Last Day In Melbourne: Wandering The Streets + Williams Bar & Cafe @ Clarion Suites Gateway

We’ve come to an end to our fantastic time in Melbourne and the Victoria region! We (being me and the two other Indonesian media) spent the last couple of hours in town wandering the streets looking for souvenirs, before rounding it off with dinner at our hotel. Enjoy the random photos:

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Melbourne’s CBD is very walkable and it isn’t too big, but whenever we got lost we would just look for Flinders Street Station. One of the busiest railway stations in Australia, the station serves the entire metropolitan rail network. Built in 1909, it is listed under the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Architecture in Melbourne is a mishmash of old and new, its wide streets flanked by ultra modern buildings and heritage ones.

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A street artist working with chalk to create beautiful and realistic art pieces on the sidewalk.

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Venturing into one of the city’s shopping arcades (aka old versions of our modern shopping malls), home to hundreds of chic cafes, eateries, shops selling souvenirs and trinkets, boutique clothing stores, jewellery shops, art galleries, etc. Great place for hipsters and the intrepid traveller on the lookout for something unusual.

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A restaurant selling rather exotic meats, including crocodile, ostrich, emu and kangaroo. I’ve had kangaroo on my last trip to Melbourne (it’s red and has a somewhat spicy flavour). Moo says we had crocodile once when I was very little, but I’ve forgotten all about it.

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Street art peppers the alleyways around Melbourne.

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Dinner that night was at our hotel, the Clarion Suites Gateway, at the hotel’s in-house restaurant called Williams Bar and Cafe. Had a milkshake to cool down from all the walking; it was nice and frothy.

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The food took forever;  the waiters came out to apologise, citing that the chef had a lot of orders to make for dinner service. Baked scallop appetisers; scallops were sizable and sweet.

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Eggplant chips were rather soggy and greasy, nothing like the ones I enjoyed at Pontoon @ St Kilda. 

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Seafood pasta which came loaded with humongous scallops and crab. Tastewise it was decent but the portion was very large, probably enough for two, and there was a lot left over.

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L’s baked salmon

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T’s chicken parmigiana with potato wedges.

And with that, we bid adieu to this amazing city. Thanks for the memories, Melbourne! If fate decrees, we shall meet again. 🙂

 

Breakfast @ Alcove Cafe, Port Campbell, Victoria

If you’re spending the night in Port Campbell on your Great Ocean Road journey, The Alcove Cafe is a nice place to grab a quick bite before you leave town. They open from 6AM daily, and the menu has gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options.

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Like many of the buildings in this quaint seaside town, it looks and feels rustic and homely. The prices are, however, quite steep as they cater mostly to the tourist crowd.

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The interior is casual, filled with knick knacks, quirky decor and lots of fun wall art.

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One of my favourites!

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The ice cream bar wasn’t open yet as it was still early, but we could see the creamy concoctions all lined up, just begging to be tasted.

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Opted for a yoghurt bowl with berries, muesli and bananas. It was humongous, and could have easily fed two to three people.

The cafe offered a selection of pastries and bread as well at the counter, plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

THE ALCOVE CAFE 

34 Lord St, Port Campbell VIC 3269, Australia

Opens daily 6AM – 3PM

Food Review: La Bimba @ Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road

It may not have a large population, but the bustling tourist town of Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is home to a good selection of restaurants, cafes and eateries. Among them is La Bimba, which serves up contemporary Australian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, sourced from local farmers and fishermen.

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Going with the sustainable theme, the interior of the restaurant features tables, chairs and other fixtures built from recycled timber from the region. The brick walls and wood create a cosy, homely atmosphere, coupled with awesome sea-front views and plenty of natural sunlight filtering in from its tall windows.

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Since ingredients are seasonal and subject to availability, the menu changes accordingly so diners will always have something new to try. During our visit, we started off with some samplers of Beetroot Carpaccio, Ricotta, Hazelnut and Saltbush, as well as Beef Tartare, Horseradish, Creme Fraiche, Saltbush and toast.

