As evidence of Melbourne’s love for quality coffee, a number of specialty establishments across the city now offer coffee tasting – or ‘cupping’ – sessions in which fans of this noble brew can sip and sniff their way across a number of beans and blends.
According to aficionados, coffee should be held in the same esteem as wine, which is why these cupping sessions have been modelled on the concept of wine tasting where comparisons can be made between varieties, coffee sampled at different stages of the brewing process, and aromas and after-tastes analysed.
Coffee cupping coincides with a growing trend for using coffee as an unconventional ingredient in dishes (such as Vue de Monde’s kangaroo with coffee and chocolate crumble), as well as the ‘pairing’ of coffee to complement different foods (which takes place at special events at cafes such as St Ali), just like wine/food pairing.
Market Lane Coffee (Prahran)
These cupping sessions take participants through the process of creating coffee – from the smell of the coffee in its dry state through to its wet state, the smell of the crust during brewing, the breaking of the crust to reveal the full-body of the aroma and, finally, the end result after the coffee has cooled.
Thursday to Sunday, 10am, free
Seven Seeds (Carlton)
Whatever happens at Seven Seeds that week gets reflected in the cupping sessions, whether that means sampling the arrival of new coffees or roast profiles or even tasting coffee ‘mistakes’. As well as broadening coffee palates, these sessions provide a great insight into the coffee business.
Thursdays, 10am, donations for charity
Growers Espresso (North Fitzroy)
Once the café has closed for the day, groups of six or more people are encouraged to book cupping sessions to “discover the language of coffee” at Growers Espresso. While they specialise in Australian-grown coffees, cupping can be tailored to each group’s special interests or requirements.
Bookings essential, sessions 3pm onwards, phone (03) 9486 1886
For more information: www.visitvictoria.com
Media Contact: Elizabeth Ee, Tourism Victoria, (03) 9653 9716
New luxury accommodation in Daylesford Macedon Ranges
Two recently opened properties put a unique spin on luxury accommodation in the Daylesford Macedon Ranges proving this beautiful part of Victoria is more than just a delight for day-trippers – it’s the perfect place for a mini-break as well.
Firstly, internationally renowned Daylesford enterprise Lake House goes from strength to strength with the opening on Christmas Day of The Retreat at Lake House. Suitable for one or two couples, The Retreat is more than luxurious – it’s super luxurious – and super secluded too, hidden within a walled complex with direct access to the lake foreshore.
Along with the most splendid of appointments (such as heated bathroom floors and hand-selected pieces from Olly of San Francisco), guests of Retreat at Lake House are treated to an array of interior spaces, and courtyards and decks, including hot tub and outdoor fire pit, an extensive library, cocktail bar, temperature-controlled wine fridge, massage pavilion, and garden of quince, medlar and dogwood. Early evening butler cocktail service for drinks before dinner completes the picture.
Another property recently opened in the region is Twigs on High. One of the hidden treasures of Trentham, this former retail store and café has been converted by a local interior designer into the quirkiest kind of two-bedroom accommodation for sleeping up to four people.
Described as “relaxed rustic Australiana marries French provincial chic”, the idea is to eschew technology for the simpler charms, although sophistication and comfort are high on the agenda. Decor includes curios and objét d'art wherever you look, American designer wallpapers, Laura Ashley linen, bentwood chairs, comfy lounges and ultra-modern fireplaces.
The layout of Twigs on High incorporates sitting room, piano, breakfast nook, dining room, sunroom, and kitchen and bar. A generous sundeck at the rear provides a space for daybed snoozing and alfresco dining, and a cobble-stoned courtyard features a hexagonal candlelit gazebo for everything from family meals to fully decorated 'special occasion' dining. Conveniently, The Cosmo fine dining restaurant is stumbling distance right across the road.
For more information:
Retreat at Lake House www.lakehouse.com.au
Twigs on High www.twigsonline.com.au
Media contact: Nadine Ghanem, Tourism Victoria, Ph: (02) 9287 6506
Art in the Goldfields
Lovers of contemporary art strike gold in the Goldfields every day thanks to the region’s many galleries and a continuing appreciation for culture and the visual arts.
