On the 9th of December Dean and I packed our bags and headed to the Southern Hemisphere for four weeks on an express tour of Australia’s east coast. Over the next month, I’ll be documenting our time in Oz here on the blog. I shot a TON of images on my iPhone while travelling, of which I’d usually be reluctant to share here on the blog, but it feels silly to leave them sitting on my camera roll collecting dust (or taking up GB in this case) just because they weren't shot on the 'big camera'.
So inspired by some of my favourite ladies, Lizzy and Liv, rather than putting together a traditional city guide style posts, these will be more candid diary-like entries. I hope you enjoy them and that anyone travelling to Australia in the future can take something away from them.
If you're a long time follower you might already know this wasn't our first trip down under; it was, in fact, our third. [A little back story] In 2013 we spent a year travelling up and down the east coast using the Gold Coast in Queensland as our base for exploring. Having met so many great people along the way and fallen in love with the country, we returned in November 2015 for three weeks, which as we guessed only cemented our love for this place even more. Fast forward a couple of years, in February 2018 I waved goodbye to my younger sister following in our previous footsteps as she moved over to Melbourne. So what better excuse to revisit Australia!
From accommodation to food to shopping, here's everything we got up to during our week in what I'm now crowning as my favourite Australian city, Melbourne.
Airbnb is pretty much always our accommodation of choice on longer trips. More often than not (long term) it works out cheaper, and in comparison to the confines of a hotel room, we much prefer the freedom it gives us especially when it comes to cooking and relaxing. Staying in an apartment or house of your choice can often feel more homely, and the option to prepare and cook food yourself is always helpful on the purse strings. Due to an error on my part (I might have miscalculated how many days we were staying in Melbourne) we split our week between two different Airbnb's in separate neighbourhoods, which in hindsight was an ingenious way to experience different areas of the city.
The first three days of our week were spent in a stable turned industrial loft space, nestled at the end of a cobbled Carlton laneway. The pictures DO NOT do this apartment justice and the photos on the Airbnb listing could do with a little improvement, I remember being so chuffed when we stepped inside having just completed the gruelling 20-hour flight from Heathrow. The beautifully crafted space had every amenity you could need, a comfortable double bed, ample wardrobe space (it really grates on me when people only provide you with a handful of hangers) and the perfect little sun trap for basking in the sun. I mean I could go on raving about it for another paragraph, but I'll let you see and read for yourself here. You can certainly tell the owner is an architect! Carlton, the area in which this place is situated, sits just north of the CBD, it was the ideal base for exploring central Melbourne on foot and neighbouring suburb, Fiztroy (my favourite). You are literally a stones throw away from some of Melbourne’s best food and shops. Strolling around this area in the sun was idyllic. While Dean and I are quite partial to a good walk and do enjoy exploring places on foot, I know this isn't for everyone so of course, public transport is at your disposal everywhere in Melbourne.
Richmond, south-east of the city centre was our home for the second half of the week. Back in November, as if by magic while I was panicking having just realised I hadn't booked us enough nights in our previous Airbnb to cover the week, Itinerant, the designers of this perfectly cosy and concise apartment reached out to offer Dean and I a complimentary stay (For full disclosure, aside from the 3 nights in Itinerant, our entire Australian journey was self-funded), one quick look at their Instagram and I knew immediately this would be right up our street. Yes, this apartment is described as compact, but not as we know it. Upon entering, my first thought was where is everything? But on closer inspection what looked like simple plywood panels were, in fact, functioning touch open/close cupboards housing all of the amenities and want for a better word 'clutter' thus creating the illusion of a much bigger space, it certainly didn't feel like 29 square metres. Even the aircon and heaters were out of sight!
The serene space is dotted with beautiful design-led homewares, sculptural pieces and there are even Aesop products in the bathroom! But the single thing that impressed me most, was the perfectly considered welcome pack. Contained inside a box on the coffee table was: a map of the area, a guide to the apartment, information on the art on display, a wallpaper city guide AND the icing on the cake; two pre-loaded travel cards. That's how you do an Airbnb. I've stayed in 20+ Airbnb places whilst travelling and it's the small gestures like this that can make such a difference to your stay. These guys know how to do hospitality! Other pros include a comfortable bed with super soft bed linen, a built-in wardrobe and tons of natural light flooding in.