Refreshing and sweet, the beetroot carpaccio is a great alternative for vegans, balanced out by the slightly sour ricotta cheese, as well as the natural nutty sweetness of the hazelnut and the earthy, leafy flavour of saltbush – a common plant found in the bushlands of Australia. The beef tartare was also good, with none of the bloody, iron-like taste that usually comes with raw meat.

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Served in a crockpot, Portalington mussels, garlic, chilli and cilantro. Simple but hearty, the mussels were plump and juicy, bathed in a garlicky juices. 

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For sharing, Kipfler potatoes, cultured cream and seaweed powder. The peels were left on, giving the taters a smokey taste, while the seaweed powder added a touch of brininess.

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The Corner Inlet Flathead with harissa and coriander was sizable, with firm, fleshy meat.

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Pumpkin, macadamia, grains

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The 1KG Tomahawk steak was a spectacle to behold, swimming in its own juices on a metal serving plate. While the meat was cooked perfectly, it was a lot to finish, even for our group of 8.

If you’re into fresh, local food, then La Bimba ticks all the boxes. Grab a seat by the window to enjoy the sea breeze.

LA BIMBA

125 Great Ocean Rd, Apollo Bay VIC 3233, Australia

Opening hours: 9AM – 3PM, 6PM – 8.30PM (closed Tuesdays)

labimba.com.au

Make Your Own Chocolate @ Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie & Ice-Creamery, Flinders

 

Tucked by the sea on the Mornington Peninsula, the tiny town of Flinders (population: 905) is a two-hour drive south of Melbourne. Charming and idyllic, there are virtually no tall buildings here, and the main street is a wide expanse lined with beautifully manicured lawns and quaint shopfronts, some (like the post office and general store) of which date back to the 19th century, when the town was founded.

That is not to say that there isn’t anything to do in Flinders – it’s quite the opposite. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite being away from the city centre, there is lots to do in town for visitors, from art galleries and golf courses, to nature trails, beaches and scuba diving sites.

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If you’re a chocolate or ice cream lover, then more reason to visit as Flinders is also home to the Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. Opened in December 2018 by husband and wife team Ian and Leanne Neeland (who are also behind the highly popular Yarra Valley and Great Ocean Road Chocolateries), the shop was a packed with customers during our visit on a Saturday, as staff bustled about handing out free samples and introducing the best flavours. The store offers a whopping 180 different chocolate varieties!

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Aside from ready-packed boxes you can get as souvenirs, the chocolaterie also offers handcrafted artisan chocolates, which form a colourful tapestry on display – each looking prettier than the last! The team behind these mini masterpieces are European chocolatiers, and you can watch them in action at the store and get an insight into the art of chocolate making.

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Better yet, try your hand at making chocolates, by joining one of the chocolaterie’s private Chocolate Discovery Classes. While you won’t be a master chocolatier anytime soon (that takes years of hard work and diligence!) it’s a great way to learn more about the art, and also take some of the chocolates you ‘make’ home.

Our session started off with tastings, and there were a variety of flavours to sample from. I like super dark chocolates, so the single origin cocoas were right up my alley, but I also liked the floral with its sweet, flowery scent, the spicy notes of the Buderim ginger, as well as the tangy hint from the Violet Forest Berries.

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More truffles for sampling!

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Our chocolatier, a pretty French lady (whose name slips my mind – I think it was Anne) guided us to create two chocolate items – chocolate bars (which we could fill up with our favourite toppings), as well as a chocolate lollipop to decorate. It felt like play-cooking at times! For the bar, after we made the ‘base’, we had to pour the chocolate over to seal up the toppings, which was easier said than done as we had to be quick with our hands, or the chocolate would spill over.