From 1 to 10 April, the biennial Castlemaine State Festival takes over the whole of Castlemaine with the majority of the historic public buildings – such as the Theatre Royal and the Courthouse – engaged in the celebratory atmosphere of art, literature, music, dance, theatre and film. One of the noteworthy highlights is the Castlemaine Visual Arts Biennial, which features a program of seven distinct exhibitions curated by Jason Smith (Heide Museum of Modern Art), Martin King (Australian Print Workshop) and Samantha Comte (Michael Buxton Collection).
Riding on the success of the Golden Age of Couture in 2009, Bendigo Art Gallery has announced another international blockbuster exhibition with The White Wedding Dress: Two Hundred Years of Wedding Fashions, on from 1 August to 6 November. Presented in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museums in London, this is a world premiere event and Australian exclusive for Bendigo Art Gallery, showcasing historical gowns and accessories from designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and Christian Lacroix.
Australia’s richest open painting prize, the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, attracted more than 330 artists with its winner-takes-all $50,000 bounty. The 37 finalists for 2011 are currently on exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery until 2 April.
Also in Bendigo, the former Bendigo Post Office Building built in 1887 was converted into a gallery at the end of last year. Known as Post Office Gallery, this space mainly presents free exhibitions, and those with relevance to the social and cultural history of the Greater Bendigo region. Opening on 1 April, Beginning in Bendigo: from humble origins to a captured market explores Bendigo’s position as a birthplace of successful enterprises – from the Myer department store to the Chiko Roll.
In Ballarat, special artist-run initiatives have bolstered the local arts scene in recent months. In particular, Space 22 provides an opportunity for visitors to buy original artworks at reasonable prices. While Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, which opened in December, provides an exhibition space for emerging artists, while also offering an independent design store stocked with unique items made from Australian designers. Ballarat also has its own Post Office Gallery, which is run by the University of Ballarat for showcasing the work of students and teachers from the Arts Academy.
The jewel in Ballarat’s art crown is the Art Gallery of Ballarat – one of the largest regional galleries in Australia. Coming up at the gallery is a touring show called Stony Rises (7 May to 26 June), which explores the landscape of Western Victoria and its interaction with people. As part of the display, a drystone waller will be erecting a wall inside the gallery. This exhibition partnered with Treasures from Local Collections (16 April to 12 June), which draws from Ballarat’s amazing stock of private art and other collections to reveal a treasure chest of objects and artworks.
For more information: www.visitvictoria.com
Bullant Brewery Bruthen Opens Doors
East Gippsland adds a new string to its tourism bow with the opening of a boutique micro-brewery, Bullant Brewery Bruthen, along the Great Alpine Road.
Under the proprietorship of Stringybark Cottage proprietors Neil and Lois Triggs, Bullant Brewery Bruthen created its first brew, Mossiface Pale Ale, in January. March sees the on-site brewery shift into top gear with three more of their own brews available – a stout, wheat beer and English dark ale – as well as an apple cider from Kellybrook and some guest beers on tap.
A selection of nibbles prepared on-site has been designed to give a local flavour to the beer quaffing experience, from small bites (paprika and Murray River salt roasted almonds) to share bites (local charcuterie meat plate, cornichons, mustard and Maffra cheddar with bread) and even sweet bites (Bruthen berry trifle). There is also a full dinner menu offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
The modern-industrial building housing the brewery and cellar door has been constructed by Gippsland tradesmen and locally sourced materials as a tribute to the area. Of particular note is the big copper brewhouse and fantastic views from the deck overlooking the Tambo Valley, which makes Bullant Brewery Bruthen an ideal drop-in destination for those passing by on Wednesdays to Sundays.
Neil and Lois anticipate bottling their beers and making them available from both the brewery and some outlets in Bairnsdale very soon. In the meantime, paying a visit to Bullant is the only way you get to sample their lovingly-crafted boutique brews.
For further information about food and wine attractions in Gippsland, visit: www.inspiredbygippsland.com
Media contact: James Archibald, phone 03 5655 2044
Cycling for epicureans around Beechworth
The Town Bike is a new initiative from three of Beechworth’s landmark businesses where visitors get to dump the car and enjoy the picturesque sights and fresh air of the town over the handlebars of a bicycle, which is provided free of charge.
Designed as a means of linking businesses known for the quality of their local produce – in particular, Bridge Road Brewers, Larder Fromagerie and Provisions, and Pennyweight Winery – Town Bike cyclists are given a map upon pick-up from the first stop, Bridge Road Brewery, to help guide them on their journey. The idea is to gather delicious goods along the way and then settle down on the banks of Lake Sambell for a picnic where you can experience Beechworth at its autumnal best.
