Royal Talk

Melbourne Hidden Gems

A 2022 GUIDE TO MELBOURNE’S HIDDEN GEMS

 

When it comes to hidden gems, Melbourne is a serious treasure trove! The Victorian capital is one of the best towns in Australia for discovering delightful places and experiences which are a bit off the beaten track. Come with us, as we go in search of those unique offerings, which may be well known to locals (just quietly) but not so much to tourists, as we explore the road less travelled on our 2022 guide to Melbourne’s hidden gems.

WATERING HOLES:

Melbourne is world famous for its hospitality scene, including bars, cafes and restaurants. The CBD and inner suburbs have lots of amazing places to have a drink, which you may not have heard much about. We visit 5 of the best:

Bar Americano.  20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne.

This petite cocktail bar, with its evocative 1930s cool, can accommodate 10 persons at a time, so it’s pretty exclusive. And that’s just standing room. It’s got a super svelte Euro vibe, with the vintage Italian sign out front signalling its position in Presgrave Place, which is a clandestine alley hidden away between Collins and Little Collins Streets, just down from Swanston. The cocktail list changes from week to week. There is a selection of classics on offer which are prepared by specialists and perfectionists. 

Trinket. 87 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Flinders Lane was one of the first side streets to really come alive, a few decades ago, and these days is teeming with fabulous shops, galleries, places for a bite – and bars. You could walk past this one quite easily without noticing it. There are quite a few of Melbourne’s best kept secrets which are like that; some have no signage at all – you just have to be in the know! Trinket is decked out in old school style, with fantastic tiling, deep greens, exposed brick and brass features. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a covert cellar bar. Smashing cocktails and premium pizza are prime fare.

Siglo. Level 2, 161 Spring Street, Melbourne.

A classic Melbourne act to follow is catching a show at the Princess Theatre up in the ‘Paris end’ of town. Siglo is a rooftop terrace bar – atop the theatre – with a Parisian feel and a great view. It’s an iconic Melbourne institution, though not one which out of towners know much about. It’s a perfect spot to watch the world go by below, chat about the performance, sip on a glass or two and have a cigar. Yes, famous for its ‘Cohiba Siglo’ Cubans, you are most welcome to light up a fat one here. 

Goldilocks Bar. Level 4, 264 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Another rooftop favourite with locals, Goldilocks is perched on top of the Denyers Building in Swanston St, and is one of the best vantage points for savouring all things Victorian. That’s because they only offer things Victorian, more or less. The libation list is comprised of delicious all-Victorian beers, wines and ciders. No animal products are used in any of their drinks, so if you’re after a vegan tipple, this is your venue.

Bar Margaux. 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

If you’re getting a bit heady with those heights, why not come back down to earth with a wee subterranean sippy at Bar Margaux in the lower part of Lonsdale street, literally. This is vintage French brasserie meets Manhattan meets Melbourne, with banquette seating, oysters, champagne and cocktails, heavily mood lit until 5am. Night caps with a nibble – perhaps lobster croque monsieur? 

EATERIES:

Melbourne has a restaurant culture which is universally admired. Some of our best places are world famous, whereas hundreds are hidden gems, waiting for the curious visitor to unearth. We reveal 5 of the most delicious:

Easey’s. 3/48 Easey Street, Collingwood.

A short distance from the CBD, in cosmopolitan Collingwood, you’ll find some old train carriages propped up in an elevated area with sweeping views. It’s an unusual setting, but couldn’t be more easy going, with burgers and jugs of Melbourne Bitter beer the standard fare de jour here. Melbournians love the trip down memory train-lane with those rusty coloured tartan seats reminding us of the old days of suburban rail travel in this city. 

Hell’s Kitchen. 20A Centre Place, Melbourne.

You can’t visit Melbourne without taking a stroll along Degraves Street in the city. And if the walk’s got you devilishly peckish, drop in to this Melbourne establishment for a feed. During the day this is right on for checking out the passing parade, by night the food is wickedly sumptuous sausages and meatballs – heavenly!

Soi 38. 38 McIlwraith Place, Melbourne.

This little beauty sits in the middle of a busy city car park. It’s just so Melbourne to find a bustling little Thai café in such a location – you’ve got to get amongst this if you enjoy quirky and tasty. It’s a legendary eatery by now, but we’ve still made it hard to find. So, you’ll be hungry upon arrival. That’s the idea. Some of the best noodles in town. In the evenings Thai BBQ & hot pot spot. 

A1 Bakery. 643-645 Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Catch a tram over to Brunswick and sample some of the glorious goods at this Melbourne bijou of a bakery. It’s been around for years and it’s where you’ll find fresh from the oven Lebanese delights such as halloumi pies, chicken tawouk wraps and mouth watering dips in which to dip your za’atar dusted flatbread. 

Bodega Underground. 55 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne.

Heading back to our Melbourne underground connections, we discover this Mexican taqueria in a seductive setting, a few steps down from Chinatown! Tactile and tasty tacos are front and centre of the menu, with cocktails and 70 types of mezcal. The atmosphere is buzzy, the drinks are strong and the food’s a fiesta!

GET BACK TO NATURE:

Melbourne and environs have many green getaways and verdant vestibules for those wanting to take time out to commune with mother nature. A couple of best kept secret gardens are:

Warburton’s Redwood Forest. Cement Creek Road, East Warburton.

There are around 1,550 massive Californian redwoods at this woodland precinct on the outskirts of Melbourne. Most are around a century old. It’s a favoured location for wedding photos. The enormous trees are awe inspiring. You can pretend you’re in Jurassic era North America for a little while if you like. 

Yarra Valley Water Garden. 2628 Warburton Highway, Yarra Junction.

Whilst you’re out this way, visit a place of ponds, palms and peace. The Blue Lotus Water Garden is open December thru April and features exotic waterways and plantings, lagoons and waterfalls, host to hundreds of water lilies and lotus flowers. How’s the serenity?

FEELING A BIT MORE ADVENTUROUS?

Melbourne has some adventurous activities of the unusual variety, for those of you who have exhausted your lane hopping and bistro bouncing mojo. Four of our town’s best hidden gem experiences of the less common kind are:

Take a Punt at the Botanical Gardens.

Hop on a punt to tour the lake at South Yarra’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Somewhere between punting along the English countryside canals and a jaunt around Venice in a gondola, we give you… boating in the Bot Gardens! Rather romantic if you’re in the mood, or just a bit of fun in the sun.

Loo with a View.

The bar on the 35th floor of the Sofitel on Collins Street serves up a fine wine or mixed drink, and also boasts bathrooms from whence to behold the ‘burbs. You can relieve yourself whilst looking out across this metropolis in panoramic splendour. Worth the ‘visit’.

Keeping it Real with Street Art.

We’ve all seen Melbourne’s famous street art (sometimes called graffiti) by day, in the lanes and city spaces, but have you tried it by night? Take a wander around Hosier and Rutledge Lanes after dark to get a real feel. If you are totally taken with this town’s street art, go next level and check out the multi-coloured canals around South Yarra (do take care if it has been raining though, these are working storm water drains).

Yarra River Promenade.

We love our Yarra River, also called Birrarung. A walk along our central waterway is an underrated Melbourne experience. We recommend starting at Birrarung Bridge and finishing at Docklands, at sunset.

Nick Resch | Wordsmith