If you want to know where to stay and what to eat in Melbourne, our creative director Jennifer Sampson has all the tips. Including an affordable budget hotel and the best restaurants and cafes in Melbourne for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here's The Jones List: Melbourne edition.
Off to Melbourne we go!
Most of our team travelled to Melbourne recently to exhibit at the trade only event, Life inStyle. Held in the absolutely stunning Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens on the city fringe we spent two days setting up our booth and four days chatting to our gorgeous stockists and showing them our latest collection, Kismet (in stores from September!).
Gosh we loved spending the week in this world-heritage-listed building! Built in 1880, its history is so rich and you can feel it, not to mention the architecture. We were amazed by the global influence of the time from the Florentine dome to the interior woodwork with Parisian and German influence. This gorgeous building is still standing so proud after all these years after surviving fires and multiple attempts to demolish her over the years.
An affordable hotel tip for Melbourne
We’ve tried so many different hotels, Airbnbs and apartments over many, many years of doing trade fairs in Melbourne – all with varying levels of success. This year we stayed at the Brady Hotel on Jones Lane. What an awesome little hotel it turned out to be! Clean, modern, well-appointed with everything you need (hello USB charger next to the bed and powerpoint behind the mirror in the bathroom). If you plan on spending most of your time enjoying the city, this hotel is a super budget friendly and in close proximity to the CBD but also Fitzroy and Brunswick.
Eating out in Melbourne: Morning Market
You can’t underestimate the power of a good sandwich. When you are on the go (and have been since an ungodly hour) if a perfect specimen of carbs is presented before you it’s like the universe has provided. Enter Morning Market – a short walk from the Royal Exhibition Building across the gardens to Gertrude Street and heaven to the lunch hour. We ate here EVERY SINGLE DAY. Part of Andrew McConnell’s stable of restaurants the sandwich du jour was a perfect baguette filled with prosciutto, provolone, roasted garlic and artichoke. You must try the quiche (with finely shaved parmesan on top – who knew?) and also the cookie we have all been obsessing over and have tasked our team member Chloe to replicate, some divine incarnation on pistachio and white chocolate.
Eating out in Melbourne: Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca
A cool and busy little spot also on Gertrude street is Rocco’s Bologna. We were seated upstairs which maybe lacks some of the downstairs cache but the food was terrific and the vibe still high. We started with some radicchio salad and beautiful grilled leeks with chestnut which were to die for. We followed with some amazing pasta dishes which were both specials. We strongly advise hitting the ever-changing specials here. A sumptuous gnocchi with pumpkin and classic carbonara finished with a bowl of gelato. Perfection.
Eating out in Melbourne: Builders Arms Hotel
Such a fixture on Gertrude Street, the Builders Arms Hotel is always busy. It has such a warm and inviting energy whether you’re dining at the bistro or the public bar. It was three of us for dinner that night with a short walk along Gertrude Street taking in the light festival on the way. A gin and tonic, followed by heirloom pumpkin, smoked goat’s curd & burnt honey then beetroot salad, labne, loveage & rye followed by the single serve fish pie which we all devoured. Delicate fish is balanced with just the right amount of sauce and acidity and covered in a crisp puff pastry.
Eating out in Melbourne: Capitano
I think we were the loudest table in Capitano that night, which is saying something in a vibrant and buzzy dining room in Carlton. Stepping out of the cold night air after a short walk from Carlton Gardens and into a warm and fun space is the best welcome after a long day. A perfect negroni and lots of laughs followed by crumbed mozzarella, baby cos salad pasta and pizza. The standout dish for our table was the Conchigle of Jerusalem Artichoke, Brown Butter, Sunflower Seeds, Chestnut and also the deep dish square pizza with the crunchiest base ever: the Tricolour Square Vodka Sauce, Ricotta, Parsley Pesto, Pickled Chilli.
Eating out in Melbourne: Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar
Heading for dinner at Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar is a little ritual for our team on night one. It’s always vibey with pumping beats and so satisfying with never disappointing, always delicious punchy pan-Asian fare that spans Japan, China, Thailand and Korea. We always kick off with a welcome cocktail and get settled in with some crowd pleasers like tempura pork & eggplant, sweet garlic oyster sauce plus Lucy's soft shell crab jianbing, the barramundi & scampi wontons with spring onion ginger dressing. It doesn’t matter which mains you choose, you must sample the roti bread along with it!
Eating out in Melbourne: Trattoria Emilia
Another team favourite for comfort food that is timeless and tasty is Trattoria Emilia. We did a few Italian dinners on this trip and we always start with the classics. A cold glass of wine with a hand-made pasta and salad after a long day on your feet is the cure-all tonic to do it all again tomorrow. The Radici — Jerusalem artichoke, beetroots & carrots, sesame & chestnut salt and cashew cream — cuts through the richness of the tagliatelle with pork and beef ragu ‘alla Bolognese’, which we all slurped up in no time. I wasback in bed to watch the latest episode of Only Murders in the Building by 9pm! Delightful.
Eating out in Melbourne: Breakfast honourable mentions
JJ and I had been raving to the girls about the crumpets at Cumulus Inc, so we headed down to Flinders Lane one morning and of course, they did not disappoint and the girls were suitably impressed. Served with whipped ricotta as light as air and rooftop honey – finished with a squeeze of lemon – delish! While shopping for flowers at Vasette we whiled away an hour until opening time in the always incredible Alimentari on Brunswick Street. I think you could order anything here for breakfast and be satisfied – we did the mushroom and goat cheese omelette, corn fritters and porridge. The only chink in the Melbourne CBD dining armour is trying to find a café open near the hotel on a Sunday morning! Mr Tulk fit the bill though nicely inside the State Library and only a short 150 metre walk from the hotel.