Déjà Vu Melbourne…

We were in need of a pre-winter break so we packed our bags & headed to Melbourne to catchup with several friends and, of course, eat & drink! Melbourne is not too bad a town to spend a week or two…I often say it is Australia’s version of San Francisco with an overall awesome, energetic & creative vibe across multiple fronts – food & wine, culture, music & art, history, etc…

And we could not have lucked out anymore with the weather as most days it drifted into the low 20’s with beaming sun & the bluest of skies. And since we are serious walkers, it made our exploration all the more enjoyable to be free of many layers & no rain gear.

The Big Metropolis; St. Kilda’s Luna Park; Shrine of Remembrance

One of our first target destinations was one of our regular favourites when we lived in Melbourne – the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria in Fed Square). A stunning space to have a wander and experience a serious collection of art – and about 95% is FREE! And if the NGV ticks your boxes, then you need to toddle over to the NGV International just a hop, skip & a jump down St. Kilda Road (and it’s FREE! – except for special exhibitions).

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria International

Besides revisiting our old friend the NGV, we made a point of checking out some of our food stomping grounds that left us with a vey warm & flavourful memory when we departed Melbourne for the UK. We are not really the ‘fine dining’ types, but rather prefer excellent quality food, cooked well, in a relaxed setting & so our big splurge was to lunch @ Cumulus Inc. Andrew McConnell knows a thing or two about food & restaurants & this is our fave out of his bevy of joints (Cutler & Co, Builders Arms, Supernormal & Canteen, Marion, Meatsmith, Cumulus Up wine bar). And it is always a delight for us to be seated at the kitchen bar & get a first hand, close up & personal view of the food proceedings. We had some fun chats with the staff who, despite a busy lunch hour, had plenty of time to answer our questions and offer some insights into Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc.

Bundarra Pork Cutlet & Pickled Witlof & Butcher’s Sauce; Tuna Tartare, Goat’s Curd & Crushed Green Pea

Excellent Juice from Stephen Pannell – Tinto

And of course when in Melbourne, you must visit the markets…it is a habit we have no matter where we be to have a good squizzy at the local market whether an established fixture (e.g., Queen Vic or South Melbourne or Prahran) or a farmers market (e.g., Vegout, Abbotsford).

Prahran Market

I was always impressed & amazed at the range of goods on offer at the Melbourne markets. I swear there is a better selection of European goods like olive oils, vinegars, olives, etc…in the Melbourne markets than I could ever find in most of Europe.

Queen Vic Deli Section

And of course where there is great food, there’s great drinks…so we made the rounds of most of my old wine haunts (Cloudwine – fave for hard to find vino & great prices, Prince Wine Shop, Blackhearts & Sparrows various establishments with extensive choices, The Wine House, City Wine Shop – small but excellent selection & food is great too & Wine Republic – amazing selection & best new find) & scooped up a solid half dozen (New Zealand’s limit) examples of Australian’s finest. Yum…

Melbourne’s Wine Stores…

Another Andrew McConnell joint – Marion Wine Bar

One of the things on our ‘To Do’ list was to have some top notch ethnic food as Lyttelton/Christchurch New Zealand is not as solidly blessed with such an extensive immigrant community as Melbourne does in spades.

We had an interesting Turkish dinner at Tulum with mates from Balaclava but one of our go to places is Don Don, a Japanese restaurant that is fast as and super cheap (by Melbourne standards) and damn good! I ordered our 2 lunches & before I could put my change back in my wallet, 2 steaming bowls were before me!

We had also read some good write-ups for a place called Paper Plate (Vietnamese) where the kitchen was manned by one of chef Geoff Lindsay‘s ex-fellas of Dandelion fame, but at a far cheaper price point. Super crisp & clean flavours – you could see & taste that everything was made from scratch…

Paper Plate in Richmond; Vietnamese Chicken Salad & Vegetarian Pho; Hanoi Beer

One Sunday morning we met some mates for breakfast @ Industrial Beans in Fitzroy – excellent food but busts the wallet @ $90+ for 4! But post breakfast, our friends said we had to see the mural of our Prime Minister (Jacinda Adern) painted on a silo in Brunswick. So we piled into their car & off we went…very touching & excellent job.

Industrial Beans & Grace, Fitzroy

New Zealand Prime Minister Mural in Brunswick

Melbourne Street Art; Melbourne’s Booming Skyline; Melbourne’s Infamous Laneways…

So if you have never been to Melbourne – GO!!!!! It is a city that has so many nooks & crannies to explore you won’t get bored…and if you do get bored of Melbourne, head out to the country to visit the Yarra Valley wine region or the wonderful Mornington Peninsula or hit up Daylesford or Kyneton for a savoury food experience.

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The Noble Merchant Opawa…

Thr Noble Merchant Opawa – Bagel Sundays!

The Hounds keep a fun-things-to-do-list ready @ hand so that whenever we read or hear about something that would make a decent distraction, we put it on the list & then try & check them off ASAP. So I’d read about this fairly recent cafe/store opening that was just through the Lyttelton Tunnel called The Noble Merchant & for the month of July (it may be extended if it achieves success) they were trialing a Sunday bagel breakfast.
So off we toddled @ just after 8am (the web site & Google said it opened @ 8 (Monday-Sunday) & promptly arrived there at about 8:40am only to find out it was clearly still closed, apparently ready for a weekend opening of 9am – no worries…took Hound #1 for a nice stroll along the Heathcote River and we rather like Opawa anyways compared to many other Christchurch suburbs on the flats…some beautiful grand old villas & houses & lots of park space in view of the lovely Port Hills.

Baked Goods from the Bellbird Bakery – Yum.

We headed back to deli @ exactly 9am and it looked open, but the owner/barista was still milling about & the footpath signs were not out yet, but a couple of local yokels could clearly be seen inside, so in we went…Hound #2 made a joke with the owner (who was British born but grew up in Christchurch) about his opening times and that we were keen  to try the bagel breakfast & he fired back straight away “2 free coffees!!” for being the first through the door for bagels…you do not get shouted much of anything in New Zealand so good on him.

The owner had a good dose of the British banter and his bagel maker was on site to put together the bagel platters & he told us he was from Israel and a very good bagel maker, but a very bad Jew :-). A good bit of amusing & convivial chat was a wonderful way to start a Sunday…

There were 3 bagel options – a traditional smoked salmon & cream cheese (Hound #2’s choice), a venison salami & Dijon infused cream cheese (my choice) and a roasted red pepper & cream cheese  – all for the mere sum of $9.50 and served with sides of olives, pickles, caper berries, cheese & pesto.

Bagel with Salmon, Cream Cheese, Pesto, Caper Berries & Olives….

The final verdict? Excellent bagels, super toppings & sides and an A+ for presentation! And besides the bagel Sundays, The Noble Merchant is also a well stocked deli & grocer if you happen to be in the neighborhood & need to stock up.

The owner also has a cafe & gourmet food store in Lincoln called, funny enough, The Lincoln Pantry, which we had seen on one of our other Sunday outings to Lincoln that I wrote about in one of my other blog posts

So if you want an authentic bagel experience, head to The Noble Merchant on Sunday morning & give your taste buds a thrill….

Bagel with Venison Salami, Cream Cheese & Dijon Mustard, Olives, A Cheddary Cheese & Pickles…