Richmond is slightly further from the CBD than Carlton, but still easily accessible and there's a Hectors Deli just around the corner from the apartment that serves up the biggest toasted sandwiches I've ever seen!
Before I talk through some of the food spots we visited, I have to say thank you to everyone who messaged me with recommendations. I was left with a HUGE list of places to try! (You guys certainly know your food spots) Alongside those, I also used a website called Broadsheet. I've used it several times on previous trips to Australia, to sum it up Broadsheet is a hub for all things new and noteworthy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. From shops and restaurants to entertainment and art, their website has got you covered.
I'll keep this section as short and sweet as possible, but I must warn you I'd go as far to say I consumed some of the best food ever in Melbourne so I can't promise anything.
SUN MOTH CANTEEN
If there's one thing Australia know how to do well, it's brunch. I mean, it's where the infamous avo on toast came from after all so it only seemed fitting to have the classic on our first day in Melbourne. Tucked away in one of the cities many laneways is Sun Moth Canteen, an all-around brunch and lunch spot by day that feels worlds away from the hustle of the CBD and a wine bar by night. The food menu is short and sweet but perfectly executed (I quite like that as often larger menus can feel very overwhelming). My avo was notably green, egg perfectly poached and orange juice fresh - what's not to like. When people ask me about Australia (aside from the weather) the first thing I rave about is the quality of produce and how fresh it is. Avocados are greener, fruit is bigger, all in all, food is exceptionally tastier over there and Sun Moth was a perfect example of that.
The interior is simple and slick, lots of nice wood, exposed brick and steel; all the good stuff. There is also free wi-fi available which does mean it attracts the 'laptop-types' that never leave, BUT it didn't feel overcrowded or unpleasant inside.
Workshop sits more in the bar category than somewhere to eat (although they do serve pizza, alongside bar snacks) and as someone who rarely drinks alcohol, it might seem odd for me to talk about a bar, but hear me out. This motorcycle-shop-turn-bar has kept a lot of its original industrial features and looks awesome, but it's the lovely semi-enclosed desk filled with plants and sunshine that's the real shower stopper. The little half indoor, half outdoor green oasis acts as a calm spot for an afternoon drink before it gets busy in the evening. We would often use this place as a rest bite between shopping and exploring the city.
How can somewhere so simple, be so achingly cool! This former Chinese restaurant has been completely gutted and transformed into a minimal mix of 80s and Miami Vice, with its mint green seats, pale pink tables and mid-century tiles, the interior is very pleasing on the eye. Uttering the words 'I don't drink coffee' to any Melburnian is probably the equivalent of blasphemy, but it's true as much as I love the taste, my body doesn't agree with it (even decaf) so I think Vacations biggest attraction, the coffee, was wasted on me but they do all the usual sweet treats (Australia's are really good at cookies by the way especially Anzacs) and some mean toasted sandwichs. The chicken toastie with jalapenos is really special and I highly recommend! The location (corner of Exhibition St and Flinders) makes this a very popular place for people to grab a coffee and their lunch, so it can feel very busy during the lunchtime rush, but once that's died down it's a great spot to enjoy lunch over a book or a newspaper.
THE KETTLE BLACK
The Kettle Black was catapulted to the top of my must-try list, after so many 'OMG YOU MUST GO' messages came flooding in to my Instagram inbox, this place was recommended to us left right and centre, but we almost didn't make it! It's positioned in an area of Melbourne (South) that we hadn't planned on exploring, but on our final day in the city, we went to the Botanical Garden and without realising The Kettle Black was only a ten-minute walk away. Thankfully I'd starred it on google maps* and spotted it whilst doing a sweep for somewhere to grab lunch nearby. Boyyyy, am I pleased we went, not quite a cafe and not quite a restaurant this place serves up a mix of the classics but all very considered and refined in their own right. I picked pastrami with a potato & herb rosti, poached eggs and a wasabi emulsion, which by all means was delicious but it was Dean's buttermilk fried chicken burger who stole the show. The food envy was real! Spying on what others were eating around me the hotcake (aka giant pancake) with ricotta was another popular choice. Sadly because we were seated outside I didn't get any shots of the dreamy interior, just like the food though it's a lovely blend of modern and classic. Designed by Studio You Me the space features lot's of pale oak, marble tiles, plants and brass finishes. You can see photos of the interior here. If you find yourself in South Melbourne, The Kettle Black is a must!
