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Gallery: White Night Melbourne 2016

White Night Melbourne 2016

White Night Melbourne 2016 asked us to expect the unexpected, and it delivered! While plenty grumbled that the event had become too big, and the exhibits too mainstream, viewing it through a lens opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Here are my favourite captures from White Night Melbourne 2016!

Nocturn: Melbourne

Nocturn: Melbourne

Melbourne nocturn

 

Some of the most amazing and intriguing sights in our cities are only seen at night, when a lot of us are tucked away in bed, fast asleep. Nocturn is a new night photography series on UrbanDuniya, shining the light on the cities we call home, long after most people have fallen asleep.

In November we started with Chennai, and today we continue Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city and self-described centre of culture downunder.

See Melbourne: things that go click in the night.

Review: Misty’s Diner in Melbourne!

Misty’s Diner

If you’re a fan of Americana, the 1950s and 1960s, or if you just love comfort food, then Misty’s Diner is the place for you! We’ve been going for a couple of years now, although it had been quite some time since our last visit.

misty's diner

Some small things change, but on the whole, this place is still a classic fixture on Melbourne’s comfort food scene. Think Johnny Rocket’s on steroids – Johnny Rockets is tempered a bit by its chain-store status, but with Misty’s, it’s no-holds-barred food porn!

elvis

Let’s be clear – this is not haute cuisine, nor is it paleo, clean-eating or diet friendly. None of these explain why we come to Misty’s. Instead, Misty and her devoted fan following (they do exist!) come here to worship at the temple of shameless Americana diner fare. Misty herself is something of a celebrity around these parts; hailing from Arizona in the USA, her endearing story is told to diners on the menus.

jukebox misty's

The walls are plastered with memorabilia from the 1950s and 60s; like a vision from the movie Grease, Elvis and Marylin gaze out from every other wall, atop rows of car number plates from various states. A classic rock’n’roll soundtrack plays in the background.

Upholstered in turquoise and pink vinyl, with trimmings of canary yellow, each booth comes with a jukebox and a bottle of ketchup. The menu is replete with American diner specialties like curly fries with ranch dipping sauce, root beer soda and key lime pie.

image

As this was our first visit in a long while, we decided to go back to our old standbys; I chose Misty’s classic burger with a side of wet fries (thick potatoes fries drenched in salty gravy and grated cheese). The burger comes out with a fried egg on top, sunny side up, “just the way my daddy used to make it” according to Misty!

image

We also got chilli cheese fries (a chilli version of the ‘wet fries’), hot dog and blooming onion; a onion deep fried and slowly falling apart on the plate lotus-style.

blooming onion

To wash it all down I chose a chocolate brownie thickshake – soft serve ice cream and real chocolate brownie blended together until only a few chunks remained. This doubled as dessert, but if I had opted for a dessert ‘dish’, there’s everything USA from sweet pumpkin pie, pecan pie and red velvet cake, right through to Peanut Butter M&Ms and a deep-fried Twinkie bar.

image

Yes, Misty’s Diner also has a small candy shop where you can stock up on Big Red cinnamon gum, Reeses Pieces, Butterfingers, Sioux City Cream Soda, Dr Pepper and Cherry Cola.

 

 

This is no ordinary restaurant – it’s an institution, and there are additionally many more reasons to love it; while the meat might not be halal certified, Misty’s menu is very clear about which products do and don’t contain pork – nearly all the hot dogs are made with beef, while the burgers can be easily ordered sans bacon. There’s even a “secret menu” – for those not in the know, this is an American concept at fast food stores where specialty dishes can be made on request – the items don’t appear on the regular menu, but all the ingredients are on hand in the kitchen. Extra hot chilli sauce (like, seriously hot – known as “Po’ man’s cocaine”) is also available for those of you who can’t get enough spice.

image

 

We left, as always, happy as ever, overstuffed and giggling at how slightly corny but overall awesome the whole experience was, and already dreaming of what we might order next time. This is not the place to come every night (as much as I’d love to, there aren’t enough hours in the day to work off the calories I would consume), nor is it the place where you’re going to lose a whole heap of weight. But sometimes food is supposed to be fun, and if you’re the type of person for whom fun means getting served by someone called James Dean, and trying to wrap your lips around a shamelessly delctable burger cooked up ol’ southern style; well partner, you’re in luck.

As Misty says; “I hope you brought your appetite, cause things are gonna get messy. No-one leaves the diner hungry!”

 

Food: 10/10

Ambience: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Cost: Mains $10 – $25

103 – 105 High Street, Prahran, another location at Reservoir

(03) 9510 1959

www.mistysdiner.com.au

Opening hours; depends on the day and store, check the website for details.

