A library of London

I don’t believe there is ever not a good time to travel, and leaving a Sydney summer for a European winter is no exception. Plus, for a girl who finds herself as entranced with fairy lights as I do, London leading into Christmas is a fairytale. Too busy staring up at the strings of lights floating above to navigate the streams of people falling out of buildings, cafes, and tube stations below. But ever so happy.

The first glimmer of the trip sparked from the idea to surprise his younger brother who had been living abroad for the year by turning up at the local derby at Wembley Stadium, creating a memory that floods warmth through your body – “no f#@king way” – and didn’t take much convincing from there.

So with four days in London, and an excited and unexpected tour guide, what do you do?

The first twenty-four hours were a whirlwind. Filled with surprises, station-hopping, and sub-par temperatures, we rode the high until we collapsed back in our perfectly positioned London pad. At 7.30pm – thank you, jetlag.  Wandering around Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland we wasted our first few pounds on carnival games we knew we couldn’t win, and warmed our weary fingers with Bailey’s hot chocolate and good old German beer. With Mariah already filling the air, it really was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and with his brother back by his side I could tell he already had all he wanted.

One of the things that excites me about travel is having an excuse to eat out for as many meals as you just can’t seem to justify back home. And when we eat, we do it well. Warned about the state of coffee in the UK, our first breakfast at The Modern Pantry was very well received. The savory waffles drizzled in maple syrup and pulled pork eggs benedict definitely didn’t disappoint either. And apparently, without realising, we’d brought a taste of home back to Henry. Coffee. We even stopped for a second cuppa at Prufrock on the walk home.

A stroll through the Camden Markets, where a bubble-machine from the circus shop almost had me in tears thinking it was snowing already, was followed by a proper stuffing at Southwark Tavern with a bunch of Breislin’s who we worked out, I hadn’t seen for almost ten years. Many jokes were made about putting the ‘convicts’ back in their cells (the tavern used to be a prison), and it just felt like home. Funny thing about family.

A walk along South Bank and across Millennium Bridge, we ended up watching the the setting sun trickle through the city’s shades of grey from the top story of a boutique shopping center across from St Paul’s. It pays to know people who know the city inside out. Looking at you, Viv.

Anyway, that’s enough words for now. But don’t worry, there are more to come. A whole load more. For now, have some pictures.

E x

Melbourne Musts

“Do you know anywhere good to eat in Melbourne?”

This message has been popping up in my inbox more and more frequently over the last few years. Maybe it has something to do with millions of pictures of meals that consume my mobile memory, or the somewhat mad ramblings of my love-affair with the not so distant city, but I thought it about time that I officially share my list of musts for Melbourne.

Up until this point, with everyone I have shared the list I have done so with one condition attached: if you go anywhere new, add it to the list.

The same remains for you, whoever you may be. If you have a favourite place to dine or sip, shop or see, please share it with me.

To caffeinate //

Everyone knows Melbourne is no place for mochas, hazelnut lattes or things adorned with cream. It’s about coffee.

So you’ve got Dukes Coffee Roasters, Axil Flinders Lane, Brother Buba Budan, Market Lane and Patricia’s to start with. You get the idea? There are heaps.

Industry Beans is an institution, and also serves food that looks as good as it tastes. Kettle Black, Higher Ground, Top Paddock are all owned by the same people and trust me, those people know what they are doing. I’ve ordered the coconut-set chia from Kettle Black the last four times I’ve been, which is unusual for someone with the level of #FOMO I have, but it’s the only chia I’ve ever liked. It’s that good.

St Ali is an awesome space that makes you want to go home and expose the beams in your ceiling and strip the paint off your walls. It also has perfected the ‘green bowl’. And Proud Mary’s will always be special to me because of that time I was craving hot cakes and they happened to have a hot cake special on that day.

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To eat //

You can’t talk about dinner in Melbourne without dropping Chin Chin. I’ve never actually been though. It was too obvious for me. Instead I found Rice Paper Scissors, an Asian-tapas restaurant with no reservations and no regrets.

Still not sure what I did in a past-life to deserve it, but I was treated to a meal at Lûmé on one trip to Melbourne. A multi-sensory dining experience where the food looks more like artworks. Google ‘Pearl on the Ocean Floor’. Oh my god, I know right. How amazing is it.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, you can’t go past Pellegrini’s. We did a quick google search before we went last time, which prepared us for the service, or lack there of. Unsure of whether we were meant to sit down or be seated, an understanding regular informed us it’s different every time, depending on the mood of the waiters. Lots of yelling, lots of attitude, no menus, and goddamn delicious pasta. Ask for the watermelon frappé when you go.