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I have the artistic capability of a five-year old. I think some five-year olds can probably make something better than this lol. Nevertheless, we had lots of fun and we left with plenty of chocolate (and some extra, to boot).

MORNINGTON PENINSULA CHOCOLATERIE & ICE CREAMERY 

45 Cook St, Flinders VIC 3929, Australia

Opening hours: 9AM – 5PM (daily)

mpchoc.com.au

 

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Visiting The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

As Australia’s hub for culture and the arts, it is only fitting that the city of Melbourne is also home to the country’s oldest, largest and most visited art museum – the National Gallery of Victoria. Located on St Kilda Road in the Southbank neighbourhood, the gallery was founded in the 1860s, and today welcomes over 5 million visitors a year.

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You’d probably have to make a couple of return trips to fully appreciate the gallery’s mind-boggling breadth of exhibits, which number over 75,000 in total. Aside from Asian, international and Australian art, they also house a large collection of items such as artefacts, photographs, prints and other media.

The gallery regularly hosts special exhibitions, so there’s something new to see each time. I visited while they were running the Escher X Nendo: Between Two Worlds exhibition, which was absolutely fascinating.

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Maurits Cornelis Escher (better known as M.C.Escher) was a Dutch graphic artist. A lover of mathematics, Escher’s pieces include intensely detailed woodcuts, lithographs (graphic prints) and sketches, and often incorporated his love for mathematics by applying concepts such as symmetry, reflections and perspectives. “Impossible objects” – a type of optical illusion where a 2D object appears 3D but cannot physically ‘exist’ in the real world – was one of his fortes. In fact, it was Escher’s works that partly inspired the creation of the world-famous Penrose triangle (ie the impossible triangle).

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Escher’s works are immensely popular today, especially in Australia, but it was not widely recognised until much later in his life, when he was in his 70s.

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Waterfall, 1961.

Escher was reportedly a poor student at school, so it was amazing to observe the complexity of his designs, as well as how much precision there was in each stroke and detail. His work became, for good reason, very popular among mathematicians and scientists.

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The exhibition also featured installations by Japanese studio Nendo, created specifically to complement Escher’s works. The installations were essentially physical manifestations of the world of Escher, inviting visitors into a glimpse of his mind. We walked through a series of ‘houses’, gradually changing colour and form from black to white, open to closed… or was it the other way around?

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A series of separate black rods that appeared as houses and frames when viewed from just the right angle.

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You can’t tell from the picture but the tunnel actually got smaller at the far end – an optical illusion.

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One of my favourite rooms in the exhibition featured thousands of tiny die cast ‘houses’. When viewed from afar, they formed the dark shape of a larger house.

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Escher’s last work, Snakes, 1969. Escher often took inspiration from nature, drawing insects, plants and animals. It somehow reflects the precise and mathematical nature of creation, where everything seems to have been ‘made’ with purpose – it makes you question if creation was really a random occurrence.

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Drawing Hands, 1948. 

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Another exhibition that was running during my visit was by Julian Opie, an English visual artist. His hallmark consists of walking figures drawn with thick black lines and minimal detailing. After Escher’s detail-heavy pieces, Opie’s work felt a tad simple – but also kind of refreshing.

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A video piece featuring moving figures

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Portraits

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I moved on to explore the permanent exhibits, which are spread across four floors. Unfortunately, as I was pressed for time, I had to breeze through the sections, but it was still fascinating to see the many different types of art as well as artefacts in the gallery’s collection.

 

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Ancient Greek vases

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I don’t even know what’s happening here

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A section dedicated to more contemporary art, using digital projections in a space

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If you’re ever in Melbourne, I highly recommend a visit to the NGV – dedicate at least a whole day if you love culture, art and history. There’s just so much to see within, and I guarantee you’ll leave with more than you came in with. There is also a nice souvenir shop on the ground floor that has a great selection of books, trinkets, gifts and other items to take home.

Entrance is free.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA 

180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3006, Australia

Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM