HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 6 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

In a city that’s chock full of Mexican restaurants, what makes Touche Hombre special?

For me, it’s the fun atmosphere, punchy flavours and super-quick service right in the heart of the city. I call it ‘Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am Mexican’.

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 4 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

The interior is all laneway brashness, with exposed brick, concrete, bar stools and kitschy touches. The hip hop playlist was from my era!

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 9 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

I was invited to try their new menu which launched earlier this month in time for their third birthday. It’s pretty much the same Mexican-for-gringos street food that you know and love and it all goes well with their Mexican cocktails. The zesty Tommy’s Margarita is their signature but I personally liked their icy horchata.

Touche Hombre HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

I think the best way to tackle the menu is just to go with the chef’s selection. For a very reasonable $40 you’ll be filled up with 1 Street Corn, 1 Starter, 3 Tacos and 1 Dessert.

Dive straight into the Touche fried chicken, spiced up with habanero cream and lime ($10/$25). The crunchy outer coating made with maize flour was a popcorn party in the mouth though I’d be sparing with the cream and generous with the lime to cut through the richness.

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 2 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

The spicy lamb ribs with merquin, coriander and honey ($13) were tender but far too fatty for our tastes so it was our least successful dish on the night.

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 1 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Our plate of tostaditos (or crisp mini tortillas) had one of everything – blue crab, chicken tinga, tuna and pumpkin. The Asian-inspired tuna with candied peanuts, soy and black sesame was my favourite though of course the least authentic.

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 3 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Next up, 6” soft shell tacos.  I highly recommend you douse them in hot sauce if you need a kick as I found the flavours of both the slow cooked pork cheek, habanero cream and BBQ corn salsa ($6.50) and the Chimichurri Chicken with melted Egmont cheese, toasted pepitas and coriander aioli ($6) quite mild. Other taco fillings include prawn, haloumi, fish and meatballs and the fillings are replicated in the burritos selection as well.

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 5 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Dessert veers away from Latin flavours to ice cream sandwiches and doughnuts. We tried the chocolate, chilli and peanut butter parfait ($8) which had negligible chilli in it, so I say turn it up! The biscuit was also rock hard so the whole dish was a bit difficult to eat.

Touche Hombre has obviously carved out a niche in Melbourne’s Mexican wave as it was jumping on a Tuesday night. The dishes we tried veered from OMG amazing to ho hum in my nitpicking opinion, but add a few drinks and the rapid friendly service it’s a great way to kickstart a fun night out – you can even head right next door to Burro Teca (Donkey Disco, I kid you not)!

Touche Hombre 233 Lonsdale Street Melbourne 8 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (03) 9663 0811

Mon to Sat 12:00 pm – late

 HOT: Touche Hombre, 233 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 1 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

To stand out in Melbourne’s competitive dining out industry, you’ve really got to have a signature dish, something that gets Instagrammed to death. At Mjr Tom, Collingwood’s latest cafe/bar, that dish has got to be a banana hot dog.

Yes, you read right!

Before we get into this intriguing dish, a few things you should know about Mjr Tom. It’s an all-day eatery and bar that’s split into three areas for whatever mood you’re in.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 10 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

At the front is a small front area with the coffee station and simply framed seating nooks that give the space a Zen-like Japanese aesthetic.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 11 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Head back and there’s a lofty area housing a central bar with seating plus inviting booths that are surprisingly sunny despite being eye-level with the apartment block that overlooks the narrow laneway.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 2 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

The booths are the best seats in the house, and the raw plywood, corrugated metal and greenery that adorn the space give it an outside-inside feel.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 4 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 3 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Downstairs is the bluestone basement and private dining room, with a spanking new pool table and high stools and tables.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 9 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

The menu is eclectic, to say the least, with breakfast available 8am-3pm and lunch from 12pm. I count Asian, Latin, American and Italian influences –  then there’s that banana hot dog.

