When you stay in Melbourne you have to start your day with a cup of coffee because this city is the cradle of coffee love in Australia. We took a walk down Exhibition Street in our quest for coffee but like in all strolls for food we ended up back at virtually the first coffee shop we passed. Multitude was the name of the cafe and if this was Brisbane and I was still doing my coffee quest this would probably beat Cafe Modena as the best coffee I’ve ever had. What made it even more exceptional was that it was in a mug which can be difficult to get right – props to the barista. Danielle and Cat missed out on the coffee as they were slaving away in the gym while we sipped on lattes. We all met up back at the room to get ready to shop!
Downstairs we took the free tram to Flinders Street to meet up with a tram that would take us to Bridge Road. Timewise we probably could have walked to Flinders Street thanks to the free tram having a break on Spring Street. It wasn’t a big deal, the conductor on board kept us occupied by suggesting we visit the big shopping centre in the suburbs but he wasn’t getting much interest from us since we mainly came to Melbourne to get away from the chain stores. Finally at Flinders Street we didn’t have to wait long for the connecting tram which dropped us off about one quarter of the way down Bridge Street. All 9 of us started to wander back towards the city end checking out the stores on the way, but when we got to the end of the street, half of the group turned around to go back along the street on the same side we just came from. Now, I had a huge issue with that as I have some weirdass inbuilt methodical drive to approach a street in an ordered way that maximises viewing while limiting backtracking. I wasn’t really aware that I was so passionate about it until it caused a minor discussion/argument that resulted in half of us crossing the street to the unexplored domain while the other went back the way they came. Funnily enough, it worked out well as the split also cut across fashion lines, with the t-shirt, sneaker, 80s shoppers on one side of the street while the dress, knee high boots, handbag shoppers held their own on the other side of the street. If you have any idea about me by now, you’ll know I was on the t-shirt side of the street.
Before we started on the t-shirts we stopped by the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder to see what was interesting in the world of food. What we found was a cheese larder to die for. We started by trying to find the blue cheese we’d had the day before but since we couldn’t remember it’s name we had to describe it. The guy was kind enough to give us a tasting of what turned out to be St Agur Blue cheese which wasn’t the one we’d had the day before but was still yum. I also spotted a melted soft cheese on display and asked about it. He gave us a taste of what turned out to be a cheese that had it’s rind washed in alcohol which gave it a real metho taste which sounds horrible but works really well. There is an aftertaste that leaves you licking your mouth for the next 20 minutes and once that’s finished you can continue to relive the experience by smelling your fingers because there is a potent smell that stays there for ages. It was described by Cat and Bood as the smell of yeast infection – but I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion. LOL. We promised the guy we’d come back to buy the St Agur and then headed further down the street.
Our next stop was at Dr Moose, a cool t-shirt store that had t-shirts from Threadless like the “What would Mcgyver do?” series along with A-Team, Bruce Lee and Monkey Magic. There was so many shirts in the store it kept us busy for about 15 minutes but no one actually walked out with anything. The next store of interest was an 80s themed store with a real Atari (including games) and a Hammond organ. It was like walking through your childhood with the Sweet Valley High and Babysitters club books. It’s disturbing to finally be of an age where your toys become a retro store and I guess it’s a sign that I’m heading towards middle age. We wandered out of the store and down the street dispersing and rejoining along the way as we each took our time in the stores at our own pace. I had a nice conversation with the guy in the Hype sneaker store. I didn’t see any sneakers that caught my eye but the chat was cool. He asked me what I liked most about Brisbane and after standing there staring at him blankly for 2 minutes I came up with nothing. I said that if you read the tourist stuff about Brisbane it’s all about leaving it to go to Noosa or the Gold Coast. I still can’t answer the question other than the boring answer of weather. Halfway down our first street we met up with the other group to exchange stories and be shocked that the seasoned shoppers were taking less time than we were. Danielle and I stopped for a coffee that was served too hot but turned out to be passable tasting. I got locked out the backyard in the toilet and had to get let back in again before we could continue our shopping.
Across the street and there weren’t as many interesting stores to keep us occupied which was a good thing as we got an sms stating that the other group were waiting at the pub down the other end of the street. On the way back I couldn’t pass up the visit to the Macro Organics store and when I walked in I almost cried with happiness. A wooden floored supermarket selling only organic products – from meat to cheese, veges to groceries. Brisbane hasn’t gotten anything coming as close to foodie heaven as this store and I was so jealous I asked the lady if there were any plans to open stores in Queensland. The amount of grocery items was really a wet dream but to have all the other products in the same store as well as a cafe was enough to make me mourn my leaving even before we’d been through the checkout. The only things we bought was some fruit for Danielle but I’d be there every week if I lived in Melbourne.
