Undiscovered Melbourne still surprises and delights

Burma Lane … a place to dazzle your tastebuds.
Burma Lane … a place to dazzle your tastebuds.

I’ve been to Melbourne numerous times and regards it as one of the world’s greatest cities. I’ve discovered many favourite things and places over the years — wandering along Carlton’s Lygon Street, shopping in Victoria Market, eating in Little Bourke Street, and just catching a tram to St Kilda or Brunswick.

On a recent visit, I found five things to add to that list.

1. Take the very fast lift to Eureka Tower 89

Melbourne’s skyline continues to provide a provocative, thoughtful blend of old and new. A recent addition has been the sceptre-like protrusion of the Eureka Tower over Southbank and its provision of genuinely stunning views over the city and well beyond.

Eureka Tower 89 … genuinely stunning views over Melbourne.

Eureka Tower 89 … genuinely stunning views over Melbourne.

I’m told the tower rolls some 30 centimetres in the breeze, and I’d definitely believe them — or was it just the few drinks I’d had? There are apparently spectacular vistas from the glass-bottom platform that protrudes from level 88, but I much preferred having a glance down, taking in the broader view at sunset and enjoying the five-course degustation a level higher up at Eureka 89.

My favourite course? Okay, if I’m forced to choose, then the Cape Grim beef from north-western Tasmania, served with mushrooms, charred baby onions, dried lactose and a glass of concentrated Yangarra PF 2017 Shiraz from South Australia’s McLaren Vale. 

2. Dazzle your taste buds at Burma Lane

To single out a single restaurant in a city as well catered for as Melbourne is more than a little unfair, but I really did like a recent lunch that I had in this gorgeously decorated inner-city Asian restaurant. I particularly enjoy restaurants where to waiter says: “Would you just like me to ask the chef to feed you?” It’s not that I’m particularly lazy but it does mean that I’ll get a selection of what the kitchen thinks is central to what they’re trying to do.

Burma Lane’s spicy prawns … a dance on the palate.

Burma Lane’s spicy prawns … a dance on the palate.

In this case I started with some beef tartare served with a raw quail egg and kohlrabi cream. It isn’t what I’d order — probably not in a million years — but it was a crisply flavoured, delicious and refreshing start to a memorable meal.

My favourite dish, though, was of spicy prawns served with thick squid-ink noodles, crisp macadamias, coriander pesto, yoghurt and salmon roe. It seemed that the whole dish joined with the salmon roe in a mouth explosion that had my palate in raptures.

And the flavours were beautifully matched by a glass of Steve Pannell’s Aromatico, a slightly sweet blend of gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris from the Adelaide Hills. Again, not a wine I would have selected, but I was really starting to trust the waiter, Matthew Stidworthy’s selections. And, once again, I’m just so glad that I did. 

3. Have a blast from the past at the Music Vault

The Australian Music Vault … a distinctive cutting edge.

The Australian Music Vault … a distinctive cutting edge.

This relatively recent addition to the Melbourne Arts Centre provides an already radical member of the city’s arts-and-theatre landscape with a distinctive cutting edge. The likes of Wendy Saddington, the Loved Ones and the Triffids share the stage here and take old rockers such as me back to days when we could really dance rather than just shuffling about and pretending.

The Australian Music Vault’s Carolyn Laffan … a great achievement is bringing together such as disparate contingent.

The Australian Music Vault’s Carolyn Laffan … a great achievement is bringing together such as disparate contingent.

Well done to organiser Carolyn Laffan on a great achievement is bringing together such as disparate contingent and may is continue well into the future. It’s fantastic and just so, so necessary. 

4. Take a wander through the past at the Melbourne Museum

Okay, there’s still the reconstruction of the fabulous Phar Lap, but the new-look Melbourne Museum, sitting resplendent in the Exhibition Gardens, houses much of our past, present and future.

Old and new … The famous old Exhibition Building reflected in the modern façade of the Melbourne Museum.

Old and new … The famous old Exhibition Building reflected in the modern façade of the Melbourne Museum.

Return there often because you’re sure to discover something new even if your previous visit was only yesterday. There’s much to see and I’d certainly recommend a break in the very green Forest Gallery. Particularly moving is the Anzac exhibition; especially evocative the line-up of windmills. 

5. Have breakfast at Oli & Levi

Oli & Levi … regulars are greeted with a statement rather than a question.

Oli & Levi … regulars are greeted with a statement rather than a question.

I’m in the Coromandel Place version of Oli & Levi for the first time and obviously a newcomer to what seems a Melbourne institution, but most of the customers seem to be well known and are greeted with a statement rather than a question about the selection to start their day.

The coffee is good and the egg tart, based in this case on chorizo and fetta, is excellent, filling and tasty. There seem to be at least three outlets in the city and you should make a beeline for one of them whenever you’re in town.

IF YOU GO

Eureka Tower 89, 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank, phone 03 9693 8889, www.eureka89.com.au 

Burma Lane, 118 Little Collins St, Melbourne, phone 03 9615 8500, www.burmalane.com 

The Music Vault, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, phone 03 9281 8000, www.australianmusicvault.com.au 

Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Melbourne, phone 03 8341 777, www.museumsvictoria.com.au 

Oli & Levi, 20 Coromandel Place, Melbourne, phone 03 9560 0501, www.oliandlevi.com.au 

John Rozentals was a guest of Citadines on Bourke.