The dish is a roasted banana split into two and topped with bacon lardons, grated smoked scamorza, two banana-shaped garnishes cut from arepa, tomato marmalade.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 6 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

It’s a fun and tasty dish, albeit a bit gimmicky (and amusingly phallic). Ingredients like Brazil Nut get lost in amongst the heat from the green chili and coriander salsa and the riot of other flavours. The only reason I wouldn’t order it again is because it’s $17.50 for what is essentially one tricked up banana fritter and I was still hungry afterwards.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 8 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

If you’re after a breakfast classic with a twist then try the granola, which is also a more reasonable $12. It’s a chunky mixture of nuts, seeds and fresh berries surrounding a wobbly buffalo milk pannacotta and a slightly tart yoghurt sorbet. The texture of the pannacotta is perfect though I would have liked more flavour in it.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 7 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Lunch options include fish tacos and beef-cheek empanadas and an Asian chicken burger. C’s Israeli pearl cous cous salad ($14.50) is chock full of cucmber, zucchini, mint, herbs and nuts with a ball of labne rolled in black sesame on the side. It’s fresh and light but unless you’re vegetarian you’ll need the chunks of bacalao (extra $4) for flavour and protein.

The coffee is imported from Italian roaster Romcaffe and was smooth and creamy. The chai, while beautifully presented in crockery that reminded me of volcanic rock, was too watery in both texture and flavour.

Mjr Tom 108 Smith Street Collingwood 5 HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

Mjr Tom in the daytime is a relaxing place to hang out and its global menu means that there’s plenty of choice. At night I imagine it’ll be a fun place to eat and drink, making it a great addition to the Smith Street scene.

Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood (03) 9419 8048

Daily 8am–1am

minilink HOT: Mjr Tom, 108 Smith Street, Collingwood

 

HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 7 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Hotel Lincoln (sometimes known as The Lincoln) in Carlton is one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne. Its most recent incarnation has turned it into a destination gastropub since new owners took it over late 2014.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 1 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, CarltonThe outside of the hotel still looks much the same ie slightly seedy and dim but a light refurbishment has turned the Art Deco front bar into a gleaming place for a drink and a chat, while the remainder of the space invites a proper sit down meal.

And the food by chef Lachlan Cameron (ex MoVida Aqui, Supernormal) is attention-grabbing and stunning. It’s not pub grub for uni students – this is fine dining done at affordable pub prices. There’s not a parma or burger to be seen.

The menu spans small plates (7 oz) to medium sharing dishes (schooner) to large meals (pint). Given I wanted to try EVERYTHING I left it in the chef’s hands – $45 for 5 courses of the chef’s choice (they can cater for dietary requirements). They also do a more extensive version of 8 courses for $60 but trust me, you will be very full after 5 courses.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 2 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

First course was from the ‘7 oz’ section – tersely described as ‘spanner crab, corn crackers’. It was a mixture of fresh creamy crab scooped into a delicate and aerated corn shell. Sublime.

Then onto a generous charcuterie platter of local and imported cured meats, including a melt-in-the-mouth jamon serrano, lap cheong-like peasant sausage with a hint of sherry and chilli, a ventricina and squid ink sausage which didn’t have any seafood flavour for me. All accompanied by some hunks of crusty bread and whipped butter.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 3 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

The vegetable dish was a lightly scorched cauliflower with crisp and salted dehydrated cauli leaves – a most unusual way to present a part of the vegetable I normally discard.  The underlying sauce was made of parsley with chunks of roasted almonds.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 4 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

From the main meals I received the only fish dish – salmon, chorizo, clams and stormy lager sauce. Lest you start worrying at this point about your pants spitting, the cut of salmon is about half size. Crispy-skinned and juicy it pairs well with the fattiness of the sausage.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 5 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

The main course comes with a pot of triple cooked chips, perfect in their fluffy/crisp ratio and a nest of cos hearts with house made curd. I’m not sure whether I receive one or two people’s portion of the sides but they were enormous and could not be finished, sad to say.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 6 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Because I needed to leave room for a dessert – a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. Flaked shortcrust pastry, dabs of lemon curd, cubes of soft meringue and freeze-dried raspberries, all artfully arranged on an ice-chilled plate.

As befits a good local the service was friendly and accommodating. I had stupidly only parked in a 1 hour parking spot so had to rush through my meal – and everyone was fine with that. They even let me take home a doggy bag of the chips!

While I didn’t delve into the drinks list a quick scan showed attention to craft beer and inexpensive wine.

Hotel Lincoln has got to be one of the best gastropubs in Melbourne and I’m floored by how reasonably priced it is. Get there quickly before it becomes over-popular and you can’t just walk in.

Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Sundays to Thursdays – Noon to 11pm

Fridays & Saturdays – Noon to Midnight

7 Days Lunch & Dinner

Kitchen closes at 10pm

All Day Dining on Weekends

minilink HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 2 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

I’ll let you in on a secret I discovered on a Foodi tour – you can get excellent $5 gourmet hotdogs at Ferdydurke! I don’t think even the fast food chains can beat that price, and the hotdogs at Ferdydurke are certainly a whole lot better. 

Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Ferdydurke is a upstairs bar in Chinatown run by the same people as iconic Melbourne container bar Section 8. They are actually neighbours on grungy Tattersalls Lane and overlook a breathtaking street art mural by Adnate, except that to reach Ferdydurke you need eagle eyes to spot the tiny sign and you then you walk up a set of narrow winding stairs.

 Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 3 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

The top of the stairs lands you in a surprisingly spacious, high-ceilinged space overlooking Section 8 and Lonsdale Street. The effect is a bit reverse Alice in Wonderland and certainly the decor is kooky, from gothic lamps to axes by the fireplace. 

Ferdydurke HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

Ferdydurke’s focus is on cocktails, beers, wines, hotdogs and live local electronic music producers and djs. You can slake your thirst from 12pm to 1am every day and feed your stomach from 12pm to 9pm.Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 4 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

The frankfurters are Polish Parowka and made by Rob the ‘Sausage King’. The sausages are cooked in craft beer and saukerkraut broth then popped into glossy brioche buns from Grant’s Crust, a wholesale bakery business in Rowville.

 Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 5 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

The simplest Frank and bread is only $3 and comes with tomato sauce, mustard, HP sauce or daily hot sauce special. My advice is to up the stakes to the $5 hotdogs and fill your dogs with some of the house-made chillifire beans (which aren’t too spicy actually), cider onions and/or the Pico de Gallo salsa made with tequila, tomatoes, onion, coriander and chilli. 

Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 1 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

They even cater for vegans with vegan sausages. Or if sausages aren’t your thing they offer a special ‘Big Lebowski’ burger with pulled pork for $9, nachos for $6 or other bar snacks like house made jerky and pork crackling for $4.

Ferdydurke 31 Tattersalls Lane Melbourne 6 HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

The service is friendly, the atmosphere is cool yet cosy and it’s not so crowded, especially in the daytime, that you feel you can’t move or breathe. Ferdydurke is a winner – a well-stocked bar, cheap satisfying food and a funky little hideaway in the centre of Melbourne.

Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne(03) 9639 3750

Every day 12pm – 1am, Kitchen 12pm – 9pm

minilink HOT: Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne

 

HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 6 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

Queen Victoria Market’s annual winter night market is back!

Luna1878 Night Market is a midweek celebration of winter that is happening every Wednesday night until 27 August. Before you groan about leaving your warm house to venture out on a freezing school night, just note two things:

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 9 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

1. The market is actually much warmer than you might expect. I think it must be because of the roof, the number of cooking fires and bright lights. I didn’t notice any outdoor heaters about but I didn’t feel the cold at all.

2. There is mulled wine!

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 2 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

Under the sheds of Queen Vic you’ll find a large range of street food to sample, interspersed amongst diverse stalls of local designers and craftspeople. I was invited to try out what was on offer at the market and I was pleasantly surprised by the broad range of food and entertainment on offer. The set up was a lot more spacious than my previous visit to the summer night markets and there was enough seating for quick bites in between strolling.

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 4 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

I think the food is the reason to get most excited about Luna1878 Night Market. You can choose to eat the world with Filipino coal-roasted meats, soups in a cob loaf to steaming pans of paella. Some of it was ok, other dishes were fantastic and most of it was priced around the $7 mark with nothing more than $15.

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 3 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

My recommendations go to the Xinjiang spicy lamb skewers, the grilled cevapi from the cevapi cart and the baby octopus from the Sicilian barbecue.

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 5 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

For dessert there were a few options – crepes, creme brulee, waffles or cannoli from a guy who had a cannoli for a head (kidding! just caught him at the right angle).

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 7 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

I think there could be more dessert options as the line for all of these stalls was pretty long and in the end we settled for a chilli and spice hot chocolate from Market Espresso. Unfortunately this was probably the worst thing we tried on the night, with badly burnt milk combined with a syrupy spice mix. We dumped half of it in the bin.

Perhaps my pro tip is to just swim against the crowd and eat dessert first and savouries later!

