Mel­bourne in­side out

From chocolate bou­tiques to vintage cy­cles, the Vic­to­rian cap­i­tal sets the pace

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KENDALL HILL

1. Hun­gar­ian high tea: The ven­er­a­ble Wind­sor Ho­tel has set the bench­mark for high tea in Mel­bourne since brew­ing its first pot in 1883.

But for an ut­terly orig­i­nal ex­pe­ri­ence head to Colling­wood, where the vi­va­cious Hanna Fred­er­ick serves tea, snacks and sauci­ness in her ‘‘chocolate boudoir’’. In­ti­mate groups of four to 15 take their places at deeply padded vel­vet set­tees and arm­chairs in a the­atri­cal set­ting of chan­de­liers and crim­son walls.

Fred­er­ick plies you first with cham­pagne and savouries (fin­ger sand­wiches, tiny tarts and pogacsa potato scones from her na­tive Hun­gary) be­fore duck­ing out the back to bake fresh scones. They ar­rive hot, fluffy and served with whipped cream, home­made pre­serves and Cey­lon teas blended lo­cally by Madam Flavour.

To fol­low, you might want to try wal­nut bei­glis and the tri­fle­like somlo cake, be­fore the ex­pe­ri­ence cul­mi­nates in a se­lec­tion of el­e­gant, all-nat­u­ral choco­lates hand­made by Fred­er­ick, a trained chemist. Fill­ings might in­clude le­mon­grass, flam­beed pineap­ple or brandied tart-cherry truf­fles.

Fred­er­ick pro­vides the en­ter­tain­ment (‘‘I talk for three peo­ple,’’ she ad­mits) and her en­thu­si­asm is in­fec­tious. ‘‘The se­cret is that all the food has to be done at the last minute — there are no mi­crowaves, no re­heat­ing,’’ she says. ‘‘That’s why Hun­gar­ian women are such drama queens when they have guests.’’ More: mamor­choco­ 2. The first Chinese: Mel­bourne’s Chi­na­town is one of the West­ern world’s old­est Chinese set­tle­ments. It dates from the dawn of the Vic­to­rian gold rush in 1851 and the five-level Chinese Mu­seum, ren­o­vated last year, presents Chinese-Aus­tralian his­tory through per­ma­nent ex­hibits and spe­cial shows, video, au­dio and arte­facts.

A base­ment re­cre­ation of 19thcen­tury gold­fields chron­i­cles how for­tune-hun­ters ar­rived from im­pov­er­ished Can­ton, and within seven years their num­bers had swollen to 40,000. The min­ers needed en­ter­tain­ment and the com­forts of home, so vis­i­tors can mock-au­di­tion for the parts of ‘‘fe­male war­rior’’ or ‘‘bearded wise man’’ in one of the tour­ing opera com­pa­nies that en­ter­tained prospec­tors dur­ing the gold rush, or visit a replica tem­ple to dis­cover their for­tune.

A col­lec­tion of cer­e­mo­nial dragons in­cludes a Millennium Dragon with a 200kg head and ex­trav­a­gant body, which re­quired 108 men to bring it to life. Up­per floors house tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions and an in­trigu­ing in­sight into Chinese and Asian im­mi­gra­tion through the sto­ries of or­di­nary and not-so-or­di­nary Aus­tralians, such as SBS news­reader Lee Lin Chin. More: chi­ne­se­mu­ 3. Wa­ter sto­ries: The city’s no­to­ri­ous up­side-down wa­ter­way has been trans­formed in re­cent decades by new river­front de­vel­op­ments, bush­land re­gen­er­a­tion and Mel­bur­ni­ans’ emerg­ing pride in their hum­ble Yarra.

The re­cently up­graded 33km Main Yarra Trail be­gins at South­bank and ends in outer sub­ur­ban Tem­plestowe, but for most of its length it is re­mark­ably un­pop­u­lated. The lower reaches link the great­est hits of the Vic­to­rian cap­i­tal, from water­front CBD land­marks to the na­tive sanc­tu­ary of Bir­rarung Marr (Mel­bourne’s first ma­jor new park in 100 years), Rod Laver Arena and the MCG.

Con­tinue north by bike or on foot and the crowds quickly thin and the bush thick­ens; once past in­ner-city Rich­mond, the feel is more bush­land than built en­vi­ron­ment. The trail traces a path through the city’s Abo­rig­i­nal and Euro­pean his­tory, from sky­scraper views in the city cen­tre to the site of a school for Abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren at Yarra Bend (marked by a hum­ble plaque on the east­ern bank of the river).

By the time the Yarra wends its way through the thickly forested river val­ley at Kew, it feels a world re­moved from the bus­tle of the big smoke. More: vis­itvic­to­ 4. Church and state: Be­fore gol­drush riches funded the present Gov­ern­ment House, an ex­trav­a­gant Ital­ianate pile in the Royal Botanic Gar­dens, Vic­to­ria’s gov­er­nors lived in a slightly less ex­trav­a­gant Ital­ianate pile in Toorak.

Said to be the old­est sur­viv­ing man­sion-house in the state, Toorak House is a dou­ble-storey beauty adorned with fili­gree and a Doric colon­nade, and crowned by a mod­est tower. De­signed by the dis­tin­guished colo­nial ar­chi­tect Sa­muel Jack­son — also re­spon­si­ble for St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral and the Scots’ Church in the city — the build­ing served as the Women’s Aux­il­iary Aus­tralian Air Force hos­tel dur­ing World War II, but since 1956 has been the house of wor­ship for the city’s Scan­di­na­vian pop­u­la­tion.