Oh and then there is Belleville, Gingerboy, Seamstress, and Easey’s – the most Melbourne of all meals; loaded burgers served in a graffiti-covered tram on top of a warehouse in Collingwood. It just tastes better that way.

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To drink //

Espresso by day, espresso martini by night. A lovely waiter once told me that the best bars in Melbourne are found either underground or on rooftops. These are my favourite stairways to find.

Berlin Bar is located, you guessed it, upstairs. Knock on the door and be met with the eyes of your waiter through a peep-hole, requesting the password to enter. Once you’re in, you have the choice between East and West, and with it the choice of capitalist opulence or communist austerity.

I walked past Eau de Vie three times on my first visit. Down a nondescript laneway furnished with overflowing bins and coats of graffiti. Not until a couple emerged from an unmarked door and jazz momentarily filled the air, did I believe I was in the right place. A prohibition-themed bar with a twelve page cocktail menu, and whiskeys in the hundreds, it’s a must. Simple as that.

If the best bars are found up high, then Rooftop Bar must be a good one. A local haunt for the hipsters, it’s got amazing views, cheap drinks and an open air cinema in summer. Plus, if you don’t make it up the seven stories it takes to get there, each one on the way is home to an equally cool venue – like Cookie, with it’s 600+ heavy wine list. Yeah. Not a typo.

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This is just a tasting plate of what Melbourne has to offer the senses. A tasting plate that over the years will undoubtedly turn into a banquet. So now back to the rules, because everyone knows I’m a stickler for rules; if you have a ‘Melbourne Must’ that isn’t on my list, drop it in the comments below.

E x

Be Mine, Melbourne

You know you’ve got it good when you find someone who is equally as prepared, and even happier, to spend their every last cent on good food and wine. Well, that’s what I’ve got in him. So a post-exam trip to Melbourne for some serious eating, drinking and then a bit more eating, is always on the cards.

It began as any good trip to Melbourne should: $7.80 dumplings in Chinatown. We had arrived in the afternoon, and with only our two new leather weekender-bags we’d been dying to have an excuse to use, we made it to our Airbnb apartment with ease. It did help that our apartment was located right in the middle of Chinatown and no further than a block from almost every establishment on our ‘must go’ list.

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What’s on that list, you might ask? Well it’s a funny story really. We went down with no real plan of what were going to do. I say that knowing though that he definitely had places he wanted to go, and I was just happy to be, well, easy breezy.

But on our first night, he took me to Lûmé, the most incredible restaurant with a blind, experimental ten-course menu. There we met Orlando Marzo, barman extraordinaire and the man responsible with providing some of the best liquids either of our taste buds had ever had the pleasure of. As it was, he also happened to have just competed in the World Class competition for Bartender of the Year, along with our friend Christian Blair, and as if that little surprise wasn’t enough, he, along with all the staff of Lûmé, including head chef Shaun Quade, composed a list of ‘must-go’ venues especially for us. Speechless.

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I’d recommend the restaurant based on that alone. The service was second to none. They all knew our story and cared. They were fun and professional, and didn’t make me feel embarrassed when I slipped on basic etiquette of “fancy” restaurants. I’m sure we all know the story there. They pushed your chairs in whenever you sat down, and escorted you to the bathroom each time. Speaking of the bathrooms, the ladies’ was stocked up with perfume, bobby pins, and makeup wipes, and I’m informed the men’s had aftershave and beard wax.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the food. Each course could only be described as absolutely beautiful, if not the definition of sexy. We ate in total over twelve different meats, none being the classic beef, chicken or lamb. We tried scampi roe, and emu bone broth. We enjoyed apple-fed duck, and artichoke bread with cured eel butter. We even got to dine on a meal that looked like my dream succulent garden. Each meal inducing a jaw-drop; each meal a work of art.

I’ve attached the full menu that we were sent afterwards here.

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The next morning we jumped out of bed, only to get straight back in once we realised how cold it was. Whether we mustered the courage on the second attempt or our stomachs were starting to rumble, we made it to Higher Ground for breakfast, the sister of infamous Kettle Black café. A minced lamb fry up for him, and a roasted quince bircher for me. YUM.