Of course, visitors are not restricted to this map or the suggested itinerary – the many other sights of Beechworth are within peddling distance, including historic attractions like LaTrobe University campus (former Beechworth Lunatic Asylum), Beechworth Court House and Beechworth Chinese Cultural Centre, the iconic Beechworth Bakery, and award-winning restaurants such as Gigi’s of Beechworth and Wardens Food & Wine.
Once finished for the day, Town Bike cyclists drop off bikes back at Bridge Road Brewery where they can treat themselves to one of the handcrafted specialty beers – a great cool-down after a day of working the legs rather than the gear-stick.
For more information: Ben Kraus, Bridge Road Brewers, Ph: 0422929235
Highlights for Melbourne as the seasons shift
Touted as the greatest exhibition of all time, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs comes to the Melbourne Museum on 8 April after attracting over seven million visitors in the U.S. and Europe. This will be the exhibition’s one-and-only stop in Australia marking the first visit of King Tutankhamun’s treasures to our shores.
Love Never Dies is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-anticipated continuation of The Phantom of the Opera, one of the world’s most successful theatre productions – ever. Melbourne’s Regent Theatre plays host to the Australian premiere of this massive show that hits the stage in May.
The five-time Tony Award nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, makes its way to Melbourne, opening on 9 April at the Comedy Theatre. This feel-good love story is told against the hit songs of rock bands from the ‘80s like Foreigner, Journey, Poison, Starship and Pat Benatar.
This year’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition at the NGV International brings in some 240 famous Viennese and French artworks rarely seen outside Europe. Vienna: Art & Design, Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann – on from 18 June to 9 October – offers a glimpse into the explosion in creativity of Viennese art, architecture and design at the turn of the 20th century.
With autumn comes a rollcall of festivals, and Melbourne gets an extra burst of energy. First off the rank are the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (4 to 14 March) and L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival (14 to 20 March), followed closely by one of the ‘big three’ comedy festivals in the world, Melbourne International Comedy Festival (30 March to 24 April). As we head into winter, those with a design eye get to enjoy the State of Design Festival (20 to 31 July) while ‘cinemaniacs’ come together for the Melbourne International Film Festival (21 July to 7 August).
While in the city for a show, film or runway event, consider trying one of the many new dining establishments that are sending tongues wagging and stomachs rumbling, such as Guy Grossi’s Merchant, Philippe Mouchel’s PM24, Atlantic at Crown, Byblos at WTC Wharf, and Hare and Grace.
Cap off the night with a post-show drink at one of the hidden laneway bars for which Melbourne has become famous. Cumulus Inc (Flinders Lane), Section 8 (Tattersalls Lane) and Sister Bella (Sniders Lane) are some of the city’s least-kept secrets, but the real fun comes in making your own discovery.
For more information: www.visitvictoria.com
Media contact: Lisa Hunt, Tourism Victoria Ph: (03) 9653 9745
Wining and Dining hotspots
The Atlantic opens at Crown Melbourne
The most ambitious seafood restaurant the city has even seen is set to open this month at Crown’s popular riverside restaurant precinct - The Atlantic – where the authenticity of a bustling seafood market and its displays of wild and sustainable fish meets an unparalleled level of world-class dining.
Owned by award-winning entrepreneur Hatem Saleh with Con Andronis (of Clamms Seafood fame), The Atlantic will combine the talents of Tony Schiavello – principal of the Schiavello Group – and Donovan Cooke – former Chef de Cuisine at the prestigious Happy Valley Clubhouse of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Together they have created a modern seafood experience that showcases the best of Australia’s premium seafood, including a 20 metre custom built seafood case where the best wild and sustainable fish, unique oyster varieties and pristine shellfish will be on display.
The Atlantic will seat 300 people in a minimalist interior concept created by Blackmilk Interior Design (responsible for Shed 14 venues, Va Bene pizzeria and Alumbra at Central Pier) where the activities of the open kitchen are visible to diners. A cross-section of dining is accommodated, with the Atlantic housing an Oyster Bar, al fresco dining, a basement lounge, a fine dining restaurant and private dining areas as well as The Den, the Atlantic’s sexy subterranean basement club.