Have you been to an American-style diner before? Either in the USA, or elsewhere? What did you order? Tell us below!

 

 

The Departure Lounge

“The Departure Lounge”

There are times in life when it feels like we are “on borrowed time” somewhere. It could be in a relationship, or at a workplace, or even at a house. The moment we realise that time is running out, and soon, we will have to move on.

Melbourne Golden sunset

I have often been fascinated at the thought of leaving a city; what makes us get up and move on from the urban habitat that we call home for so long? Often, I feel it’s the things going on around me that indicate when it might be time to move. Friends move on, cities change, and we are left standing in a place that was once familiar, but is now just a colourless shell of its former self. It’s a strange, empty feeling of loss, a sense of an era ending.

St Kilda Road, Melbourne

After all, what is a city but for the people who make it? And what are our public lives but for those who populate them? And when people move on, out of our cities (both physical and metaphorical), we are faced with a decision; to remain, or to move with the times. And until we decide, we wait. Too late to start something new, too early to bank on the next path. I call this place “The Departure Lounge”. The time when you know; it’s nearly time to go.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne

Kate Bush alluded to this when she sang;

“Somewhere in between
Breathing out and breathing in
Like twilight is neither night nor morning”

The place where you can either retreat, or move forward. But instead we stand, and wait, at the end of one chapter, waiting for the next to begin.

(Image: Ivan Bandura, Wikimedia Commons)

(Image: Ivan Bandura, Wikimedia Commons)

I’m also reminded of an episode of a television series I have watched, in which the main character wonders about fate, and the people who come into and out of our lives.

“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course we wouldn’t fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cites. People come into your life and people go. But it’s comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.”

Melbourne Night Noodle Markets (updated!)

Melbourne Night Noodle Markets

Last week I went with some friends to the popular Night Noodle Markets at Melbourne’s Birrarung Marr. It was my first time to the noodle markets in Melbourne, which are part of The Age Good Food Month in Melbourne.

noodle markets

The location, at Birrarung Marr, is great – right by the Yarra River and with the city’s imposing buildings as a backdrop. Every year the city’s best Asian restaurants come together to build stalls in Birrarung Marr, dishing up the city’s best Asian cuisine as the sun sets.

melbourne night noodle markets

 

Already planning a second trip, I began by going for my favourite – Thai. Pad Thai and Pad See Ew might be “boring staples”, but I figured they would be my best shot to start with. I also picked up some yummy satay skewers – all of this was from the Spanthai stand in the lower terrace of the park. The satay was great, but the noodles weren’t the best I’ve had.

Spanthai kitchen

Spanthai dinner

We took a walk around the middle and upper terraces, where we were afforded a great view of the city at dusk.

Melbourne from Birrarung Marr

 

Near the western end of the middle terrace we picked up ‘Lime in the Coconut’, a lip smacking lime and coconut ice cream with lashing of sweet syrups and toppings, served in a cute coconut bowl.

Lime in the coconut!

Back on the lower terrace, we picked up mango and sticky rice for another round of dessert, but like the rest of the Thai offerings that night, was just ok.

mango and sticky rice

One thing the noodle markets isn’t is cheap – expect to pay upwards of $10 for a plate of noodles or anything else.

Noodle markets birrarung marr

I’m planning another trip to the noodle markets this week, so will report back soon with tastes from another part of the market, and hopefully more positive news!

 

Noodle Markets: Redux!

Night noodle markets

One week later, and part two of my Melbourne Night Noodle Markets adventure had me in search of better Pad Thai food, this time from a stall named “White Guy Cooks Thai” – as ridiculous as it is hilarious!

White Guy Cooks Thai

This time the noodles were as good as I had been hoping for on the first visit.

Pad thai White Guy Cooks Thai

We washed it down with iced teh tarik (Malaysian frothy milk tea) – in a bag, just like on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Or something. I mightn’t have experienced anything like that while I was actually in KL, but I guess it was sweet and rustic.

night noodle markets teh tarik

Check on the UrbanDuniya YouTube channel this Sunday for a full video round-up!

night noodle markets

The Melbourne Noodle Night Markets are on nightly at Birrarung Marr until this Sunday. The Sydney edition is held in Hyde Park annually in October.

