To mar­ket we go...

Feast­ing on food and wine is the heart of any trip to Mel­bourne

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - TRAVEL with Letea Ca­van­der

ALEX Drys­dale came to the door of his con­verted car­a­van, com­plete with a mas­sive replica mus­sel shell pro­trud­ing from the top, to let the long line of cus­tomers know there were only 14 serves of his seafood left.

The cus­tomers did the maths and some started to peel off the back of the line, but those at the front held on in the hope of a serve.

We were at Mel­bourne’s Queen Vic­to­ria Mar­ket, again. The day be­fore, dur­ing our cen­tral busi­ness district jaunt, the aroma of the steaming seafood with herbs drew us to the dis­tinc­tive car­a­van af­ter we had feasted on some Greek breads from the mar­ket’s food hall.

A cou­ple al­ready tuck­ing into the mus­sels rec­om­mended them and we were back for our own taste. They did not dis­ap­point. Our blend of chilli and tomato flavoured morsels were worth the wait.

Drys­dale, who started har­vest­ing the seafood off Gee­long about 30 years ago, said he started sell­ing them fresh caught off the back of the boat.

“There was a de­mand for peo­ple who were stay­ing in mo­tels said ‘I love mus­sels but I’ve got nowhere to cook them. We went to the coun­cil and got per­mits to cook them ... at the fish­er­man’s wharf in Gee­long,” he said.

Af­ter a few years on the boat and a sec­ond ves­sel con­verted to a float­ing kitchen, Drys­dale and his part­ner Pixie sat down over a cou­ple bot­tles of red wine and cooked up a more mo­bile busi­ness idea.

“We in­vented this pop-up trailer with the shells and took it to a cou­ple of peo­ple in Gee­long (to con­struct it) who laughed at us. So we took it to an­other per­son who said ‘I’ll try’,” Drys­dale said.

But the Vic­to­ria Mar­kets aren’t just about mus­sels, there are enough food op­tions to keep shop­pers oc­cu­pied for some time. From Brazil­ian slow-cooked meat to Sri Lankan cur­ries, one could let their taste­buds travel the world on the cheap.

The mar­ket started as a whole­sale meat mar­ket in 1869, nine years be­fore it was of­fi­cially opened. By 1874, the meat mar­ket was over­crowded with butch­ers and ex­pen­sive, so many moved on and the space be­came a re­tail cen­tre. It re­mains the same, to­day, with house­hold items, hats and other trin­kets for sale, plus fresh fruit and veg.

My part­ner in crime and I had es­caped to Mel­bourne for a few days, and we were there to eat and drink.

For those on any kind of diet, this city is prob­a­bly best avoided. In the short time frame we had, we stuck to the city cen­tre, and the cen­tre alone could take weeks to prop­erly ex­plore.

Nar­row laneways with tall build­ings that had caught the city grime in their crevices and blocked the sun­light, hid cafes, bars and eater­ies from the main streets.

Rooftop bars were also a de­light de­spite the un­sea­sonal cold and ex­pected driz­zle – re­mem­ber, it is the city of four sea­sons in one day af­ter all. But take an um­brella and en­joy the walk. The city re­veals more hid­den de­lights when go­ing at a slow pace. One of our walks ended in a toast to French mas­ter­piece Chloe at Young and Jack­son, a pub op­po­site Flin­ders Street sta­tion.

Chloe is a paint­ing also known as the Queen of the Bar Room Wall, the Mistress of the Sol­diers and the Naked Nymph.

She was pur­chased by pub li­censee Henry Figsby Young in 1909 and dis­played at the pub – a scan­dalous de­ci­sion at the time. The paint­ing’s suc­cess out­shone the des­per­a­tion of the nude model, Marie, who two years af­ter pos­ing for Parisian artist Jules Joseph Le­feb­vre in 1875, threw a party for friends, boiled a soup of poi­sonous matches, drank it and died.

Ac­cord­ing to the Young and Jack­son’s web­site, the rea­son for her sui­cide was thought to have been un­re­quited love.

Now the wa­ter­ing hole draws in tourists and of­fice work­ers and city slick­ers keen for a drink and a peek at the art­work.


The open­ing of a nar­row laneway in Mel­bourne’s cen­tral busi­ness district re­veals a num­ber of cafes and bars lin­ing the walk­way and, top right, Alex Drys­dale, right, with Red Sa­hari in his mus­sel car­a­van at the Queen Vic­to­ria Mar­ket in Mel­bourne and,...

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