How I Melbourne: Russel Howcroft

Published on 21 November 2019

Russel Howcroft has been schooling Australians in the art of advertising for decades. Part of the regular line-up on ABC TV’s The Gruen Transfer since the show first aired in 2008, Howcroft has brought his razor-sharp criticism to the panel each week examining the good, the bad and the ugly of advertising. His career stretches back decades, including time as CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands Australia and New Zealand, a period as chairman of the Advertising Federation of Australia, and the role of executive general manager at Network Ten. Part of an industry known for its generous expense accounts and long lunches, this ad man has a few choice picks around town.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was Caffè e Cucina in the mid-1980s. It was an entirely different experience and really did kick off much of what we now have in Melbourne.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I hear the tram go past my bedroom window. Ding ding.

The best new thing I’ve found is Barton Milk Bar in Hawthorn. The Laskie brother-and-sister team has created a super atmosphere where the locals get to know each other better. It’s opposite St James Park too, so it’s great for dogs.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I love going to France-Soir. They're never overly nice to me.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than Maccas. Every now and then, I can’t resist a couple of hashbrowns for breakfast.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to go upstairs to French Saloon in Hardware Lane. It’s the perfect location and really does sum up the laneway vibe of our awesome city.

In the mornings you’ll find me at Cheeky Monkey in Swan Street. It’s a great environment to enjoy a coffee with Paul Hyland’s florist, Glasshaus, beautifully situated on-site.

If you looked in my fridge, you might be surprised to find a box of Caspers spinach and ricotta rolls. (Well, it will be a surprise if you don’t know that my family owns the business.)

The last awesome Victorian thing I drank was Capi sparkling mineral water. Local and family owned.

My local is Demetri's Feast because it’s beyond awesome. A Greek cocktail and mezze bar, it’s run by Jimmy who does a brilliant job with his chops and his Martinis.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be the European wasps.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is Kanteen on the river in South Yarra. The owner, Mark, has been looking after Kate and I since he ran the cafe at Prahran Pool in the 1990s. The same creative menu has served the same customers well for 20 years.

Russel Howcroft is on The Gruen Transfer on ABC each Wednesday night. He tweets regularly as @howcroft.

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