You’ve got 48 hours in Melbourne. Where do you stay, eat and play? Our Lifestyle Commentator Lisa Clark finds Melbourne’s coolest new hotspots.
My weekends are usually spent on the sand at Bondi Beach, hanging with friends and eating tuna salad from Speedos café, it really is my happy place. However, now the weather has changed and the cold is setting in it’s time to embrace the change and go on the search for my new happy place.
I hadn’t been to Melbourne for quite a while and as it was the Easter long weekend I thought why not book a flight, catch up with some girlfriends and eat, sleep and play my way across Melbourne.
I landed on a Saturday and took the Sky Bus straight from the airport to Southern Cross station, at $19 one way it’s an easy and affordable transport option from the airport as Uber X (my usual transport choice) aren’t allowed to pick you up from the airport. Once I arrived at the station I booked an Uber X and headed to The Cullen Hotel in Prahran.
The Art Series hotels – The Cullen, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran.
The entrance is quaint and you are welcomed immediately by a red carpet, bikes just yearning for you to take them for a ride and wait for it… a cow, yes you read it correctly a huge mosaic cow. I knew at that moment I would be in for an epic stay!
The Art Series hotels are well known for being located in the coolest and most happening parts of town and with five hotels in their Melbourne portfolio there are plenty of choices for the weary traveller who’s looking for somewhere cool to rest their head. Each hotel has a different offering, all of the highest quality and with different aesthetics to them. The one thing they do have in common is that the hotels pride themselves on their art work collections. Each hotel showcases a different Australian artist throughout the lobbies and entrance ways giving you the feeling of being in a gorgeous gallery, not just a hotel.
The Cullen boasts artwork from Australian contemporary artist Adam Cullen and the art hangs proudly on the walls of the hotel. The rooms are bright and large, meticulously finished with huge bathrooms to get yourself prepped for a night out on the town or an important business meeting. I loved the built in kitchenette as it confirmed my initial thoughts that the hotel would be perfect for a longer business stay.
My room was gorgeously decorated with grey and white tones, quality furniture pieces, a separate lounge area and the mod cons you would expect from a Melbourne hotel stay. It definitely gave me the feeling of luxe for at least half the price you would expect to spend in the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.
Do yourself a favour next time you’re in Melbourne and check out the offerings from the Art Series Hotel Group. The Blackman, The Olsen, The Schaller Studio, The Cullen and The Larwill Studio are more than just a hotel they are a destination!
Toko Melbourne, 142 Greville St, Prahran
The fun certainly didn’t stop there. I grabbed the girls and we headed out to dine at one of the newest offerings from the TOKO group, Toko Melbourne. We knew we were on to a good thing with the group boasting locations in Sydney and Dubai. They have wiped away any inkling of the old restaurant FOG that used to occupy the space and have reinvented the space with large lounge areas (perfect for after work or pre dinner drinks) and modern, sophisticated interiors.
We were warmly greeted at the door and shown out to the terrace to enjoy a cocktail while we waited for our table to be ready. This area has just been renovated from a bar area to the perfect place to either have pre dinner drinks with friends or take some time away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurant for a business meeting or date.
After being seated at one of the best seats in the house — the sushi bar where you can watch the talented chefs in action — we dove straight in and ordered the Tsuchi Chef’s tasting menu. The highlights for me were pretty much everything, but if I must choose a few dishes that you must try next time you are in town they would be the oysters with Tosazu dressing, the marinated lamb cutlets were beyond delicious and the chopped scallops with wasabi, cucumber and ponzu all left me wanting more.
The plates are designed to share, but there is an extensive menu to choose from should you feel like a main all of your own. Toko really caters to everyone, the restaurant also offers the options of a private dining room for those looking for a special occasion event space and perhaps the highlight was the private whisky room which boasts some of the finest Japanese whiskys, as well as plenty of other whisky offerings from all of the world.