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A quick stop off at Patricia‘s (because #duh), on the way to the Queen Victoria Markets to pick up ingredients for my best cheese board yet that was to come later that night. We took a stroll through the streets of Melbourne as the weather starting turning it up and the jackets started melting off. I’d introduced him to the television show Rake this holiday, and that had quickly become the go-to activity while digesting food between meals. But just around the corner, like most things, was Belleville, a place serious about their seriously-good chicken, and our next meal of the day. Think Philly cheesestick spring rolls, three cheese mac n cheese, and chargrilled watermelon salad. Mad.

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More Rake, more coffee (courtesy of Brother Baba Budan), and more feasting that night. There is nothing quite like sharing a bottle of red wine in bed to make you ditch your plans to go out in a heartbeat.

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Saturday we headed South to St Ali where, after asking for advice from the waiter on which meal to choose, I decided I wished I’d picked the buttermilk griddlecakes instead. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I may not be the best at picking meals, but I know I’ve picked a good partner. Knowing of my regret, he managed to order the griddlecakes without me knowing and even offered to finish my meal for me, knowing I’d need the space for my second breakfast. Find yourself someone who would do that for you.

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By chance, the Swans were playing at the MCG that afternoon, so we met up with his cousin and her husband to see the game. The stadium was insanely big and the game was insanely awesome. Go the Swaaaaannnnnniieeesss! A few drinks at the Boilermaker House and Heartbreaker Bar that night topped it all off.

The next morning we ventured out of the free-tram zone, requiring us to top up our MyKi cards for the first time. First stop was Industry Beans, in Fitzroy – my future post code. He had the truffle eggs with pea panna cotta, and I had cinnamon dusted brioche. We wandered the streets for a bit, while I took photos of every bit of street art and googled every ‘for sale’ sign we walked past. Needless to say, we were there for a while. We did end up at Proud Mary though, where he got a $10 long black that was “worth every cent” apparently, and there is a lot of cents in $10. To finish off our Fitzroy adventure we meandered through the Rose St Artists’ Market and dreamed of things we’d love fill our homes with. If we ever have a home in Sydney’s real estate market.

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That afternoon we met up with Sarah, a friend of his from his time back in London. Always good company, she told us stories of her latest adventures and once again put forward a great argument for me switching my allegiance from the Swans to Carlton. Looking at you, Marc Murphy.

We had coffee at Top Paddock, and then a walk along the Yarra River. Considering the stunning weather, she drove us to Bridge Street where we walked some more and talked for hours. When dropping us home, she mentioned a raffle system that the theater show The Book of Mormon does, where two hours before the performance you can enter to win $40 tickets. It would have been the most incredible way to finish the trip, but we will know for next time. Thank you so much for your hospitality, Sarah!

We visited an institution for dinner: Pellegrini’s, and what an experience that was. An Italian diner with no menu, and a ‘no-f#@k’s-given’ attitude. We weren’t sure how to get the waiters attention until a lovely couple next to us just told us that they’d come over eventually. I don’t really think there is a fixed system though, the staff seem to just yell orders back to the kitchen and then drop massive bowls of pasta in front of people. When going to pay, we told the waitress what we’d had and she stared back at us blankly for a second before responding with “ahh, just make it $55.” We handed the cash over and she threw it on the bench behind her before continuing to clean dishes. It was amazing.

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That night we went to Berlin Bar, which to get in to you have to climb a flight of stairs and ring a doorbell – an obstacle that he hadn’t managed to pass the last time he’d come on his own. The bar is styled around Berlin, split into an East side and a West side, and is pretty cool.

The next day was the last. We explored the streets one more time and talked about how much we wanted to come back already. We walked through alleyways and got a coffee at Dukes. And finally, we finished the trip the same way we had started; with dumplings. It really was the most incredible week. We did so much but felt so relaxed and rejuvenated at the same time. It was the best way to celebrate finishing exams for the semester.

Now to start planning the next trip.

E x

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Jetting off to Japan (again)

With Sydney cracking 47 degrees and more heatwaves looming, I made the impulsive decision (albeit six months prior) to jet off to Japan, and with it the depths of winter. Although I’ve been to Japan before, and am going to many of the same places, I’m excited to use this trip as a way of making or breaking my theory that it’s the people you’re with that make the trip, not necessarily where it is in the world that you are. This time the team is almost ten people strong, and by the time I arrived I was already a week behind. And you know what they say about playing catch-ups…

It’s an odd feeling to feel familiar in an foreign environment, but that’s exactly how I felt when I stepped out of the Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo and back into his arms again. We’ve all seen pictures of the famous Scramble Crossing and the bright lights of Tokyo, but it was more than that – I remembered the smell of the 7-Eleven’s on every corner, the rush of people on the streets, the vending machine restaurants, the tiny square cars, the lack of bins anywhere, and how much I absolutely loved this city.

