Australasia / City Breaks / Victoria

Marvellous Melbourne: Exploring the Melbourne CBD (I)

The Barn Owl was attending a course all weekend, so we stayed at the conference location which was at fancy hotel within the Melbourne CBD. In retrospect, it would have been cheaper and better for us to just have booked an Airbnb self-catering apartment that would have been just steps from the hotel, as that would have worked out better for Thumper’s nap times. We’ll remember that for next time!

Knowing that I would be managing the 3 kids by myself all weekend, A Becky C took pity on me and flew over to Melbourne (with the Boobook, of course) for a sisterly weekend! Yay!

We met up for breakfast at Hopetoun Tea Rooms (named for its founder, Lady Hopetoun). This is a lovely little Victorian-era tea room which has been standing in the same place in the heritage shopping arcade, Block Arcade, for over 120 years!

The shopfront looked amazing, and the kids spent so long admiring the lavish window display that I had to peel them away from the tiers of beautiful cakes. We were there shortly after the tea rooms opened, so we were still able to snag a table – but it got busy REALLY quick, with a long queue forming within half an hour of opening.


Breakfast at Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Inside the Tea Rooms, there is limited space and no highchairs for little ones, but fortunately, Thumper was happy to eat his breakfast (and sample the scones) from the comfort of my lap.

Travel planner’s tip: The Hopetoun Tea Rooms are really popular so definitely make a booking in advance – or buy a few slices of cake to go!

The cakes did not disappoint, being rich and very filling. I was very tempted to purchase a few slices of cake to takeaway, but I knew they wouldn’t last a whole day of being toted around in the basket of my stroller.

From Block Arcade, we took a long walk up the street to Queen Victoria Market, one of four large markets that are important sources of trade for thousands of small businesses. A Becky Lee had really wanted to visit South Melbourne Market, which boasts several reputable nurseries specialising in vegetable seedlings and other edible potted plants. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how to get there using public transport, so we settled on going to a morning market within walking distance instead.


Exploring Queen Victoria Market

It was drizzling when we got to Queen Victoria Market, so we were glad to be indoors looking at all the fresh produce! The Boobook took the kids to the meat and poultry section to look at different cuts of meat and how to choose a good steak. I bought a cup of freshly squeezed juice from Market Juice and the kids had a chance to sample some fancy cheese from Queen Vic Deli.

A Becky C really wanted to bring me to a craft shop to choose some yarn for her 2016 challenges, so we ended up at Morris & Sons where we wandered round the shelves of multicoloured skeins of yarn and embroidery floss whilst the Boobook entertained J and Little E in the corner. Little Thumper had fallen asleep in his pram, so we parked him in the corner with the Boobook.


At Morris & Sons

A Becky C picked out a few pretty skeins of yarn for her projects and I found some really nice cross-stitch project kits that would make great gifts or rainy day projects for J and Little E.

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped by the State Library of Victoria and spent some time exploring the exhibitions.


At the State Library of Victoria

We saw some beautiful illuminated manuscripts, and some very rare books including a second edition folio of Shakespeare’s plays, the first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, even a travel Qu’ran which came with a leather travelling case.

There are book-themed, kid-friendly activities going on every day at the State Library of Victoria, so J and Little E spent a golden hour making butterfly shaped sun catchers whilst Thumper played with blocks and ride-on toys.


Lunchtime crafty times at Victoria State Library

By this time it was well past our usual lunch time and the children were hungry so we stopped by the library cafe.

The food there was passable and not terribly good value, and there were no highchairs available for Thumper, but we were so hungry and tired by then that we didn’t care. We just ate our fill and wandered back to the hotel for a rest.

After Thumper’s afternoon nap, we went to Ganache Chocolate to meet up with a dear friend for tea. The chocolate lounge was very busy with large groups of people on chocoholic tours coming in all the time, so fortunately my friend had the foresight to book a table for us in advance.

Ganache Chocolate is AMAZING. They have these delicious, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth croissants served with a pot of smooth dark chocolate spread and accompanied by a warm cup of rich and creamy hot chocolate. It was such a glorious treat! The kids shared a cup of dark hazelnut hot chocolate between them, whilst I decided to try the chilli chocolate for a little kick.

The cafe is small so it was a tight squeeze to fit all of us in. Unfortunately for me, I had to seat Thumper in my lap the whole time as there were no highchairs available, so he ended up eating most of my croissant!


Tea at Gânache Chocolate and Dinner at Ramen Bankara

We then wandered around the shopping arcades together, visiting Melbourne Central where I stopped off to get some beauty supplies from Mecca Maxima, before heading to Ramen Bankara for dinner.

Ramen Bankara is pretty good but pricey – A$14 buys you some bouncy ramen noodles and a flavourful ‘tonkotsu’ (pork broth) soup served in a massive tureen with a fat slice of pork belly and a sliced bamboo shoots. Little E and J shared a bowl between them, and I had one to myself.

I found the broth a little bit on the salty side, so I needed lots of water to combat my thirst, but I was very grateful that they had a highchair for Thumper and that service was brisk and efficient. The restaurant itself stays open really late, so it’s a good place to head to if you want a late supper!

Feeling very, very full, we staggered back to our hotel room, stopping by on the way to pick up a takeaway dinner for The Barn Owl – Burger King, at his request (he is a man of simple tastes).

Hopetoun Tea Rooms
Shop 1 & 2, The Block Arcade
282 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 9650 2777
Opening hours: Daily from 8am – 5pm (except Sun 9am- 5pm)
Queen Victoria Market
Corner of Elizabeth & Victoria Streets, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 9320 5822
Closed on Mondays and Wednesdays
Morris & Sons

Level 1, 234 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 9654 0888
Open Weekdays: 10am – 6pm, Sat: 10am – 5pm, Sun: 12noon-5pm
For more information on Morris & Sons Melbourne click here

State Library of Victoria and Mr Tulk Cafe
328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 8664 7000 (Mr Tulk Tel : +61 (03) 8660 5700
Open Mon to Thurs: 10am–9pm, Friday to Sunday 10am–6pm
For more information on the State Library of Victoria click here
For more information on Mr Tulk Cafe

Ganache Chocolate
245 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (03) 9650 8388
For more information on Ganache Chocolate click here

Ramen Bankara
305 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Open Sun to Thu 11:00AM – 12:00AM, Fri to Sat 11:00AM – 02:00AM
Tel: +61 (03) 9663 8862
For more information on Ramen Bankara click here


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