It’s fair to say that my husband and I have limited patience for the long commute…. this has made deciding where to live (in both Melbourne and London) an interesting exercise in priorities. Close to the city and our jobs could mean small, dark, noisy…. further out would mean – the long commute (often with 4589034 of your closest friends jammed onto a tram, train or bus at peak hour).
To cut to the chase, our avoidance of the long commute led us to choose Fitzroy in the inner north of Melbourne as home base. Happily Fitzroy is not all location-convenience; it is also home to an embarrassment of riches on the food and beverage front, and close to the culinary delights of Smith Street, Gertrude Street. A short tram ride or slightly longer walk takes you to the more upscale restaurants of the city, and (in the other direction) activities like Melbourne Zoo and the Botanical Gardens.
After almost 2 years in London we decided recently to make a permanent move. A brief two week return to Melbourne was on the cards, and in between packing up our house and fun tasks like choosing a real estate agent, we ate our way through Fitzroy for two weeks in December. It was glorious.
Deserving of top billing is Stagger Lee’s. Our local (so close you can see if your preferred table is free from our living room) and so consistent. Child-friendly, especially in the open kitchen you can see into – C watched our breakfasts being made each time! – and just noisy enough that you needn’t worry if your little one gets bored and lets you know about it….
This little beauty is the Dr Marty’s Crumpets. Lemon curd, fresh strawberries, raspberry sauce, pistachio crumb and sweet basil on perfectly heated crumpets. Amazing.
Other classics include The Mexican (a fresh take on the breakfast tortilla), the BBQ Beef Brisket Toastie (I could eat this every day) and the Mushroom Toast (does exactly what it says on the tin. So so good).
Only a couple of blocks away, Industry Beans on Rose Street set a new standard when it opened in Fitzroy. Combining a world class coffee roastery (wholesale but you can buy domestic quantities at the counter) and world class food menu, it’s hard to go wrong. The decor is industrial chic (weirdly one of my favourite things is to be there in a rainstorm and hear the downpour clattering on the warehouse roof!) but the food is delicately plated and perfectly flavoured.
Again child friendly, indoor and outdoor (covered) seating and highly recommended. Here my choice is the Avocado Smash – chevre, charred lemon, beetroot dust, green tea salt on sourdough. I try but have been unable to make myself try anything else… my husband has worked through more of the menu and recommends the burger for something different… C had the eggs and an obligatory babyccino!
In need of a ‘fancy’ takeaway breakfast, or want to impress with some pastries at a coffee date? Look no further than Lune Croissanterie. Again on Rose Street, the outwardly ‘nothing to see here’ building hides a veritable croissant laboratory where deliciousness is produced for your enjoyment.
It is impossible to choose a favourite flavour, so we always end up buying about 6 things…. all amazing and the plain croissant in particular is a special special thing.
Just a short tram ride from the house is Cumulus Inc. The location attracts more of the business set, but the menu is varied and delicious, and while it’s a highchair-free zone the staff are very accommodating of babies and toddlers. It opens early and closes late, and my favourite thing on the menu is definitely the bacon sandwich. It’s a classic.
No guide to food in Fitzroy is complete without a mention of Gelato Messina. With more flavours than I know what to do with, weekly specials, and a good awareness of allergens, it’s just a nice place to be any day of the week!
Not normally somewhere I’d associate with children, but Chin Chin has a great menu of dishes with something for even the fussiest palates. C’s peanut allergy means I’m often nervous of eating out, especially in restaurants with a strong Vietnamese/Thai influence, but our waitress was able to make suggestions of a number of dishes that were either nut-free, or could be customised to remove nuts. C especially enjoyed the butter chicken and naan (because who doesn’t love fresh naan, let’s be honest…).
It will be a while before we return to Melbourne, but at least I feel like we had a good crack at eating at all of our old favourites. Other restaurants we ate at during this trip included Gami (Korean Fried Chicken and Beer), Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, Trippy Taco and Belles Hot Chicken. It’s just a delicious city!