HOT: LuxBite x N2 Extreme Gelato Melbourne x Uber Melbourne


As far as marketing stunts go, the collaboration between dessert specialists LuxBite, ice cream laboratory N2 Extreme Gelato and premium taxi service Uber Melbourne is a deliciously fun one.

For this weekend only (Friday 30 August to Sunday 1 September), Malaysia’s kaya coconut jam will be featured in two special ice-cream dishes at two Malaysian-run businesses on both sides of the Yarra. Ostensibly the event is to celebrate Malaysian Independence Day but really I think it’s just an excuse to ‘eat dessert first’ (or twice, in this case).


So first stop, LuxBite. This innovative dessert parlour is offering a high rise Kaya Toast ice-cream sandwich ($10) using a large split macaron housing a scoop of Kaya gelato by N2 Extreme Gelato, a smear of salted butter and rolled in some toasted shredded coconut. The final touch is a liquid-nitrogen-smoking mix of Milo and Old Town instant coffee crumble for an added ‘Wow’ factor.


As you can imagine it’s an absolutely delicious combination of sky-high sugar sweetness and probably a dessert best shared between two.


Second stop, N2 Extreme Gelato. What makes gelato extreme? When it’s made to order using liquid nitrogen! A bank of infused creams with unique flavour combinations (potato and leek?) sit behind a row of Kitchenaid mixers which churn the base until it’s ready for the crowd-drawing cloud of liquid nitrogen.



The nitrogen freezes the mixture so quickly that there’s no time for ice crystals to form and the result is a beautifully silky ice cream.


New flavours are released every Thursday and for this weekend’s parntership they are serving up a limited edition ‘deconstructed kaya toast’ combination of milk gelato studded with broken up ‘Ping Pong’ cream crackers, rolled in toasted bread crumbs and stabbed with a syringe of warm Kaya by LuxBite ($8). The ice cream is impressively silky smooth and the whole concoction definitely eye-catching!



The final piece of this kaya dessert fest is that Uber Melbourne can help you traverse nasty old Punt Road. Their bank of luxury cars are offering two FREE rides up to the value of $40 between the two venues for existing and new riders. Just enter the promo code N2Lux on the Uber app. Ride must begin at either LuxBite or N2 Extreme Gelato and valid from 7am Fri 30 Aug to midnight Sun 1 Sept.


LuxBite, 38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra

Daily 10.30am – 7pm

N2 Extreme Gelato, 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Daily 1pm–11pm

HOT: Uber Melbourne


Have you ever tried to find a taxi in Melbourne on a Friday afternoon? It can be a frustrating experience.

Let Uber come to your rescue. Uber is like a premium taxi service – their tagline is ‘everyone’s private driver’ – and if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celeb using a stylish Uber to arrive to your destination is the first step!

The service started in San Francisco and has now spread worldwide, landing in Melbourne a few months ago (there’s also Uber Sydney and soon to be Uber Brisbane). I used the service for the first time recently and was very impressed.

All you have to do is download the Uber iPhone and Android apps or use your smartphone to go to to sign up with your information and credit card details. If you’re in their red-zoned area you can request a car at any time to take you anywhere (including outside of the red zone) – note you can’t pre-book, the cars are on-demand only.

You will receive an indication of how long your nearest car is from your pick up point and once your request is booked you can watch the car on screen as it crawl up towards you like a miniature ant. To make it easier to spot your Uber you are told the registration number of your car, the driver’s name and the driver’s phone number in case you need to contact them.

The whole booking process is easy and I’ve found that cars are generally no more than 15 minutes away if you’re in the CBD or inner city, even during times of higher demand.

The cars themselves are luxurious black sedans and it feels like you’re being whisked away in a fancy limo rather than a scummy taxi. We were even offered mints by one driver!

When you arrive at your destination your registered credit card is automatically charged so there’s no need to tip or scrounge around looking for your wallet – the door is just held open for you and you can sail out. Within minutes you’re automatically emailed a detailed tax invoice of your journey with a breakdown of costs and your driver’s details.

