There are many reasons Mark and I left for Melbourne at 5:30am after I finished my last assessment at 8pm the night before and just 6 days before I am going on holiday Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Lots of things happened and it seemed that if we wanted to go visit Mark’s sister and nearly-one-year-old niece before uni went back, this was the only time. We were lucky enough to be able to use some frequent flyer points and so got to fly Qantas. After flying Jetstar, Virgin and Tiger the last few years, I forgot how fancy Qantas felt. There is that little bit of extra leg room and they gave us a paper and breakfast. It was awesome. So we arrived in Melbourne bright and early and caught one of the spunky yellow cabs to the accommodation we had organised in Southbank.
We had used airbnb in Canada and America, and thought we’d give it a go in Australia as well. I’ve explained the concept before, but airbnb is a website where people put up rooms, houses, apartments, etc. where you can rent them for a night or many instead of staying at a hotel. I have found it way better than hotels, because you generally get way more for your money and I like that you are met at your destination by a local who can give you directions to good food, train stations and fun things. We chose an apartment in Southbank because we were finally using the Red Balloon voucher our lovely friend Patrick had given us as an engagement present. The dinner was along the Yarra river, and the place we found was about a half an hour walk from there, so that hopefully, even with the included bottle of wine and cocktails, we could find out way back. Before dinner though (we did arrive in Melbourne at 9:30am after all), we did a little exploring.
After a nice chat with our friendly host (who had the best apartment ever) we strolled out into the city. To increase how impressed I was with the accommodation, it was about a 3 min walk from the National Gallery of Victoria, which we of course had a peek at.
After walking around a bit and enjoying the sounds, sights and streets of Melbourne (sorry there are not photos – my hands were cold), we found somewhere for lunch. It was a place called Grill’d down a little alleyway. The had three vegetarian options! So impressive.
Now the burgers were good – very good. Mine was galled ‘Field of Dreams’ and was essentially a giant mushroom. Mark can vouch that their burgers with meat are good too. The best thing, however, was not the burgers, but the chips. They were the best chips I have ever had (that’s a big statement – I’ve had a lot of chips). They were a good size, perfectly crisp but still soft and rolled in a subtle mixture of herbs and salt. They even managed to somehow stay hot in the rainy weather. If you go there, get chips.
After lunch we took a leisurely walk back to our apartment. It could have been more leisurely, much of it was spent standing under a palm tree outside the barracks to avoid the rain and then buying $5 umbrellas. We rested our cold, wet feet for a while before getting ready for our dinner. The rain had slowed to a drizzle and we walked along to our reservation at The Wharf Hotel. It was opposite the crown casino where fireballs were bursting over the river. It was quite spectacular and gave the illusion of warmth, which I enjoyed.
When we arrived at the restaurant it wasn’t quite what we expected. Most of the restaurants along the river had white tablecloths and little chairs pulled up against the window, but the Wharf Hotel seemed to be more of a bar. We couldn’t quite see where a restaurant was. We walked inside where it was warm and there was a musician singing Jason Mraz’s ‘I’m Yours’ and told a waitress we had a reservation. She happily took us out the back to this lovely quiet area where there were booths with candles lit on the table. Our booth was lovely and cosy and even had a view out to the river. It wasn’t what we expected – it was way better. We sat down and the waitress showed us the red balloon menu. The food looked amazing. As we were trying to decide what to get she asked if we knew what mains we wanted. I said we didn’t, but we knew what entrées we’d have. She then informed me that we got all the entrées and they were already on their way.
Our entrées were bruschetta, salt and pepper squid and a chicken salad. I devoured the bruschetta (with feta and balsamic vinaigrette) and Mark handled the squid and chicken. We also got cocktails (strawberry and pineapple chuppa chup cosmopolitans ftw) and a bottle of wine. The is a big problem with alcohol… when you’re full, you can’t fit it in.
Now this wouldn’t be a very good blog without a tangent. Before I explain why I got field mushroom and pine nut homemade gnocchi, I need to explain why Pat bought us this restaurant experience. Pat was looking at buying us a dinner in Sydney, and was looking at all the menus. Like a true food-loving vegetarian, Pat was drawn to a menu with great sounding vego gnocchi and so booked that one, not realising it was in Melbourne. Mark and I assumed Pat meant to book a Melbourne restaurant because he knows we go to Melbourne to see Mark’s sister… but it was apparently a mistake (an awesome mistake). So that is why I ordered the gnocchi. Mark got a pizza with chicken, pesto, sweet potato and caramelised onion. He said it was good, even eating the pesto with a smile (Mark usually avoids green stuff at all costs). We were so full, and it was so good… and then the waitress asked if we were ready for dessert. We were not. We asked to wait for half an hour to drink our wine and hope that in that time we might be a little less full. When dessert came out, this happened:
We had an apple pie, cinnamon ice-cream (why isn’t this more common?), a chocolate fondant, more fancy cream and some berries. It was really delicious. I would like to go to this restaurant again and just get dessert, I feel it could have deserved a lot more of my attention. After an amazing dinner we strolled back along the lovely river and ultimately fell into bed as very full, very happy young people.