When on holiday, I always manage to eat way more food than usual. I’m not talking about eating to fuel your body, but eating as the main – and sometimes only – activity of the day. Serious food dedication. With nothing else pressing on the agenda, eating exotically can become the sole focus of holiday activities. A dangerous and delicious slippery slope! This was the unavoidable situation I found myself in when I travelled back home to Melbourne for a short visit late last year.
S pondering his next meal choice…
Luckily, Melbourne has a massive foodie scene, and the restaurants you trip across down back alleys (literally) are usually gourmet delights. I could (and have) spent days trying out different cafe’s, brunch spots, hidden bars, hipster hangouts and lush restaurants. Food art is taken very, very seriously and the atmosphere of the restaurant is nearly as important as the food itself. So, what rocked my boat?? Read on…
I miss brunch. I yearn for poached eggs and wilted spinach on a sourdough toast when in Vienna. Brunch used to be my Sunday habit when I lived in Carlton. Meeting friends at a cosy cafe to debrief about the weekends shenanigans was our own kind of religion. What seemed like half of Melbourne would be doing the same. Naturally then, my first port of call on landing in town was catch up brunch:
We went to the adorable and airy John Gorilla‘s to get my my poached egg craving satisfied. Good service, great coffees and most importantly they allowed us to while away over two hours of catch up chats. Despite the place being near full, we weren’t hurried along or made to feel uncomfortable. Brilliant!
Happy brunch fans
So thrilled to be eating good brunch!!
However my favourite brunch spot of the week has to go Annoying Brother on Nicholson Street. A short stroll from buzzy Lygon Street, this place was adorable, with great spins on classic brunch items, service was chatty and friendly but not too in your face. Their coffee was so great I had one pre and post meal and the smashed avocado with feta and a poached egg was scrumptious. Plus, look how cute this place is!!
They even speak my adopted language!
I was in town for my sisters birthday, so our family had multiple excuses to go out for meals all week. The first place we went was a surprisingly lush and high end Indian Restaurant, hidden (where else?) down an alleyway in central Melbourne. I vaugely remember the site used to be a nightclub, and walking down there you almost believe you’ll be entering a dingy bar.
Melbourne’s famous alleyway street art
Shoes hanging from what I hope are not electricity lines outside the restaurant!
Once you find Tonka, it is a surprisingly gorgeous open and airy restaurant looking over Flinders Street. Completely unexpected at the bottom of an alleyway! We were there for lunch so the place was soon filled with well dressed Melburnians enjoying the extraordinarily good food.
The views before the mad lunch rush
This is not your average Indian curry and korma, this is beautifully infused, delicious and high quality Indian. An absolute highlight of the week. Service was impeccable, and the wine and cocktails were… well, lets just say our ‘lunch’ ended at 5pm, so we thoroughly enjoyed it all!!
A very close second was the much hyped Meatball & Wine Bar. Located in the alley-adjacent Flinders Lane, this place was brilliant. Who knew such wonderful things could come of eating meatballs?? We wandered in late on a Thursday evening after a hearty day of touristy shopping and were lucky enough to land a table. Apparently the wait times here can get out of control in the evening. Walking in, the place felt more like a hot-spot bar than restaurant, with dim sexy lighting, couples flirting at bench tables and a party vibe throughout. Once the food came out though, all that trendy, edgy stuff was irrelevant because man, are those meatballs good!
Alleyway restaurant must-have; artfully deconstructed brick walls.
It’s very simple really – you choose your meatball type (beef, pork, chicken or veg), select the ‘bed’ you want it to rest on (potato mash, pasta, vegies) and the sauce you want drizzled on top. Voila! It’s that straightforward, and so so delicious. My mum was telling people about her pesto mash potato for days and days afterwards. The extra fun part was the size and genius of their desserts. I can’t resist dessert – try as I might to be healthy – and I believe the Austrian love of sweet treats has only encouraged my weakness! Meatball & Wine bar did not disappoint on the dessert front, take a look at this delicious specimen:
Heaven. Or a heart attack.
That, my friends, is heavenly home made ice cream sandwiched between two cookies. The best bit is, you construct sandwich the same way you construct your main meal. By choosing from six flavours of cookies and three flavours of ice cream to create the perfect dream dessert. I went for a lemon shortbread cookie on the bottom and chocolate cookie on top with classic vanilla ice cream in between.
It. Was. Incredible.
I wish I had photographic evidence of my joy but we were so caught up in the frenzy of eating such deliciousness that there was no time for photos. We headed home in an overstuffed, satisfied food coma…but not before I noticed the drinks special on offer at the Bar:
It seems the Aussies have discovered the Austrians favourite summer cocktail. Aperol Spritzers are a must have on any self respecting Austrian menu, and finding a venue in Melbourne that sold spritzer’s by the carafe gave me a little bit of hope that maybe my two homes aren’t so far apart after all. Malzheit!
Its been a while guys, and my only legitimate excuses are…Xmas, returning to Australia, exhaustion and jetlag. Apologies. But really, nothing happens on the internet between xmas and New Years right? Right.
So, my trip home was wonderful and confronting and cathartic and busy and emotional and difficult and delightful and all manner of things that i’m not ready to write about just yet. I need to let the dust settle a bit and see how I feel upon reflection. Overall it was great, but I‘m happy to be home too.
And thats the big news. Vienna is starting to feel like home. Flying into the (tiny) airport didn’t feel like another adventure, it felt like a long exhalation. The sigh of relief you get when you know your own bed is near. So needed after 24 hours in an airplane, especially when preceded by 3 weeks non-stop of trying to see everyone and reconnect.
I‘d been worried that coming back to Austria would make me more homesick for Melbourne, knowing what I was missing – the sunshine, the familiar haunts, the brunches, the beaches – it would maybe throw Vienna into sharp contrast. But Vienna has its own attractions and it doesn’t feel entirely alien to be here anymore. We’re building our own lives here and in some ways that’s really liberating. Going to Melbourne I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to see everyone, to reconnect, to show S the best of the city, to maintain everything with all my friends and meet other people’s expectations. Here I feel a lot more freedom to do things at our own pace, on our schedule and have that bit of space away to create our own world.
I guess that’s not entirely fair on ole-Melbourne town. A 3 week visit after 2 years away is always going to be high-octane and unlike living day-to-day in a city. Still. My ‘real life’ is here for now and strangely, it doesn’t seem strange at all.
The big contributing factor that I am ever so pleased to let you know is – I finally got a job. Full time employment. Reality. BOOM. It was confirmed right before we left and I start tomorrow. Official role is Business Travel management with AMEX working for the UN and affiliates. I believe our particular section will be booking for the OSCE. Either way its exciting. And in English! Career development! New office! Lovely people!! Amazing opportunity! I really couldn’t imagine any better position to find my feet here. I’m so relieved, so excited for new challenges and SO happy that S no longer has to bear the burden of all of our finances in the New Year.
The real difference though is that my gypsy life is officially over. Topdeck gave me a world of opportunity, the greatest adventure, wonderful friends and amazing experiences and memories. I truly will always be grateful – its the job that changed my life. I’m definitely going to miss it, especially seen as i’m returning to a regular desk job after two years of relative freedom and travelling. Will be interesting to see how I survive. The timing feels right though and Topdeck has said the door is always open, which is lovely.
So, this is me, on the precipice of real, adult, grown up, relatively normal life – here’s hoping I survive!!