Seen this ad by Tourism Victoria?
The one with the geezer sporting OTT white side-burns wearing a blue top hat, looking as if he’s stepped out of a scene from Alice in Wonderland. His white-gloved, fisted hands open to reveal where the group of young people in front of him should go to find adventure in Melbourne.
Stay and play is the catch phrase.
The use of “young” people in the ad was deliberate. The campaign was created by Melbourne Advertisers Mojo, costing $1.5m to produce. The ad targets 20-30 year olds. “Pitching Melbourne as a vibrant, creative and edgy city of experiences,” said Louise Asher, the Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events at the June 2011 media launch.
Personally I find the advert a little creepy and am confused by its intentions. I’m a few generations beyond the campaign’s target market. I’m not a hipster and I don’t feel the need to run through Melbourne’s backstreets, or on rooftops searching for new experiences. But I DO get excited about a visit to Melbourne and the potential for adventurous experiences over a long week-end in Victoria’s capital.
Not that you need reasons to stay and play in Melbourne, but mine are:-
- to sample gourmet delights,
- indulge in cultural treats
- take in a little retail therapy on the side.
Melbourne is also about discovering new places and experiencing a real winter. It means digging out the winter woolies never really fully used in warmer Brisbane.
A vast array of city hotels offering enticing deals at this time of the year. I followed a recommendation from a friend, choosing the Rendezvous Grand Hotel on Flinders Street – a short stroll from Flinders Street Station. A heritage building (built in 1913), the Rendezvous Grand has been renovated and retains many of its more traditional features (down to the annoyingly squeaky floorboards.) Ticking my boxes: it is central, clean, safe and quiet (as long as you step over those floorboards.)
Fancy a coffee?
Melbourne is often referred to as the Latte City – where “seriously good coffee” is found on most street corners. The perfect place to begin my gourmet indulgence is in the Laneway, leading off Finders Street (5 mins walk from the Renedzvous Hotel). Degraves Street is busy morning, noon and night. Slip into one of the intimate eating places along these narrow cobbled lanes and you’re in the heart of latte world.
Watch Melbourne fashionistas stroll by as you enjoy a hot breakfast platter. Haloumi cheese is my weakness, so I couldn’t resist the haloumi and eggs with pesto on sour dough at The Quarter, in Degraves Street.
The laneway flows into another called Centre Place. Clientele vary from hip, tattoo stained skater dudes; to well dressed business-folk stopping for an informal meeting; tourists taking in the sights and the occasional celebrity. (spotted Jessica Rowe and Peter Overton enjoying their lattes.)
They surreptitiously sip their cappuccinos beneath the canvas umbrellas’ clandestine cover.
To play tourist and investigate this inner city area follow the map Arcades and Lane walks The walk covers 2.5km and takes about one hour (add on time to stop and take in the gorgeous shops and architecture.)
The overwhelming choice of gourmet delights create an anxious moment: where to eat dinner? Loving Thai food, on our first night we chose Cookie on Swanston Street (solid reviews on Trip Advisor.) Once we found the place (look for the street number not the name Cookie) and walked up the dingy staircase, we enter a crowded room pumping with music and conversation. Dim lighting provide subtle ambience in a bar to the left, with a relaxed crowd enjoying their pre-dinner drinks. This room was noisy, conversation is strained. Do not plan an intimate evening at Cookie on a Friday or Saturday night.
Cookie’s wine and beer list is extensive. Thankfully our exuberant South African waiter came to the rescue, recommending a European beer and a French wine. The food is modern Thai style cuisine. Despite one of our selected dishes having a wicked chilli kick, the food was superb. Cookie is worthy of its solid reviews.
Post dinner take the stairs (three flights) to the rooftop bar with stunning views over the city,
had it not been raining! The clientele huddling the gas heaters hogging the rain-free spaces below the canvas umbrellas, didn’t seem to mind the inclement weather. Melbournites can’t be fussy about rain, can they?
Remember, book Cookie in advance – you will not get a table otherwise.
Another great place to stop for tapas, or a cocktail is Movida in Hosier Lane. The ground floor bar, offers tapas style snacks, or grab a table for some fine Spanish food.
Queen Victoria Markets – is a “must” play place. Anyone keen to indulge in Retail Therapy should head past the noisy produce section, where the stall holders compete for your attention, to the quieter back section of the markets. Here many lanes of sellers offer products ranging from clothing, toys, gadgets and art work. Some stall holders are ready to bargain. So if you are prepared to negotiate you may arrive at a reasonable market price.
A selection of delectable baked cakes and pastries reminiscent of Europe’s fine bakeries are found in Acland Street, St Kilda. Catch a tram to St Kilda and walk the board walk that hugs Port Phillip Bay before tucking into some of these to die for pastries.
Before hitting the bakeries we discovered a café tucked discreetly at the beginning of Acland Street called il Fornaio. I could not go past the Thor Chicken Burger from a fabulous selection of lunch options. With plenty of filling and a deliciously cooked piece of crumbed chicken, this rates as one of my best ever burgers!
St Kilda – catch a beautiful sunset.
Walk out along the St Kilda pier for some quiet time. Wander a little further to discover Melbourne’s very own Little Penguin colony, nesting among the pier’s man made rocks. Not well known and if you decide to check out the penguins – be respectful – these guys are nesting and like their privacy. (ie. do not shine any torch lights or iphones in their cute little faces.)
This is my small selection of what you can do to “play” in Melbourne. My verdict – Melbourne is the perfect place to escape and find your inner hipster.
Where to stay:
Rendezvous Grand Hotel 328 Flinders Street (opposite Flinders Street Station)
Where to eat:
The Quarter 27-31 Degraves Street Ph:9650 6156
Cookie Restaurant 252 Swanston Street, phone: 03 9663 7660
il Fornaio, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda 3182 Phone 03 9534 2922
Movida – 1 Hosier Lane Phone: 03 9683 3038