Gujju’s Chaat House: Vegetarian Gujarati in Melbourne

Gujju’s Chaat House

Gujarati food is one of the true pleasures of Indian cuisine. Once you get past the standard fare of ‘butter chicken’, ‘chicken tikka’ and ‘rogan josh’ which gets served without fail in Indian restaurants abroad, it’s time to explore regional cuisine, like Bengali, which I reviewed here two years ago. Gujju’s Cafe and Chaat House in Melbourne is the perfect introduction to Gujarati cuisine.

Spicy Papdi Chaat

Spicy Papdi Chaat

Chaat is a catch-all phrase for any number of dishes thrown together from salty, snack-like ingredients. And while Mumbai and Delhi are iconic cities for street food chaat, it’s their Gujarati-style chaat that leaves the punters raving. Gujarati food is usually vegetarian, spicy, and includes elements of sweet mixed in with usually savoury dishes – a challenge for some tastebuds accustomed to having the sweet and savoury served separately.

Dahi Papdi Chaat

Dahi Papdi Chaat

Chaat at Gujju’s comes in 43 different varieties, but on a recent visit we chose our favourites to sample the menu. Papdi chaat; small pappad (also called pappadum) slathered with chopped vegetables, crushed dry noodles, semi-sweet yogurt, mint, tamarind and coriander chutneys. A spicier version comes without the yogurt.

Dhabeli

Dhabeli

Dhabelli is a kind of hamburger with sauces and mashed vegetables in side, and served along with a fiery chilli sauce.

Dahi Bhalley

Dahi Bhalley

Dahi Bhalley is a large spongey fried lentil ball covered in semi-sweet, semi-savoury yogurt and topped with chopped vegetables. It’s a common snack across India, and a popular breaking-of-fast dish during Ramadan in Pakistan.

Sev Puri

Sev Puri

Sev Puri features fried lentil flour shells stuffed vegetables and topped with crushed dry noodles and chutneys. Although we didn’t order it, another standout chaat dish is pani puri, known in Pakistan as golgappe, and sees the same lentil flour shells filled with tamarind- and mint-infused water to create mouthful bursting with flavour. (Eat them quickly before they start leaking!)

Bhel Puri and Mango Lassi

Bhel Puri and Mango Lassi

And bhel puri, a bowlful of popped rice (like Rice Bubbles), crushed dry noodles, chopped tomato, onion and coriander, then tossed through with tamarind, mint, coriander and chilli sauces is not much to look at, but is brimming with spicy tastiness!

Gujarati Thali at Gujju's

Gujarati Thali at Gujju’s

It is possible to make a whole meal out of chaat, but if you’re looking for something more substantial, look no further than the Gujarati thali. This large silver platter is placed before you then filled with the specials of the day – usually a bit of chaat, small bowls of sweet and sour lentil soups (kadi and dhal), two or three vegetarian curries, spicy pickle, Gujarati salad and a few rotis or theplas (Gujarati buttery bread) to mop it all up with. The attentive waiters stop by with pots of each dish to keep you topped up until you can eat no more – it’s an Indian version of Yum Cha! Thali is accompanied by the dessert of the day (like sweet semolina pudding) and a stainless steel glass of chhaach – salty lassi. It’s all you can eat for $17, and it’s simply divine.

Gujju's Cafe and Chaat House

Gujju’s Cafe and Chaat House

It’s no frills at Gujju’s, and occasionally the Bollywood song on the TV drowns out the noise of the next table’s rather noisy conversation. But if you’re tired of the same old Indian food every time you eat out, and are looking to expand your horizons; if you’re vegetarian and looking for a new place to be a favourite; or if you’re a homesick Gujarati in Melbourne, then look no further than Gujju’s Cafe and Chaat House in Malvern East – you won’t be disappointed!

 

Details

Food: 9/10

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Cost: Each chaat plate is $8 – $11, and the thali is $17 per head.

1/141 Waverley Rd, Malvern East, another location at 1/13 Watton St, Werribee

(03) 9571 1188

www.gujjus.com.au

Dinner: Monday – Sunday 5:30pm – 10:30pm

 

Lunch: Saturday and Sunday 12:30pm – 3:30pm

A day in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne

The Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley is just one hour’s drive from the centre of Melbourne, but it’s a world away from the daily grind. While it’s famous for its multitude of wineries, there are plenty of things to entertain the non-drinker as well.

Yarra Valley

We stopped first at the Yarra Valley Dairy, where the ‘House Cow’ and ‘Saffy Cow’ (marinated in saffron-infused olive oil) cheeses come highly recommended!!

