Wednesday, June 25, 2014

TRAVEL: Langhe e Roero, Italy

I left my heart in Langhe

I know what you're thinking, "A month between blog posts, how could she?" I have a pretty damn good excuse. I've just come back from my new favourite place on Earth, Langhe e Roero in Piedmont, Italy, and you can see the photos and read all about it here.

At the start of the year I submitted a recipe and a story to World Nomad's for their Passport & Plate program. I found out a few months later that I had been selected to go on one of my most memorable travel experiences to date. 

I spent 12 days in Italy, nine of which I was hosted in Langhe e Roero. I have created a separate page (you'll find it under 'pages' in the column to the right of this blog) where I have written about every, single detail. It starts with a poem I wrote which will be put over a video created by Carl Pendle, who filmed the whole trip; then an introduction to the area followed by a 'thank you' to the people who made it possible; and finally a day-by-day account of my travels. You can read it in one big chunk on Poppet's here, or you can head to my World Nomads journal and tackle it one day at a time. 

Never before have I felt so at home in a foreign place. Langhe e Roero confirmed for me the things that truly make me happy: beautiful food and wine made by inspiring people who live in a UNESCO-listed landscape of undulating hills and understand that the best things in life are always better shared. 

I hope it inspires you to visit this stunning corner of the world.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Town Mouse Carlton

As Loud as a Mouse

Address: 312 Drummond Street, Carlton, Victoria 

Phone: (03) 9347 3312

Open: daily from 5pm + lunch Friday to Saturday from 12pm

I have a confession: sometimes when you ask me for a restaurant recommendation I’m so underwhelmed by sameness that I turn to Urbanspoon to jog my memory. Asian fusion this, ‘American’ barbeque that, poached eggs here, salted caramel there – the problem with eating out more than you eat in is that you become immune to good food. By the same logic, it takes a superb restaurant to reignite the excitement; to spark the feeling epicureans experience when they taste something that makes their chest swell and – on the odd occasion – turns them teary. The Town Mouse is one such place, and if you’ve asked me for a recommendation in the past six months, chances are I’ve pointed you in their direction. 

It’s difficult to refuse the “come in for good times” invitation transferred onto the concrete outside the entrance. There are plenty of good times to be had, with an impressive Australian-European wine list covering red, white, pink and orange; alongside craft brews from around the globe and a brief selection of cocktails and aperitifs. If you don’t Instagram the custom stemware with its adorable mouse print, you’re a minority.

I dove in head first with the Vice & Stormy, coffee-spiked rum in a martini glass with an initial zing of yuzu and bitters and the smoky aftertaste of cigarettes. It was enough to turn a teetotaller, but that stool seating might pose a challenge to the easily excitable. The stools might not be practical for nanna, but they certainly suit the high timber tables and curved metal and oak bar. Glossy black tiles line the walls, creating a contrast sandwich with the off-white ceiling and speckled, pale stone floor.

The food here is just as stylish. GQ critic Alan Richman recently coined a new term: ‘Egotarian Cuisine’. It’s a wave of food that’s emerged because chefs want to put it on the plate, not because diners demand it. The problem with Egotarian Cuisinie is that is swings between brilliantly creative and downright awful. This is not the case at The Town Mouse, where chef Dave Verheul (who co-owns the restaurant with Chritian McCabe) bravely matches ingredients with the technique to back it up, and without drowning diner with descriptives like ‘soil’, ‘foam’ and ‘dust’. Melbourne could learn a thing or two from these New Zealanders.

You’ll start with bread. Pray it’s still sourdough with salty seaweed butter when you visit. The menu, designed for sharing, is divided into raw, to start, vegetables and meat & fish. There are single bites that appear before the menu categories, such as puffy goat’s cheese profiteroles fastened to the plate with honey (from The Town Mouse’s own Rooftop Honey hive, no less) and laced with caraway and thyme. These morsels set the bar high from the first mouthful, especially if you order smoked duck liver parfait piped onto paper-thin potato crisps with semi-transparent slices of pickled cucumber at their peaks.

