Have a new romance with Melbourne by bunkering up in a boutique hotel for the night and making like a tourist
Stay: At the Lindrum, a recently renovated contemporary-luxe 59-room boutique hotel that has all the trimmings of a flashy stay without the big price tag. Here, expect top of the line LCD TVs, plush new mattresses and en-suite bathrooms. There’s a pillow menu, while works from Melbourne artists grace the walls. Score a junior suite if you can; these are our pick of rooms in the hotel and overlook Flinders Lane. While aesthetically it’s a top abode, the service here is what also stands out and that’s the case from check-in to check-out.
Eat: It’s all about places that let you book for weekend eats in the city. Il Bacaro is an Italian mainstay with gun sommeliers Steve Kimonides and Ryan Haynes, where you can go all-out with kingfish tartare and thrice-cooked pork belly or just get a bowl of silken pasta that will knock your socks off.
See and do: Winter classes are in full swing at Alain de Botton’s philosophy café the School of Life, or you could just order a coffee, receive a free conversation card and grapple with questions like “Does the price of art ever reflect how good it is?”
Show: The revamped production of one of the world’s biggest stage musicals Les Misérables features new orchestrations and flash new effects.
Stay: It’s on a side street in South Yarra and boasts balconies that look down on a leafy laneway. But it’s not just the backstreets-of-Paris vibe or the big suites with bathtubs you could do a lap in, or even the kitchenettes with Nespresso machines and ice cream that makes the Lyall Hotel a winner for inner-city holidaying. It’s the day spa, where couples can take a bowl of mud for a 45-minute DIY cleansing session (or mud fight) in a dark, tiled steam room. Throw in the fact that there’s a Champagne bar, free bikes and room service with free delivery, and you’ve got a full on-premises party.
Eat: At Da Noi there’s an $85 five-course feed-me format: aside from assuring you that allergies are noted, the waiters can’t/won’t tell you what lies in store. Over at Meatmother, head chef Yannick Dagenais is doing barbecue with all the trimmings. Go for the meat tray, where it’s ribs or rump, served in an enamel camping dish with pickled fingers of okra, and cauliflower and a round of Texas toast – thick white bread spread with beef dripping and fried.
Drink: There’s a decent list of French drops at the Lyall Hotel’s Champagne bar. You’re also pretty close to Sweetwater Inn for more of a dive-bar party.
See and do: Grab a couple of the Lyall bikes and take a ride to the Prahran Market. This market stocks a delicious range of deli produce and fresh fruit and veg. Be sure to visit Swords Select Wines.
Breakfast: Score a couple of stools at Two Birds One Stone (pictured) and get to work on a rich salt cod and potato cake on wilted spinach, made all the better with a salty caperberry and red onion topping. Can’t skip the home-roasted coffee either.
Stay: The Prince proves hip travellers sometimes want a seaside break from the big smoke. Or maybe it’s the versatility of the building that’s the drawcard – here we have a boutique hotel attached to a pub, music venue, bar and well-heeled restaurant. Book into a Premier Suite, the biggest in the building with two bathrooms and a balcony overlooking Fitzroy Street. Breakfast is served in Circa restaurant, an eatery you should be dining at if you’re seeking a romantic evening in. Saddle up for the sevencourse degustation with matching wines, led by the Shark Bay whiting, pheasant and chocolate mousse.
Eat: Andrew McConnell’s new bar and bistro Luxembourg is a European union of natural wine and simple, stylish eats. Thinly sliced raw scallops sit in a ginger dressing, topped with the counterpoint of fresh, bitter radish slithers; potato skins and fries filled with whipped cod roe and topped with avruga can be washed down with top European drops. For Bollywood films projected on the roof, succulent Northern Indian curries, a self-serve fridge of craft brews and cardamom ice cream, Babu Ji is your spot for a low-key meal down here.
Drink: At one table in Di Stasio you’ll have the we-summer-on-the-Amalfi set, exhanging air kisses, eating buttery sweet pigeon pies and smashing bottles of Bordeaux, but then the bar’s also flanked by off-duty hospitality workers, here for something great by the glass. We like the Cantina Terlano pinot grigio and a plate o’ spaghetti. Milk The Cow (pictured), a licensed fromagerie, is the sort of place you’d expect to see in Portlandia, what with the faux-grass wall, clusters of lightbulbs jutting out of what look like electronic milkers and Flight of the Conchords’ Foux du Fafa getting a play.
Show: The Astor Theatre puts on double features every Saturday night, from fun classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Princess Bride to Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Vertigo.
Breakfast: There’s plenty to love at this casual café that looks like a cross between a bakehouse and a factory. You’ll find Il Fornaio (Italian for ‘the baker’) sandwiched between Lau’s Family Kitchen (Gilbert Lau’s casual Cantonese diner) and Acland St Cantina.
Stay: Formerly the 1880s Cricket Club Hotel, now just the turret, front and side facades remain intact, with the insides reimagined by architects Hassell as the Coppersmith (pictured) – a bespoke hotel. The central bar manages to be both sleek and inviting – and not just because of the hefty wine, spirit and craft beer lists. There’s a plush restaurant area with a French bistro menus from chef Daniel Southern, fresh from Comme. The 15 bedrooms (starting at $220) are designed to feel special, from the terrariums to the panelled walls and exquisite tiling. Be sure to hit the rooftop terrace, where you can watch the sun go down over the city.
Eat: From the Prince Wine Store’s owners Alex Wilcox, Michael McNamara and Philip Rich, Bellota is sophisticated, fun and everything you could want in South Melbourne. A sturdy wooden bar carves an arc through the main room, which is where you want to plonk yourself for a wine date with ex-Vue de Monde sommelier Sylvain Taupenas and a plate of steak frites. You’ll also dig the crisp-shelled croquettes filled with jamón-flecked béchamel and there’s even a big old bowl of well oiled-up eggplant and tuna spaghetti.
Drink: Inside South Melbourne’s first and favourite cocktail den Hercules Morse, drinks and snacks are all complex creations embellished with the likes of rhubarb syrups, smokes and Bloody Mary sorbets. Try the Nanna Morse’s Cuppa: a dainty teacup comes filled with a not-so-dainty mix of gin, lemon juice, nutty Frangelico, gingerbread syrup and a touch of egg white, which all gets blasted with steam, resulting in a hot, boozy and slightly thick cocktail – a little like drinking a lemon meringue pie (weird, but delicious).
See and do: Stop by Izzi and Popo, where you can expect an impressive collection of antique homewares, furniture and objets d’art sourced from Belgium. For a relaxing afternoon, hit the Body Freedom Urban Spa Retreat, famous for their two-hour spa treatment ‘the Melt’, which involves a head-to-toe massage, facial and foot pamper.
Breakfast: People come from all over Melbourne for the St Ali experience. The warehouse-like layout has open-air corners for alfresco diners, and the coffee’s all roasted just across the road. Such is its cult-like appeal, there’s even merch on sale.