Yarra Valley Dairy

Yarra Valley Dairy

 

Yarra Valley Dairy

Yarra Valley Dairy

After that we headed to the Innocent Bystander, a restaurant and wine bar, for lunch. While the highlight for many is the wine tasting, I’ll leave that to the experts and talk about the food. A cheese board to start, followed by crispy ocean trout with puttanesca sauce, woodfire pizza and twice cooked duck, along with a range of cool drinks and cakes.

Innocent Bystander cheese board

Innocent Bystander cheese board

Innocent Bystander twice cooked duck

Innocent Bystander twice cooked duck

Innocent Bystander buffalo mozzarella pizza

Innocent Bystander buffalo mozzarella pizza

Innocent Bystander crispy skin ocean trout

Innocent Bystander crispy skin ocean trout

LOVE this!

LOVE this!

We tried to get into the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery, but the lines for that were ridiculous enough to have us on our way back to the big smoke. Instead we finished up with a drive around some of the pretty wineries for which the area is known, clicking pictures and being shamelessly touristy.

Yarra Valley

For more from the Yarra Valley, see the latest UrbanDuniya video here!

Delicious, halal and cool! Melbourne’s Cafe Arrival Lounge

Cafe Arrival Lounge

For too long coffee lovers in Melbourne have struggled to find a perfect brunch option that is both halal and chic; often halal options are canteen-style, while a stylish brunch comes awash with lashings of bacon and chorizo. And it doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you consider that there are lots of great breakfast alternatives (including meat).

Cafe Arrival Lounge

Cafe Arrival Lounge in St Kilda serves up rashers of delicious beef bacon as part of a big breakfast, and on eggs benedict! (The first time I could order my old favourite eggs benedict since I was in Malaysia in 2011!). Sujuk, a type of Turkish sausage, also features in the big breakfast, and it’s the star in the the baked eggs along with crumbled feta.

Eggs Benedict with beef bacon on the side! at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Eggs Benedict with beef bacon on the side! at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Chicken also features, such as in the signature ‘Cheeky Chicken’ savoury-sweet waffles. Think crispy chicken atop fresh waffles with maple-mustard sauce and a flourish of colourful garnishes. Grilled Tasmanian salmon, Bangladeshi khichuri (buttery lentil rice) and ocean zucchini fritters are all as delicious as they sound.

Cheeky Chicken Waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Cheeky Chicken Waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

A sweet breakfast is also on offer – the sweet, dulce de leche waffles comes with chopped strawberries and banana and a good dollop of the creamy, comforting sweet ointment that is dulce de leche. The fluffy pancakes are like eating clouds – light, soft and sweet, balanced with berry compote and marscapone.

Dulce de Leche waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Dulce de Leche waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Dulce de Leche waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Dulce de Leche waffles at Cafe Arrival Lounge

And the coffee is just perfect – strong and perfectly poured. There really is nothing more to add – I have found a new favourite in Melbourne! The decor is typically relaxed, with fun references to the theme, with cute model planes soaring above the pastry cabinet, and interesting suitcases emerging from the walls. The service is friendly yet understated.

Cafe Arrival Lounge

The location of Cafe Arrival Lounge is its only potential issue, tucked away from the street front keeps it secluded and peaceful, but also insulates it from the type of street pedestrian traffic that is so important for a new cafe in Melbourne’s hyperactive coffee scene.

Cafe Arrival Lounge

Chicken Burger at Cafe Arrival Lounge

Chicken Burger at Cafe Arrival Lounge

In sum, Cafe Arrival Lounge is a cool new easygoing spot that doesn’t force you to choose between halal and class. Its high quality dishes, friendly service and halal-friendly status mean that it deserves to do well, serving the increasing numbers of discerning (and especially Muslim) cafe-goers in Australia’s coffee capital.

Cafe Arrival Lounge

Details

Food: 9/10

Ambience: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Cost: Brunch $6 – $21

11a/60 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

(03) 9041 3284

www.cafearrivallounge.com.au

Tuesday – Friday: 8am – 4pm

Saturday and Sunday: 8am – 5pm

 

The manager of the above mentioned business is a friend of mine, however I am not in the business of telling lies for favours – Cafe Arrival Lounge really is a great place for brunch, with great food and service. I hope you love it as much as I do!

eBook: Discovering Melbourne’s Creative Urbanism

Discovering Melbourne’s Creative Urbanism

Flinders Street Station, Eureka Tower and a Melbourne Tram

Creative urbanism is a term used to describe the process of city planning and building that prioritises creativity and artistry. Often the role of art and creativity is overlooked in the planning of modern cities in favour of soulless infrastructure development and population expansion. Creative urbanism seeks to correct this imbalance by returning life, colour and vibrance to our metropolises, incorporating values of culture into the development process, thereby humanising the cityscape.

