How I Melbourne: Miss Pearls

Published on 11 December 2019

Photo: Madame Brussels co-owner Miss Pearls (credit: Simon Schluter, The Age)

There are bar managers and then there is Miss Pearls. Paula Scholes was part of the team who opened Madame Brussels 14 years ago and her Miss Pearls persona is so embedded in the bar’s DNA, it’s hard to know which came first. With off-beat country club styling complete with stretches of artificial lawn and staff in tennis costumes, Madame Brussels redefined what a city cocktail bar could be. As co-owner, manager, hostess, creator of good times and mentor, Pearls has been an essential ingredient in the bar’s success. Recently recognised with a Legend Award at Time Out Melbourne’s annual bar awards, she said, “We wanted to bring a convivial, rambunctious, fun place where people could enjoy a drink together. We shifted the goalposts when it came to having fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, even though our product is polished.” Raise a glass to Miss Pearls.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne is in fact two very strong memories from my childhood. The first is going to the “chows” (aka Poons) in Footscray circa 1970, with casserole dishes in hand to pick up our dinner. The other is eating half an avocado with prawns and sauce in Williamstown when I was eight years old and thinking it was terribly gour-met.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I can have a drink or snack around the clock in many groovy venues.

The best new thing I’ve found is WesEggs. Organic, small farm and they make the best poached egg ever.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I go straight to Aptus Seafood at the South Melbourne Market. Not only do they have the best fish for my famous spaghettini marinara, but they also have the hottest Mediterranean shopkeep who enjoys a good flirt. For the marinara, I buy king prawns, scallops, clams, pipis and snapper fillets, make a sauce of chilli, garlic, white wine and roasted cherry tomatoes, then add dill and fresh parsley to finish plus a pinch of cheekiness leftover from the market encounter.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than Glenda Pho in Port Melbourne. It cures all my ills.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to Stokehouse for the view, the room, the staff and, of course, the food. I have a long love affair with the “Stoke”. I worked there many years ago as the door bitch upstairs. The stories I could tell…

In the mornings you’ll find me in bed with a cup of Earl Grey, the paper and the puppy. Otherwise, I’ll be at Canteen run by Bradley at South Melbourne Market. It’s got the trifecta of great coffee, excellent food and a good dirty joke from Brad.

My local is Misuzu’s because it’s local, it’s been around for yonks and it’s super friendly. I can arrive alone and then take a party of locals home.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be supporting small businesses, helping them to pay for rising rents and insurance driven up by the big boys in town. We need to maintain the unique Melbourne culture that separates us from the rest of Australia.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is the beauty of Asian food, partly fuelled by our collective addiction to it. I miss it so when I’m in Europe and when I come back, I absolutely pig out. I just love it!

Say hi to Miss Pearls at Madame Brussels, Level 3, 57-59 Bourke St, Melbourne. It’s open noon-1am, seven days.


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