Uber is more expensive for a standard taxi (about double the cost), but it is a much smoother and pleasant experience and particularly useful if you’re needing transport during peak hours or if you’re going to the airport (which costs a flat rate of $80/$95). What I do is follow Uber on Twitter @Uber_Melbourne to find out when they have special promotions – sometimes it’s free rides, sometimes it’s a discount code.

And if you’re interested in trying out Uber now sign up using the promo code ‘cnoub’ and receive $20 off your first Uber ride.

Ride on!

HOT: SO:ME Space, South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

South Melbourne Market has moved out the dollar stores and moved in some hip wares.

Under the big shed they’ve created a space for small shops and pop up sites called SO:ME Space. It’s filled with clothing, accessories, artwork and bikes – a fun place to browse before or after your market grocery shopping.

Some of the designers include previous blog favourites Wet & Wendy and Skinny Nelson at Jane, plus cool bikes and accessories from Bakerlite and a very eye-catching shop display at Stone Glint and Bone.

SO:ME Space, South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Wed 9am-4pm
Thurs 5pm-9pm
Fri 9am-5pm
Sat 9am-4pm
Sun 9am-4pm


The Casual Cyclist’s Guide to Melbourne Giveaway!

I am a big fan of Melbourne-based bike rental company The Humble Vintage and the limited edition hand-drawn maps coming out of it called Melbourne for Visitors and Casual Cyclists.

Now author and entrepreneur Matt Hurst has written The Casual Cyclist’s Guide Melbourne, a book bringing a fresh perspective to cycle routes in Melbourne interspersed with articles on cycling tips, tricks and thoughts as varied as Taking the Scenic Route and Five Surprising Situations When it’s Better to Take the Bike.

The guide brings together contributions from a range of Melbourne architects, historians, chefs, designers and local identities, including chef Guy Grossi and milliner Richard Nylon.

With hand drawn maps by Matt, design by Studio Pip & Co and illustrations from graphic design duo Tin & Ed, it’s a uniquely Melbourne collaboration. The book is a delightful read and it’s an essential item for the ambling Melbourne cyclist.

Giveaway! Thanks to Hardie Grant, I have one copy of The Casual Cyclist’s Guide Melbourne to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment below by Friday 9 December and the winner will be drawn randomly. The competition is restricted to Australian residents. Good luck!

HOT: WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant, 153 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

For the last week I’ve been watching the corner of Gertrude and Napier Streets with interest.

WLG stamped on the walls. Brightly coloured metal chairs lining long tables on the pavement. A dude with an enormous 19th century handlebar moustache working the tables.

The answer? The WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant has landed in Melbourne to occupy salon/bar Rue de Fleurus for 2 weeks only, from 15 November to 27 November.

WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant is a tourism marketing campaign for the city of Wellington, New Zealand. It aims to showcase Wellington’s finest locally sourced produce, wines from neighbouring wine regions, restaurants, cafes and hospitality faces beyond a glossy travel agent brochure, by bringing a slice of the Wellington experience straight to our doorstep.

Tickets for the $35 three course dinner have been selling like hot cakes and in-the-know Melburnians have been clamouring for the 50 or so walk-in spots as well. I was lucky enough to be invited to sample the restaurant thanks to Positively Wellington Tourism.

Wellingtonian chefs, sommeliers and hospitality staff have been brought over especially for the pop-up restaurant’s two-week duration. The 3 course menu has been devised with their input – there’s a taste from each chef in the starters tasting plate and a main course choice by each chef ranging from fish to meat to vegetarian. Everything has been brought over from across the sea – even the award-winning Antipodes drinking water.

Your dinner starts with a shared tasting plate to which each chef has contributed.

Tick off the following:

Manuka salt cured lamb shortloin with  beetroot, walnut and balsamic salsa;

Grilled Marlborough scallops, celeriac puree and pancetta crumbs;

Fried goat’s cheese balls with Manuka honey and Kiwi chutney;

Maple syrup smoked Regal King Salmon with horseradish creme fraiche and tiny capers (the highlight for me); and

Pig’s cheek ‘schnitzel’ with roast lemon chutney.

