Ask the Doctor: Musical Date

Help me Doctor!: Dear Dr,  I’m hoping to make a favourable impression on a very cultured girl who enjoys classical music. Have you got any good suggestions on where I can take her in Melbourne? – Michael

Your prescription: Hi Michael, it’s great to  hear that you’re doing your research in your quest to impress a girl! My suggestions for where you could take a classical musical fan are:

A concert by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
A concert at Melbourne’s traditional concert hall Melbourne Recital Centre
Recitals which tend to feature young artists at Australian National Academy of Music
My personal favourite, Classic Jam, which takes classical music out of the concert hall

There are other options involving opera, both live and in HD cinema such as those of the Metropolitan Opera and the Palace Opera & Ballet series.

Good luck! Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Melbourne Top 10

One of the most oft-asked questions for the doctor is a list of must-dos for a weekend trip to Melbourne.

When answering, I assume that most visitors are either aware of or have done the usual ‘touristy’ stuff. So here are my Melbourne Top 10 to do/eat/see suggestions which are slightly more hidden, in no particular order. Most of them I’ve reviewed before so you can find further info on the site.

1. Eat at Italy 1, MoVida Aqui, Cutler & Co, Grossi Florentino Grill, The European. You may need to book…

2. Wander down Centre Place, between Flinders Lane and Collins St then Degraves St. I recommend the almond chicken baguettes and crepes at Aix, the lunch food at Jungle Juice, Hell’s Kitchen for drinks, Body for subtle, Melbourne-esque clothing. Further on try Journal Cafe at the City Library or Journal Canteen (Rosa’s Kitchen) next door. Oh, and have a waffle at Waffle On for dessert.

3. Do the Characters and Spaces free guided walk, which covers a similar area to 2. You’ll appreciate new views of Melbourne that even the locals miss.

4. Do a free guided tour at NGV International. Guildford Lane has 2 independent galleries worth checking out – Utopian Slumps and Guildford Lane Gallery.

5. Shop at GPO, Flinders Lane, Lt Collins St, Brunswick St, Smith St, Gertrude St.

6. Walk in any of the parks. My favourite is Fawkner Park in South Yarra.

7. Poke around Queen Vic Markets (or any of Melbourne’s food markets), maybe buy some food for a night in.

8. See a movie at old-fashioned Astor in Windsor or The Sun in Yarraville. Lots of shopping/eating around those areas too – Windsor end of Chapel St in particular has great vintage and designer shops.

9. Have dinner one night along Southbank and ask for a table with a river view. I recommend Walter’s Wine Bar, Tutto Bene, Rockpool, Nobu, The Brasserie and Number 8. Also heard Bistro Guillaume is very good.

10. Lunch at St Kilda on a Sunday…Donovans and The Stokehouse are institutions by the water. Otherwise head to St Kilda East which is very cool and an eclectic Eastern European/Jewish area.

There’s so much more! What are your Melbourne must-dos for visitors?

Ask the Doctor: Small dishes for big eating

Movida Aqui 500 Bourke St Melbourne

Help me Doctor!: We are in Melbourne for a long weekend next week and want to fit as many great eateries in as possible. Can you suggest ones that serve smaller dishes so we can visit more than one a night/day/meal? Thanks – Louise

Your prescription: Hi Louise, great to hear that you’re planning your Melbourne eating in advance :–)

My suggestions for eateries that serve small dishes (all of which I’ve reviewed except the last one):

Hope that helps! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Alkaline diet and raw food


Help me Doctor!: As me and my man are trying to eat drink and live as healthy as possible after years of ABS FAB nightlife (and daylife) we are eating as much alkaline food as possible. Can you tell me where I can find places that serve alkaline diet food or sell it? If you can’t find a single thing about it… :–) Then maybe a raw food restaurant? – Kimberley-Joan

Your prescription: Hi Kimberley-Joan, being a fairly greedy omnivore I have to confess that I had to google what an alkaline diet was. Having a look at the list of alkaline foods it seems to be an approximately vegan diet.

