Published on April 30th, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
MELBOURNE’S FABULOUS LANE WAYS
I really loved exploring Melbourne’s laneways. When I lived in Melbourne in the 50s and 60s it was a quiet, staid place and the laneways were hidden, empty, un-used.
Their purpose was to provide back entrances to the big buildings and enterprises on Melbourne’s big streets.
Now their renaissance is, quite frankly, awesome (and I never say awesome unless I am truly awed.)
These transformed laneways are now exiting hubs of activity with masses of people crowding the lanes – small cafes, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries everywhere.
I started out in Hosier Lane, with the husband Geoffrey in tow. This is the lane with the most dramatic street art. Hundreds of tourists were snapping selfies against the walls so I joined them of course.
Hadn’t been there more than 10 minutes, when I spied the very unbecoming door of MoVida restaurant. I knew that great fabulousness lurked behind that ordinary door. This Spanish restaurant and tapas bar is much lauded and awarded and I had visited before and remembered it as a small moody place, so I grabbed the man’s hand and steered him in.
Propped at the big wooden bar a minute later, the barman took one look at me and guessed I’d love a glass of pink Spanish wine and duly poured. He then cut thick slices of just-made bread and plonked them on the bar.
Well, here is the thing. If I ever happen to be on death row and am asked what request I had for my last meal, I’d shout: “MoVida’s croquettes, bring me croquettes.” I adore them. And MoVida make the best: small, in twos, but with a smear of something creamy, they went down as though I was a man on death row. Then a couple more, salt-cod croquettes, special of the day, just as good although I like the original version with Manchego cheese. Then a pressed pork sandwich with tomato jam and a dainty quail egg, then some whipped goat cheese encased in a quince and brik pastry. I have no words to describe the overall power these delicious tapas had on me.
“I can die a happy woman, now. MoVida is my favourite restaurant on the planet,” I declared to the man before he pulled me out of the door because we had pledged to do Melbourne’s myriad laneways, not just prop up at a bar and eat tapas.
And we did almost all of the lanes and it was fabulous and something to tell you about another time. Let’s focus on food this time.
Our concierge at Fraser Place, our boutique hotel in the heart of Melbourne, had told us about Lucy Liu restaurant. “Great Asian food for sharing, in Oliver Lane” she said. “You must go.”
We needed no more enticement than that. So off we trekked the next day to look for it Oliver Lane. I had asked the friendly bloke on the phone at Lucy Liu for directions and he started to tell me it was down a hidden narrow lane, at the Flinders St end of yadda yadda yadda. I have never been good at listening to directions. Didn’t think it would be a problem finding it.
The man Geoffrey first led us in entirely the wrong direction and we ended up at the top of Spring St. It was Good Friday so the city was not busy, and we consulted the map, had the usual accusatory argument all long-time couples have over maps and directions and then headed back towards Flingers St.
Got to the other end of the city, puffing and panting after crossing Collins St, Bourke St, Little Bourke, had no hope of finding Lucy Liu so rang the restaurant and a friendly bloke called Scott tried to help me by asking me where I was and then directing me on the phone but it didn’t work and we found ourselves in Hosier Lane outside MoVida again which would have been lovely but we wanted Lucy Liu. Rang Scott again, he tried to direct me, saying, can you see Chanel Building? which I could, then “you are so close, just walk’ which we did and found ourselves back at MoVida.
Two more accusatory arguments with my man later, we finally found Oliver Lane, very small, and headed down and found Lucy Liu’s back door, very unattractive and unwelcoming, but once inside, oh my. All loveliness, really lovely, and welcoming and warm with lots of wooden slatted timber and a big long bar and an open kitchen and friendly staff to usher us to our seats and soothe our frazzled minds with offers of water and wine.
The food! So delicious and high-flavoured and exquisitely presented and sublime. I wanted everything on the menu: from small bites, to dumplings to big plates of flavour-lusciousness. We settled on some rare breed pork sticky belly with palm sugar and coconut salad and chilli and it sang with flavour and melted in the mouth.
Then some Peking duck dumplings with hoi sin and then we ordered more pork buns but the lovely waitress suggested we go for something chicken instead of more pork and out came Korean fried chicken in a big pale open-bun with spicy gochujang* (didn’t know what is was but it was so flavoursome and delicious I almost fainted with happiness) and then I wanted to order another lot of them but refrained because we’d ordered roasted short ribs with Rendeng curry and coconut and herbs and pickles and the meat fell off the bone and the pickles were tangy and salty against the rich curry.
I almost swooned again. Food can do that to me.
It can also turn me into a food slut because after declaring my undying love for MoVida the day before, I now shifted it fully on to Lucy Liu. “I want the Korean fried chicken buns for my death row meal,” I said to the man Geoffrey as we waddled out.
I love Melbourne.
*Here’s what Wikipedia says about gochujang.
Gochujang or red chilli paste is a savoury, spicy and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chilli, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt.