Eating my way through Melbourne: food photography of my time in the city's cafes / by Jessica Lee

Somewhere in my heart, I've already decided I'm going to move to Melbourne someday, find a nice Australian man, settle down and eat all their food. With emphasis on the last part.

Since the last time (and first time) I had been to Melbourne, my taste had been whetted for their coffee scene. But this time, the food made me seriously consider either A) becoming a food critic or B) marrying a chef who would be able to make these beautiful creations of food I had come to enjoy during my time in Melbourne.

First, a little background about me. I LOVE food. Breakfast food in particular. Melbourne and I, we are a good fit because Melbourne happens to have lots of little breakfast cafes which I adore.

They have a place in the city called Hardware Lane, which is like a little village with lots of small cafes and restaurants.

It looks like this:

For my food journey though, I ate all over town.

We arrived in Melbourne late in the night by car and headed to Laksa King in Flemingdon, which did not disappoint.

My story with laksa is that I didn't know it existed until I had arrived in Sydney where my roommate Hannah proceeded to make it and change my life forever. It must have been fate that we were to meet and that I was to stay in the same house as her. In Toronto, laksa just isn't a big thing. Currently, as of fall 2012, we have a huge ramen scene going on, and before that, pho was extremely popular, and we also had a wave of poutine and food trucks. I'm guessing that laksa is more popular in Australia based on its proximity to Malaysia, where the food is originally from.

After a rest near Luna Park, the next day, we were up and at 'em. We headed to The Galleon.

I had the most delicious start to my day in a while. Below is french toast topped with maple syrup, free range bacon, a banana, pistachio praline and vanilla bean ricotta.

The praline was the best thing in the world. I love when chefs disguise candy in the middle of breakfast. I felt like I was eating a healthy breakfast (bananas) but at the same time, cheating a little.

This was the general "feel" of the restaurant, incredibly low-key and honest.

We then headed to Hardware Lane to look around a bit.

By the way, here is a random photo I snapped that had a cool fungal growth on the top of it.

For lunch, we stumbled across a gourmet hot dog stand.

Here is the Wagyu beef hot dog with mashed potatoes and Spicy Spanish Chorizo with Spanish goats cheese. 

We had breakfast for dinner at the Pancake parlour, then Bon had to dip out and head back to Sydney.

(What I left out in between him going back home is that we spent 2 am at a park feeding the wildlife, aka the birds and raccoons. And we also saw the 3 am premiere of The Dark Knight Rises- all in all, a pretty solid combination to say goodbye to at 6 am in the morning)

I headed back to the hostel, slept for a bit, then headed back out into the world and continued the food tour.

I was extremely excited to go to The Hardware Society since it had a good rep in Melbourne's food blogs. The atmosphere was great as it had a lot of communal tables. There were also lots of random jams and spreads.

It's gorgeously furnished in a sort of rustic, home-y way.

Despite that, I think I ordered the wrong thing.

Above is what I had, the Charcuterie Coddled Eggs. "Coddled eggs" sounds really cute, and I had no idea what it was. But I was feeling adventurous so that's why I chose it, even though it would have been smart to stick to something I knew, like French Toast. You're probably thinking, why didn't I "google it" with my smart phone? Well at this time, my smart phone had run out of data, so I couldn't.

Anyway, the coddled eggs weren't terrible- they just weren't what I was expecting. I was expecting something like a runny-eggs thing in a pan with the salmon rillettes (again, didn't know what this was), pork terrine (this is a spread) and cured meats. The coddled eggs are the eggs in the cups above. It was delicious, but not really my thing.

Instead, I spied across from me someone eating this amazing spread of croissant, granola and preserves. I asked if I could photograph it and this is how I met Trang.

It was actually a pretty good day to meet her because at first, she looked really depressed but then, she got a phone call and was really really excited.

Turns out I was with her the moment she got the call that she was hired at a new company. Pretty exciting. Turns out she really likes food too and she gave me a lot of tips of where to eat in the city.

Below: the mocha I ordered.

Someone's hot chocolate.

And I took a photo of these cups because I loved the colours.

Full from a lovely breakfast, I began to start my day of exploring Melbourne.

I love that everywhere you walk, there are scrumptious-looking things to tempt you.

And here:

These pictures were taken in June, right before the London Olympics, which explains the colours.

At night, I walked by this cute cafe called the Giraffe Cafe and I had to drop in.

Check out all of that giraffe decor!

I'm definitely a coffee shop type of gal and ambiance is usually what I look for. This coffee shop definitely achieved high marks. ...the coffee itself was alright.

Look at this tree in the middle of the room!

 The next day, I ate a small breakfast at the pub downstairs, then went out on a field trip away from the city.

Olympic Doughnuts is a little stand near the Footscray station which has been in operation for 33 years.   Needless to say, they have definitely perfected the art of making a donut in that time.

I actually went back for seconds. At 80 cents a pop, why not?

I came back into the city after a day in Footscray (I visited the Lonely Planet headquarters and the receptionist gave me a Lonely Planet cookbook! I can't wait to try out the recipes!).

My first thought was to settle down and have a coffee. But I was also feeling hungry, so I had a meat pie. These little savoury delights are definitely something I miss in Canada.

Here is a snapshot of the interior.

Speaking of cool spaces for coffee, this outdoor patio with heat lamps under these arches was pretty awesome. This is the Federal Coffee Palace.

I ordered a mocha and pretended I was writing the next great travel novel. You can't sit there and not feel like you're sitting on a movie set.

The next day, I invited my Canadian friend Al who was also in Melbourne for some brunch at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford. We had to hike through several neighbourhoods for about an hour or so to get here, but I'm glad it was worth it. This was my absolute favourite place in Melbourne. Period.

First of all, the interior design is gorgeous.

Here is a shot of the second room.

This is a communal table in the middle of the room.

I also liked the fact that even though they are a breakfast place, their coffee offerings aren't just limited to one blend. They had several, with a couple of brewing options.

They also had too many treats. If I lived close to Three Bags Full, this would be my regular spot.

I ordered a mocha of course.

Then came the food. As usual, I had trouble deciding what to get. This is the twice-baked french toast with creme patisserie, rhubarb and almonds. The execution and presentation are just marvelous, don't you think? I liked that it wasn't too sweet and they had a generous helping of the creme.

However, what Al got wins hands down.

This was the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. It is a roasted pumpkin and sage fritter with grilled haloumi cheese with a parsley, pine nuts and pomegranate salad. The combination of the ingredients was absolute perfection. It wasn't too salty and all the flavours came out wonderfully. Looking at this photo, I can still taste the aromas and my mouth waters.

Al had to leave and go back to Sydney so I spent the next day trying out my last cafe in Melbourne.

I ended up at Ray's Cafe and secured a great people-watching spot (see lead photo).

The interior of this place is pretty cool too. Check out this huge coffee drip that also functions as a centrepiece.

Below is the baked free-range eggs with lebanese sausage, napoli sauce, spinach, feta and toasted pide bread.

And thus concludes my eating tour through Melbourne. I realize I've only tried a limited amount of restaurants here but the quality of standards seem pretty high. I can't wait to come back.

Foodies: which other cities must I eat through?