We skipped oysters from the raw section in favour of something a little more unique. Originality is part of every plate at The Town Mouse and the shaved calamari – the texture of young coconut, the shape of millimetre-thin fettuccini and the taste of sea spray – was no exception. The ocean was more obvious in the globules of oyster cream, surrounded by a rock pool emulsion of fermented apple juice and dill-infused oil. It disappeared quickly and a collective sigh escaped from our table. Not that anyone would have heard it above the clamour reverberating off the hard surfaces of the room.

Although we had well and truly started eating, we had only just arrived at the ‘to start’ section of the menu. The marvel continued. Fatty, caramalised pork jowl paired with charred chunks of octopus, bound by a liquid lattice of ink, delicate disks of turnip an elongated shaving of kohlrabi and some chickweed for greenery. Smoked brook trout could have slotted under the ‘meat & fish’ subtitle, it’s deep, carroty-pink colour reminded me of a trip to the Sahara Desert while in Morocco.

If the calamari was a rock pool, the trout was a canvas. Pink radish circles were almost opaque, standing out against the black plate beneath a three-dimensional doodle of wild onion. Verbena appeared both as a pureed smear and purple buds. “What’s with the sheet?” we asked our faultless waitress. Apparently it was dried milk skin, noticeably flavoured with garlic.

Preconceptions of meat dishes exceeding their vegetable counterparts were thwarted when the heirloom kale arrived. Fried to a crisp, it rested on bubbly foam made with comte cow’s milk cheese and mustard. An oozy, slow cooked egg lurked beneath. Presentation at The Town Mouse is intricate, but the food remains balanced, even grounded.

Pink slices of duck breast arranged in a log were flanked by caramalised yoghurt, tender pine mushrooms, elk leaves and sprouted wheat (more recently referred to by wholefood nuts as ‘activated’ wheat). Perhaps the least attractive but most surprising dish was the slow roasted red cabbage, a whole quarter of the stuff with bursts of sweetness from red apple and prunes, blanketed in grated Parmesan melting slightly from the heat.

Desserts were almost on par with dinner. The halo of ricotta doughnuts crowning fennel and mandarin custard were let down only by the addition of a lengthy hair, but the incident was soon forgotten in favour of a feminine arrangement of cherry sorbet, dried milk, berries (both fresh and freeze-dried), Verjuice jelly and tiny white flowers. The standout sweet was the buttermilk-poached pear with refreshing pear sorbet and a snaking squiggle of caramel. It rested on a gravelly mound of roast chocolate and crumbed walnuts, interspersed with juicy, green apple.

Since we visited for dinner, there have been slight seasonal variations in the menu which can be seen on The Town Mouse website. There has been plenty of chatter around this Carlton restaurant-cum-bar since it opened, and it lives up to the expectations. For some ludicrous reason, it missed out on scoring a hat in The Good Food Guide 2014. I would bet some serious dollars that we will see it in the next edition.

Next time you go to ask me where to take that special someone for dinner, celebrate a birthday or score a superb feed in Melbourne, try The Town Mouse first. Praise the lord; they’re even open Monday nights. And they take bookings.

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cecconi's Restaurant + The Trip to Italy

Calling all Italophiles! 
Indulge in Italian at Cecconi's Restaurant + see The Trip to Italy

Scroll to bottom to WIN one of 5 double movie passes to see 
The Trip to Italy, in cinemas May 29.

Cecconi's Flinders Lane Restaurant & Cellar Bar

Address: 61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Phone: (03) 8663 0500

Open: Lunch on weekdays from noon 
Dinner Monday to Saturday from 5.30pm
Cellar Bar open from 7.30am weekdays

Poppet’s Window attended the Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant & Cellar Bar relaunch as a guest. The Trip to Italy tickets have been provided by Madmen Entertainment. maintains complete editorial control of all published content. 

