Melbourne Day/Night 2 – Downshifting

I woke up with a surprising amount of energy but given it was going to be up to 92, I decided to tread carefully with my plans for the day. I had initially walked by the Melbourne Central mall when dropping off my luggage. I had noticed a “sushi train” style restaurant, which seemed like the ideal spot.

Sushi Jiro had been highly recommended and I quickly understood why as this was far from most of the sushi train restaurants (well at least outside of Japan) in that it look actually really good. I could either select from the plates that went by or I could order from the pad in front of me. If it was something already on the train, they just counted it up with whatever plates I took. Otherwise, they would simply just charge it to my tab.

Everything was incredibly fresh with the salmon belly with Japanese scallop and salmon roe nigiri (black plate) and the lobster inari (the gold plate) particular highlights. I took it as a good sign I was one of the few gaijin there. Considering the quality of the fish, it was a very reasonable $30 for 7 plates plus an Asahi Dark ale.

Sushi Jiro was part of the larger area that they called Ella (LaTrobe and Elizabeth Street) which had several cool shops around it – from a bottle shop to a large variety of food options.

Not really wanting to brave the heat quite yet, I continued to wander into the actual mall, which seemed pretty conventional until I got to the center.

The entire thing had been built around the massive Shot Tower, which dates back to the early 20th century, named as such because it was where they made bullets for the Australian army during the wars. Not exactly your typical mall centerpiece!

Knowing this trip is a marathon, not a sprint. I headed back to my place to relax (and write the blog post you read yesterday) That proved to be a wise decision and soon enough it was time to head back out, to a hipper part of town known as Fitzroy. Google Maps told me that it was about a 25 min walk, which sounded doable until I discovered it was mostly uphill. Given it was still about 85 out, I decided to not continue on foot and grabbed a quick Uber to my destination – Poodle Bar.

Poodle Bar was part of the new wave of hot spots that had opened up in this gentrified part of the city. Known for its cocktails and interesting take on bar food, I took at a seat at the marble bar and ordered what my bartender, Katie, recommended – Spring Has Sprung – Kettle One, Elderflower, pear, coriander and EVOO – on the top. It was very refreshing and a great choice to start the evening.

The menu had some very untraditional items so I decided to try some of those.

From the top left – wood roasted skewer of duck heart wrapped in guanciale in a tamarind glaze. I’m not exactly a fan of duck heart but fortunately the smoky guanciale was the dominant flavor and the glaze was superb. Next was the smoked eel vol au vent – basically a puff pastry. It always amuses me how pretty much all smoked spreads like this or trout or mackerel, etc all pretty much taste the same. Fortunately, I happen to like that taste so this was delicious. I had read their hand cut duck fat fries were a must so I ordered those alongside my final dish – heirloom tomatoes in a saffron sauce with pancetta bits. I had a feeling they might be great mixed together and I was right. The acidic tomatoes acted as basically a fancy ketchup for the fries with the bacon bits adding another nice crunchy element. I could have stayed for another cocktail but decided instead to keep walking down the main drag and see what else was there.

It was certainly an eclectic group of shops, bars and restaurants. My bartender had suggested a place called Naked for Satan, and really with that name, how could I resist?

Melbourne is known for its rooftop bars and this was one of them. A pretty sprawling complex which had both a downstairs restaurant and the upstairs roof deck.

Katie had told me to try the Mescal Negroni, which took awhile to get but was worth the wait – a smoky blend of mescal, Cyngar and Tio Peppe sherry – and as pictured above, a generous pour. The roof deck was jammed with people so there wasn’t really anywhere to stand let alone sit. I eventually bailed from that area and found a couch near the elevator to get access the rooftop. That turned out to be a good choice for people watching as I could watch the comings and goings. While I considered a final nightcap, I went back to my mantra (marathon not a sprint) and headed home, with this bar pointing me the way.


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