Lani Renee Kingston of www.figandwalnut.com is a pastry chef, freelance journalist, media producer and teacher. She’s studying for her Masters in Gastronomy, and loves to travel the world, discover great foodie places, research culinary heritage, and most of all eat – and write about, photograph and make movies about doing so. Today we’ve invited her to share her Melbourne favourites here on Klaus and Fritz.
So, why Melbourne and how long have you lived here?
I am an Aussie that has lived in more places than I can count – but I have lived in Melbourne the longest. I have been here the past seven years – intending on only staying three, the city got its hooks into me and I haven’t been able to leave.
I love the diversity and community spirit of Melbourne. People love to go outside, sit together, drink, eat, talk, party, shop, sunbake, swim, exercise… it is hugely social, people are open and friendly, there are always friends to be made, new places to visit, new things to see. The city is ever-evolving, the polar opposite of stagnant, with its festivals, events, music scene, dining and foodie culture. It is beautiful, intriguing, mysterious – but available to everyone.
Where in Melbourne do you live?
I am a Chapel st girl. Since I first moved to Melbourne I have lived in 4 different places, all surrounding Chapel st. I am currently in the tiny suburb of Windsor, known for its hipster vibe (and home to the cafe that brought together Melbourne band Dukes of Windsor).
Why did you choose that area and how would you describe it?
Chapel st epitomises Melbourne – there is a constant movement to the street, with people, restaurants, cafes, shops, designers, events coming and going. Some of Melbourne’s top cafes can be found within 5 minutes of my house: Dukes Coffee Roasters, Tyranny of Distance… Melbourne’s hip restaurants compete for real estate, with Huxtaburger and Fonda pitching tent in our ‘hood. Life here on one of Australia’s most famous shopping strips is varied – the street, passing through a number of suburbs, changes drastically from one end to the other. From slightly seedy but with a gradual gentrification on the cards St Kilda East, up to ‘hipster-central’ Windsor, to funky, designer-occupied Prahran, to the upper-class designer boutiques South Yarra, there is no need to leave!
If you have friends visiting, where would you take them?
I love to do a bit of a Market tour – we have such excellent markets here in Melbourne. From 149-year-old Prahran Market, filled with celebrity chefs and some of the best produce to be found anywhere; to the Finders Keepers Design Market in Carlton, filled with handmade jewellery, fashion and homewares from a curated collection of some of Melbourne’s best and freshest creators. And of course, the Melbourne Slow Food Markets at the Abbotsford Convent are an excellent way to start a sunny weekend – with an organic pastry from the Convent Bakery‘s wood-fired oven, you can sit on the grass and listen to local musicians, and people watch as Melbourne’s hippest young families buy homemade jams, ginger beers, biodynamic local meats and chat with the stallholders.
Where would you bring them when they get hungry?
Anyone who visits me needs to bring an appetite, because I am going to take them places even when they are not hungry. My current favourite is Sweetwater Inn, my local ‘pub’ if you will, that is a mild parody of the American/Mexican food fad going on in Melbourne at the moment. The place is undeniably hipster, but packed full of typical ‘Australiana’. Ceiling fans, corrugated tin, animal heads – it is a pristine impression of an outback pub, staffed by uber-cool young Aussies sporting beards and leather tasselled vests. The idea was that we, as a city, are obsessed with overseas food – but we have such an amazing culture of our own, largely unexplored. Using native ingredients, the menu rocks a mean wagyu rissole sandwich with gravy and melted cheese, a housemade Chiko roll, a very close approximation of the original, but this time made with actual food-based ingredients. My personal favourite is the tender lemon myrtle smoked pulled lamb, stuffed in a pillowy soft damper roll and smeared with housemade beetroot BBQ sauce. They offer some mean cocktails too, packed with Aussie native ingredients.
And where would you go when you want to get a bit tipsy, or even full on drunk?
Where to start – drinking, for me, is synonymous with dancing. I like to start in interesting little bars for some of the cocktail-making skills our city is becoming well-known internationally for. The caramelised banana cocktail at industrial Bar Ampere is a good way to finish up dinner. Take your drink out the back, behind the bathrooms into the ‘secret bar’, a Louisiana swamp themed room, complete with faux grass and dangling ‘old man’s beard’. Then head up to Madame Brussels for a little garden party theme (and for the ladies, the all-male staff seem to be heavily curated for their ability to wear tennis shorts), and just when you are starting to feel a little tipsy make your way up to Fitzroy. Make sure you get there before 10pm on a weekend, because you are heading to the LuWOW, and the line gets ridiculous later in the night. A local rockabilly haunt, it is a themed tiki bar complete with huts, go-go dancers, palm fronds, and googly-eyed finger puppets in your Pina Coladas. Designed by a film set designer, it is perfect in every way. Dance until the early hours of the morning, and then stop into Stalactites on your way home, the 24 hour Greek diner in the CBD for something a little tastier than the usual McDonald’s or KFC pitstop.
And most importantly – where would you drag them for that hangover breakfast?
My number one brunch place is The Grain Store on Flinders Lane. With a distinct scandinavian vibe, house-made sweets and pastries are laid out on an island bench, and an abundance of wood and fresh produce decorates the bright and cheery space. The design is fresh and welcoming, perfect for a chilled out morning. And the food – ancient and rare grains abound, flavours combine and collide in interesting and intriguing ways. Quinoa, quince and poppyseed make for a delightful granola – or for something more stomach-lining, how about a coq au vin? Back to the ‘Australiana’ vibe however, can’t miss Gypsey and Musquito on Bridge Rd in Richmond. Another cafe with an emphasis on local, native, and embracing the Aussie vibe, the breakfast offerings are hearty, filling and using amazing ingredients that are all too rare. Wattleseed scones pair up with finger lime and avocado, pepper berry eggplant and bush tomato chutney are served with crocodile or wallaby sausages, and the benedict sports a lemon myrtle hollandaise. Another cafe that bakes all their goods in house, they are good to visit any time of the day.
Any spots around your neighbourhood that we definitely should not miss?
For coffee, I drop into Market Lane at Prahran Market. They are truly coffee specialists, and do some excellent roasts. For a quick snack on the way home, Massive Weiners is run by a dapper young gentleman with a passion for good hot dogs. I can’t pass by without grabbing a chilli dog and a shake. Third Wave, South Melbourne’s increasingly popular American/Russian restaurant has just opened a second cafe in Pran Central. So if you want some smoked pulled meats and Borscht, they have you covered. They do good breakfasts too. Local artists such as Miso sell prints and paintings in Greville st’s Signed & Numbered, and while you are there don’t miss the cute, bright and cheery Greville Village Market on Sundays. Lucky Coq is the typical Uni haunt, with $4 gourmet pizzas during happy hour and infused vodkas galore. Settle into a vintage couch for an evening of old cinema, or listen to an eclectic DJ. There is so much to see and do in this area – it is best to come and explore it yourself!
What’s your absolute favourite place in Australia?
Melbourne. As a whole. I’ve travelled a lot, and Melbourne is my favourite place in not only Australia, but in the world. I can’t narrow it down more than that – the city has a vibe, a buzz, that makes everything in it seem bright and exciting. Melbourne is home.
If you want more food inspiration fixes from Lani, just head on over to figandwalnut.com.
All photographs and designs are copyright Lani Kingston.