Never write about food when you’re hungry, especially Italian food – it makes you go a little strange. The physical symptoms include stomach pains, tummy rumbling and general nausea. Mental side effects can be much worse, ranging from unwarranted anger and – occasionally – uncontrollable crying. This was the situation I found myself in when I sat down to write about iconic Italian restaurant Cecconi’s earlier.

I drank a substantial smoothie for breakfast but was holding out on lunch for fear my dental hygienist would judge me for storing small meals in my molars. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant dental appointment; at one stage three staff members were asking for restaurant recommendations while I had a gnarly piece of metal scraping six months’ worth of plaque from my teeth. At the end they filled my mouth with sickly-sweet fluoride foam (“Critique this,” said the assistant a little too proudly) and instructed me not to eat for a further 30 minutes.

I timed the half hour down to the second, raided the fridge of leftover pasta, and sat down to write. Much better. To continue the Italian theme, allow me to reintroduce you to Cecconi’s Restaurant & Cellar Bar. You might already be familiar with the family-owned restaurant from your birthday/engagement/anniversary dinner (the Bortolotto family has been heavily involved in Melbourne’s restaurant scene for decades). Located just below Flinders Street, it is always a pleasure ‘stooping down’ to Cecconi’s level.

I say 'reintroduce' Cecconi’s because Mollard Interiors revamped the space earlier this year. Copper finishes, plush black chairs and decorative light pendants have been added, but the notion of family has been kept alive, a la famiglia photo wall. The food section of The Age, Good Food, dubbed Cecconi’s as one of Melbourne’s Top 10 Italian Restaurants in March, mentioning that it was “once the workplace of chain-smoking radio journos” (fondly remembered by some at my table). Today the moody colour palate remains, but Mollard has taken full advantage of texture and tone to add contemporary character to the space.

Cecconi’s is divided into two areas, the main restaurant dinning room and the cellar bar, which remains open during the day from breakfast through to dinner. Personally, I was most impressed by the colossal open kitchen separating the two dining sections; framed by original marble, strung with pots, and strewn with produce. I was invited to the ‘intimate’ relaunch (along with over 100 other guests) to enjoy a sit down dinner, courtesy of head chef Daniel Kranjcic. It was my first taste of autumn 2014, and countless times more enjoyable than my encounter at the dentist.

Dinner peaked early. The mushroom risotto with black truffle more accurately represent black truffle with mushroom risotto. You could smell the heady perfume before it arrived at the table. I received the same satisfaction from each mouthful as I do from jamming my icy-cold feet onto warm, unsuspecting loved ones. Cynical, I asked the waiter if non-media receive the same truffle treatment. Apparently they do.

Next came Chatham Island blue cod, flanked by fried zucchini flowers from the Bortolotto family farm, no less. I managed to consume the confit tomato in a single bite, avoiding my usual habit of squirting it at the person sitting opposite me. The aged balsamic brought some punch to the party while thin ribbons of fennel would have turned the most stubborn licorice opponents.

Sighs of satisfaction were served alongside twice cooked duck with sweet potato puree and lime. For once it wasn’t the crisp skin hugging the moist meat that demanded my attention, but the fluffy, almost dessert-like potato. It was the perfect segue into one of Cecconi’s signature desserts.

A tiny jar containing caramel panna cotta interspersed with fig cake and macadamia ice cream sounded more impressive than it was. Although enjoyable, it wasn’t traditional panna cotta in terms of texture (i.e. the usual, ‘firm bosom’ feel). A selection of cheese with dried fruit and quince paste brought the evening to a pleasant close.

There is no denying that Cecconi’s is a classic, regardless of how smooth the restaurant appears in front of a media and VIP crowd. As founder and journalist Wendy Hargreaves pointed out on the night, “they’re preaching to the converted”.


If you fancy a film after your Cecconi’s experience, I have five double passes to give away to see The Trip to Italy, in cinemas May 29. To go into the draw to win, simply tell me why you love Italian food by commenting below or on my Instagram (@fi_bird) by midnight June 5 (Australian residents only). Plot summary and trailer below.