From the choice of five mains I choose  the the pan-fried Cook Strait groper atop a large dollop of lemon potato puree with baby herb salad and crispy fried white bait with preserved lemons by Tom Hutchinson (Capitol) while D had slices of perfectly judged Horopito-seasoned beef with slow-roasted tomato, potato fondant and green beans by Rex Morgan (Boulcott Street Bistro). The other chefs involved are Shaun Clouston (Logan Brown), Jacob Brown (The Larder) and Terry Lowe (Black Barn Restaurant and Vineyard).

For dessert we tried to the two dessert options. The Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate Pavé with fresh raspberries, Manuka honey cream and damson plum coulis was the ubiqutious ‘something chocolate’ on the menu and we both agreed that the Licoricello pannacotta with vodka lime parfait and pistachio wafer was a more exciting dish.  I particularly loved the texture of the pannacotta – smooth, silky and not a hint of rubber at all, plus the sharp hit of 42 Below vodka.

The hospitality staff have been pulled from various Wellington establishments and service is very smooth when you consider that the staff are working together for the first time.

As a marketing and awareness campaign, the WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant is smart and it works. The food is delicious. The wine is delicious. The atmosphere is young and fun and the guy with the handlebar moustache turned out to be our friendly waiter for the night (and can be found at Duke Carvell’s Swan Lane Emporium back home). Who knew that Wellington could be a gastronomic travel destination?

Plus only after dining at WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant was I aware that Wellington was only 3 hours away from Melbourne (and Sydney and Brisbane) and considered by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 to be the coolest little capital in the world – two facts emblazoned on the dining room wall in front of me.

Tickets have sold out but there are walk ins available each night and unreserved outdoor seating. Just go!

WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant (taking over Rue de Fleurus for a two-week period) 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Tuesday 15 November – Sunday 27 November 6pm til late. Closed Mondays


HOT: Melbournalia Home, Level 1 Rear 126 Franklin St, Melbourne

Stuck for a unique, Melbourne-themed Christmas gift or holiday souvenir?

Then make sure you get to Melbournalia, a series of pop up stores open now in the lead-up to Christmas. Over the next few weeks four Melbourne CBD venues and one repurposed newspaper stand will host displays of Melbourne design goodness, with HQ being at Melbournalia Home in an out-of-the-way laneway (naturally) off Franklin St.

Melbournalia Home is a stylish converted warehouse filled with stationery, jewellery, homewares, fashion, coffee, art and design from some of Melbourne’s best-loved boutique design brands.

My covet list includes:

Gorgeous Neighbourhood throw and picnic rugs from Otto & Spike and make-your-own mobile from Ink & Spindle.

Tram roll cushions from Poulier & Poulier.

 Mattt cases for notebooks and laptops.

In 2011 our kitchen calendar is by The Design Files. In 2012 our calendar will be the designed by the giggle-worthy Able and Game.

Tonight Melbournalia Captains opens at Captains of Industry (Level 1, 2 Somerset Place, CBD) with a launch event 6-8pm and everyone’s welcome! Enjoy some wine and browse the Captain’s selection of Melbournalia gifts for the modern gent.

HOT Chat: Richard I’Anson, Photographer

You may remember a few months ago I asked my friend Cheryl (from fashion blog Business Chic) to take some photographs of me my riding to work on my bike. While we were shooting in Flinders Lane, a swarm of people carrying telephoto lenses came across us. The group was on some sort of photography tour – and their teacher asked whether it was ok for him and his students to take photos of me. Golly, I’d been papped!

Cheryl takes a photo of the paparazzi

Anyway, it transpired that their tour leader and teacher was Richard I’Anson, a reknowned travel photographer based in Melbourne. I have several of his books at home! Seizing the opportunity, I asked Richard whether he’d be interested in doing a little HOT Chat for this blog in time for the launch of his new book, India: essential encounters. Thanks Richard!

Richard's photo of me

Richard, tell me a bit more about your background and how you got your start as a professional photographer?

