One of the hardest lockdown laws in the world goes to Melbourne Town and most concur it was much needed and got them to where they are now-40 days COVID free.
For others it’s been a long, enduring ride with some bowing out before the end game. Melbourne is renowned as a cultural mecca across the globe a melting pot of food, art and sport-where hospitality is not a just a part time job it’s an occupation.
As the borders reopened we pledged to return to the city I grew up in and quite simply adore. It was heart wrenching to watch from afar the decimation of many creatives, their jobs and livelihoods.
We embark at Tullamarine Airport not knowing what to expect, mask on and poised to spend dollars in our favourite jaunts. First stop is the Italian institution that is Marios in Brunswick Street, best known for their simple pasta dishes, table wine and banging lattes (just don’t deviate from a traditional blend, there’s no nut milk on this menu) The friendly staff were eager to please and it felt like we had arrived home.
We head out of town to check out the relatively new Hotel (adjacent to the third largest shopping centre in the world) Hotel Chadstone. The word is decadent with a capital D its plush pink with gold trimming and olive green archways are reminisce of a bygone era. A perfect stopover from the city to the Mornington Peninsula, the ideal place to shop then drop in comfy beds and plush furnishings. Renowned Chef Scott Pickett is at the helm of the Hotels Italian eatery ‘Pastore’ its traditional fare with a fine dining twist.
Heading down to the Peninsula I’m reminded of my upbringing, carefree days growing up on apple orchids, green open spaces with wind in hair cruising down to the back surf beaches.
The Peninsula has grown up and up since my childhood some 30 years ago, there’s a plethora of boutique and large-scale wineries and world-class restaurants to choose from. Along with art galleries and sculpture walks that adorn stunning vineyard properties. There is a certain vibe to the Peninsula its rustic chic with a contemporary charm. We opt to taste wines at the spectacular Jackalope and eat lunch at the quirky tapas inspired eatery Rare Hare.
Rounding off a day of wine tasting and tapas we head back to the CBD to embrace the city opening up to the people and to see if our local favourites made the cut. We opt for a funky yet affordable room at the new Ovolo Laneway Hotel ideally located at the top end of Little Bourke Street around the corner from the Theatre district and the Supper Club.
Beginning our night at an old stalwart ‘Bar Lourinha’ on the top end of Little Collins St, owned and operated by a husband and wife (chef and front of house) team. Boasting one of the finest wine lists and tasty tapas menus- my heart sang as people slowly but surely flowed through the doors.
We heard there was a new speak easy kid on the block that had launched 3 days prior to lockdown and clawed its way back to open just in time for Xmas. ‘Nick and Noras’ has a classic NYC feel to it, the open plan bar flows through to the dining hall where art deco mirrors and supersized artworks feature throughout. There are 400 Champagnes to choose from and an array of curated cocktails inspired by the 50’s.
Stopping off for a nightcap at the Melbourne Supper Club with its plush red chesterfield lounges and kitsch round windows, I get the feeling the city has had a reboot with a fresh new outlook on life. There are challenges that lay ahead but one thing I know about this town they are resilient, built on a migrant population who brought their talents across the sea- Melbournites are proudly patriotic.
On our way back to the airport we stop off in my families home of Northcote, a happening suburb only 10 minutes from the CBD. Home to an eclectic High Street with artisan boutiques, small good eateries and live music venues, there is a true sense of community here. The retailers showcase ethical products and integrity and care oozes out of every shop we visit.
The time is now to visit Melbourne and pledge your support to one of Australia’s cultural destinations, that truly did take one for the team in the year that was..2020.