How I Melbourne: The Jungle Giants

Published on 27 May 2022

Photo: The Jungle Giants (Andrew Dooris, Keelan Bijker, Sam Hales, Cesira Aitken).

The Jungle Giants know their way around a hit record. Their fourth album, 2021’s Love Signs, debuted at number one on the ARIA charts after the barnstorming success of singles ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’ and ‘Heavy Hearted’, which itself was nominated for two ARIAs.  

As it happens, they also know their way around a neighbourhood wine bar, a cult chicken sandwich, and a succulent, suburban Chinese meal.

In a rare moment off the road, here’s frontman Sam Hales, dressed to the nines in trademark designer swag, on how he does it in The Jungle Giants’ adopted city of Melbourne. 

I know I’m in Melbourne when I’m having a beer at a nice old pub, everyone has great clothes on, I’ve got a casual-yet-delicious dinner on the way, and I’m playing with someone else’s dog.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was Golden Dragon Palace. It’s a huge mega yum cha place that can easily fit 1,000 people. It’s in Templestowe, so a little drive for me, but so worth it. The food is incredible; every time the trolley comes by, just grab something – you won’t be disappointed. It opened my eyes to how truly diverse the food scene here is. If you wanna go niche, you can go niche – whatever you’re looking for you can find. And you’ll find a really good version of it when you do. I tried chicken feet for the first time there, too. They were delicious. I think about those chicken feet weekly.

The best new thing I’ve found is maybe the poached octopus that Florian is doing at the moment. It’s the ultimate lunchtime meal for me. Perfectly tender and slightly charred octopus, on a bed of rich and creamy white beans. The turmeric and butter sauce is so savoury and coats everything so delicately. Serving size is perfect, too. 

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I head straight to Gerald’s Bar, put myself and a mate at the table under the stairs and order two Tommy’s Margaritas. Even if you’re not on a date this place makes you feel like you are. They have a seasonal menu that is different every time I come back, and it’s always been of the highest standard. Small plates with big vibe. It’s the kind of place you can chat the night away at without noticing the hours go by.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than a meal at Marquis of Lorne. They straddle the line between super relaxed weeknight pub and super delicious creative restaurant. Price is good, flavour is even better. They also do a Sunday roast which is really great value. One of my staples is the cabbage and snow pea salad. Fresh, snappy and yum. Perfect with whatever protein you go for. I especially love how they slice the snowpeas. It’s extremely pleasing.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them out to a couple of stops. First would most likely be a drink and an oyster at Gerald's or LongPlay. Then, if I’d planned this correctly (which I always do), I’d have a table for us at Tipo 00. I think it’s honestly one of the best pasta experiences I’ve ever had and I think everyone needs to try it at least once. Bookings can be scarce – just book whatever you can get. Then after that, we’d head to Music Room at Her. The cocktails are always great, and it's the kind of place where you can either dance to great music or sit and chat in a dark corner. It’s a small club but it’s incredible. They also have a state-of-the-art system in there.

In the mornings you’ll find me at Hector’s Deli, baby. Eating a chicken sandwich. Maybe two.

My local is the Marquis of Lorne: bringing people together since 1873.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be maybe more food trucks. We definitely have them around, but not to the scale that a bunch of cities do. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk out of a bar and see a beautiful little taco truck looking back at ya?

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is definitely Melbourne’s attitude around really appreciating good food and drink. We have so many options in this city and people really know it too. People tend to try new things here and I’ve always really appreciated that. It results in a place where our chefs can be really creative: a win-win.

Catch The Jungle Giants at Listen Out Festival Friday 23 September, and stream Love Signs here, thejunglegiants.com, @thejunglegiants

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