Rob Brydon has been commissioned by a newspaper to go on a driving tour of Italy from Liguria to Capri, partly following in the footsteps of the great Romantic poets. He asks his old friend Steve Coogan to go with him. As they journey through the beautiful Italian countryside they talk about life, relationships and their careers whilst stopping at wonderful restaurants and hotels along the way.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mother's Day 2014

"When I Open My Mouth, My Mother Comes Out"

For my best friend, editor and role model. 

I do not wear the sapphire birthstone necklace she gave me on my 21st birthday. She tells me never to save anything for a special occasion, but I’m terrified I’ll lose it. Besides, I don’t need a tangible reminder of how she has taught me to live – every morning it looks back at me from the mirror. When nobody is watching it pulls a face, just like I catch her doing now and then. 

If she could only leave me with a single piece of advice, I know what it would be: always put on sunscreen. She’s a fine example to follow with her smooth skin and figure envied by 20-year-old women and admired by men of all ages. It never bothered me when my high school friends made cheeky comments – if I look half as good as her when I hit 50, I’ll be laughing. 

Like many mothers she has instilled in me to always offer guests something to drink – regardless of whether it’s the Prime Minister or the plumber – and that having a ‘present box’ is one of life’s essentials. Birthday cards and presents should be bought when you see them, even if it means you’re holding on to three years’ worth of gifts. 

She has taught me to worship eucalyptus oil, to make strong English breakfast tea and to never settle for the tomatoes on display at the market. My mother always requests an upgrade at the airport check-in (“you’ll never get one if you don’t ask”) and a discount on everything from mangoes to electricity. Although I know to always, always fork out on boots, bags and jackets.

Once in a while she calls me over to the kitchen bench, mid-frenzy, explaining that if she were to drop dead the following day I should know that baking soda, vinegar and boiling water will get the burnt crust off the bottom of the pan. Everyday there is a new lesson to be learned, especially in the kitchen: bring out the nice china saucers whenever you can, always have a supply of chopped and frozen parsley in the freezer, stock up on tinned tomatoes and canned beans, if you have a butternut squash in the pantry you will always have a meal, and god forbid you should ever throw out a half-broken piece of Tupperware.

Through example she has taught me to eat with abandon and enjoy with intention, passing on guilt for a second helping. That everything is healthy in moderation if it puts a smile on your face, that food nourishes so much more than your body, and that there is nothing wrong with alternating between smelly blue cheese and shiraz until the entire wedge and bottle have disappeared (she’s never been drunk, mind you; she just “gets a little giggly and then falls asleep”). 

I have learned to wear what you want regardless of age, to never waste a trip, that a good enough letter can get you out of any fine, and that the most cost-effective temperature for the heating system is 19 degrees Celsius (even if the family is freezing). She has taught me, perhaps to my detriment, to never miss an opportunity to have the last word or say I told you so; to sing loudly – and badly – because those who truly love you will put up with it; and to never let the secret stash of dark chocolate in the cupboard run dry. I have also witnessed the importance of slowing down despite your hasty genetic makeup, and that operating on nervous tension can wear even the strongest women down. Like her, I obsess over detail to the point of insanity and sit back smugly when everything works out in the face of adversity. 

If nothing else, my mother is active. More than that, she’s unstoppable. She has jogged, forced my father into dance classes, swam through pregnancy, rollerbladed behind three different prams, ridden her bike once a week for decades, walked 10 kilometres five mornings a week since she was told her back couldn’t handle the running, and more recently graduated from sailing lessons. 

For an expat she knows more about Melbourne than most Melburnians, finding the best the city has to offer every weekend and letting her grateful Airbnb guests in on the secret. The best restaurants and hotels cannot rival her reviews: “She has thought of everything to make her guests feel at home…” says one, “…a wonderful and thoughtful host and nothing was too much trouble for her,” says another. 

