread from Fatto a Mano, a little antipasto from DOC to start and then handmade pasta (or the real thing from Pasta Classica in Collingwood that everyone will – if all goes to plan – just assume I made).
In the mornings you’ll find me, sitting at my standing desk, hoping someone in the office will take pity on me and bring me a dunkachino. Weekend mornings are usually spent with a long black and the quiz at Napier Quarter, and most likely a serve of their boiled eggs and anchovies.
My local is Lazerpig – it’s the closest pub to my house and the mushroom pizza is too good.
If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be that more bars would stock Becherovka. I can’t find it anywhere. Until I do, that amazing clarified tiramisù punch from Capitano will have to suffice.
But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is how far diners will trek for a good meal. People would literally hike four days through the Victorian highlands in the depths of winter if there was the promise of a good restaurant pop-up on the other side. And they would be happy to wait in line once they got there.
You can pick up The Saturday Paper at your local newsagent every Saturday morning, and follow Maddison on Twitter at @madconnaughton.
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