I was an avid (some might say tragic) amateur from the moment I got my first camera for my 16th birthday. After a couple of years at college studying photography, film and television I left to work in a camera shop. A year later I quit and set up my own business shooting weddings, which I did for 5 years, during which time I also starting travelling.

To establish myself as a travel photographer I did lots of trips all over Australia plus two overseas trips. The first was a seven month trip which was a lot of fun but covered far too much ground in too short a time. I now regard that trip as my apprenticeship, as the results were patchy to say the least. However, after a couple of years at home and lots of reading and looking at the work of other photographers I set off on a two year journey through Asia with the goal of building a substantial image collection.

After I got home I went knocking on doors and fortunately my pictures suited the needs of a few companies, including Lonely Planet and World Expeditions, who I’m still working with 20 years later.

What do you think is special about photography as an artistic medium?

Photography has the ability to allow the photographer to capture realistic, yet unique moments in time, by combining a series of technical and creative decisions in order to select and organise elements into a visually cohesive composition.

What are some of the most interesting or challenging shoots you’ve done?

Every shoot is interesting and almost all of them have challenging moments, mainly due to the fact there is never enough time and the vagaries of the weather.

I’ve done a lot of work in the Himalaya. When you’ve got to get up in freezing temperatures, walk for a couple of hours up a great big hill to be in position for when the first rays of sun light hit the mountain tops, it’s always both mentally and physically challenging.

Equally so are the really big festivals in India when millions of people gather to celebrate. The massive crowds, long days and the distance that I end up covering on foot make for very, very intense experiences.

Where are you travelling next for your photography?

At this stage the trips planned for next year include China, Czech Republic and India –  where I’ll be escorting a 22 day trip to  Ladakh and Zanskar in the Indian Himalaya (see

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a professional travel photographer?

Understand right from the start that travelling to take photographs is very different to taking photos while travelling. Nothing gets higher priority than being in the right place, at the right time, all of the time.

It’s a competitive, challenging business and if you want to be successful you will have to work hard and do it full time. And, you have to be prepared to commit time and money to building a collection that you can licence to image buyers as well as show potential clients what you’re capable of.

Finally, what are your HOT tips for Melbourne where you like to take your camera?

Melbourne’s lanes with their graffiti covered walls are a favourite place and not just for the art, there is always something happening – cafe workers taking a break, kids hanging out, music being played, wedding groups being photographed and tourists wandering around with their cameras – all great subjects to shoot in front of the colourful walls.

Federation Square is another place where there is always activity and the architecture itself is a wonderful subject.

Finally Southbank is a great place to be at dusk for the classic city view.

Richard is launching his new book India: essential encounters in Melbourne next Tuesday 23 November at POP Restaurant, Hardware Lane. To purchase drinks, canapés and a signed copy of India: essential encounters, click here.

HOT Chat: Owen Thomas of Hipside Guides

I liked the idea of Hipside Guides as soon as I heard about them – a city guide written by a local to help visitors and locals find the the cool, hidden places of Melbourne. Kind of like MEL: HOT OR NOT, in map form! Today’s HOT Chat is with Owen Thomas of Hipside Guides – thanks Owen!

Owen, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start Hipside Guides?

I’m a relative newcomer to Melbourne, originally coming from London. I married an Australian and we moved here four years ago. One of the first things I looked for when we arrived (after an umbrella and sunglasses) was a guidemap, but none of the ones available met my requirements. So I decided to create my own.

It’s been a really fun way to get to know my new home city and I’m hoping it will also help other visitors and settlers, as well as any locals who want to explore beyond their usual neighbourhoods. It’s easy to take a place for granted when you’ve lived in it all your life, so a fresh perspective can never hurt.

In my previous life, I was a programmer and artist working on computer games, but strangely, map-making does seem to run in the family. One of my father’s first jobs was analysing aerial photographs for the air force and my brother is also a cartographer, mapping everything from wildlife to landmines.

What makes Hipside Guides different from other tourist maps or guides available about Melbourne?

There are mainly excellent books on Melbourne, but these days, who really has the time to read them? A good guidemap can give you an overview of a city in a fraction of the time and you also get a better impression of how everything fits together.