My mother has these indescribable nuances. We call them mumisms. She blames her vocabulary of mispronounced words on her English background, but we catch her out when we visit her parents (no one in London says ‘moo-sli’ instead of ‘muesli’). Little things annoy her; she is only human, after all. She complains when she goes to a ‘vintage’ sale and is met with garish ‘80s and ‘90s outfits. Dad drives her mental when overdue fines arrive in the mail. Phones at the table are a bother, dog hair around the house is a nuisance, and not making eye contact when you are introduced to someone is just plain rude. 

She puts her foot in it enough to have her own reality television show, but in times of frustration mum bites her tongue. She’s been known to mistakenly ask women when the baby is due out of pure and selfless excitement. She’ll tell you it hasn’t happened for a while, but it has happened more than once. Last week she entered a Mother’s Day competition to win a Lululemon bag, pretending to be me and describing herself in three words as required. “You can have it if I win,” she said, “it’s purple”. 

My father quietly adores her, even through she has been complaining about his underwear on the bathroom floor for 25 years. He still hasn’t picked it up. Two opposites have never been so incredibly alike. They still call each other ‘babe’ and I can’t bring myself to tell them that despite what they may think, they didn’t invent the term of endearment. I used to envy their relationship when I had boyfriends as a teenager. My mother and father taught me to pick a man who loves you not only exactly for who you are, but one who you can drive crazy and he still wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“You can read me better than you’re father,” she says regularly. There’s something about her eyes – my grandfather’s and brother’s eyes – when I walk into the kitchen. It is as if she needs to break some news but doesn’t want to interrupt a happier story. Her mouth is always poised, ready to express. Mostly it’s a simple tragedy, like forgetting to sprinkle coriander over dinner despite the boys requesting otherwise. But I can always tell when it’s something more important. 

These days when I open my mouth, my mother comes out. It happens in unison when we’re together; not a finishing of each other’s sentences but coexistence in its purest form. With every day that passes I’m proud to be more like her, and I still can’t apologise enough for being a selfish little bitch the year I was 16. 

My mum lives with urgency and efficiency, refusing to waste a moment sitting down – just as her mother does and as I do increasingly every year. In the last 12 months I have realised it takes a delicate balance of instinct and balls to carry the weight of the family on your shoulders and not collapse. She will tell you she just does what needs to be done, but we all know she is the rock that holds our family together. 

Mum, between Friday market visits and calling – not on Viber – for advice (how do I relight the gas heater, what’s a better word for X?) I don’t tell you often enough how much you mean to me. You know better than anyone that I express myself better in writing. Hopefully it shows whenever I see you, but just in case, now you can read this as well. 

Why wait until Mother’s Day to tell you what you ought to know every day: 

I love you, mum.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

St Kilda Melbourne

Top 10 Reasons to Visit St Kilda 

Visiting St Kilda isn’t just for tourists. With beachside Port Phillip views, top Melbourne restaurants, a cracking arts scene, craft markets, festivals, fabulous shopping, and nightlife to rival the best in Melbourne, St Kilda caters to everyone – regardless of age and interests. 

Whenever someone visits from overseas or interstate, I always include St Kilda in our itinerary. It’s a unique part of Melbourne not to be missed, whether you spend a day here or make it your base during your travels. But after exploring St Kilda over a weekend recently, I realised how lucky we are to have such a diverse suburb so close to Melbourne city. 

For a sandy suburb brimming with colour, St Kilda has a historic dark side. Post war, St Kilda was a dangerous red light district, but as young families and students began to take advantage of its affordable housing St Kilda’s bohemian culture was born. It is this underbelly of St Kilda that has created the eclectic character we see there today. 

Don’t be surprised if you witness buskers, punks, suits and dreadlocks within 100 meters of each other. That being said, it would be irresponsible not to mention the element of grunge that still exists in St Kilda. These days it’s more of a precaution than anything else, but I wouldn’t recommend solo female explores roam the backstreets after dark – although you shouldn’t really be doing such a thing anywhere in the world! 

