As soon as I dropped my bags at my hotel I raced out to grab a late lunch at Mamasita.This is one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne and until Mr Moustache opened in Sydney it was the best Mexican I'd ever had in Australia. I always order a Tamarind Jarrito (I've never seen this on offer anywhere else), Mexican corn (oh Lord, its good! The cheese, the cheese!), soft shell tacos (fish is their best) and a bowl plantain chips (again with the cheese).
Bao's are the new black...so of course I was desperate to try this place! I heard about Wonderbao about a year ago and up until this trip they'd not been opening on weekends. It didn't really matter this time as I'd arrived in Melbourne on a Thursday...but for future weekend trips I'm glad I can pay them a visit on the weekend.
The cafe is a little hard to find...it's at the back of a modern-looking building and faces out to a small laneway. The space is tiny, just a few bench seats inside but when I arrive for afternoon I manage to snaffle myself a seat. If I hadn't *just* had lunch at Mamasita I would've gone for a few things on the menu, but as it is I went with the suggestion of one of the staff and choose the braised pork belly gao bao. It's messy...but pretty darn tasty.
Melbourne Cat Cafe
Can I just say "squeeee"! Australia's very first cat cafe opened in Melbourne the week before my visit...talk about epically perfect timing. And no, for all of your smart Alec's out there, they don't serve cat...you get to pay you money and spend an hour stalking cats to pat whilst interrupting their nap time. Fun.
The concept is pretty similar to the cat cafes we visited in Japan this year...though they aren't *quite* as strict with "the rules". We get to leave our shoes on for example and there's a distinct lack of hand sanitizer on every counter (though you should wash your hands in the loos before/after your patting session). The space is WAY bigger than anything we encountered in Japan too...this place had room after room with CATS! Wall to wall CATS (well about 12...so not quite wall to wall). Just like Japan this is a fun and relaxing way to while away an hour (or more if you book for more time). Unlike Japan the cats here are all rescue cats...unlike the cat cafes in Japan where most of the "staff" are pure bred. I like our model much better to be honest and all of the cats here seemed really happy with their new digs.
There's not much of a "cafe" to the Cat Cafe but there's a Japanese-esque vending machine downstairs and the staff with bring up a hot drink...or a cold drink...to sip on whilst you pat your cat of choice.
Cat patting really works up an appetite so I decided to check out Nama Nama for dinner - a casual Japanese udon joint owned by the people behind Izakaya Den.
It was the draw of Udon that made me really want to try this place, and whilst the Udon was good (though pricey) I'm not sure I'm in love with this place. I'm sad the Edamame were served cold -- like out of the fridge cold, the service was 'weird' (I was the only person in the place but had to keep getting up to ask the waitress if I could order) and the bowl the Udon was served in was so deep and awkward for a noob chopstick user (and even difficult when I switched over to a trusty fork). I wish they'd had a few more snack sized dishes to help paid out my Udon.
All of that aside I think this place is closing down soon and being reopened as something else...
Queenies "Breakfast City tour"
The next morning I'd booked myself into a breakfast city tour run by Andrew Prior who was a contestant on Masterchef (to quote Andrew "the season that noone watched" LOL). Andrew is a very vibrant personality and his vivaciousness and love of food come across as he leads us around Melbourne.
Our tour kicks off with breakfast at Pei Modern and I order the Eggs Benedict with an OJ on the side. I like starting off the tour with a meal...it gives us a chance to hear what the tour guide has to say and to meet our other tour-goers. The eggs-benny are really good...good yolk porn.
This tour doesn't take us "into" a lot of places for sampling like many other tours do, it's more like having a friend show you around town as they point out the tasty places they like to eat. It's perfect for me. I especially liked seeing where Melbourne's smallest bar is located...I wonder if I'd even try to get in given it can only accommodate about 10 people are any one time.