The Hipside Guides Melbourne Guidemap has a slightly hand-drawn look, making it visually very different from other maps that are available, but I’d say the main distinction is in its scope and level of detail. Most tourist maps cover just the CBD or a specific suburb, and don’t actually tell you much more than the location of the major museums and landmarks. At best, a few provide superficial ‘top ten’ type lists of the most popular bars, shops and restaurants. And of course, the free maps are either sponsored by the featured businesses or by local government, which has to affect impartiality to some degree.

The Hipside Guides Melbourne Guidemap covers the CBD, as well as a large part of the surrounding area. It features over 350 businesses and institutions, selected purely on merit. Alongside the usual, well-known destinations, I’ve made a point of including as many of the smaller, quirkier places as possible.

This isn’t a guidemap just about shopping and dining. Melbourne has a really fascinating history, which is clearly visible in its architecture and public artworks, so I’ve picked out the better examples and peppered the map with interesting facts, anecdotes and background stories.

With all its laneway hidey-holes, Melbourne is a city which really rewards those with the curiosity to explore, and that’s something I’ve tried to reflect in the guidemap. The intention was to create a deliberately sprawling and information-overloaded map, designed to be pored over and explored just like the city itself.

There are a lot of places on the map! How did you go about selecting which places to include in your guide?

I began with lots and lots and lots of walking. Then I walked some more. In Melbourne, you have to explore even the grottiest of laneways, because they often contain the best surprises. I try to never pass an open doorway or a shop without exploring inside and I’m sure I’ve sampled far more drinks and meals than is probably healthy. Yes, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

I’ve looked for places that are exceptional or at least unusual. It’s easy to forgive a few rough edges if a place has a unique charm or is offering something out of the ordinary.

Of course, all guides are ultimately subjective, but I’ve done my best to keep its appeal as broad as possible. It isn’t a guide just for tourists or hipsters or any other single group, but for anyone who wants to get an understanding of the city as a whole. I personally may have no interest in poetry bookshops (Collected Works) or spice merchants (Gewürzhaus), but they’re all part of what makes up Melbourne and I find it wonderful that such places exist.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

I think any independent publisher will tell you that one of the biggest challenges is getting exposure, so opportunities like this interview are really important.

Getting distribution into shops is also difficult, but at least people are getting more used to buying over the internet these days (you can get your copy from for $12.95 including free delivery).

As for advice to other business owners, I don’t think I’m qualified to give any just yet. Ask me again when I’ve sold my first million!

What are your next plans for Hipside Guides?

As soon as time allows, I want to expand the Hipside Guides website with more interactive features, more updates and maybe even a blog. And, in the long run, I’d like to apply Hipside Guides to other cities.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne – maybe an entry that couldn’t fit into Hipside Guides?

The Butterfly Club is one of my favourite spots (204 Bank Street, South Melbourne +61 3 9690 2000). It’s a great little cabaret venue, but it’s also worth visiting just for a drink. From the outside it’s just another respectable-looking old house, but when you venture inside you find every available surface jam-packed with super-kitsch memorabilia. It’s one of the few places in Melbourne that can make even Madame Brussels look a bit on the timid side.

As far as shops go, Lost and Found is hard to beat (12 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9419 4477). It’s a real treasure trove of retro clothes, furniture, art and bric-a-brac. It’s a huge place – more of an indoor market than an individual store really – and it’s easy to lose a few hours searching through the all the racks and piles. You do tend to feel your age, though, when you discover your old toys in a vintage store.

One place that I couldn’t quite squeeze on to the map was New York Tomato (24/2-6 New St, Richmond +61 3 9429 0505). It’s a fantastic café, but it tends to be forgotten because it’s a little out of the way and simply because it’s no longer the new kid on the block.

If you really want to impress an overseas visitor, though, just take them to see the flying fox colony at the Bellbird Picnic Area in Yarra Bend Park. Australians barely notice their own wildlife, but to many foreigners a bat is a rare, mouse-sized creature that flits past in the dark and is gone, so the sight of 10,000 monster bats hanging out in broad daylight is quite mind-blowing.