Coffee

 

The study of urban geography, including creative urbanism, was one of my favourite subjects as a teenager and formed part of my final studies for secondary school. I found the idea so inspiring that it forms a large part of this site; the ‘urban’ referring to the exciting city life.

Art in Fitzroy, Melbourne

Art in Fitzroy, Melbourne

Melbourne is perhaps one of the best examples of a city that has incorporated creative urbanism into the city planning process. In few cities around the world has art, artistry and the development of identity been so key to the building of a city as in Melbourne, particularly from the 1980s to the present day.

Melbourne's Chinatown

Melbourne’s Chinatown

 

This has been achieved through initiatives such as the Postcode 3000 policy, encouraging industrial laneways to be revived as iconic commercial and residential precincts, and the development of the Arts Precinct and Docklands, both creatively visionary districts with varying degrees of success. Creativity and diversity has also been allowed to naturally flourish in the form of cultural precincts including Chinatown, the ongoing support of the Greek Precinct, Lygon Street and the alternative hubs of Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Centre Place, Melbourne

Centre Place, Melbourne

Earlier this year my friend Agness Walewinder, one half of eTramping.com, asked me if I would be interested in collaborating in the development of her eBook, a guide to creative urbanism in Melbourne. Of course I was happy to oblige, and I’m proud to say that I, through UrbanDuniya, have been part of the creation of this interesting new guide.

Discovering Melbourne's Creative Urbanism

A typical travel guide it isn’t; Discovering Melbourne’s Creative Urbanism is a visual handbook to what makes Melbourne Australia’s most interesting city, and why creative types are drawn here from across the country and the world. And unlike most travel guides, this one is free! All you need to do is sign up to eTramping’s mailing list, and you can receive it as a free gift.

Discovering Melbourne's Creative Urbanism

Discover Melbourne’s Creative Urbanism with Agness and UrbanDuniya, and then discover the world with eTramping.com!

Villa Romana: Lygon Street’s saving grace?

Villa Romana

Lygon Street has been many things for many years; centre of Italian Melbourne (if not Italian Australia), tourist destination, cultural precinct, ethnic enclave, a hub for cafe and gelato lovers. However like any popular precinct, it has begun to age in recent years. The number and quality of Italian restaurants on Melbourne’s most famous eating street has fallen somewhat, perhaps an inevitable byproduct of the precinct’s popularity.

Reef and Beef and Chicken Parmagiana at Villa Romana

Reef and Beef and Chicken Parmagiana at Villa Romana

A few months ago some good friends of mine told me that they were planning to take me out for a dinner at an Italian restaurant on Lygon Street, Carlton. I was interested to see where they had chosen to eat, as I know that they both appreciate yummy food, and I hadn’t been to Lygon Street for years.

Vegetarian Pizza at Villa Romana

Vegetarian Pizza at Villa Romana

Villa Romana, they told me, is not just their favourite place, but the best place for hearty Italian meals on the strip. And they weren’t wrong; while this place might not serve the dainty degustation meals that are “so now”, it consistently dishes up tasty, filling, familiar and above all generous plates. While most are classically Italian, there are a few nods to Australiana too; “reef and beef” (surf and turf) and  being one of them.

Caesar Salad at Villa Romana

Caesar Salad at Villa Romana

The vegetarian pizza hit the right spot – laden with toppings and lashings of mozzarella, and wood fired to perfection. Chicken Parmagiana, while not strictly an Italian dish (much more a Melbourne pub classic) is at it’s usual comforting finest. The dish I ordered, and we all agreed it was the standout, was the Gnocchi Zucca; plenty of fluffy potato dumplings in a roasted pumpkin, pinenuts, fetta and cream sauce.

My absolutely delicious Gnocchi Zucca at Villa Romana

My absolutely delicious Gnocchi Zucca at Villa Romana

Don’t forget to leave room for dessert too – the sticky date pudding is to die for. All in all, Villa Romana is my new favourite on Lygon Street, and has rescued the precinct from my opinion of tourism-stuck mediocrity. My friends agreed too – we have been back since, and are planning to go again soon!

Sticky Date Pudding at Villa Romana

Sticky Date Pudding at Villa Romana

Details

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Cost: Mains $18 – $40

252 Lygon Street, Carlton, Melbourne

(03) 9650 7990

villaromanacarlton.com.au

Monday – Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Chicken Parmagiana at Villa Romana

Chicken Parmagiana at Villa Romana

Do you love Italian food? What’s your favourite dish?