I haven’t tried Vegemite yet, and I don’t intend to. The new version Cheesybite (formerly iSnack 2.0) is supposed to be more spreadable. Doesn’t make it more appealing to foreigners like me.
Aussie “cuisine” is mostly British derived – meat pies and snags (sausages) are common; meals are usually meat and 3 veg. True Aussie food is bush tucker, a few restaurants specialise in it ie Tjanabi in Fed Square. A more modern take is Charcoal Lane in Fitzroy, a friend and I tried Charcoal Lane last week and it was awesome but expensive (What we had- curried kingfish ceviche-style, punpkin gnocchi, yam fritters and a sample of 5 desserts) . It’s run by Mission Australia and helps to train people who wouldn’t normally have that opportunity, similar to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen concept. This is one religious charity I can support.
If you are a carnivore, do try kangaroo, it’s quite good when done properly.
Vegos (vegetarians) have some decent options here. Vegie Bar in Fitzroy is popular, Shakahari’s in Carlton is better if you stick to the traditionally veggie foods (skip the gnocchi, tempura was delicious). Most restaurants have good vegie menus (Yes, vegie is only spelt with one “g”, that threw me off in the beginning too).
Lots of ethnic restaurants because of the diversity of Melbourne, friends have been able to do a week without repeating a cuisine. During the summer, the Queen Vic Markets host a night market on Wednesday evenings, great for foodies. Little Bourke St for Chinese, Victoria St (Richmond) for Vietnamese, Lygon St (Carlton) for Italian (it is hit and miss though), Lonsdale St for Greek. Other restaurants like Malay, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Indian etc are all over the place.
The city is renowned for its coffee, some say it’s the best outside of Italy. However, it has its own language ie short black = espresso, long black = regular coffee/americano, flat white = regular coffee with milk.
No self-respecting Aussie drinks Fosters, Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter, or XXXX. Acceptable brews are Cascade, Boag’s, Little Creatures, etc. There will be plenty of people happy to point you in the right direction of a good drink. I know a couple who could easily spend a few hours only talking about beer. As someone who doesn’t drink, I was bored during this conversation until I could make the inevitable sex joke about perfect head.
Beware of the Goon (overproofed box wine). It has done many a traveller in.
While the city itself is not that dangerous, a lot of the violence in Melbourne is fuelled by alcohol. So just watch yourself when you’re out late in the CBD at night. The drinking culture (drinking to get drunk) is under fire, recent calls to raise the drinking age are debatable. As a future public health official, I can tell you it won’t do jack-shit to kerb (curb) the rise of alcohol-fuelled violence.
Pubs are called hotels. Some may actually have rooms but not all. Mostly just for eating and drinking.
Don’t freak out if a bird comes up to when you’re eating. Restaurants usually take advantage the temperate weather and have outdoor seating on the sidewalk. Other places, like shopping malls have open air areas, so the birds can hop right on in. (Of course, that means they can hop into your home too, windows aren’t usually screened. I’ve yelled at more than one bird to get out.)
The world’s greatest place is Brunetti in Carlton (also a location in the CBD by Collins St.). The windows are full of food porn. I usually skip the larger portions, and head for the mignons. That way, I can justify having 2 or 3 pieces of everything. I also love Lygon St for its abundance of gelaterias (Casa del Gelato makes watermelon gelato!)
Melbourne is full of great eating experiences. Take advantage of it.