Things to do in Melbourne

I knew I was going to love Melbourne, before I even arrived. Known as the food and coffee capital of Australia there was plenty for me to taste and try in my 10 days there, and it’s almost impossible to pick my favourites from the long list. This cosmopolitan city also boasts some of the country’s best cultural highlights and designers, which kept me entertained in between mealtimes!

the prince melbourne

To Stay

The Prince – a design haven in the bohemian St Kilda district, this chic boutique hotel offers 40 stylish bedrooms. Their two-hatted restaurant, Circa, serves beautiful food; go at lunchtime for the reasonably priced In’n’Out set menu.

To Eat

Supernormal – there is often a queue for this popular fusion restaurant. Have a drink at the bar before devouring indulgent dishes such local oysters, roast duck bao and velvety wagyu beef.

Saint Crispin – I had my favourite Melbourne meal at this modern Australian eatery. Open for lunch Friday to Sunday, you can sample three courses of the chef’s exquisite creations for a fraction of the full dinner price. Before your meal, try the “Snap, crackle and pop”; a magical combination of puffed pork crackling, dashi, brown sugar and white sesame.

Coda – this award-winning basement restaurant is stylish and slick. All the Vietnamese-inspired food is tempting. I suggest ordering half-portions so you can taste a wider variety of dishes – the unique blackened quail is especially good and I loved the fresh and vibrant hanoi roll.

Gelato Messina – the mecca of ice-cream, this much-loved institution has spread across Australia. The Italian-style gelateria makes successfully inventive flavours; salted caramel and white chocolate is the most popular.

Lune Croissanterie – as long as you’re willing to wait (sometimes up to two hours!) you’ll be rewarded with the flakiest croissant, perhaps in the whole of the southern hemisphere. Their perfect pastry recipe was created by a rocket scientist turned chef, which explains the space theme of the bakery.

Top Paddock – the perfect weekend hang-out for a leisurely brunch with friends. Don’t miss their famous blueberry and ricotta hotcake with berries, organic maple, seeds and double cream.

Tipo 00 – this new pasta bar is thrilling the Melbourne locals, and it’s a struggle to nab a table at the intimate venue. Sit at the bar and enjoy a bowl of the homemade pappardelle with braised rabbit, marjoram & hazelnut.

Tuckshop Takeaway – set up by ex-Fat Duck husband and wife team, this cute corner shop serves some of the best burgers I have ever tasted. Everything is homemade, from the bouncy brioche burger buns to the nostalgic sodas and shakes.

Cookie – those in the know head to the 1st floor of the Curtin House building for the city’s best Thai food. Be sure to order the addictively good betel leaf wrapped pork skewers.

To Drink

Patricia Coffee Brewers – those in the know head to Patricia for their morning wake-up. The café was set up by Bowen Holden and Pip Heath in 2011 and named after their grandmothers (coincidentally both called Patricia!). Tucked away in the centre of town, with only standing space, this tiny venue is frequented by local office workers. With leather aprons by Jess Wootten, cups by potter Malcolm Greenwood and pastries by Lune Croissanterie, I loved every detail.

Market Lane Coffee – serving seasonal coffee from around the world these speciality roasters pour some of the best coffee in town. With four branches around Melbourne you are never far away from a Market Lane fix.

Bar Americano – In my opinion this compact bar mixes the finest drinks in town. Hidden away on the corner of Presgrave Place, with enough standing space for just 10, it is a homage to the drinking dens of the 1930s. Order from their short seasonal menu of strong classic cocktails.

Everleigh – This prohibition venue is repeatedly crowned the best bar in Melbourne, and for good reason. Sit at the long glamorous bar and ask the talented mixologists to create something to suit your taste. The juices are squeezed fresh for each drink and ice is supplied by the bar’s own company, and cut as needed.

Black Pearl – A Fitroy favourite, this friendly bar opened over 14 years ago and has a loyal following. Barmen Will entertained us while we drank our creative and tasty drinks. Upstairs, The Attic is a cosy room, perfect for private events.

Siglo – This al fresco rooftop wine bar has great views over Parliament and is always filled with beautiful bohemians. The smell of cigars will linger in the air as you drink a glass of wine from their sophisticated wine list.

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To See & Do

National Gallery of Victoria – This large museum has two branches in different areas of town. At the international venue, wander around the permanent collection of Eastern and Western art, both ancient and modern. We enjoyed the bold and brilliant Ai Weiwei and Warhol temporary show.

Centre for Contemporary Photography – A small gallery in North Fitzroy showcasing eclectic contemporary photo-based art. The centre also host photography courses.

South Melbourne Market – This local covered market has been running since 1867, with a wide range of vendors offering all kinds of food, clothing, homeware and more. It is a lovely place to walk around, stopping when something delicious catches your fancy. I couldn’t resist the baked treats from Agathe.

The Shrine of Remembrance and Botanic Gardens – The Shrine of Remembrance is Melbourne’s most iconic landmark, paying tribute to the lives lost in the first world war. Nearby the beautiful botanic gardens offers a quiet place away from city life. In summer you can go punting on the lake and watch films under the moonlight.

Neighbours Tour – A must for all Ramsay Street fans, meet the stars and find out the secrets behind Australia’s most famous soap.

aesop

To Shop

Aesop – If you are already an Aesop addict you will love shopping at the brand’s stores in their home city. Less than half the price of UK outlets, you can buy the whole face care range without any guilt.

Gertrude, Smith, Johnston and Brunswick Streets – these streets in the hip Fitzroy area are back-to-back with some of the best independent boutiques, local labels and cool eateries.

Loose Leaf – this beautiful flower emporium is a jungle of hanging plants and fragrant blooms. Stop by to pick up one of their lovely bunches or a scented candle.