HOT: St Kilda Cycles, 150 Barkly St, St Kilda

Last weekend my bike obsession reached its peak at St Kilda Cycles.

While most of the hardcore cycling fraternity in Melbourne were battling their way through Around the Bay in a Day, I took the opportunity to visit St Kilda Cycles large showroom. As well as the expected racers, mountain bikes and sleek and shiny bike gear,  St Kilda Cycles specialise in more unique bikes like folding bikes and utility bikes. As far as I know they are the only stockist of Dutch-made Taga bikes in Melbourne.

I won’t go on and on about Taga (you can read all about it here) so let’s just say that it’s a bike that converts into a pram and I have been coveting it ever since I found out about it a few months ago. I’m so enamoured of it that I confess I’ve watched the promotional video quite a few times – it makes me happy and excited :–)

Anyway, I pounced on the lime-green Taga as soon as I saw it and took it around for a spin in the spacious adjoining carpark. While the friendly young staff member who was with me didn’t know too much about how it worked (that’s ok, they don’t stock many of them and I expect it’s a very niche market), he spent a lot of time with me as we figured out all the mechanisms and quick-release adjustments together.

So after about 3o minutes of riding, pulling apart, putting back together, more riding and discussion, I found myself the proud owner of a shiny new bike! It retails for around $2400 and I got the floor stock for $1900 (eek! but we’re justifying the expense by not buying a car in the near future and it fits 2 kids).

Here it is neatly bundled up into the back of a small Honda Jazz Flexicar (More transportation love – honestly, the more I use their cars the more I love them.)

I was really happy with the service that I received from St Kilda Cycles and if they were near me I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for bike maintenance and other cycling needs, especially as they are open 7 days a week, unlike many local bike shops. My parents are toying with buying a folding bike and St Kilda Cycles stock Dahons and Bromptons (currently on sale) with interstate delivery for only $40 – I’ll be encouraging them to check them out.

Finally, I noticed that they also do bike hire, particularly handy I think if you have a lot of gear to carry around and can hire a cargo bike for $60 a day instead of investing in your own.

HOT: Flexicar

People are often surprised to discover that I don’t own a car. Well, ever since I moved to Melbourne I’ve never needed one – I’ve always lived in the inner city and worked in the CBD, cycled or caught public transport to get to most destinations, and cabs and rental cars have filled in the gap where necessary.

However, now that I run a small business which sometimes involves hauling a stack of cycling gear from one location to another, it makes sense for me to have a car. Sort of.

I joined up to car-sharing program Flexicar a few months ago (they are in Melbourne and Sydney) and I’ve found it to be a really good service. You may or may not have seen that I’m Flexicar‘s Member of the Month (thank you!) but this post is not sponsored by Flexicar in any way – I genuinely believe it’s a cheap, eco-friendly and convenient way to have access to a car when I need it and it which works well for my needs.

How does Flexicar work? Well, you sign up to a monthly usage plan depending on how much you estimate you’ll have to drive. I have the ‘Biz-Starter’ plan which means I pay $12.95 per hour ($75 daily rate), prepaid monthly credit of $25, 100km of driving and all fuel costs included.

Why do I love it? Firstly, there are quite a few cars within walking distance from my house. The most convenient is literally around the corner (Flexicar‘s slogan is ‘cars around the corner, around the clock’) and seems to have good availability even on weekends.  Secondly, there’s no queuing and paperwork like normal car rental. The website is easy to navigate for information and bookings and every car has an easy swipe lock-unlock mechanism to begin and end your booking, so you can just jump in and get going!

The cars are all automatic, so no fiddling with clutches and hill starts, are in good condition from what I’ve seen and there are a good variety of car sizes – I’ve used the small car, the Honda Jazz, to the largest car, the Subaru Forrester. Fuel cards are provided if you need to top up the tank.

Plus I like their attitude – everyone I’ve dealt with at Flexicar has been friendly and helpful and the website has a slightly quirky, irreverent tone. They are keen to support other environmentally friendly businesses and Melbourne events.

It’s great to see that local councils are supporting Flexicar too – clearly it’s a good idea that deserves to spread!