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 8 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

The lively vibe in the market was enhanced by the free entertainment, including musicians, street performers and comedians. I actually found the cooking just as much fun to watch as crews hacked into a whole pig at the Hoy Pinoy and a primary school kid deftly flipped pizza dough at 400 Gradi.

Luna1878 Night Market Queen Victoria Market cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets Melbourne + Giveaway 1 HOT: Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne + Giveaway!

If you’re planning a trip to Luna1878 Night Market then mark next Wednesday 23 July in your diary as on that night only Kit Webster will be presenting his amazing multimedia installation called Enigmatic.

Luna1878 Night Market, Queen Victoria Market, cnr Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne

Every Wednesday 9 July – 27 August 5-10pm

Free entry

Giveaway! Thanks to Queen Victoria Market I have 3 x $30 food/drink vouchers for Luna1878 Night Market to give away. To win just follow the instructions and the three winners will be chosen randomly. Entries close Monday 28 July midnight. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 4 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Neapoli is an all day eatery in Collins Street Melbourne that is many things to many people.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 1 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

By day, a cosy cafe and meeting place for nearby office workers (who particularly like the big boardroom table upstairs). By night, a sexy wine bar with interesting food to share.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 3 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

I visited on shadowy winter’s morning and the ambience was just right for the weather – dimly lit and with hidden corners for a quiet tete-a-tete. I loved Neapoli’s curving oak bar with leather stools but decided I wanted to sit somewhere less conspicuous and headed upstairs.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 6 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Both levels benefited from the light glinting off the glorious black-framed curved wall of glass which fronted onto the terrace.

photo 8 982x1024 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

For easy navigation the breakfast menu was divided into fruits and grains, toast and bagels and eggs, plus a range of sides. I decided to start with and egg and bacon bagel with tomato relish ($12.50) mainly because the menu boasted that the bagels were steamed and baked in house.

photo 7 1024x880 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

The dish was possibly the most beautiful version of an egg and bacon butty I’ve seen. One barely fried egg, a generous slice of bacon, a festive frill of baby spinach leaves and a slick of sauce opened up between two crusty slices. The texture of the bagel itself was quite interesting – not quite the chewy, Eastern European variety I’m used to but more of a bready, almost brioche-like cakiness to it. Even if it wasn’t an authentic bagel it was delicious.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 5 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Based on the successful bread venture I decided to try the banana pancakes too ($15). These were gorgeous fluffy discs with a crisp border presumably created by an egg ring. The three pancakes were topped with a classic combination of banana and maple syrup. Unbeatable.

A glance at the vast lunch and dinner menu invites to return – it’s a list of old-school Italian favourites and unexpected segues into Greek, Thai and Mexican cuisine. I love the idea of all day dining too, as often I find myself eating lunch at 11am and dinner at 5pm these days.

Neapoli epitomises the best of alleyway dining in Melbourne – a culinary destination that’s relaxed yet sophisticated, the perfect place to read the papers solo or enjoy long boozy chats with friends.

Neapoli, 30 Russell Place Melbourne +61 3 9650 5020

Mon – Fri / 7am to late

Sat – Sun / 8am – late

minilink HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 4 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Ah Double Happiness. A sexy, intimate CBD laneway bar that has witnessed a few romantic rendezvous during my dating years and then became the backdrop to one of my favourite wedding photos.

With winter setting in Double Happiness’ dimly lit nooks are the perfect location for a warming nightcap.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 8 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

I was invited to try their new winter cocktail menu devised around fragrant spices and warming liqueurs. All with tongue-in-cheek Maoist names like ‘The Great Leap Forward’ and ‘Little Red Book’, all matching the kitschy Communist propaganda lining the walls.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 5 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 7 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

As RM loves his Scotch we ordered ‘Anti-Rightist Movement’ with Scotch whiskey, lemon juice, house five spice liqueur, fig and cinnamon bitters and egg white ($17). The balance of heat and aromatics was perfect for the chilly night.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 9 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

I claimed the novelty factor with an alcoholic bubble tea (all $15). These cocktails are generally sweet and very easy to drink, like a teeny-bopper alcopop but cooler.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 6 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

As I love Japanese plum wine I tried No. 6 with plum wine, mint, lime and cloudy apple juice. It even came in a plastic cup with a peel-off lid and a fat straw for slurping up the coconut jelly and popping boba pearls! Definitely a drink where you can’t help smiling along and dangerously addictive.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 2 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

If you’re after some fire-power in your cocktail then try the Northern Expedition – dark rum, black walnut bitters, PX and a glass smoked out with a smouldering cinnamon stick ($18). Best of all it comes with a large ice sphere which means your drink will stay colder for longer and not dilute into a watery puddle. The cocktail was sexy and smoky, a drink worthy of Don Draper.

