Date: 14 October 2015
Location: Little Big Sugar Salt, Collingwood
It would be doing Melbourne a grave disservice to fail to indulge, with hedonistic abandon, in this city's myriad culinary delights. So I have done so. I succumbed the siren song of hissing Slayer coffee machines, let myself be bewitched by the hyptnoic allure of a window full of brightly-coloured Zumbo pastries, was powerless to resist the minty scent of freshly tucked, glossy Vietnamese rice-paper rolls. This post is essentially my confession: confessions of a fortnight misspent in Melbourne's dens of iniquity and raw fish.
It all begun at Mayfield in Abbotsford where, in a sunny and very cool-kid colour-blocked patio, my sore head and I celebrated turning 30 with family and crispy Southern-style chicken burgers with chipotle aoili and guilt and strong flat whites (and loads of water).
The next day it continued at nearby Three Bags Full with a familiar ritual: a strong Tanzanian flat white in a cheery mint green ceramic cup paired with The Age's cryptic crossword and followed promptly by the cafe's Green Eggs and Ham: eggs scrambled with fresh herbs and served with ham hock.
Something similar happened the very next day when I savoured every scrap of my pretentious smoked salmon, poached egg and cured/fresh beetroot breakfast at the new Mavis The Grover and failed spectacularly at the Times cryptic over multiple coffees and much eavvesdropping on nearby tables.
There were several little incidents at Little Big Sugar Salt, where even the way the menu is written is so Melbourne smartypants hipster that it's hard to believe that it could possibly even exist in any other city: 'What does your coffee say about you?' quiz, a word search for menu items, thought-provoking quotes such as 'Kale is passé. For something different, try chard. Or even bacon.' There, the meal was consistently the much-needed and virtuous Bowl Of Health, a giant bowl brimming with the rainbow goodness of zoodles, avo smash, beetroot matches and a sunny yolk from a poached egg.
At Shoya, where you're first asked to choose between dining Japanese style or dining English style and the waiters are pretty little flitting, nodding finches, Dad and I gleefully progressed through the menu of the day — with a side of well-overdue deep and meaningful coversation. We dined on seaweed salad followed by tiny egg-custards with prawns, followed by delicate sashimi followed by tempura crab legs followed by green tea ice cream.
Later in the week I deceived my highly carnivorous little brother into a vegetarian brunch at Admiral Cheng-Ho. Still, he seemed content enough with his French toast, drizzled in chocolate, and my prettily decorated, cooling açai bowl did not disappoint either.
Then there was Burnley's Serotonin Cafe where, amongst the yummy mummies and their mewling broods, Tassels and I caught up over health food and I sung the praises of London in the hopes of making an ex-pat out of her. Tassels and I agonised over the menu. She eventually selected the smashed pumpkin on toast while I, feeling repentant, chose a brocolli bowl brimming with slivers of vegetables and seeds of all varieties.
More sins occurred later that same day at Grossi's Cellar Bar where a moustachioed and rotund-yet-nimble waiter plied us — the Twin, a Kitty and I — with Aperol spritz and prosecco before convincing me to order the decadent lasagne.
Continuing my food journey up through Italy, we spent Saturday at Panton Hill Esate, a teeny Tuscan vision in the Epping countryside. There we paired delicate wines with antipasto and then ate pizza, dropping molten cheese near the wine barrels before trying a 40 year old port right from the barrel.
Finally, my visiting Canadian aunt took me to lunch at the Crown Casino's lux seafood offering, The Atlantic. I was delighted to find that prawn cocktail was on the menu and ordered that. Have to say, not sure why these ever went out out of fashion. Over barramundi — and pinot gris — my aunt and I had the frankest discussion we'd ever shared, covering the full gamut from the impact ones parents have, to love and its maddenly ethereal wispiness, to death. And then owner and head chef, Donovan Cook, came by out table to say hello. It was a truly perfect meal.
There was also perhaps just one too many trips down Victoria Street for Binh Minh's fried squid (at least 5% actual squid!) and I got the shakes from indulging in so many piping hot Melbournce coffees, endlessly toting around trendy paper cups bearing ironic slogans or cryptic logos. There were pub dinners galore: The Royston, The George, The Bridge. These were more difficult to justify, given the embarrassment of pub riches in my new home town, but I cited the need for comparison and cheerfully ordered a parma. Lunch at Gazi was simpler to justify for it boasts Melbourne's best Taramasalata. There, over Greek dips, Bunky and I caught up on Life and returned only reluctantly and very sleepily to our respective offices.
Waistline forgive me, for I have sinned.