The group met up at the pub down the city end of Bridge Road to compare purchases and make our next plans. Chapel Street was to be our next port of call on the shopping journey so we walked down to Church Street to catch the tram. The ride took longer than expected so we were starving by the time we got there. Luckily Cat had already picked out our dining location thanks to her previous experience there. The choice was TGI Fridays because they serve huge cocktails – enough to make Cat’s eyes in to saucers. I knew of the american food chain because Betty’s sandwich got on their menu when she won the Season Two Top Chef challenge. I was excited to try it but it looks like it didn’t make the Australian menu. No matter as they had some good lunch specials for under $15 and those huge cocktails. Cat when the margarita, Kylie went the junebug and I did the long island ice tea as part of my quest to find one as good as the one I had in California at Marie Callenders. Unfortunately it didn’t match it but the fried cajun chicken salad I had far exceeded the low expectations I had for it. It was light and didn’t taste like oil at all. For a chain fast food store I was really impressed – especially at the size of the drinks even if they didn’t seem to have an impact at all towards drunkeness.
This time we did Chapel Street in the same directions but we all split again because it’s impossible to shop in a group of 9. Danielle had a mission to find some new dressy sneakers while I was trying to find a jumper. We had fun in the Peter Alexander pyjama store making Hanging Rock noises when we saw the ghost pants. Danielle ended up getting a jumper in the cool store Moj(something I can’t remember) while I bought a t-shirt in a can. The problem with buying a t-shirt in a can is that the minute that you take the t-shirt out of the can it looses it’s novelty value. The staff were really friendly and gave us a lot of time and the guy wore his jeans in the cool fifties turned up method with converse high tops. It was weird because I think this was the store that Pauline and I spent a lot of time in the last time I was on chapel street, but that was back when she was looking for a jacket. You could start to see the disinterest in the girls on the other street as they started to burn out on shopping. We visited a few more sneakers stores before we reached the Prahran markets to try Mr Truffe’s chocolates and miss out on the cupcakes in the Crabapple store (arrive too late for the cupcakes). At that point part of the group wanted to go back while some others wanted to continue to shop. I still hadn’t hit the two sneakers stores I was desperate to visit, so I peeled off on my own and headed to Sportslord and then Evolve.
It was in Evolve that I found the sneakers I’d been unconsciously looking for. Lucky chinese red, gold and black money cat Nike SB sneakers that are limited edition and were in my size. I also showed interest in the godfather shoes which had fake horsehair and spaghetti insignias and he was willing to drop the price for me but he didn’t have my size. I had that rush I get from buying a pair of kicks – especially ones that are as comfortable as the SBs. The guy was knowledgeable and cool and knew all the right tricks of asking me about the non blingy green and brown Nike court forces and complimenting me on that. Afterwards I took a side trip along Greville Street to Provider but I was pretty disappointed by the selection. I guess it was a small store and I’d probably built it up in my mind to be amazing, but I found Evolve much better. On the way back I stopped by Route 66 to check out their cool 50s clothing (I have a cherry bomb shirt of theirs) and then caught a tram back to the city from Commercial Road. It was good to spend a bit of time by myself even if it was mostly spent on a tram.
Back at the room everyone was getting ready to go out for dinner and were trying to match their purchases in to what they had planned to wear. Vanessa wanted to wear the new red skirt she had but couldn’t find any of her clothing to match, so we had fun with her putting on my Cherry Bomb Route 66 black shirt and dressing her up like a femme lesbian. It looked pretty cool with the knee high boots, but wasn’t really dinner wear so Danielle got her to put on her red stripy shirt. That made her look like a candy cane shop assistant – “would you like to buy some lollies?” so it was never an option but it made us laugh. She eventually decided to ditch the red skirt and go for another look entirely. With all the ironing, showering and primping we did we ended up not being ready to leave at 7pm to walk to the restaurant and ended up calling for a maxi taxi. Since we kind of left the phone call late we didn’t get the cab until about 7.35pm so there were some last minute scrambling down in the foyer to call the restaurant to tell them we’d be about 15 minutes late. The guy behind the counter at the hotel went the extra mile to make the phone call and unfortunately I didn’t think about reimbursing him until later which is probably a good thing anyway as I’m not in to the american idea of tipping. I at least remembered to say thankyou though as I ran away to get in the taxi which had arrived.
