It’s always a promising sign when a cafe located roughly in the middle of nowhere is still functional. Even better when it’s thriving. This, surely, is when you know you’re onto something good. Cycling to Lolo & Wren, I was sure I must have copied the wrong address. I found myself in inner-suburban no man’s land — an obscure part of Brunswick West somewhere between Melville Road and the CityLink tollway. Yep, romantic. But there it was, nestled among houses and apartment buildings, with little to attract punters apart from an A-frame sign and a few glowing recommendations. Run by husband and wife team Franco and Karen Caruso, it’s Lolo & Wren’s food that’s put it on the highly competitive Melbourne cafe map — no wonder considering Franco is a former Scottish Young Chef of the Year (2006). The cafe itself is large and bright, with an open kitchen and a central wooden bench perfect for perching to read the newspaper. On a recommendation I tried the pancakes with pear, almonds, walnuts and mascarpone, and my friend …
If you’re keen to get down and Christmassy this festive season, why not kick things off with the Spectacular Christmas Spectacular. This concert, to be held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday, is presented by The School of Hard Knocks, an organisation that aims to empower disadvantaged people through the arts. The show will feature a whole bunch of local choirs, including the Choir of Hope and Inspiration, formally known as the Choir of Hard Knocks (made famous by the popular five-part ABC documentary a few years ago). Here’s a short (heavily edited) clip from the documentary: If this video is anything to judge by, you’re in for a weepy evening of spine tingly goodness. Spectacular Christmas Spectacular! Date: 13 December 2014 Time: 7.30pm Venue: Melbourne Town Hall Address: 90–120 Swanston Street, Melbourne Damage: $35 full / $25 conc / $16 under 12s
Ooh! Free opera! This Opera in the Bowl event at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on the 13th will feature five singers performing a selection of chorus pieces and arias from popular operas including Madame Butterfly, Carmen and The Pearl Fishers. These free events are always incredibly popular so turn up early if you want a spot on the grass. Gates open at 4pm so I’d recommend taking a picnic and a good book and arriving as early as possible. As we all know, opera tickets are far too expensive in this country so if you enjoy classical music it’s really worth taking advantage of this rare free event under the stars. Mazda Opera in the Bowl Date: 13 December 2014 Time: 8pm start (doors open at 4pm) Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl
For a city madly in love with all things retro, plus all things food (particularly, for the moment at least, if said food is made in a truck), the Coburg Drive-In’s monthly Food Truck Festival is going down a treat. Many Melburnians have never heard of the drive-in cinema in Coburg, let alone seen a movie there. Now, not only can you rock up with car-load of friends to see new-release films like in the good old days, but once a month you can munch on some tasty food truck grub as you watch. This month, the Food Truck Fest happens Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 November, with eight different trucks in attendance on both nights. Click here to check out the truck selection and flicks showing this week. Movie tickets cost $17.50 for an adult, $14 for concessions and $40 for a car load (five people max). Food Truck Festival Dates: Monthly (check website to confirm dates) Time: from 6pm Damage: $17.50 full / $14 conc. / $40 car (five people)
There’s something special about the Footscray Community Arts Centre. I have only recently been introduced to this organisation, but its reputation as one of the country’s leading community-based contemporary arts centres precedes it by a mile. When I finally made it there for the centre’s recent 40th birthday celebration, I found an inclusive, unpretentious gathering place for west Melbourne’s multicultural arts community — the sort of place where everyone seemed to know everyone. Its lovely riverside location is just an added sweetener. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit the FCAC, this Saturday is the perfect opportunity. The West Writers Our Stories Forum will feature panel discussions, presentations, launches, workshops and story walks, including a 1.5-hour workshop with award-winning author Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap, Loaded), a panel chaired by The Lifted Brow‘s editor-in-chief Sam Cooney, live performances by Still Nomads and the launch of Ascension Magazine. The event aims to examine the significance of stories in Australia’s diverse communities, and how this diversity is represented in the country’s literary scene. The forum runs …
Heads up, people. The Queen Vic Night Market returns next Wednesday (5 November) for another season of yum food, cool tunes, twinkly lights and sweaty crowds. Yes, it’s full of overheating tourists and it can be nigh on impossible to find a seat, but come here on a balmy summer evening and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday (or perhaps you are on holiday — in which case, soak it up!). The market runs every Wednesday night until 25 March 2015 except Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The Night Market Dates: 5 November 2014 — 25 March 2015 Time: 5pm–10am Where: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Recently I happened to be in Williamstown at dawn. As an inner-north dweller, I rarely see the sea — particularly not at this time of the morning — so my bleary eyes were stunned by the gorgeous views across the water. Williamstown itself, sunrise or no, is a super charming part of the world with its lovely historic buildings, large yacht club, botanic gardens and funny little beach located on the western side of the peninsula. Coming here feels like stepping into a far-off seaside town; it’s hard to believe it’s just 9km from Melbourne’s CBD. These photos were taken on a phone and they’re completely unedited, so what you see is truly what you get. Even if dawn isn’t your thing, this sunrise over the city really is worth the effort.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Why not get some fresh air and join the undead for a touch of spring marauding at the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle? Sure, you could saunter through an art gallery, relax at a pretty picnic or just generally enjoy being alive, but what’s that compared with limping, drooling and rotting your way down Collins Street whilst terrifying small children? Yes, people, the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle is actually a thing. Whether you’re keen to join the walking dead or just run from them screaming, this Saturday is the time to do it. The Shufflers will gather at 11am at the Treasury Gardens, then stagger their way down towards the Queen Victoria Gardens (opposite the NGV). See the MZS Facebook page for full details. If you’re wondering about the dress code, check out this photo gallery for some inspiration. You may also want to consult the MZS’s five rules of participation (the general idea being ‘no dickheads’). Happy ravaging! Melbourne Zombie Shuffle 2014 Date: 11 October 2014 Time: 11am Meeting …
Psst, some exciting news hot off the presses, folks. Next Tuesday, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will hold a free, one-off performance of classic film scores at The Astor Theatre in St Kilda. Described as a ‘mini concert’, the gig will include works by Albinoni, Beethoven, Jonny Greenwood, Strauss and Nigel Westlake, and is designed to be a taster for the 2015 season. There are only 1000 seats up for grabs and there is no RSVP for this event, so if you’re keen you might want to turn up early. We all know how rare it is to see the MSO for free, let alone at the iconic Astor Theatre, which, as we recently heard, will sadly close its doors in April next year. Grab the chance while it lasts. Free MSO performance at The Astore Date: 14 October 2014 Time: 7.30pm Venue: The Astor Theatre Address: 1 Chapel Street, St Kilda Damage: Free (seats limited to 1000)
Ah, spring. My favourite time of the year in Melbourne. Sun, blossom, green shoots and a winter’s worth of compost ready to be put to use. Although the weather’s still a bit temperamental, there are dozens of herbs and veggies that are suitable for planting in September. Herbs like basil, oregano, parsley, mint, coriander and dill are great to grow in pots if you have limited space, while those lucky enough to have big backyards can go for veggies like beans, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkins and zucchinis. For a full run-down on what to plant this spring, the Gardening Australia website has a great planting guide. (Here’s another handy one.) Melbourne sits in the southern temperate zone, and these guides are tailored specifically for our city’s climate. For some more general tips on gardening in Melbourne, click here.