Here’s a list of restaurants that I’ve reviewed previously which are vegan/vegetarian. Vegetarian Network Victoria has an extensive list as well.

Otherwise  a health food/organic store will probably be able to sell alkaline diet food that you’re looking for.  My regular haunts are:

Again Vegetarian Network Victoria has a list of great places to shop for vegan, vegetarian and organic goods.

As for raw food, try Le Cru (137 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park +61 3 9699 1144), as far as I can tell the only raw food restaurant in Melbourne. Here’s the review from The Age’s Epicure.

Happy health eating! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Upmarket restaurants that welcome solo diners

shark fin

Help me Doctor!: I travel to Melbourne for a few days several times a year (for the shopping/galleries)  and on the past two trips have  had real issues with being a solo diner…

  • MoVida -was ignored and watched people being sat ahead of me, had to argue to be given a single seat available at the bar.
  • Gills Diner – ignored, then seated and ignored, then given a menu and then ignored for 20 mins before leaving in disgust.
  • Taxi – told off for walking in off the street at lunchtime without a booking, then given a table very grudgingly, although there were plenty of empty tables when I arrived and when I left.

Its great when staff are welcoming, don’t eyeroll when you say it’s just for one, don’t suggest that you eat in the cafe/bar section rather than the restaurant, don’t tell you they don’t seat single diners when its “busy” and don’t hurry you through your meal so they free up the table!

Restaurants that are always welcoming are Cicciolina, Cafe di StasioCumulus Inc, Mirka at Tolarno but I’d like to add a few more to the list. Any ideas? –  Jane

Your prescription: Hi Jane, sorry to hear that some of Melbourne’s eateries have been less than welcoming to you. Melbourne has lots of cheap and quick dining options which are good for solo diners, but from your list it sounds like you’d like some suggestions that are a little upmarket and open for dinner.

Some of these  restaurants I haven’t patronised just by myself, but they have bar-dining areas which makes me think they’re better catered for solo diners. To be honest I think if you’re eating on your own you will be moved to the bar section – often I prefer that as you can chat to the staff more easily and the people around you (if you so wish). So here goes:

Good luck! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Where to buy Japanese ingredients

06 Japan JK 194

Help me Doctor!: Do you know where in Melbourne I can buy black sesame paste and matcha powder (green tea in powder form)? I have not noticed them in Asian grocery stores. – Jenny T

Your prescription: Perhaps you would have better luck with a Japanese specialist grocery store? Here are a list of Japanese grocery stores close or close-ish to the city:

Itadakimasu! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Cheap dining in Chinatown for a large group


Help me Doctor!: One of the grads at work has asked for a recommendation for a restaurant in Chinatown for their grad dinner (informal plus because we’re a public body… cheap). Dinner will be for about 20 – 25 people and if there’s a banquet option (or some easy ordering option), that would be good. Any ideas? – Jenny T

Your prescription: The problem with Chinatown is that there’s a fine line between cheap & chic and cheap & nasty. Here’s my recommendation for the best of the cheap eateries in Chinatown for large groups: 

Happy eating! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Eating itinerary for HOT new restaurants


Help me Doctor!: I’m going to be in town for a week – could you recommend five restaurants for me to visit, one for each day, Monday to Friday?  I haven’t been back to Melbourne in a while so would like to try some new places. – Miranda

Your prescription: So Miranda, you want to be part of the Melbourne restaurant zeitgeist? With no location/budget/cuisine restrictions, I’ve compiled a shortlist of new/newish restaurants which are so HOT right now.

Just take your pick and book early! – Jetsetting Joyce

Ask the Doctor: Best cocktails in the CBD


Help me Doctor!: Where can I find the best cocktails in the city in a laidback, relaxed setting? – Su

Your prescription: When I first to moved to Melbourne to start my first real job, I was given an induction pack. Along with the OHS policy and superannuation forms, an unofficial yet highly essential document was circulated – a bar guide to the Melbourne CBD.

So here’s a very truncated list of some of my old favourites and new places, all chilled out bars that serve superb cocktails:

 The Emerald Peacock – manages to make a large space seem intimate. Try their eponymous cocktail. 233 Lonsdale Street +61 3 9654 2266

The Red Hummingbird – the other little birdie in town with a fabulous rooftop, from the same owners as Emerald Peacock. 1/246 Russell Street +61 3 9654 2266

Manchuria – it’s so dark inside it could be midnight all the time. The Asian-themed bar where I first fell in love with Luigi Bormioli glassesware (what? Round on the bottom, oval on top?). 7 Waratah Pl +61 3 9663 1997

Golden Monkey– Another glamorous Shanghaiese opium den. 389 Lonsdale Street +61 3 9602 2055

Rooftop Bar – you can’t get any more chilled out lounging on a deck chair on a balmy summer’s night (I’ve been known to fall asleep in one of them). Level 7, 252 Swanston St +61 3 9654 5394

Spice Market – a vast harem’s den that’s sexy, spicy and a little bit flashy.   Beaney Lane off Russell Street (Grand Hyatt) +61 3 9660 3777 

Gin Palace – like Granny’s front parlour, but funkier. Apparently a favourite haunt of comedian Arj Barker when he’s in town. 190 Little Collins St +61 9654 0533    

Canary Club– beautiful Spanish tilework outside and a sophisticated double-level bar inside. More intimate than the buzzing Hairy Canary, especially in the upstairs couches. 6 Melbourne Pl +61 3 9663 1983

Madame Brussels – a little bit of pink fluffy boudoir naughtiness on a rooftop in Bourke St. Lvl 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne, +61 3 9662 2775‎

The Order of Melbourne– another high-ceilinged warehouse space which still manages to feel intimate if you can snag a booth. Five pages of cocktails too! Level 2, 401 Swanston St +61 3 9663 6707

 The Toff in Town– it doesn’t get much cosier than the Toff, where you can hide away from the world behind the screens of your private first-class train carriage. 2/252 Swanston St, Melbourne +61 3 9639 8770

Transit cocktail lounge– I love this bar enough to feature it in my upcoming wedding. Avoid the beer-sodden crowds at Transport and head upstairs for cosy whisky-bar leather couches, sweeping sunset views of the Yarra from the terrace and delicious cocktails. Federation Square +61 3 9654 8808

Ask the Doctor: Best Italian in town


Help me Doctor!: Where can I take my father for his birthday?  He likes Italian. – Huy L

Your prescription: Holy moly. My brain almost exploded when I received this question, as there are so many incredible Italian restaurants in this city. To make my task easier I’ve kept it to CBD venues, but let me know if you have a specific locale in mind.

Grossi Florentino– A classic. The grill and cellar bar are stylish and casual, upstairs is starched linen tablecloths serving fine dining. 80 Bourke Street +61 3 9662 1811

Italy 1 – One of my favourites. An intimate space with consistently well-prepared dishes. 27 George Pde +61 3 9654 4430

Il Bacaro – Dark, moody decor, very sexy food. 168 Lt Collins St Melbourne +61 3 9654 6778

Bottega – Without actively realising it, I’ve always picked it as the destination for the first meet-the-parents assignation. Maybe because of the calming sleek interior and delicious but non-threatening menu. 74 Bourke St, Melbourne +61 3 9654 2252‎

The Italian– Heard good things about his restaurant from RM, but not been there personally. Level 6, 101 Collins St +61 3 9654 9499 ‎

Becco is frequently touted as the best fine-dining Italian restaurant in Melbourne, but frankly I was disappointed when I went. Food was delicious, yes, but value for money? No.

My final word of advice; avoid Pellegrinis and The Waiters Club at all costs (not that they’re really birthday celebration kind of venues). I know these places are iconic, but their food is terrible – we’re talking the kind of red-sauce slop that was acceptable in the 50s, but should no longer be served to Melburnians’ well-travelled, sophisticated and discerning palates. If you don’t believe me, my Italian friend Amanda backs me up on this! – Jetsetting Joyce