It surprises most people that despite having lived in Australia all my life, I've never ventured much out of Sydney. With domestic airfares being dirt cheap most of the year nowadays, it was about time that I started exploring other states, starting with Melbourne.
Because the trip was a sudden decision and we had bigger plans for another holiday further down the track, we tried to keep costs to a minimum and there wasn't much of a planning, with last minute searches on Urbanspoon to decide our dining destinations for the day. Nevertheless, much fun was to be had in this exciting city!
Shanghai Street Dumplings
My friend had mentioned something about dumplings being cheap and tasty, so we searched up the nearest dumpling place to our hotel, and ended up at Shanghai street dumplings, which proved pretty popular, with plenty of diners even in the late afternoon when we rocked up.
Dumplings In Chilli Oil $8.50
The menu includes so many dumpling varieties that it'll make your head spin- we spent quite a bit of time choosing what we really wanted. The dumplings in chilli oil are exactly that- 15 cute plump dumplings sitting in a warm soup with a drizzle of chilli oil on top. I can't say they were overly exciting, nor were they spicy (we ended up spooning plenty of the chilli oil they provide as condiments on each table over the top to add some flavour), but there was definitely enough to fill us up for a meal!
Homemade steamed Shanghai Xiao Long Bao (Chicken and Prawn) $9.8
The xiao long bao seem to be pretty popular, with almost every table having ordered one so we chose the chicken and prawn variety for a little something different. The pork versions did look a lot more enticing that these ones though, which were not as soft and delicate as we'd expected, nor was there much soup in these ones.....
We headed out to the Crown after dinner, where we did see quite beautiful night scenery which made me wish that I had brought my DSLR to capture it :)
And what's a visit to Melbourne without at least a couple of visit to their famous cafes?
Coffee here is apparently really good, but seeing as neither me nor my friend were coffee drinkers, I don't really have much of an opinion on that. The latte art was beautiful though :)
Fruit and nut Bagel $13
The menu consists mostly of bagels, and luckily online recommendations indicated two choices so we didn’t have to spend too much time deciding between the options. My fruit and nut bagel is a beautiful splash of pink and green, with a toasted bagel, mixed berry marscapone, strawberries and pistachio. Although it's under the breakfast menu, I found it quite sweet for breakfast though- I could easily have had it for dessert! That said, I did really enjoy it though!
Smoked Salmon Bagel $13The smoked salmon bagel is quite a substantial serving, with a generous amount of smoked salmon on top of a bed of spring onion and chive cream cheese and toasted bagel, as well as a small side serving of salad. And it makes for a very satisfying start of the day!
I quite like exploring the many laneways in Melbourne, where you never know what you may find- funky bars, cafes, nice graffiti or some interesting shops. Unlike in Sydney, where a laneway is…..well just that.
Dip In Café
And I can’t tell whether all of Melbourne’s cafes are hidden in laneways or if we just happened to only choose those which were, but for brunch another morning, we headed over to another café hidden in a laneway. Dip In Café specialises in dips, but it seemed that their baked bread bowls were equally as popular from online reviews.
The Shakshuka, which was a tomato based vegetarian filling with two baked eggs on top reminded me of café style baked eggs, just in a bread bowl rather than in a pan. It is a much larger serving than it may seem- you might not want to have your next meal until much later in the day!
Or you could always try to walk it off and squeeze in an extra meal somewhere in the middle!
With Melbourne’s free tram system in the CBD, we stayed mostly within the city, with much walking and tramming to cover most of the city within the first couple of days. The stroll along Southbank was surprisingly nice, with the nice water view and all types of interesting love locks on the bridge.
Melbourne’s Cat Café opened up not too long ago, the first of its kind here in Australia, so we decided to make a quick visit to see the cats, despite not being huge cat lovers. All of their cats are from rescue shelters, and we were lucky enough to visit on a day after three new kittens had been brought in.
We did make a visit to the Emporium though, for a chocolate fix at the Chokolait Emporium as we’d purchased a group buy deal online. It was great value, at $29 for more chocolate than two people can handle- two chocolate drinks and a chocolate platter.
The cold version was easier to handle, being less chocolatey, despite looking the part, with a fancy chocolate drizzle on top.
And of course- the chocolate platter!
We’ve tried a chocolate platter at Lindt café in Sydney before, so we weren’t completely new to this. With four chocolate pieces, mud cake, mango and vanilla ice cream, it doesn’t seem like much, but it certainly fills you up a lot more than you’d expect. The handmade Belgian chocolate were nice and smooth, and we had much fun guessing what flavours they were, whilst the cake was pretty solid also. The ice creams served well to balance the chocolate so that it wasn’t too overwhelming, though it did mean that their flavours were a little overshadowed by the chocolate.
And for more beautiful Melbourne night scenery, we headed over to St Kilda to see some penguins, though it did take us a while to find. Which although it was cold and windy, meant that we did get to see the sun setting by the seaside which was quite pretty!
Walk right to the end of the pier and you might see a penguin if you’re lucky! We spotted two when we were there, including this super cute shedding penguin!
Chan Charlie Chan
Satay Chicken Skewers
For something a little different, we ended up at Chan Charlie Chan for dinner, which interestingly enough was situated within Melbourne’s RMIT university. It’s a nice and quiet spot as we visited before the University semester had started so there weren't many students around but did make me wish that I had a nice Malaysian eatery around on my uni campus too!
The entrée of satay chicken skewers was small and cute, and quite tasty too with a nice nutty flavour.
Bak Kut Teh
Although it was summer, it was surprisingly cold on the week we visited, which made it perfect for having a warm soup. The Bak Kut Teh, served in a clay pot, wasn't quite as strong as I would have liked it, but was quite enjoyable, especially with the crispy dough sticks it's served with.
Chicken Curry Laksa
We enjoyed the chicken laksa also, which came with pieces of smooth, tender chicken on top. The laksa soup is much spicier than anticipated though!
The lemongrass chicken is surprisingly tasty, with the lemongrass and other herbs imparting a unique fragrance to the grilled chicken. It's great by itself, but we discover that it's even better when you dip it in the sweet, vinegar sauce!
And because every day should finish with dessert, we visited Cacao Green for our fix of waffles. They’re a froyo bar, but we found that we quite enjoyed their waffle, which were made to order- they’re soft and fluffy and a great size for sharing. Topped with a sprinkle of fresh strawberries, a drizzle of nutella and a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream, the strawberry and nutella waffle was definitely a winner in my books- nothing super fancy, but a flavour combination that's sure to please.
We had a little spare time towards the end of our trip, so we squeezed in a ride on the Melbourne Star. There was barely anyone there, so we managed to get the cabin to ourselves. The 360degree view is quite a sight, and it certainly gives you a different perspective of the city!
It is a 30 minute ride, though it feels much shorter than that- much like the whole trip in general. Before we knew it, we were on a plane back home! Will definitely be back again soon to continue exploring this city!
Cat Cafe Melbourne
375 Queen Street