One frosty London evening over dinner and drinks with my friend, Bella Musgrave, I had the pleasure of meeting the unforgettable Sophie Edelstein. As a director, screenwriter & Arts Editor of RUSSH Magazine, Sophie has her hands immersed in the creative, and that’s clear the moment you meet her. An ebullient personality with a flair for fashion, she’s one of those people who exude cool. So when we talked Tig and Sophie revealed that beyond her roots that seem to portray her as a girl who is très française, it turns out she’s actually an Aussie. The impetus for Insider’s Guides was to have the coolest person from any given place, tell you where you need to go: where the locals go, where the cool kids frolic, and where to find the hidden gems without scouring the web endlessly. I’ve never been to Melbourne, but rest assured Sophie would be my choice tour guide down under. Take it away, Soph!
When Meghan asked me to create an Insider’s Guide to my hometown of Melbourne, I must admit I was thrilled. First and foremost, Melbourne is a romantic city with its expansive parkland, river, and wide streets. Melbourne is also a city full of contradictions— from its bustling art scene (which can veer into ironic hipsterdom, explaining why Melbourne has the best coffee in the world) to its sophisticated pearl-wearing set who frequent a strip of cafes opposite the gorgeous Botanic Gardens. There’s something for everyone. And even though Melbourne is a little more low key than Sydney or Brisbane, believe me, there is so much to love about this city!
The Art Series Hotels – You could pick any one of The Art Series Hotel Group contemporary boutique hotels out of a hat and you’d be incredibly happy with whatever you’d choose. From their newest, Vogue-approved Larwill Studio, to the uber-hip concept hotel The Cullen, to my favorite, the lovely Olsen in South Yarra, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Park Hyatt – If you’re looking for luxury, the buck stops with The Park Hyatt in Melbourne. Surrounded by green and trees, it’s truly the most luxe way to stay in the city. Plus, it’s convenient—it’s just across the park from my favorite restaurant, The European. I’ve had a wild night or two at The Park Hyatt, so I have to say, it’s pretty fun.
The Adelphi* – A decor-heavy, whimsical hotel in a converted warehouse, The Adelphi is a boutique hotel unlike any that you’ve probably ever stayed in. And while its crazy cool aesthetic seems as though it’s the reason to book, the best part of The Adelphi is its 9th floor made of perspex glass, so you can stare at at the passerbys on Flinders Lane below.
The European – This luxurious restaurant is the staple of my life in Melbourne. It is on Spring Street, right at the top of the city. It feels old and has character, plus, it’s open late. The food here is just so good. I could survive exclusively on their oysters, steak tartare and the phenomenal wine list. You sit on the street underneath the trees and the romantic, dappled light couldn’t be more perfect.
The Melbourne Supper Club – Just above the European sits the Supper Club, which is like an old gentleman’s club with huge chesterfield sofas where you can pop up to after dinner. And if the weather is nice, you cab also head to their rooftop wine bar, Siglo. It has a view of Parliament House and you feel like you might be in Paris – except you can order sausage rolls and party pies until 3am. Their martinis are so good they’ll pull you out of even the deepest depression.
Toff in Town – Toff is my favorite bar located two floors up inside the Curtin House building with a complete railway carriage inside it, which provides you with booths you can shut yourself into (and this is fabulous for a true sufferer of anxiety like me.) Downstairs is the uber-fun Cookie Beer Hall, which has delicious Thai food and lots of hipsters. The Rooftop Bar and Cinema is also fun in summer, especially when they screen movies.
Supernormal – the next Andrew McConnell masterstroke. It’s hidden in the city and epitomises his fantastic share-Asian-fusion style of cooking. It can get crowded and loud but it doesn’t really matter. The food is so good, you forget about it.
Pastuso* – This Peruvian grill, cevicheria, and pisco bar may be less than a year old, but it’s definitely one of the hottest (and most delicious) spots in Melbourne—proving that Melbourne has some serious gastronomical chops to be reckoned with.
The Town Mouse* – A staple of Australian dining is a pub—but the coolest “pubs” as of late are anything but your traditional hole-in-the-wall. Rather, places like The Town Mouse have a ridiculously extensive and awesome bar menu as well as serious eats. And The Town Mouse has proven that this contemporary pub trend is here to stay, and for good reason.