Monkhouse Design Shop – Found in East Brunswick this carefully curated women’s boutique stocks a unique range of independent luxury labels from Australia and around the world.

The Cool Hunter – This slick store in the Prahan district is a gallery of desirable objects and items. Pick up a The Horse watch or a set of glasses from cult brand Iittala.

Hansom – Hansom was founded by a British couple who opened their first store in 2012. I visited the flagship Fitzroy store and wanted to buy everything from this laidback local brand. I particularly liked the peach cropped palazzo pants paired with a simple white silk shirt.

yarra valley

To Escape

Yarra Valley – This stunning wine region is the perfect day trip from the city, just a one-hour drive from central Melbourne. There are over 80 wineries from small family owned to corporate, all producing cool climate wines. I recommend heading to Innocent Bystander for a tasting and to try their delicious sourdough pizza. If you like fizzy wines, visit the pictoresque Chandon vineyards to sample their collection, including an unusual sparkling red wine.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Haig Club Whisky Masterclass at The Folly

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Ever since seeing David Beckham looking effortlessly sophisticated and cool around the Scottish Highlands in the advert for Haig Club whisky I have been itching to try it, despite my reservations regarding celebrity endorsements. I had the opportunity to this week when a friend and I went to The Folly Bar in Monument to take part in a cocktail masterclass using Beckham’s brand of Scotch.

The masterclass was held in a private area in the Folly, which felt warm and intimate. Both my guest and I had our own cocktail stations with the necessary equipment set up and waiting for us when we arrived. Our friendly ‘mixologist’, Alessio, then talked us through how to make two different cocktails using Haig Club. The first a classic Old Fashioned, which is a favourite of mine, is made slowly using only sugar, bitters, orange peel, ice and of course, whisky. The end result was deliciously smooth and flavoursome, with the whisky not overpowering the orange or the bitters.

After a brief interlude to drink our first cocktails, we were taught to make one of Alessio’s own creations. Ice-cold Haig Club was added to a glass containing orange marmalade and grapefruit bitters, before being topped off with lavender and a blackberry. With no ice to dilute the whisky this had more of a burn to it, however the delicate flavours still shone through and the scent of the lavender added another element to the cocktail.

The masterclass was a very enjoyable experience and I definitely learned a few tricks for the next time I try my hand at cocktail making. The atmosphere in the Folly was very pleasant and our cocktails delicious, with the Haig Club providing a good base for the added flavours. The Folly runs masterclasses on request and I would definitely recommend one for an unusual night out.

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Information of The Folly’s masterclasses can be found at:

http://www.thefollybar.co.uk/mixology

All photos by Gabriel Kenny-Ryder.

www.gabrielkennyryder.com

Shangri-La Vancouver

Every time I walk into a Shangri-La hotel, a sense of calm washes over me, body and mind. The Vancouver establishment is no different, although it is located in the centre of the bustling city, inside there is a quiet and serene atmosphere. It is business-like but always with time for luxury.

We were extremely comfortable in a deluxe one bedroom suite, which felt like a mini apartment. Every detail and amenity is here to ensure you have a seamless stay. The living room area was kitted out with a writing desk and plush sofa, and a bottle of red wine and a platter of lovely cheeses was laid out for our enjoyment.

The suite was decorated in creams and muted greys with accents of red from the oriental artwork on the walls. The kingsize bed looked very inviting, topped with numerous bouncy pillows. For ease and comfort the blinds and curtains are controlled by digital panels next to the bed… perfect for jetlagged customers who want to watch the sun rise over the city.

Next door the en-suite white marble clad bathroom definitely had the wow factor, with a regal bath, glass encased shower, cosy bathrobes and L’Occitane toiletries. I enjoyed several bubble baths during my one night stay!

The Asian influence is evident throughout the building and all its facilities, but there are also touches of international charm, which I noticed particularly in the upmarket eatery, Market run by acclaimed chef Jean-Georges. We ate here for dinner and breakfast the next morning, and on both occasions the food was wholesome and tasty.

In the evening Market has a glamorous feel, the lights are dimmed and everywhere I looked elegant couples or trendy friends were chatting and laughing. We trusted our waiter with the cocktail choices, all of which are made with house-made syrups and fresh ingredients. I would recommend the Ginger Margarita, a spicy, sweet drink with a salty kick. Our dinner was a feast of Mediterranean style dishes. I soon regretted us only ordering one portion of corn ravioli with cherry tomatoes, shallots and basil, as it was a delicate and delicious bowl of pasta, a must for vegetarian diners. For main course we tried a simply cooked beef tenderloin with bearnaise sauce and Parmesan crusted chicken with white asparagus. I found the chicken bland and unexciting, there was too much on the plate and it needed seasoning, but the steak was a faultless piece of meat, tender and rich and cooked to perfection with a crispy caramelised edge.

For breakfast the choices are much more obviously Canadian. The French toast with spiced apple, bacon and maple syrup is unmissable and the omelette was delicious too. Every morning the team offer a complimentary smoothie and we were pleased to taste the pretty purple blueberry special.

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My favourite part of this city sanctuary hotel was the sophisticated Chi spa. I spent a wonderful ninety minutes here totally immersed in a signature Shangri-La treatment. The Chi Aroma Vitality began with a tea ritual, whilst my tired feet were cleansed and massaged. Then I was left to warm my muscles for ten minutes in a private steam room before I lay on the silky soft bed for a full body massage.

Whilst staying at the Shangri-La Vancouver, I was blissfully unaware of the city life outside. Suddenly searching for exciting shops and cafes didn’t seem so important, as I felt so content at the hotel. As a guest in an unfamiliar foreign city, I don’t think you could hope for anything more.

More information and book a stay at Shangri-La Vancouver here.