First day back and I felt like I was in Melbourne more than in Tokyo. Lucky enough to have our own personal barista on hand, we could be sure that the city had been scoured and all the best coffee spots noted. Starting the day at About Life Coffee Brewers is not a bad way. So, you’re welcome.

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Once the crew was assembled, and matching outfits were planned for the following day as is apparently the fashion in Tokyo, we headed off for our first and arguably most important adventure. Not only does it sound like a level in Candy Crush, but Sunshine City is also the home to the Pokémon Mega Center. Within twenty minutes Romy had spent most of her remaining budget on Pokémon merch, he had bought more cards than he could hold, and Ed, Dan, John and Brandon were battling on the Pokémon arcade machines outside – both against each other and with the machine, I think.

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A quick refuel at our first lucky-dip restaurant – lucky-dip in that the menu had absolutely no English, and neither did the staff. But nonetheless always a fun experience, and there was even enough room for all of us which is about as rare as John’s shining legendary Pokémon card.

An afternoon challenge against time-restraints and the Japanese rail system, we made it to Studio Ghibli, which was like being transported into another world. The building itself reminded me of Gaudí, and seeing the work that goes into making the films, plus Romy’s intense obsession made me eager for some Netflix ‘n’ Ghibli when I get home. And to top it all off, we went to the coolest sushi train in the world: sushi served by robots. Need I say more?

We woke up the next morning to Roman’s birthday, *insert something about Taylor Swift and being 22*, and headed off to Yoyogi Park where we found out that most of Japan was celebrating too (for Japanese Federation Day or Roman’s birthday, you pick). Escaping the crowds we ducked into the Meiji Shrine, where he tried his hand at picking up a new bird and the rest of us swapped catching Pokémon for catching coy in the massive pond that surrounded the gardens.

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Opting out of the Hedgehog cafe, him and I opted in for the Ramen House with the line out the door and down the street, and were not left disappointed. Feeling full enough that I’d never need to eat again, walking the length of Takeshita Street in Harajuku proved otherwise. Filled with shops of everything you never knew you needed (or wanted) and more, it wasn’t long before my tummy was groaning more than Ed does about me stealing his personal time with him, but boy oh boy did we have something incredible planned for dinner. To celebrate the man of the moment, we headed to Han no Daidokoro Dogenzaka, a Japanese-BBQ where we were served wagyu beef in every way possible and even got to cook it ourselves, not that it really needed cooking. My favourite was the wagyu beef sashimi sushi. Yeah, you heard me right. After that is was a Vape and some VB’s for the birthday boy; the recipe for the very best night.

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And that was just two days. I have two more days to catch you up on but don’t have the time to write about them now. What did I tell you about playing catch-ups…it’s a dangerous game.

E x

P.s. All photos are taken by him because I’m too busy GoPro-ing

Moving to Melbourne

I exaggerate, I exaggerate. But after spending a week here I really do wish I could just pick everything up and relocate. Even the cold weather doesn’t put me off. Anyone who knows me well, knows that me and my pale skin loooove the cold and any excuse to snuggle up in a thousand layers, eat lots of food and drink lots of coffee. The things we do to stay warm, right? It’s just survival.

But seriously, after making the conscious (albeit regrettable) decision not to travel over the Christmas holiday, I got to April before I called it. I thought that was a pretty good effort. And I only went a little bit mad.*

*debatable

There is another reason that sparked the trip: a newly acquired travel companion. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I have found the equal match to my coffee, food and travel addiction. Call him my partner in crime, the mascarpone to my hotcakes, or the mac n cheese to my burger (yes that’s a thing), the idea of a week exploring one of my favourite cities without work or uni or any other distractions with him was a no-brainer. And after being spoiled on the first night by a surprise dinner to Shannon Bennett’s Bistro Vue I knew I had made the right choice. Delicious drinks, phenomenal food. He even let me get the famous warm chocolate orange mousse for dessert. Google it. I still haven’t stopped smiling.

What followed was four days of non-stop eating. I’m going to be completely honest with you, the holiday was so relaxing my memory is somewhat of a blur, and I am not even going to pretend that the following list was completed in order. Nevertheless I am going to provide some insight into the weird and wonderful ways my brain remembers things.

Patricia’s
He almost swept me off my feet when he suddenly whisked me off the main road down the small alley that leads to an inconspicuous and unsigned door that is Patricia’s. So #melbourne. Had it not been for the line of people gathering in the alley, I would not have believed what lay behind the door. A standing coffee bar who means business.

