BEYOND THE SCORE
By Lisa Thomas
The Australian Open in the great city of Melbourne is set to kick off on Monday. Already the courts down under are heating up with great pre-major competition happening in Perth and Brisbane. Sport in Australia is a national past-time and you’d be hard pressed to find a household on the island nation not tuned into the Aussie Open come Jan. 15th.
Australians are pretty crazy about a few things in addition to sport. They love the outdoors, local beers and wine, fishing, the beautiful beaches, traveling everywhere and they are understandably very proud of the country’s culinary culture. You can be in the most remote outback town and you’ll find a cool cafe with home-made treats and an in-demand espresso machine.
However, there are few places in the country, or the world for that matter, that can compete with the multi-cultural mecca that is Melbourne. Sydney, to the north, and Melbourne are fierce but friendly competitors when it comes to their food scenes. Melbourne can certainly give Sydney a run for its dining dollars.
Here are a few things to know that might help you make the most of your time in Australia’s cultural capital!
Caffeine is serious business!
You will not encounter watered-down, over-heated drip coffee in this city of world class baristas. You have cafes on almost every corner. Cafes are the home away from home for many locals. More often than not, patrons sit to drink their long blacks (Americano), flat whites, and macchiatos to chat and catch up with their neighbors.
Hang out for awhile and meet the locals at some of these great coffee stops. One thing you catch on to very quickly is that there are a lot of Italian-Australians and they have influenced this culture greatly. Try Brunetti, a Roman-style pasticceria caffe which opened in 1985 in the heart of Carlton. Melbourne often pops up on top ten lists for coffee distinction globally and no wonder with cafes like Industry Beans in Fitzroy or Market Lane in the Queen Vic. Try Piccolo, Kettle Black, Mister Zen, St. Ali or Tall Timber for memorable local coffees and a special neighborhood scene.
Immigrant Influence & The Food Markets
The restaurants are as varied as the immigrants who have made this city home. Chef creativity and the local ingredients are second to none. Australian seafood, produce, meat and artisans goods will have you going back for more. The talented local-grown and international chefs are heading up such notable places as MoVida downtown, or travel to Attica in Melbourne’s suburbs for hyper local ingredients. Anything by chef Andrew McConnell is worth the effort. You can find his eateries like Cumulus, Mrs. Jones and Cutler & Co. throughout the city.
Another food excursion worth the effort is to one of Melbourne’s many open food markets. The Prahran market is known locally as the “food-lovers market”. It is also the oldest continuous running market in Australia and offers market goers a large selection of local fish, meat and heritage fruit and vegetables. The Queen Victoria Market is a must see. It boasts 600 retailers sprawling across the centre of the city, it is an historical landmark, popular tourist attraction and place with many satisfied people eating hot jam doughnuts from the van that’s been parked there forever. Also try to visit the Dandenong Market. It is a treat for the senses with over 200 traders representing more than 150 nationalities. You can find anything and everything to do with food here. This market is a multicultural melting pot that will have all your shopping needs.
So heading Down Under for the food scene was probably not your original motivation. You are more excited to see another showdown perhaps between Djokovic and Murray, or maybe you want to see some of the new young guns like Alexander Zverev or take in another epic match with Serena. However, at the same time you are going to be in one of the world’s premier and ultra cool cities. There is great, fresh innovative food everywhere you look and coffees that will leave you wanting more. No worries, take it all in, get to know the locals, see some brilliant tennis and enjoy it all, Mate!