Double Happiness 21 Liverpool St Melbourne 3 HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Double Happiness is an old favourite and it remains high on my go-to bars in Melbourne. Their new menu ensures that I’ll keep returning to sample more of their limited edition wintery concoctions. Celebrate your long weekend with a visit!

Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne 03 9650 4488

MONDAY TO FRIDAY 4PM – LATE

SATURDAY & SUNDAY 6PM – LATE

minilink HOT: Double Happiness, 21 Liverpool St, Melbourne

HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 21 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

Oriental Teahouse in Chapel Street now hosts an (almost) secret bar upstairs called Zhou Zhou, named after its owner, the well-known Melbourne tea specialist and David Zhou.

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 5 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

I was invited to check out the Zhou Zhou on opening and after some confusion about the entrance I climbed the stairs from the brightly lit Oriental Teahouse to enter a dim Shanghaiese drinking den. The décor was moody and dark with timber floors and murals of Shanghaiese ladies in cheong-sam and touches of Chinoiserie and kitsch Asian paraphernalia dotted around. Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 3 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 1 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

Zhou Zhou serves over 50 Asian inspired craft beers, which apparently was quite a feat of research for David Zhou, a self-professed tea man. The drinks list is rounded out with wine, sake and Asian-inspired cocktails such as the Hello Vera – a mix of West Winds Gin, peach, aloe vera and mint, or the Mekong Hijinks of lychee, lemongrass and hibiscus tea and more West Winds Gin. I preferred the latter cocktail for the balance of sweet and tart and it was served with a lychee sherbet lolly for a comical twist.

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 8 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

The kitchens of Oriental Teahouse provide the savoury and sweet snacks, mostly dumplings, all for sharing and to match your drinks.

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 4 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

I tried the fat and fluffy pork buns and the chilli dumplings, always a favourite with their slippery pliant skins and kick of heat. But there’s lots of choose from so you don’t just have to stick with dim sum.

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 7 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

The relaxed vibe and hidden nooks of Zhou Zhou create a cosy counterpoint to the noisy street life happening downstairs on Chapel Street. It’s a place you can linger as you’ll be fed and watered in comfort and style while the rest of the populace fights for parking spaces. And if you’re at Zhou Zhou with a larger group I recommend commandeering the room across the hallway for your own private party!

Zhou Zhou Bar upstairs Oriental Tea House Chapel St South Yarra 6 HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

Zhou Zhou, 455 Chapel Street, South Yarra 03 9826 0168

Wed-Thu, Sun 5pm-11pm Fri-Sat 5pm-2am

minilink HOT: Zhou Zhou Bar, upstairs Oriental Tea House, 455 Chapel St, South Yarra

HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 1 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran
Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 3 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran
In a former life I used to live around High Street Prahran and there was not much going on there – a dry cleaner, a stationery store,  some furniture shops.

Well, the corner around High Street and Chapel Street has been revamped to become a cool eating and drinking precinct. The latest addition to the casual and funky restaurant strip is Charlie Dumpling. A cool place where you can drink cocktails and eat late night (and lunchtime) dumplings.

I was invited to the launch of Charlie Dumpling. The narrow space was crowded with people holding Mr C Sheen cocktails – a flirty pink mix of gin, watermelon, lime, and agave festooned with perky umbrellas – with one hand and popping toothpicks of dumplings with the other.

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 7 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

While it’s not all dumplings the menu is all savoury or sweet snacks that you’d have with drinks – so if you’re starving it could get expensive. The dumplings themselves are not authentic – more a modern interpretation of lots of Asian flavours – and the inventive combinations are a trade mark with chef Dylan Roberts (formerly Cutler & Co., Ezard, Claremont Tonic).

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 8 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

So instead of traditional har gao you get a more thickset version stuffed with bamboo shoots and topped with a drizzle of chill oil. Of the non-dumpling options choose the salmon tartare on airy nori crackers which is like eating sushi on a salt and vinegar chip! Extremely moreish.

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 5 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

The best dumplings of the night was a gyoza wrapping container water spinach and squid. Drizzled with curry leaf kewpie it was spicy and juicy and not a dish you’re likely to find elsewhere.

