My Town According To My Tummy

The lovely autumnal month of March 2009 marked the two year anniversary of my move down south to the fair city of Melbourne. In fact, the fifth day of March this year marked the precise day that I said goodbye to my friends and family, enjoyed a last lungful of crisp Canberra air, and then sped through the sky to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, trying not to cry into my handbag as I left my home of twenty years for the proverbial 'big smoke'.

Two years on, and I am absolutely in love with Melbourne, and so glad to have settled here. I can wander through the rabbit-warren like laneways of the CBD without fear of getting lost, I've stopped baulking when confused looking tourists ask for directions - map in hand. I've even adapted to the claustrophobic conditions on Melbourne's train network and in fact, during winter, I quite look forward to the snuggly morning train ride from my house just outside of the city into town. I finally feel like Melbourne is my home, and in celebration of that fact I'd like to share with you my three all time favourite culinary delights from around the city.

Pellegrini's Espresso Bar
66 Bourke Street, Melbourne City

My Dad recommended Pellegrini's as a place to go for excellent espresso coffee. He used to lunch here when he lived and worked in Melbourne a few years ago. The place is somewhat of a Melbourne institution. I don't think the decor has changed since it first opened it's doors over fifty years ago. It feels to me like a family kitchen, a place to feel very much at home. Mama Pellegrini always supplies a large hunk of fresh buttered bread with any order of pasta, and sometimes the coffee is free. Just because. I make a beeline for the place when I'm hungry for some homestyle Italian food. Either that or I'm just missing my own Mama...

Shanghai Village
112 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne City

My fellow blog-mistress and I stumbled into Shanghai Village quite by accident one night, with another couple of dear friends. The menu prices were - to us at least - disarmingly cheap, so working under the assumption that the dishes would be small portions, we ordered an embarrassing amount of food.

At Shanghai Village, a plate of 18 steamed vegetarian dumplings will set you back $6.50, and these are more than enough to feed two people if enjoyed with some rice and a beer. Between four of us we ordered about fifty dumplings, fried spring onion pancakes, some sort of sweet pumpkin dish, and two plates of rice. Tara was so embarrassed at the sheer amount of food at the table that she kept piling it onto one central plate in a futile attempt to make us look a little less gluttonous. Needless to say we ate it all. The dumplings at this place are delicious. Also, the walls are bright pink, the chopsticks are orange, and the jasmine tea is free. The staff don't care if you pour from a goon bag at the table, and the food is ridiculously cheap. It is definitely one of my favourite spots to eat, particularly when I don't have much in the bank. Student heaven.

Madame Brussels

59-63 Bourke Street, Melbourne City

Madame Brussels isn't strictly a restaurant, and it's not strictly a bar. It is a self described 'Rather Fancy Terrace and Public House' named after the brothel Madam who used to run her business from the same end of town during the 1880's. Decked out in pretty pinks and greens, and featuring some very sexy bar staff attired in 1950's style tennis uniforms, Madam Brussels makes me feel like a high society lady every time I visit.

Madame Brussels is the place I seek out when in need of light meal with my booze. Cheese platters, home made paté, scones, and some damn tasty sausage rolls are on the menu. The drinks list is impressive, and the cocktails are amazing. I've frequently coloured my cheeks with the chilled pimms and blood orange punch in the summer, and the warm spiced rum that's on offer in the colder months is delicious too. The place is simply adorable, the view from the balcony out towards the Victorian Parliament is gorgeous, and lets not forget... hot bar staff in tennis uniforms. I challenge any lady to resist Madame Brussels' charms.

So there you have it. In a city that boasts an almost ludicrous number of restaurants, bars and cafes, here are my three favourites. The last two years I've spent down here in Melbourne have been punctuated by deligtful little discoveries such as these three spots. They're each worth a visit, they won't break your budget, and yout tastebuds and tummy will not be disappointed.

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