Eat, Love and Foodie– Just as Melbourne has achieved international notoriety for its Street art and Graffiti lanes, the by lanes are also famous for Cafes, Restaurants, and Bar lounges.
Most of the Business establishments are located in and around the labyrinths of these lanes. It’s just not during lunch breaks that these streets are alive. It’s unrelenting rush morning, noon and night!
Melbourne is a foodie’s paradise, and these lanes don a vibrant, pulsating, and highly exciting nightlife, never a dull moment.
Scouring the lanes so far I discovered incredible art, historical buildings, food, and more food. Melbourne downtown is the real testimony of what a homogenous society can turn history its culture and cuisine to an indelible range and offering.
Some of the older establishments like the oldest bar lounge, the Chinese restaurants have paved way for more, and the earliest Italians who settled here introduced coffee bars that made Australians turn inveterate coffee drinkers. On my first day, I weaved through Flinders Lane, then on to Degraves Street and was surprised to see a long queue outside Doughnut Time, was pleasantly surprised to know that a quick breakfast grab for people alighting from Flinders station is here! It took me 15 min to reach the counter, five minutes to imbibe the doughnut with great relish, and stood back in line for another order of the same!
Doughnut Time became very addictive every occasion I passed Degrave Street. On day 3 the kind lady noted my regular presence by presenting me an additional doughnut free!
I can’t figure out how I landed in one of the lanes to discover a quaint pub hidden away and very private. Charles Dickens Tavern is an old English pub famous for its pot roast and draft beer. Descending steep steps the manager welcomed me and expounded with great pride that the laneways are teaming with such “hide and seek” bars.
Speaking of bar lounges and my love for even a hint of heritage tag, the next bar lounge “Madame Brussels” is indeed very unique. Situated on 59 Bourke Street, don’t be fooled by the name of Madame Brussels the infamous brothel owner of Melbourne.
The bar lounge is derivative of the iconic Madame and inspired by her feisty ways of flagrantly running the elitist establishment in the heart of Melbourne city.
Madame Brussels bar even has a kitschy facsimile of the parlor (for private parties) replete with chaise lounge décor and cozy ambiance that the Madame had so well crafted to lure her guests.
The rooftop Bar of Madame Brussels has the trademark parasol placed behind every table and blankets on cold wintry nights. The menu is quite interesting, cocktails unique and expensive.
-4-Eat, Love, and Foodie- cont
Melbourne Central is a shopaholic’s fantasy, it’s conducive to shop all day and like the great adage, shop, till you drop, is really a dream. The stand-alone shops old and new are prodigious.
I realized looking for anything that catches your fancy must be snapped up immediately. The alleyways for the uninitiated is difficult to trace back, it’s a maze so just proceed on to the next lane and discover more shops.
What caught my fancy and repeated visits were two iconic malls, more so heritage malls. The grander and easy to locate of the historic malls is The Block. Opened in 1892, a news board at an unobtrusive corner of this mall declares that of the two entrances at the mall, Collin street side of it was first purchased for a mere 18 pounds. The original George store catered to the well-heeled and maintained its art deco interiors reflecting the clientele of Melbourne society. Construction of the Elizabeth street wing proceeded in 1893.
The beauty and splendor of The Block have made it a landmark in Melbourne’s cityscape, surprisingly the locals took quite a while directing my 2nd time around (it’s between Russell and Swanston street). Most of my friends from Melbourne were surprised that I chanced upon this stately arcade and flippantly dismissed it as too exclusive to shop.
Craven,(UK) designed the Victorian mosaic floor at The Block. Tiles from Italy cost 600 pounds when laid. During the Second World War, the floor was covered with heavy felted carpet to prevent any wear and tear from Military shoes. What you see from the classic arcade’s original flooring dates back several centuries. Don’t miss the Art deco ceilings, the arches, the dome, and Do Not miss the paintings on the ceiling especially shop front from the main entrance.
The Block is round the clock bustling with tourists and shoppers and hangers around. The café is the best place to sit and soak in the history. I checked to see which of the 29 stores at The Block existed since inception but wasn’t surprised to learn that many changed hands.