I spoke to Evan Gargaro, Toko Melbourne’s GM and all round good guy and asked him what makes Toko so special “The best thing about Toko is that you come for a delicious Japanese meal and leave with an experience. We have thought about it all, from the music and lighting to the produce on your plate, everything is hand selected to make sure you leave with a unique and wonderful experience.”
Toko is definitely one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Melbourne, it prides itself on a quality experience as soon as you enter the front door. Each dish is meticulously presented and the flavour combinations set them apart from many other Japanese restaurants I’ve dined at.
Also worth an honourable mention:
Mr Miyagi Melbourne, 99 Chapel Street, Windsor
A cool, relaxed vibe, buzzing with atmosphere where walk ins are welcome. Ask for Scott the manager to look after you, he’s a Canadian born legend with a smile that lights up the room. You can’t miss him!
You must eat: The Miyagi fried chicken, the Nori Tacos and the Wagyu Beef Tataki.
You must drink: The Hello Kitty Sour (lychee, citrus and egg white) or the Cold Drip Martini (Shochu, coffee, sake and white chocolate foam).
Two Wrongs, 637 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Drop by and hang with Zac and Isaac. If you’re there on a Wednesday night there will be Nintendo Mario Kart championships in full swing. Two Wrongs has such a welcoming vibe, full of laid back knowledgeable staff, candle lit tables and make sure you try the truffle popcorn… Heaven!
An epic menu in a great location and if it’s your lucky day you may get to play fetch with the lady of the bar — Booj a Staffie cross Ridgeback.
You must eat: The pork donut with harissa, grilled peach relish and pecans or give the heirloom tomato, charred watermelon, avocado and nori salad a go.
You must drink: A Pretty Boy Paul (vodka, peach schnapps, peach puree and bitters) or a Lara Bingle (Cointreau, Creme De Mure, lemon juice and soda).
Peninsula Hot Springs, Springs Lane, Fingal (Rye) Mornington Peninsula
We had literally spent the past few days eating and drinking our way through Melbourne, it was time to relax, revitalise and rejuvenate and my Melbourne tour guide (and best friend) knew just the right place…
We woke up early the next morning, jumped in the car and headed 90 minutes out of the city to the Peninsula Hot Springs, it’s the first day spa centre of its kind in Melbourne and it offers a wide variety of activities focused around health and wellbeing.
There are two bathing options provided both with a completely different feel to them. Which one you choose really does depend if you are travelling there with family, friends or if you’re on a cheeky little romantic getaway.
Bath House: This is the more family friendly option. Each of the 20 or so different bath options have been inspired by the owners own travels through countries such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, Persia and China. There are thermal mineral, a gorgeous cave pool surrounded by natural flora and fauna or perhaps you want to take a little holiday to Turkey and experience your very own Turkish Hamam. The bath house also offers a range of wellness activities which are included in the entry price. Choose from yoga, warm water exercise classes, meditation or practice the ancient Chinese art of Qi Gong which encapsulates special techniques to embrace and enhance the body’s Qi (chi).
The Spa Dreaming Centre: Reserved for guests 16 years and over you immediately feel a change in the tranquillity when you enter the area. There’s a restaurant perched high above giving you the feeling that you are dining in a tree house.
After you have filled your bellies it’s time to attend your spa booking. You can choose from the outdoor private pools which are filled with pure thermal waters high in health-giving sodium, potassium, magnesium and natural bubbles of bicarbonate, or head to one of the private bathing pavilions where you and your guest can choose from a range of essential oils to bathe in. Perhaps your preference is the honey and lavender bath or even a mud bath to detoxify and cleanse. Each bath has different health benefits and you must book ahead as spaces are limited.
You can package all of the above and include a massage or a facial for the VIP treatment. There are also accommodation packages if you are looking for a romantic getaway or if you’re travelling from out of town. All of the information you will need to plan this perfect trip is on the website (peninsulahotsprings.com)
Thank you Melbourne for such an epic stay, eat, play adventure.
I can’t wait to come back!
Bondi-based Lisa Clark has an acute appreciation for food, travel, events and photography and through this lifestyle she creates beautiful and inspiring content on her blog and Instagram @iamlisaclark.