Melbourne Day/Night 4 – Going Local

After some much needed sleep, it was time for a day where I planned to do as the locals do on a typical Sunday afternoon. First up, brunch at the new school dim sum restaurant, Lee Ho Fook. As it turned out, the restaurant was in walking distance and with the temperature finally cooling down, it was a very pleasant stroll about a mile away.

I had heard the thing to do was to get the Yum Cha tasting menu, which looked great to me. It was located in an old industrial building with exposed brick walls and minimalist decor. Unlike most Chinese dim sum spots, the music was alternative rock and even electronica at times. Yum Cha is a traditional Cantonese brunch but in this case with some modern techniques thrown in for good measure.

The meal started with a complimentary beer, which they give to solo travelers to the restaurant – a very nice and welcomed touch – and the beer was excellent too. The server explained that there would be 3 different courses – Dim Sum, a main course and dessert.

The dim sum course was excellent with both some familiar standbys like siu mai and prawn dumplings, as well as some things I had never had like sesame shrimp toast (my personal favorite) and a BBQ beef pastry. In my case, given my garlic issue, they had to swap out one of them for green pea shoot with cashew cream and chili powder, which I actually probably preferred to another shrimp dumpling. The main course had a ton of roasted duck and the noodles were perfectly cooked. The final course was basically a caffeinated flan, which given my usual aversion to caffeine had quite the kick. I was initially thinking there would be more food but after the dessert, I was quite sated.

The alley where the restaurant was located had a ton of very cool street art and was next to another alley which turned out to be a tribute to the great rock band AC/DC.

Since it was nice out, I decided to keep walking and go down to the Yarra River and surrounding park.

After being stymied several times trying to use the free tram system in the CBD, I finally found a route that would get me, more or less, home without paying extra, which required a card called a myki, which I didn’t have.

I had reach they would indicate on the PA the last stop of the free zone, so I hopped on and listened for that. Knowing I had 4 stops to get back to my ‘hood, it seemed like I could get close if not almost exactly there. The PA did indeed say we were in the free zone so I waited for the warning for me to bail. Unfortunately, the announcement came after we had left what turned out to be the last free stop, d’oh! Having read about the pretty hefty fines, I knew I had to get off ASAP and bolted at the next stop like the scofflaw I had become. Oh well.

As I was walking back, I realized I finally had a good angle of the 70 story building I was staying in here. One tricky thing about being in such a tall building is having to add in extra time to wait for one of the four elevators, which could range from no time at all to up to 15 minutes depending on the time of day.

After some blogging (again, you’re welcome) and a bit of rest, I headed out back to Fitzroy for a highly recommended local wine bar, Napier Quarter.

This was exactly the type of wine bar I love. Intimate, cozy and an extensive local wine list. When I asked about the wines by the glass, the owner paused and replied “that is a constant and ongoing discussion we will have now.” Great answer.

Having had a Yarra Valley Pinot noir last night, I wanted to try some more local options. He recommended a new experimental blend of the 2 main Pinots – noir and gris. He caught my apprehension but told me to trust him. Interestingly enough, it was only 10% ABV. He was right – bright and very refreshing at a perfect temperature.

My original plan was to have a glass here and then go to another restaurant for dinner. However, I was so enjoying my experience, I called an audible and would eat here too. Plus, they only had one more of the John Dory dish that seemed like the light dinner I really needed at this point. While I was waiting for that, the owner suggested I try the cellar temperature grenache, from a vineyard only a couple of hours away. It had a bit more body than the previous but still relatively light that would pair nicely with the fish.

The John Dory had a tremendously crispy skin and the salsa of fresh anchovies and vine tomatoes was a nice complement – simple but delicious. It was only just after 8PM by this point so I decided to take another stroll down Fitzroy, passing some of the places I had seen on Saturday and even some sort of Latin American festival.

I had read about a place that was one of the first bars in the area as it became a hot spot – Blackcat. As soon as I entered, with the bossa nova beats and the large comfy couches, I knew I was in the right place.

It was like something out of central casting for a hipster bar. The tip jar at the bar said “Let Us Eat Cake too” The bartender could not have looked more bored serving me and charged me for the regular Havana Club instead of the Especial. There were about 4 different language being spoken. The guy across from me was drawing sketches. And the DJ was literally reading a book while spinning.

At one point, a shaggy haired fellow just enthusiastically went over to the DJ to express his love for the current track and how he had just started collecting. The DJ with the wispy mustache was finally engaged and explained about how he secured this limited vinyl edition, suggestion other records to pick up. I sipped my delicious rum (seriously, can we stop with the embargoes and let me sip this liquid gold at home??) as the rain started to come down outside. The DJ bailed soon after, and I took that as my cue to leave as well. It was now pouring outside, which had brought down the temperature considerably. Nature’s way of telling me my night was done and who was I to argue with that?


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