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 4 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

For dessert we have mochi filled with a lemon tart sorbet and salted almond caramel. These little orbs of icy tartness were a highlight and spying the other dessert dumplings on the menu (chocolate with raspberry sorbet and doughnut!) my advice is definitely leave room for sweets.

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 6 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

Charlie Dumpling‘s fitout subtly harks back to South Asian origins – lobster pot lamp shades, bamboo steamers on the shelves and rustic seaside window shutters as a wall feature. If a noisy, crowded Gen Y hangout is not really your scene then try taking a peek upstairs where you’ll find a giant lobster adorning the wall of the private dining room. The room seats 8 and stands up to 28 people and provides a great view of High Street from the tall sash windows.

Charlie Dumpling 184 High St Prahran 2 HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

Charlie Dumpling will no doubt be very popular given its winning combination of drinks and food – so keep an eye out for their takeaway service, coming soon.

Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran 03 9510 4213

Monday 5:30pm-12:00am

Tuesday – Sunday 12:00pm-3:00pm, 5:30pm-12:00am

minilink HOT: Charlie Dumpling, 184 High St, Prahran

HOT: Designing 007 – 50 Years of Bond Style, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton


Designing 007 50 Years of Bond Style Melbourne Museum Nicholson St Carlton 2 HOT: Designing 007   50 Years of Bond Style, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton

Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond Style is Melbourne Museum‘s showcase James Bond exhibition for the summer. And if you don’t want to share the space with gawping noisy kids then I recommend heading to the museum on Friday nights when the exhibition is open for adults only, with special location themed nights, martini talks and music.

Every Friday night 5-9pm until the exhibition closes on 23 February you can have a cocktail at the Bond Bar, purchase themed food and nibbles, dress up in costumes from Rose Chong and see the extensive Bond exhibition at a leisurely pace.

Designing 007 50 Years of Bond Style Melbourne Museum Nicholson St Carlton 1 HOT: Designing 007   50 Years of Bond Style, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton

Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond Style comes to Melbourne from London’s Barbican and features many items which will delight Bond fans (like RM, who’s seen every single Bond film) and entertain those with a passing interest in Bond (like me).

We spent around 2 hours looking at all the exhibits. There’s lots to absorb, with drawing and models of sets, vehicles and technology from five decades from 1962’s Dr. No to 2012’s Skyfall. Most of the items are original but there are some re-creations which I don’t think are particularly necessary (even if it is Ursula Andress’ white bikini in Dr No).

Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond Style starts with an eye-catching entrance to the Gold Room with a gold-painted replica of Shirley Eaton draped on a rotating cushion. You then proceed through various themed rooms – the most interesting one for me was the ‘casino’ room with many glamorous evening gowns and excerpts from the films where the gowns are featured. The sometimes outlandish gadgetry featured in various Bond films is also fascinating.

Take the time to watch the short 20 seconds films interviewing various people involved in the making of Bond, including special-effects expert John Stears discussing how he had to drill into a brand-new Aston Martin DB5 for Goldfinger and a languid cigar-toting Sir Ken Adam discussing how he decided to pack an autogyro in crocodile-skin cases. Give the ‘Foreign Territories section’ which details Bond’s exotic locations, a quick walk-through.

Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond Style is as entertaining as the Bond franchise itself, even for someone who only has a passing interest in the films and books. If you want to join the Friday Night Bond Experience you can book on-line. Note that the The Bond bar and Designing 007 exhibition are also open till 9pm Saturday nights.

Designing 007 50 Year of Bond Style Melbourne Museum Nicholson St Melbourne HOT: Designing 007   50 Years of Bond Style, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton

Finally on 22 February you can celebrate White Night with James Bond’s last night in Melbourne from 7pm 22 February to 7am 23 February – imagine seeing the exhibition at 3am after a few drinks! To purchase your White Night tickets go to Melbourne Museum Tickets.

Designing 007 – Fifty years of Bond Style, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton

1 Nov 2013 – 23 Feb 2014 10am-5pm daily

Late Nights Friday and Saturday open till 9pm

Adult  $24
Adult Flexible* $34
Concession  & Students $16
Child  $14
MV Members – Adult $14, Concession $12, Child $10

Includes entry to Melbourne Museum between 10.00am and 5.00pm on the day of your visit