The Swedish Church has mod­i­fied the in­te­rior to suit its needs — a hand­some chapel now oc­cu­pies the ground floor — but it re­mains a fine ex­am­ple of early colo­nial ini­tia­tive. The Swedish Church also hosts a pop­u­lar Christ­mas bazaar on the first week­end of De­cem­ber, sell­ing Scan­di­na­vian foods, gifts and hand­i­crafts. More: sven­­bourne. 5. The Ab­bots­ford Con­vent: Its re­turn to pub­lic own­er­ship in 2005 sig­nalled a dra­matic shift in the 148-year-old his­tory of the Ab­bots­ford Con­vent. The closed or­der of the Sis­ters of the Good Shep­herd has been trans­formed into a vi­brant com­mu­nity hub with an av­er­age of 10,000 vis­i­tors a week flock­ing to this gothic com- plex and for­mal gar­dens be­side the Yarra River.

The con­vent is hardly se­cret but the art ac­tiv­i­ties within its 7ha grounds are less known. Its de­con­se­crated spaces now house writers and poets, pup­peteers and print­mak­ers, restau­rants and bars. Among its var­ied at­trac­tions are reg­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tions at the C3 Con­tem­po­rary Art Space in the con­vent base­ment (note the for­mer garage nearby, a legacy of the 1960s when one of the sis­ters won a car in a raf­fle).

There are wheel-throw­ing classes at the Cone 11 ce­ram­ics stu­dio, j ewellery and other beau­ti­ful ob­jects by Kath­eryn Leopoldseder and Phoebe Porter, and Hand­some Steve’s House of Re­fresh­ment (or a bar by any other name). The con­vent foun­da­tion’s dy­namic calendar of events in­cludes an an­nual ve­gan fes­ti­val, the Pushover mu­sic fes­ti­val, a monthly slow-food farm­ers’ mar­ket and a gui­tar fes­ti­val. The most im­pres­sive re­minder of the site’s past is the Sep­a­ra­tion Tree, a magnificent spread­ing oak planted to mark the birth of the colony of Vic­to­ria in 1850. More: ab­bots­ford­con­ 6. Lyon House­mu­seum: In­spired by the art ex­pe­ri­ence at such his­toric house museums as the Peggy Guggen­heim in Venice and Sir John Soane’s Mu­seum in Lon­don, ar­chi­tect Cor­bett Lyon and his com­puter sci­en­tist wife Yueji re­alised a dream last year when they opened their own re­mark­able house mu­seum in sub­ur­ban Kew.

The Lyon House­mu­seum un­folds be­neath a black zinc poly­gon book­ended by over­sized cubes. As con­tem­po­rary art gal­leries go, it makes quite a state­ment, so much so that the build­ing was ex­hib­ited at the 2010 World Ar­chi­tec­ture Fes­ti­val in Barcelona. In­side, vis­i­tors can ex­plore Lyon’s im­por­tant col­lec- tion of mod­ern art­works as well as his flair for ar­chi­tec­ture.

Dom­i­nat­ing the mu­sic room, Andrew Brook’s an­i­mated neon in­stal­la­tion against a ze­bras­triped wall is typ­i­cal of the gallery’s vis­ually ar­rest­ing pieces. Howard Arkley’s Fab­ri­cated Rooms un­folds over ad­join­ing walls in the din­ing room.

Among the dozens of artists fea­tured are Pa­tri­cia Pic­cinini, Anne Za­halka and Cal­lum Mor­ton, in video, paint­ings, sculp­ture and in­stal­la­tions.

The house opens on av­er­age four days a month for col­lec­tion tours (strictly by ap­point­ment) and oc­ca­sion­ally for pub­lic talks on art and ar­chi­tec­ture, or mu­si­cal per­for­mances. More: ly­on­house­mu­ 7. Vintage cy­cle tours: Mel­bourne’s new, blue Bike Share scheme is mush­room­ing across the city but there’s a draw­back: it’s BYO hel­met. For a much cooler and bet­ter-equipped cy­cle ad­ven­ture, try The Hum­ble Vintage. At its two lo­ca­tions in the city (Trunk Diner) and Fitzroy (Rose Street Artist Mar­ket), bik­ers can sad­dle up on re­con­di­tioned Rep­cos, Malvern Stars and Speed­wells.

Founder Matt Hurst’s aim is to give vis­i­tors an al­ter­na­tive to rent­ing ‘‘clunky, ugly’’ hire-scheme bikes. ‘‘It’s al­most like bor­row­ing a bike from a friend, or a bike you would ride at home,’’ he says. Rid­ers are given quar­terly up­dated maps that chart cul­tural, fash­ion and gas­tro­nomic trails through the city’s hip­per post­codes. All bikes come with hel­mets and locks, and pe­ri­ods of hire range from a day ($30) to a week (much cheaper for ex­tra days). More: the­hum­blev­in­ Next week in our se­cret seven se­ries: Ade­laide. vis­itvic­to­ vis­it­mel­


Cy­cling along the Main Yarra Trail is an en­joy­able means of ex­plor­ing Mel­bourne, from water­front CBD land­marks to bush­land on the city’s out­skirts

Hanna Fred­er­ick serves a mem­o­rable tea at Mamor Choco­lates

Lyon House­mu­seum is an un­usual con­tem­po­rary art gallery

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