Those who enjoy their history might like to know that the area was named after an early settler’s sailing ship in 1841. Since then it has transformed into a cosmopolitan hub. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all St Kilda has to offer. 

One thing visitors always tell me after spending the day in St Kilda is how vibrant it is. Regardless of the time of year, St Kilda is painted with the palate of summer: blue skies, waving palm trees, kite surfers against a silhouetted city backdrop and sunsets that dissolve beneath the horizon in an explosion of warmth. This awesome video of people dancing through St Kilda to Pharrell William's 'Happy' just about sums it up.

Think of this guide as ‘Essential St Kilda’, the bits and bobs you absolutely must tick off your St Kilda list to fully experience the suburb. 

Here are the top 10 reasons to visit St Kilda: 

1) St Kilda Beach, just 6km from the CBD 

Get to St Kilda Beach in Port Phillip early during summer. Tourists and locals alike are quick to nab the best spots out the front of the St Kilda Sea Baths, an iconic complex originally built in 1931 that houses a sea water pool, restaurants, cafes, bars, a gym and a day spa. The St Kilda Foreshore Promenade lining the beach is scattered with dog walkers, roller skaters, skateboarders and cyclists year round – and even the odd unicycle! It's just 15 minutes by car or 30 minutes by tram from Flinders Street Station. 

TIP: Watch the sunset with a cocktail from the outside area at Captain Baxter at the Sea Baths. 

2) Eating in St Kilda 

St Kilda’s food scene gets better each year. Hatted restaurants line Fitzroy Street, cafés are crammed onto nearby Acland Street, and there’s even the odd establishment right on the beach. Budget is irrelevant when eating out in St Kilda, with options ranging from cheap eats (Uncle, Radio Mexico, Lentil as Anything), to first class finds (Donavan’s, Sapore, Circa the Prince). Start with breakfast at charming Fitzrovia or St Kilda local, Pelican. Later, enjoy a traditional Indian lunch with a contemporary twist at newcomer Babu Ji. Snack on a cheese and wine flight at Milk the Cow (or maybe fondue is more your thing?) – just be sure to save room for dessert at Cacao Fine Chocolate & Patisserie.

3) St Kilda Night Life 

Bars, clubs, music – you name it, St Kilda has it. Try a negroni at classics Bar di Stasio and Cicciolina, head to The Vineyard and battle locals for a seat outside, visit Cellar Bar at Newmarket Hotel (“a playground for grownups”), or do a crawl up and down Fitzroy Street until you find a club or bar that tickles your fancy. The music scene is alive and well in St Kilda, too. A visit to the area isn’t complete without heading to a gig at The Espy or catching a show at The Palais Theatre, next to Luna Park. 

4) Acland Street, St Kilda 

Cakes and clothes. What more could you want? Acland Street is renowned for it’s cake shops and bakeshops, courtesy of the European immigrants who brought them here when they moved to Australia. Trying to choose a treat can be a daunting task, not just because of the crowds but also because of the countless options and similar stores. If you’re a traditionalist head to Monarch Cakes, the oldest in the strip (est. 1934). The Chocolate Kugelhoupf is their signature, but the cheesecake and pecan slice won’t disappoint either. Work it all off with some serious shopping, from designer and local brands to hippy stores and homewares. If it all gets too much, treat yourself with an ice cream at 7 Apples, an affordable Thai massage or even a quick palm reading

TIP: Acland Street is one of the best places in Melbourne for people watching. Park yourself on a bench and let St Kilda do its thang. 

5) St Kilda Pier + Penguins 

St Kilda Pier was built in 1853 but the kiosk didn’t come until 51 years later. In 2003 the kiosk burnt down, but it was soon resurrected better than ever. It’s now known as The St Kilda Pavilion, an impressive café with a deck and panoramic bay views. Stroll past fisherman to the Pavilion down the famous pier, making sure to look back over your should at the St Kilda Sea Baths. You’ll see jet skis near the shore and freight ships further out, just specks on the horizon. You might even spot a water jetpack, a futuristic water activity worth getting wet for if you have time. 