*Using the'star' option on google maps is a great way to keep tabs of the places you want to visit and which area they are in. When travelling around new cities I collate all the places I want to visit, star them and then when we are out and about I can simply check my phone and see if any of them are close by.
Last but not least, the elusive Chin Chin. A modern Thai eatery that can yield a two-hour long queue (this is a no booking restaurant) and has been heralded as one of the top places to eat in Melbourne was also high on our list. Our first attempt to get in to Chin Chin was a terrible failure, we rocked up during peak dinner time extremely hungry not quite realising how long the queue would be, one look at Dean's hangry face I knew he wasn't up for queuing so we headed elsewhere. To say I was gutted would be an understatement, I was desperate to try Chin Chin and thought maybe it just wasn't meant to be, but the next day (around 3pm) when we were shopping nearby we decided to give it another go on the off chance the queue might smaller and by some sort of miracle we managed to walk STRAIGHT IN!
Warning: This restaurant is expensive. My sister had advised me it was going to be pricey, but I naively took her advice with a pinch of salt. That being said, the food is phenomenal and 100% reflected in those high prices. After just a curry each we left Chin Chin extremely fully, and extremely satisfied.
Fun Fact: Each week staff hand pick all of the coriander, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint, rather than accept the bruising and imperfections a machine would create.
If heaven is a place on earth, then I've found it. Modern Times is a mid century furniture and design store peppered with contemporary Australian art, ceramics, jewellery, and textiles in between. What started off as a pop-up shop in 2011 has now grown to be a pillar of the Melbourne design community. Our first thought when stepping inside was 'right, we need to buy all new furniture!'. The store will leave you seething with jealousy that your house doesn't look like this, but also inspired to invest in good design. Had there been more room in my suitcase I would have walked away with armfuls of ceramics and artwork. The meticulous curation of this store is truly beautiful and you'll be pleased to hear they ship internationally.
Fancy interiors and independent brands - this is my kind of shop. Monk House is a small boutique that specialises in independent Australian brands. If you like clothes that sit somewhere in between basics and statement pieces this is a great place to try. The CBD store is especially worth a visit for it's pale pink and olive green interior.
I stumbled upon Sole Finess by complete chance whilst hunting for the almost impossible to find New Balance 990's. Turns out the 990 hype hasn't quite reached the southern hemisphere yet and these ladies had plenty in stock. SF is a dedicated trainer (or should I say sneaker?!) store for women and it's the first of it's kind in Melbourne. The pink and white interior feels premium and feminine, the staff were super friendly and completely clued up when it comes to sneakers.
AESOP, MELBOURNE EMPORIUM
I couldn't visit Melbourne, the city that brought us the most aesthetically pleasing skincare brand, Aesop, without popping into one of their stores. I was also desperate for the blue camomile hydrating mask to mend my jet-lagged skin. Touring different Aesop stores when I travel has turned into a small hobby of mine, even if I'm not buying it's always fun to look around because each store is different and designed to be sympathetic of its surroundings. The Melbourne Emporium store is sophistically dark and moody, lined with panels gumwood, a tree indigenous to Australia (sustainably sourced of course) its restraint beauty at it's best.
NO ORDER MARKET / SHIFTING WORLDS
If you share a similar dressing aesthetic as me then Shifting Worlds is for you! Part of the No Order Market space, which is also home to Base Range's main store, SW stocks all the good stuff. Building Block, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Nehara, Jil Sander, Maison Louis, Pleats Please and so much more. I know these brands aren't independent to Australia, but they are brands that aren't readily available in the U.K so I was extremely over excited to see them in the flesh. As much as I wanted to treat myself to something big, I was very restrained and bought myself some BY NYE earring (much more suitcase friendly), a Melbourne based designer who have had my eye on for a few months, which of course don’t get me wrong are still extremely special!
Of course, it wasn't all eating and shopping. In between, we made sure to have a nose around the State Library of Victoria, which wouldn't look out of place in a Wes Anderson film, spent a rainy afternoon at the national gallery of Victoria getting lost (literally) in the winding maze that was the Escher x Endo exhibition and of course experienced a typical day of four seasons in the botanical garden which I sadly forgot to photograph. This won't be the end for Melbourne and us, we fully intend to come back and delve even deeper into the delights that Melbourne has to offer.