The patisserie appears to be longstanding, even has a teahouse with quintessential cozy English tea parlor ambiance. Named after its founder Lady Hopetoun, The Hopetoun Tea Room is a heritage corner within a heritage building. When
I enquired regarding the long queue outside, one of the guests explained that the Tea Room was built for the Victorian ladies Association. The fine teahouse experience is maintained to this very day!
THE ROYAL ARCADE- is another historic shopping arcade designed by Charles Webb located central Melbourne, on Bourke Street. Though a comparison to The Block is non-obligatory, both are such hallmarks of the city, both exude old world charm.
Opened in 1870, The Royal Arcade is the oldest enduring mall in Melbourne. Bourke Street is the main entrance to the chequered floor arcade, one can’t miss the stately dark building, a tramline prevented me from getting the perfect shot of the entire building. The famed laneway network connecting to this arcade has another leading to Little Collins Street and an extension leading to Elizabeth Street.
The Royal arcade has some very interesting features that categorize this visit under heritage walks. The high glass ribbed ceiling exemplifies light filled, airy feeling. Each store has an arched niche large window embedded above the neatly laid out shop front. The arched niche is a regular feature that distinguishes Royal Arcade, it is even emphasized on the main building.
The most coveted feature of The Royal Arcade is the dome ceiling far end of the south entrance. Don’t miss the most famous mythical Gog and Magog strike the giant clock. An eager crowd hangs around this spot to witness the two flanking figures strike the clock every hour. I was keener to slip into yet another, adjoining Hub Arcade!
(to be cont)
My niece gave me great advice on my 2nd day at Melbourne, she said simply get into the grid of downtown, prowl the alleys, bi lanes, and just get lost!
I sure did get lost, more so by the vibrant street art, the stand-alone shops selling curios and chocolates, the thronging cafes and restaurants, the cobbled lanes barred off traffic was sheer joy to people watch.
Melbourne downtown has an intricate grid system called the Hoddle Grid named after the surveyor who collated it. The celebrated alleyways were a result of this.
Very meticulously planned it took me a week (not adequate) to cover each of the sections. The unpredictable exciting new discoveries that came along made it worth visiting downtown over and over again.
The grid is further distinguished with tramlines traveling one end to the other intersections efficiently. At the Grand Junction is the iconic Flinders Street Station.
I suggest scouring either right or left of this junction to slip into any of the lanes and begin from this end.
Street Art – can be found in Centre place, Union Lane off Bourke Street, and opposite Federation Square. Admirers from all over, tourists and locals alike crowd around these lanes and take selfies, a shutterbugs allure.
Interestingly Street art initiated artists a platform to showcase their talents and not overtly politicize intentions. The splash of colour and virtuous artwork showcased on these walls are astounding. Many artists who started painting on these hallowed walls have become internationally famous!
The designated artist’s wall sweeps the entire lane and even frontages of few low-rise buildings facing the lane. Every once in a while sharp graffiti art takes over other times creative art.
Prior permission is taken to paint on these walls, it’s a constant changeover that makes master art Stroke Street so riveting.
*Laneway Alley Cat- to be cont.
Did you know that Melbourne was briefly called Batmania!! Why- In honor of founder entrepreneur John Batman.
Melbourne factoids-*Named in honor of British PM William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.
*Officially declared a city by Queen Victoria in 1847 became the capital of newly founded colony of Victoria in 1851.
Melbourne sojourn– *Laneway Alley cat, discover some of the hidden gems downtown /city.
*Idyllic Suburbia-Melbourne outskirts are startling locations, each having its unique sights and sounds.
*Shop Eat Shop– Epicureans Nirvana, Shoppers Paradise in many places along the streets of town/ city.
*Melting Pot like New York and other major cities, reflecting in the cuisine and culture.
*Melbourne vistas– A walking tour to soak in the history and background.
*Diverse flora and fauna– The freeway leads to some of the most dramatic landscapes and famed vineyards.