The Altantic will provide the ultimate seafood experience, where Guests can sit up at the Oyster Bar until 2am and test Australia’s best rock, flat and black-lipped oysters, or enjoy a more formal occasion in one of the private alcoves with oysters and vintage French champagne on ice. In the restaurant, Donovan has devised a menu where more delicate appetizers sit alongside big bold mains such as Atlantic marinara, whole wood fired barrimundi and snapper. The restaurant will also be the place to experience Donovan’s degustation menus, that have earned him a cult international following.
The main restaurant at Atlantic will be open from midday to midnight daily, while the Champagne and oyster bar will remain open until a late night close of 2am every day of the week.
Café Vue opens at Melbourne Airport
Dining at Melbourne airport just became more upmarket with the addition of a local food icon to its new international passenger precinct in December – Shannon Bennett’s award-winning Café Vue.
Sharp and brightly decorated with 10-metre high windows offering unparalleled views over the airfield, this latest incarnation of Café Vue – located just beyond the duty free section – is difficult to miss, especially given the colourful displays of French-styled patisseries, including the café’s signature (and delicious) macarons. Over-sized pot plants, mirrors and tiling define the design.
An extensive breakfast and lunch menu of local produce offers temptations such as oysters, caviar and Blackmore Wagyu Steak, as well as sweet favourites like chocolate & cardamom fondant and pistachio madeleines. Café Vue’s famous lunch boxes are also available from $15, with the addition of a breakfast box at the same price and a three-course dinner box from $30. What’s even more exciting is these boxes can be wrapped neatly to be taken on-board as an in-flight meal.
With 2.9 million departing international passengers at Melbourne Airport every year, Café Vue’s distinctive style is sure to leave a lasting impression in the minds of travellers, particularly sophisticates looking to toast their Melbourne tryst with a glass of champagne.
New CBD cafés worth the stop
While traversing Melbourne attending premiere shows, or events at the many autumn festivals, you might like to drop by one of the new inner city cafés offering a coffee pit-stop/lunchtime experience with a difference.
The Truffula Seed Café is a sustainable espresso bar servicing office workers in the Shell Building at 1 Spring Street. Offering only ethically sourced, single-origin coffees, they use organic milk, biodegradable cups and even give a discount if you bring your own mug.
Earl Canteen at 500 Bourke Street specialises in sandwiches, but not as you know them. These sandwiches are ‘restaurant quality’, the likes of the Duck Confit sandwich with caramelised wild figs, walnuts, onion jam, radicchio and watercress on ciabatta.
The Tuck Shop in the foyer of the NAB Building in Bourke Street draws from the experience of the owner of St Ali and Sensory Lab, and concocts dishes with ‘super foods’ as ingredients, such as free range chicken mixed with bush tomatoes, cucumber, quinoa and pomegranate seeds.
Little Wish is tucked away in the Exchange Tower on Little Collins Street. While the space is small, they’re very big on coffee, which makes this nook a must-visit for coffee snobs. Little Wish is one of the few places boasting the very expensive and very rare ‘Slayer’ coffee machine.
BON a Manger on the corner of Little Bourke Street and Hardware Lane is Melbourne’s take on London’s renowned Pret a Manger, with Adrian Polydorou (formerly of Maze London) at its helm. Foods are market-sourced daily.
PonyFish Island on the Yarra
Floating on the Yarra River underneath the pedestrian footbridge connecting Southgate to Flinders Street Station is the cryptically named Ponyfish Island café and bar, which has been attracting lots of attention from curious passers-by.
A venture that sees hospitality guru Jerome Borazio (Sister Bella, 1000 Pound Bend) teaming with Andrew McKinnon of the Taboo Group and Grant Smile from 360 agency, Ponyfish Island sports a ‘pop up’ aesthetic with a recycled, sea-inspired fit-out by the Moth Design people (Penthouse Mouse). Stools are actually old shipping pallets, and hessian sacks and overhead lanterns are used as decoration, as well as wooden planter boxes with weather-enduring succulents.
The kitchen produces simple fare that crosses breakfast, lunch and dinner requirements – waffles through to ‘toasties’ and the likes of beef goulash. Ponyfish Island also has a liquor licence, so patrons can enjoy a tipple while taking in a totally different aspect of Melbourne that positively sparkles under both the daytime sunshine and moonlight (opens at 8am and closes at 1am daily).
A ‘Ponyfish Island’ sign scribbled in chalk on the footbridge announces the skinny and discreet stairway entrance. Once inside, you can take a riverside seat and watch the bustle of Melbourne (and the Yarra River boat traffic) pass you by.