Perhaps St Kilda's best kept secret lies just beyond the St Kilda Pavilion to the left: a breakwater constructed for the 1956 Olympic Games which is now home to around 1000 penguins. Look closely between the rocks and you’ll spot them in broad daylight, just a couple of meters in front of you. Don’t disturb the penguins, use flash photography or leave rubbish in their environment – ain’t nobody got time for that. 

TIP: Be still and listen carefully – you might spot some penguins between the wooden slats of the boardwalk beneath your feet. 

6) St Kilda Accommodation for all Budgets 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a backpacker, on the job, looking for an affordable staycation or ready to splurge; St Kilda has all bases covered. Award-winning Base Melbourne Backpackers is the place to stay if you're travelling on a budget (prices start at $30 per night), or if boutique is more your thing Hotel Urban, The Prince Hotel and Cosmopolitan Hotel are all top notch. For 4-star, beachfront accommodation, try Novotel Melbourne St Kilda (rates from $199 for a standard room through to $499+ for the penthouse); or if you’re travelling with family or in need of a kitchen, Quest St Kilda Bayside won’t let you down. The latter is just a couple of blocks back from Fitzroy Street, the perfect place for some peace and quite but still with easy access to St Kilda’s bustling cosmopolitan. The serviced apartments are neat and comfortable ($144 for a studio apartment up to $239 for a two bedroom apartment), but the best rooms have a view of the charming church across the road. 

TIP: Open your windows at Quest St Kilda Bayside on a Sunday morning and you might be lucky enough to hear the church organ and choir. 

7) St Kilda’s Esplanade Market 

Every Sunday from 10am until 5pm a snake of stall canopies leave a trail from the bottom of Fitzroy Street all the way down to Luna Park. The Esplanade Arts and Craft Market is a must visit for St Kilda first timers. You’ll find a range of gifts, knick-knacks and Australiana, from original works of art and jewellery made from silver cutlery through to bags and boomerangs. Walk back along the beach when you’re done and blend in with the varied and eccentric crowd. 

8) That Giant Mouth 

Taking a photo in front of Luna Park’s giant mouth is a rite of passage in St Kilda. The giant gob belongs to Mr. Moon, the entrance to the famous amusement park that opened back in 1912. The iconic Scenic Railway – the gentle rollercoaster that runs around the perimeter of the park – will give you one of the best views in St Kilda. It’s been there since the park opened, making it the oldest continually operating roller coaster in the world. Of course there’s the Ghost Train and carousel, but at Luna Park the old mixes with the new, especially when it comes to thrill-seeker rides that have the potential to make you feel nauseous just by looking at them. Best to save any exploration of St Kilda’s restaurants and cafés until you’re done here. 

9) Getting to St Kilda is Easy Peasy 

It’s easy to get to and from St Kilda by tram, train, bus, taxi or even boat! Almost everything is walking distance in St Kilda, especially if you’re willing to take the scenic route along the foreshore. For those jumping on public transport, Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner website is an easy-to-use, invaluable resource. 

10) Friendly St Kilda Locals 

Visitors to St Kilda will notice that the locals are always up for a chat. Asking for directions has never been easier. Stallholders are happy to share their life stories while café staff are more than willing to listen to yours. If you spend the day at the beach, chances are you will have joined in a game of beach volleyball or football before you leave. When the sun is out, there’s hardly a face not wearing a smile. Marco (above) is just one of many friendly personalities behind the businesses of St Kilda. Pop in and say hello at Fitzrovia, a fantastic restaurant that serves up stunning produce and makes everything from scratch.

Have you been to St Kilda or is it on your to-visit list? Let me know your favourite things about the area and any top experiences that haven’t been included. Thanks for reading :) ! 

This post was made possible with the help of the St Kilda Tourism Association to encourage both Melburnians and travellers alike to #VisitStKilda. Special thanks to Quest St Kilda Bayside and the restaurants and cafés that for their hospitality. maintains complete editorial control of all published content.