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Duke’s Coffee Roasters
One of my favourites, I couldn’t wait to show him. Oh the lights, the timber, the mosaic tiles, two coffee machines. Its fair to say I am in my element when a place nails the design as well as the coffee. Yeah, I will stay here for a while, thanks.

Industry Beans
I have eaten here before but this time we stumbled upon Industry Beans on a food-dazed coma/trance following a feast at Easey’s so the thought of eating again was just not on the table. Watching the boys roast beans out the back while enjoying an aeropress did give him the chance to talk coffee which always impresses me, and from memory at this point I just sunk into a deep blissful state of serenity.  FYI, I haven’t stopped smiling yet.

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Easey’s
Speaking of Easey’s, all I am going to say is: tram carriages…on a roof top…burgers…with mac n cheese…and chicken…and bacon…and beer. Shut the front door. The only thing more #Melbourne is posing ‘candidly’ in front of graffiti. But so good. Oh so good.

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Proud Mary
Anyone who knows me well will know that I have the weirdest and strongest food cravings that can hit anytime and anywhere. He is particularly good at identifying these cravings and locating the quickest and best place to satisfy them, probably more for his sake than mine. But how perfect is waking up craving pancakes and promptly being taken to Proud Mary to find that the night before they changed their menu to include Ricotta Hotcakes with honeycomb, cardamon sour cream, butterscotch sauce, half poached pear and chocolate crumble. Maybe a little too perfect. Probably planned. Definitely planned. By someone who knows me too well.

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Rice Paper Scissors
Cocktails at lunch are a requisite here and it doesn’t take me too much convincing. Five dishes for $59, asian-fusion tapas. Consider me sold. Beef rendang with roti, chargrilled wagyu beef, soft shell crab banh mi, lime cured kingfish ceviche, and mekong whiskey marinated lamb ribs. If you need more convincing then there is something wrong with you.

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Eau de Vie
Obviously with all this eating you need to throw in a few drinks to wash it all down and where better to go than the best: Eau de Vie. Located a hop, skip and a jump away from our AirBnb, between the garbage bin and the carpark entrance is an unassuming black door that leads to a dimly-lit whisky wonderland. Here cocktails are nothing less than a work of art. The Smokey Rob Roy: a mix of single malt whiskies, cigar infused Zacapa rum, vermouth and orange bitters served under a cloud of wood smoke. The Pop Corn Flip: salted popcorn infused cognac paired with curaçao and white chocolate and served with a popcorn basket on the side. And don’t forget the 1984 nip of whisky for $420. Yes.

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The Kettle Black
Now sit back and think of every cafe you have been to in the last 6 months. You can bet your bottom dollar that every single one of them is trying to be like The Kettle Black. Or at least they should be. The coconut-soaked chia with fresh fruit, dehydrated mandarin and maple syrup is too much goodness to handle. I almost lost my place in the Clean Plate Club but alas, he helped me. What are baes for. Ladies, ammiiritttee?? He had chilli scramble with goats cheese and cured wallaby, and yes, he finished his and then helped me with mine. We spent the next hour or so ambling around the streets of Melbourne walking off a mother of a food hangover, but so so worth it.

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St Ali
Home of barista champions and the most delicious salted caramel and sea salt chocolate biscuit sandwich that we scored for free after he did some smooth talking, St Ali is good enough to give you heart palpitations. He got the potato hash for maybe the third time this trip? And I ventured out and got chilli scramble with merguez spicy lamb sausage. After 17 or so coffees on this trip, I decided to skip it this time so he made up for it and got three.

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Tall Timber Eatery
One of our final stops *sad face*, buttt we got to see the Block! He saw it first and presumably instantly regretted it when I started screaming and trying to take a selfie with it. Tall Timber had a lot of hype and breakfast was good, but the best part was getting to see the lovely Sarah again, a friend of his who I have adopted as my own. That and having him alter my latte art of a heart to boobs. That was good too.

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It wasn’t all eating and drinking though. We managed to find time to visit some awesome places like the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei exhibition (which was incredible) and the Queen Victoria Markets where we bought fresh pasta and vegetables to make for dinner. Also, and arguably most importantly, we spent a lot of time getting me hooked on Game of Thrones before the sixth season comes out. I think I have 47 hours left to watch and about 72 hours in which to do it.

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All in all it was an amazing and totally refreshing trip. Only complaint was that my face started hurting by the fifth day from smiling too much. Can’t win them all though I guess.

Until next time,

E.

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