Words and photographs by Hui Jun Ng
Living in Melbourne city has been an exciting gastronomical experience for me. Being surrounded by endless food and beverages on a daily basis has prompted me to come up with a list of 5 special foodie experiences that are reasonably priced.
Forget about walking along the main roads, it’s time to venture further, turn into laneways and walk up/down dark stairways. These precious gems that I am about to talk about (an open concept roof top bar, a tram stop café, an Italian restaurant managed by a mischievous boss, a floating bar and an underground Japanese restaurant) are located in the city vicinity but often in unnoticeable places. There’s so much Melbourne can offer!
Join me in an adventure in Melbourne!
Roof Top Bar
During summer, this open concept bar is converted to a roof top cinema. Located on the seventh level, this bar boasts a spectacular view of Melbourne city. This place is the perfect place to hang out after dinner since it only closes at 1am. However, take note that there is usually a crowd so finding a spot or getting a drink might require a little struggle.
7/252 Swanston Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 5394
Tue to Sun: 12pm – 1.00am
Take tram number 96 down towards St Kildas and you will be warmly welcomed by the sweet looking café, MART 130, located at the tram stop itself. This cosy little café serves an array of delectable modern Australian café food. Their signature dish, the renowned corn fritters is a hit with customers (AUD $17.90), served with grilled bacon, tomato relish, sour cream & corianders.
The next hot item on the menu would be their deliciously fluffy stack of pancakes served with blueberries and raspberries. I have tried several other items and they too were amazingly yummy! Most of their items are served in generous amounts so you will definitely be satisfied. MART 130 only accepts cash and closes as early as 4pm.
107 Canterbury Road Middle Park
Melbourne, VIC 3206
Tel: (03) 9690 8831
Mercandte Woodfired Pizzeria
Lygon Street, otherwise known as little Italy, boasts a long list of Italian restaurants and Mercandte Woodfired Pizzeria is one of them. Mercandate Woodfired Pizzeria is not for the faint-hearted as pranks are often played on customers. Depending on your luck, you could have a clown creeping up to you or fake spider flying onto your face. All these free entertainments often occur out of the blue, leaving you slightly taken aback but nevertheless amused. Life is too short to be too serious!
Food is affordable – an entrée portion of pasta is priced at only AUD$14.90 and a main portion of pasta is at AUD$16.90. You can choose your pasta from a wide selection: spaghetti, fettucine, penne, gnocchi, pappardelle, fusilli, tortellini etc. The signature dish here is the Chocolate Pizza; rolled up pizza pieces of nutella, decorated with sliced strawberries, dash of cocoa and slabs of cream. Coined as ‘The Best in Australia’ on its signboard followed by something along those lines ‘according to my kids’. The owner of this store definitely has a wicked sense of humour.
123 Lygon St
Carlton, VIC 3053
Tel: (03) 9347 6974
Tucked away in the basements of Melbourne city is Izakaya Den, a charmingly modern restaurant-cum-bar that everyone one should visit. Izakaya Den only serves set lunches in the day so it is recommended that you visit them at night where the ala carte menus are available.
The place is usually packed so do be mentally prepared to wait up till 30 minutes before getting a seat. But trust me, most dishes are so awesome that it is worth the wait! Must-orders include deliciously seared Tuna Tataki with Garlic Soy and Wasabi Cream & fresh Marinated Scallops paired with Fish Roe and Egg Plant Sauce.
It is no wonder that Izakaya Den was awarded ‘The Best New Restaurant’ in The Age’s Good Food Guide in 2011.
114 Russell Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 2977
Ponyfish Island Bar
A million dollars view of both the Melbourne CBD and the South Yarra river accompanied by cheap light eats and tasty alcoholic drinks (AUD $20 for a jug) where customers are allowed to drink, eat, smoke and listen to good music. What more can you ask for? Walk through a stairwell from the Yarra Pedestrian Footbridge and you will arrive at this cool floating bar surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. Ponyfish Island is suited for everyone – the early birds and the night owls. For breakfast, order the waffles topped with maple syrup and walnuts. For dinner, order quesadilla and some beer. You cannot go wrong with this place.
Yarra Pedestrian Bridge
Melbourne, VIC 3006
Mon to Sun 08:00 am – 1:00 am
Tel: (03) 2650 1857
About the writer:
Hui Jun Ng was previously a marketing executive and freelance photographer in the food industry. Her work has been published on Epicure, Lifestyle Asia and Meld Magazine etc. She is currently on a break and traveling around the world. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram or The Keepers Map where she shares useful curated travel itineraries.