Lucy Folk – this jewelry store on Crossley Street is the best. Granted, Lucy is one of my best friends, but her designs are so original and her jewels are amazing. Being a huge pearl fan, I can’t get enough of her pearl/palm tree combination—so chic! My ears are constantly decked and covered in her things. She’s also fun, gorgeous and so are all the staff. The shop is hugely cool, designed by the genius of architect Charlie Inglis and has plates coated in copper, gold and silver all over the walls.
P. Johnson – The owner, Patch, has singlehandedly revolutionized men’s tailoring—his suits are simply the chicest. Everything is fitted and tailored to a T. Plus, the shop itself is incredibly gorgeous, as it was designed by his rather brilliant interior decorator wife, Tamsin Johnson. I’m still holding out for him to make me my very own suit.
Le Louvre – Even if I didn’t have a history with this store (my mother modeled for the owner, Georgina Weir, and the head buyer, Amelia Coote, is one of my best friends), I’d still want everything here. Lanvin! McQueen! All in a fabulous store tucked away off of Chapel Street right behind the Olsen Hotel.
City Wine Shop* – If you’re looking for some authentic Australian and New Zealand wines, you’ve headed to the right place. They not only have an expansive selection and knowledgable staff, but there’s also a wine bar and tasting room upstairs.
The Royal Botanic Gardens – Parks are the key to Melbourne, and inside these spectacular gardens is heaven. There’s a lake, there are swans, there’s scones with jam and pergolas to shade yourself from the sun. My favorite activity in the gardens is the Tan, a running path that’s just around the gardens. There’s just the right amount of hill (only one!), so it’s not too difficult. There is also a wonderful restaurant, The Botanical*, situated just on the edge of the gardens—the perfect place to eat after your stroll through the gardens.
River Walks – One of the best parts about Melbourne is its gorgeous river, and you can start your walk at Abbotsford Convent and walk along the entirety of the river, and it’ll feel as though you’re not even in the city. You’ll hear birds chirping and see some possums. It’s like a country experience, only in the city.
The CBD – Explore the streets and graffitied alleyways of Melbourne’s central business district after hours and you’ll find the best bars and nightclubs in the city hidden all along these side lanes, making for a very interesting and unique view of Melbourne. Meander into the jazz club Flipboard, or if you’re there really late, try the crazy Hugs and Kisses.
The Shirt and Skirt Market* – On the third Sunday of every month, this market is home to Melbourne’s emerging designers, producing quality Australian fashion and unique accessories in limited editions. Whether you want to browse, discuss, admire or purchase, be sure to discover this eclectic market on the grounds of the beautiful Abbotsford Convent.
Brighton Beach* – Your vacay down under wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach, and Brighton, with its picturesque colorful houses that line the pristine sand to the gorgeous, sparkling blue water, is the best way to spend a day. Plus, it’s just a quick 20 minutes from the city center by the train on the Sandringham line.
I think the one thing that is very Melbourne is the coffee. It’s phenomenal and I miss it when I can’t have it. I crave it everywhere and whenever I find an Australian coffee place overseas I stalk it like an animal. So these are my top few in Melbourne:
Axil Coffee Roasters – Although this coffee shop is technically in Hawthorn (about 4 miles from the city center), the coffee is amazing. Who cares that it’s kind of suburban? You will get a caffeine high like you wouldn’t believe.
De Clieu – This Fitzroy coffee house is kind of hipster and just a teeny bit snooty, but it’s also kind of brilliant. Plus, there’s a fantastic record store across the street.
Dead Man Espresso – They make great coffee and a smashed avocado toast situation (very Australian) which is beyond good.
Everyday Coffee -A specific bespoke coffee experience on Johnson street that’s truly amazing. Scary specifics of pouring, but delicious. They don’t mess around.
Cibo Espresso* – On top of their amazing Italian espresso and coffee offerings, this small Australian coffee chain has its own pasticceria with paninos on freshly baked breads.
Images via: Zicasso, Visit Melbourne, World Market Travel, Book a Restaurant, Melbourne Cocktails, Conde Nast Traveler, Breakfast Experimentals, Melbourne Girl, Unfolded by Sophia, Unique Melbourne,