Our dining location for the evening was Fifteen Melbourne, the restaurant associated with Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen foundation that provides training and jobs for kids who have had disadvantaged lives. I’d booked the seats months earlier and was told that we would be split in to a table of four and five but when we got there they were kind enough to have a table for 9. Not only that but the seats were in a prime position to see everything that was going on in the kitchen. It was great to see some of the faces we’d seen on the tv show. Vanessa the Angelina Jolie lookalike was the most obvious and Danielle and I stalked her for a good 15 minutes with our cameras to take a good shot of her. Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for the restaurant) she moved too quick to get a good shot.
Fifteen is a great looking restaurant with great staff and an amazing wine list. Luckily they have a sommlier on the staff to guide your way through the pages. Faye simply gave her an idea of the flavours we were looking for and the style of wine we liked and she pointed out the best choice. The menu is primarily italian based cuisine which is obviously due to Jamie and Tobie Puttock’s natural inclinations. Since it’s a fine dining restaurant you don’t get the usual 30 different types of pasta, you just get a list of maybe 5 things for each course. Since I had been waiting a few months for this dinner I wasn’t going to skimp on the courses and decided to try four of them. First up was the Beef Carpaccio with beetroot and parmesan. Mmm raw beef. Perfectly not cooked with amazing flavours and great cheese. I was almost trying to shove it in other peoples mouths it was so good – you wanted everyone to know how good it was. My next course was pumpkin and marscapone ravioli with sage butter. Excellent in that you could taste all the flavours but it didn’t blow my mind. What I should have ordered was the gnocchi that Danielle got. Amazingly fluffy and not the gluggy heavy gnocchi I’m accustomed to. A revelation and I’m going to make it when I get home because I quite fortuitiously have Tobie Puttock’s recipe book “Daily Italian” which details the process he uses to make it so fluffy. For the main course I decided to test the kitchen to see how good they cook fish. Normally I don’t order fish out but since I’ve only just started to like it and aren’t really interested in cooking it at home I thought I’d take the risk. It was worth it as the barramundi (I think?) had a really crispy skin and was cooked perfectly all the way through. It was especially good with the chorizo which is the best chorizo I’ve ever had. Once again though Danielle ordered what was recognised by the table as the best dish on the menu. Lamb cooked in red wine with Polenta. The lamb was dripping off the bone and was so tender. Cat’s beef was presented on a chopping block which was a novel way to serve the meal. I didn’t hear anyone complain about what they were served.
For dessert nearly everyone was full so Danielle and I ordered a chocolate tart to share. The tart was nice but not special but it gave us about 10 minutes of fun when Cat decided to lick the plate with her incredibly pointy tongue (jokes about Faye being a lucky woman were bandied about) but what really made us laugh was the photo of Mel and her chocolate teeth. I don’t know whether it was the food or the wine but just looking at the picture was enough to send everyone down our end in to delirious laughter of tears and side splits. It was one of those situations where you just can’t stop laughing even though your sides a hurting and tears are streaming down your face. I’m sure the kitchen noticed how much we were enjoying ourselves as we were quite loud but it’s classic. She looks like a happy chocolate gnome or something.
Before we left each of us took visits to the toilet and discovered that Fifteen even takes care in choosing the soap for the bathroom. Whenever someone came back from the loo you saw them sniffing their hands with approval. After my visit I discovered that it was Aesop Mandarin, Rosemary and Cedarwood soap and it was great. Had to get me some of that when I was shopping. Danielle and I were still in search of a good shot of Vanessa in the kitchen, so we set up an elaborate plan of standing near the window that overlooks the kitchen in the entry and taking pictures of each other while actually just trying to take pictures of Vanessa. Danielle ended up with the best photo when she had Vanessa look up at her and smile. I’m sure she was a little disturbed by a table of girls stalking her with cameras, but we meant well.
All up the meal cost $675 for nine people which was a bargain when you think we drank three bottles of $50 wine. The only comments were that there tended to be a fair bit of salt and olive oil in the dishes but we knew from Jamie’s cooking on tv that he is partial to the old yellow gold. The water was always full and we didn’t have to ask for anything. I’ve read comments that sometimes the food is hit and miss but all of our meals were a hit. Great night out and the best meal I had in Melbourne. We walked home to try and walk off the amount of food we’d eaten and it wasn’t long before we went to sleep.
For more photos, check out the Day 2 Photo Gallery.