Melbourne’s Hidden Foodie Secrets With Allan Campion

Demi, our resident foodie, explores the culinary nooks and crannies of our beloved city.

Creativity 10 min read Sep 25, 2019
Melbourne’s Hidden Foodie Secrets With Allan Campion

(This was originally published on 25th June 2014.)

Melbourne, a multicultural city where: (1) its beauty lies in the diversity of its people; and (2) greatly manifests itself in a feast of tastes as authentic and magic as the parts of the world they come from. Melbourne is a city where you can both find and enjoy food from everywhere around the world whilst at the same time meet both professional and amateur chefs, who are so passionate about cooking, fresh produce and the fusion of tastes, that your mind will explode.

So where else can I start with our very first editorial if not a tour in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD that will blow your mind and make your taste buds tingle with pleasure. The best part of it all? By the end of it, you can’t help but ask for more.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning and we start our tour from Spring Street with a little bit of history and a secret cheese room (there the cheese is kept in a cave-like establishment in order to mature). Then, an impromptu stop for some divine gelato at Spring Street Grocer which is quite possibly the best gelato I have ever sampled in this city. It’s a very promising start for our day.

Allan Campion, Author of Foodies’ Guide to Melbourne and Director of Melbourne Food Experiences, is our guide and beautiful Lisa is his assistant. Allan’s intimate knowledge of the foodie scene is incredible and reminds me of Willy Wonka. In an almost magical way Allan swipes you off your feet and you get carried away by his enthusiasm, love and infinite knowledge of anything that can please your palate. He expertly guides us around the city’s little alleys and lanes to reveal amazing culinary treasures, esculent surprise treats, and tops it all off with suggestions on where we can take our friends and loved ones for unforgettable dining experiences.

True to its diversity every corner of Melbourne has a different authentic dish for us to taste from a different country, and our next stop is San Telmo for some coffee and Argentinian pastry. The beautifully decorated South American restaurant with it’s antique hardwood doors is quiet at this time but the open kitchen is buzzing with people cutting meat and preparing the day’s essentials. It’s sensory overload as I am both in awe of the wonderful décor, and acutely aware of my dessert’s tongue-smacking dulce de leche melting in my mouth. Leaving San Telmo, I inwardly promise I will be back for more.

Off we go again exploring little lanes in the CBD buzzing with tourists and graffiti artists. I can swear that it was only last week that I passed by here and the walls had something different on them. Allan comes to a stop in front of a tiny shop and Lisa comes out holding a tray with delicious authentic samosas. It is just amazing that I have passed outside this place so many times and I have never thought of visiting inside to discover the beautiful culinary treats and amazing mango lassi. Before we go, we have to try the traditional after-food mouth freshener – sugar coated aniseed!

The tour meanders and I find myself in busy Chinatown. Crispy roast duck from City BBQ and the best egg tarts you have ever had from Maxim’s and I’m about to burst in an enthusiastic, happy dance grateful that I can experience such amazing fresh cooked food. And there is more to come. Decadent truffles from Ganache Chocolate, freshly baked bread from Philippa’s Bakery, more of Melbourne’s rich hisory, and unlimited advice on the best places to go for unforgettable dining experiences.

As the day comes to a close, I take a quick glance at my watch. It’s late afternoon and I can’t help but wonder where the day went. “That was so much fun,” I whisper to my friend as I realise how heavy my legs feel from all the walking. As we are head to our final stop, the award winning Cumulus Inc., for some wine and tastings, I fall head-over-heels in love with Melbourne again.

At Cumulus Inc. a table waits for us as my tour group reflects on the day over wine and shared plates. It’s a beautiful way to end the day and as Allan promised, a truly unforgettable experience.

Did You Know?

  1. The term “pasta mafia” is synonymous with the influx of italian chefs and restaurants that dominate areas of Melbourne.

  2. Some of Melbourne’s popular rooftop bars were created to fund galleries that exist on its lower floors.

  3. The Grill at San Telmo was built by Argentinians and then shipped and put together in Melbourne.

  4. Every corner you turn will introduce different aromas from different parts of the world.

  5. The tiny shop referenced in this editorial comes with the Lord Mayors commendation and was established 38 years ago in 1976. Many international Indian students visit this tiny store for a taste of home when they’re homesick.

  6. To pick up the most delicious egg tarts, timing is everything. Visit Maxim’s Cake and Pastry at 1:30pm as this is the time that the egg tarts just come out of the oven.

  7. Maxim’s Cake and Pastry was so named because the original owner thought the name was glamorous and beautiful.

The Verdict

What a wonderful day it has been. An amazing culinary experience in an extraordinary city.