Little Veggie Patch Co
Even though I've packed up my balcony garden I'm still really interested in urban gardens and love to take an opportunity to see community gardens whenever I can. The Little Veggie Patch Co has a "pop-up patch" on a carpark rooftop behind Federation Square. I've heard that the patch is so popular that it's actually become a permanent fixture and houses plots of inner-city residents/workers plus a host of patches for restaurants. Super cool. I LOVE it!
During the food tour Andrew points out Supernormal to us - a new(ish) modern Asian restaurant located on Flinders Lane. As an aside is Flinders Lane the BEST street in Melbourne, or what? So many great places to eat PLUS my favorite fabric store is on this street too.
I wanted to try Supernormal as Andrew tells us that even though the menu is designed for sharing they are MORE than happy to make smaller portions if you're dining on your own (I was...I came to Melbourne on my own as Dave was gallivanting around Europe on a sporting trip). As soon as I sit down at the counter I'm told that anything I want to order can be made in a smaller portion...nice one Supernormal. After the yummy Lobster Roll at Devon I was keen to try this one -- good, but not *quite* as good as Devon. I also had a yummy (1/2 serve) crab salad and some pickles. Happy. I'd go back here in a heartbeat.
I decided to try Fonda for dinner as it was close to my hotel and you know, it's Mexican. Was it as good as Mamasita (if you're a Mamasita fan comparisons have to be made)? Hmmm...truth be told...no. But it wasn't bad...it just wasn't Mamasita.
I'm not a fan of places where you have to go up to the counter to order, especially when you're dining on your own as it means you cannot leave anything on the table in case someone snaffles it. That aside, the food was good, it just wasn't Mamasita. The corn was good with just the right about of spice to give it a little heat and I loved my margarita...in a jar.
I went to Cumulus Inc a few times on my trip as it was so close to my hotel and they do really good coffee. The good thing about traveling alone is that you can usually nab a spare seat at the bar without much of a wait - which I do on both my visits. I had the most amazing baked eggs here for breakfast one morning - I think the addition of shankleesh cheese is what really made this dish amazing.
I adored the grain salad I had at Jimmy Grhttp://jimmygrants.com.au/ants during my last Melbourne visit and there was NO way I was missing out on it this trip. I decided to check out the branch at the new Melbourne Emporium - very swish - and I am happy to report the grain salad was just as good as I remember. And, some happy news (if it's true) is that Jimmy Grants is going to be opening a branch in Parramatta. Seems quite random but if the rumour is tree I'm going to be one happy, grain salad eating, camper.
After an afternoon of wandering around the fabric shops at Fitzroy I found myself right in the vicinity of Huxtaburger. It would be rude not to pop in for a burger, right? I just love these burgers - soft bun, perhaps cooked and seasoned beef patties. If only Huxtaburger would move to Sydney too.
On my second last day in Melbourne the BFF flew down with his cousin and we decided to go for a fancy dinner at Bistro Vue. I love French food and was really looking forward to this meal but it fell a bit flat for me. The layout of the restaurant just didn't feel very comfortable to me -- we were sort of sat in a corridor and the service felt a bit pushy given that we only had a 2 hour window to eat.
I liked the food that I ordered, steak tartare and a grilled lamb dish. My friends ordered some wonderful French mainstays - confit duck, french onion soup and steak with frittes. We didn't have time to enjoy dessert at BistroVue as we ran out of time...but not too worry, I'd probably eaten enough on this day anyway.
Bowrey to Williamsburg
Are you full yet? Luckily I still had room for one more delicious Melbourne breakfast at the NYC inspired Bowery to Williamsburg. My cornbeef hash with potatoes was delish and my piccolo latte was perfect. I just love how Melbourne has so many great cafes in the CBD that open all weekend...if only Sydney took a leaf out of Melbourne's book in this respect the city would be a much more fun (and tasty place) to hang out on a weekend.
The End xoxo
PS, oh, there may have been a cheeky Souva that I snuck in from Jimmy Grants after breakfast but let's just keep that between us, ok?