Under the Radar
Our monthly round up of 'hidden gems' - quirky and interesting new discoveries as well as creative people, products and events that might have escaped your notice.
Comedy tours of Melbourne CBD and major attractions
Celebrating its 25th birthday, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has come up with some amusing ways to see the tourist attractions of the city in an entirely different light.
Dedicated thift shoppers can shirk the high street stores for a fun and funny Op Shop Tour of Melbourne. Creative types can learn about the artworks at the National Gallery of Victoria with funny girl and art expert, Hannah Gadsby, while smart-aleck comedian Ben McKenzie takes his audience on an after-hours gallivant around the Melbourne Museum.
Legendary comedian Rod Quantock reveals the inside story of the Comedy Festival in his walking tour around Melbourne. In true Quantock style, no tour will be the same, although they will all conclude at the 25 Years of Laughs: the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 1987-2011 exhibition at The Arts Centre.
Maldon 50K Local shop
A corner store in regional Maldon has taken a ‘buy local’ approach to selling fresh foods with the majority of goods collected from suppliers within a 50 km radius.
Established last year in the old 1866 bakery building, the aptly named Maldon 50K Local could be considered a permanent farmer’s market with 100 different products from 40 local producers. Twice a week, proprietor Glen Ballinger makes the rounds in his 35 year-old, gas-run F100 to pick up supplies from the farm gates and various producers.
This business concept, once commonplace 50 years ago, is now re-emerging as major trend as more and more people continue to seek out better quality foodstuffs.
Salsa at Hilton South Wharf
One Melbourne’s newest international hotels, Hilton at South Wharf, has become the host venue for Salsa in the City. Every Friday, dancers of all levels and lovers of Latin rhythms converge on the very chic Sotano wine and tapas bar with its stunning city views for the kind of salsa experience where you can let your hair down and not feel self-conscious.
Run by leading Salsa dance company Melbourne Salsa, Salsa in the City starts with a beginners’ dance class at 9pm so everyone is equipped with at least a few moves to carve up the dance floor. Before you know it, you’ll have danced the night away and be ready to experience more next week. For those guests of the hotel, it’s free and offers the best night out, while staying in.
Bike Paths and Rail Trails
RACV has released the eighth edition of its comprehensive, yet pocket-sized, BikePaths & RailTrails, which has expanded to a whopping 200 pages – an increase of 50% on the last edition.
Published in revised editions for 18 years, this guide is the bestselling book in the history of Australian cycling. The recent edition features 80 new and fully revised maps, the new Port Fairy and Rutherglen rail trails as well as the O’Shannassay Aqueduct trail, top cycling and pram walk parks, and more than 40 fully rejigged metro maps covering Melbourne’s network of paths, cafes, parks and bike shops.
BikePaths & RailTrails is available for around $24.95 from RACV shops and selected newsagents, bike stores and map shops.
Cowes Night Market
Operated by the Phillip Island Community and Learning Centre, Cowes Night Market gathers together local designers, artists, craftspeople and gourmets in an abundant display of creations brimming with individuality and flair.
Original art and collectables, garments fashioned from vintage-inspired fabrics, intricate fashion accessories and timeless homewares make great gifts for family, friends and yourself. The market also boasts award-winning provincial wines and culinary flavours that span the globe, as well as local musicians who provide the perfect accompaniment to this idyllic dusk browsing experience.
The next two night markets take place on 12 March and 2 April.
Indigenous culture on show along Great Ocean Road
Learn about the traditional culture and lives of the Gadabanud people at Cape Otway Lightstation’s new Aboriginal heritage trail.
Located on the Great Ocean Road, the new heritage trail includes replica stone huts similar to those once used by the Cape’s first inhabitants, as well as a collection of traditional weapons and tools and a “keeping place” featuring a bark canoe and other relics. A large-scale contemporary mosaic representing a billabong has also been created at the site with the involvement of the local Aboriginal community.
The trail has been designed to partly follow an ancient traditional Aboriginal trade and fishing route, which features important archaeological sites and middens. The Gadabanud were highly efficient hunters and gatherers who wove eel traps from grasses, created beach fish traps and had both river and ocean going canoes. They wore intricately decorated cloaks made from possum skins to keep warm in winter.
People employed at the heritage site are from regional Aboriginal families and share their knowledge of the Cape’s edible plants, once used as food and medicine.
More information: www.lightstation.com