Food and travel writer, cookbook editor and colourful MasterChef personality, Melissa Leong has her finger on the pulse in Melbourne.
With a labyrinth of laneways filled with hidden bars and shopping gems, places to relax, have fun or to refuel, there’s always something to do in our vibrant city. Here, Melissa shares some of her go-to foodie spots, plus a few hot new places to visit around town.
1. Sense of Self
Sitting on the border between Collingwood and Fitzroy is the city’s newest wellness destination, Sense of Self. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and engage in the “modern ritual” of self-care, because self-indulgence isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Sense of Self is proving to be a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, so Melissa says she was stoked to finally visit the bathhouse.
According to Melissa, the spa’s aesthetic enhanced the overall experience. “It's impossible not to feel so chill the moment you walk in here. I mean check out the marble, the tile, the light…” she says.
She also enjoyed the “chance to slow down in the hustle and bustle of the city” and says engaging in a wellness activity is a great way “to catch up with friends outside of going out for a meal or drink”.
2. Padre Coffee
Padre Coffee is a favourite morning coffee spot, and for good reason, the brand’s aromatic beans and skillful brews blend seamlessly with Melbourne’s creative community, where connection is just as important as big ideas.
3. Collective Closets
Melissa loves the energy of the clothing from Collective Closets and was excited to meet the sisters behind the colourful prints she loves to wear while hosting MasterChef Australia. The Angolan-born and Melbourne-made brand crafts conscious clothing for women of all colours, shapes and sizes, with a focus on eclectic prints and classic cuts.
“When I try on these clothes, and when I wear them, I just feel a little more powerful and a little more confident. There’s such an exuberance and excitement to these beautiful patterns of fabric,” she says.
Melissa thought the brand’s home in Collingwood Yards was also fitting because the whole area is a “brilliant magnet for creativity”.
4. Napier Quarter
From the moment you walk into the tiny bluestone that’s home to Napier Quarter
on a leafy corner in Fitzroy, you’ll fall in love with the bar’s leisurely approach to dining and understand why it’s Melissa’s go-to spot for food and wine. Napier Quarter is an intimate space, which Melissa says she likes because it's built around the concept of “nice people doing good things”. The bar might be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with its sense of community and compact seasonal menu.
5. Yugen Dining
Inspired by Japanese tradition, but not bound by it, Yugen Dining is a subterranean food and drink experience beneath Melbourne’s busy streets. With six-metre-high stone walls and distinct dining areas, including an eight-seat golden orb and an omakase bar, Yugen is sure to treat all your senses.
Melissa was keen to try the venue’s Japanese exploration of food and culture first-hand, as she believes Head Chef, Alex Yu, “is one of the greatest assets for Japanese dining in the country”. Hailing from Soyko in Sydney, the chef’s culinary prowess did not disappoint, with the restaurant filled with the aroma of bold flavours and the menu lined with nuanced, playful dishes and a drinks list with personality.
“Yugen Dining is the latest destination for dynamic eating and drinking, offering the full spectrum of flavours and experiences,” Melissa says.