Sunday, 21 December 2014

24 Hours in Melbourne

By James Lourey

Melbourne. Whether you love it, hate it, or choose to distance yourself from the never ending petty rivalry between Sydneysiders and Melbournians, spending time in the garden state is something that should be on everyone’s list. For our purposes, spending a weekend there had everything we could possibly want out of it; unique and established fashion, great food, inspiring culture, hidden bars and overall a continued presence of style that our laid back harbour city sometimes seems to lack. Staying at the Grand Hyatt on Collins st, quite literally in the centre of the Melbourne CBD, we were able to fully grasp and explore what the city had to offer with the minds of, interestingly enough, simple tourists.

From everything I did, saw, experienced and enjoyed, here’s how I would recommend spending the day in Melbourne to the stylish gentlemen. As my tendency to go into detail is apparent below, here are the locations, stores and establishments (in order) that I ticked off during the day: 

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1. Treasury Gardens (2-18 Spring St. East Melbourne)
2. Cumulus Inc. (45 Flinders Lane)
3. Harrolds (101 Collins St.)
4. H&M (350 Bourke St.)
5. Emporium (287 Lonsdale St.)
6. Cookie (252 Swanston St)
7. Marais (314 Little Collins St.) 
8. Double Monk (53 Smith St. Fitzroy)
9. 1806 (169 Exhibition St.)
10. Chin Chin (125 Flinders Lane)
11. Siglo (2/161 Spring St.) 

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7:30am
Excuse my indented schoolboy nature to still wake up early, but you’ll need all the time you can get to get through the scheduled day. Whether you visit Melbourne during the humid mornings of summer or the awakening breezes of winter, drag yourself out of bed and go for a scenic jog around the Treasury gardens (otherwise known as Fitzroy gardens). Where quiet gardens meet the city’s edge is the perfect place to start and take in the surroundings while conveniently stopping at the water displays for a break if you’re as unfit as I am. From there make your way down Flinders St. Put the right song on your iPod and you’ll have the view of the city and all it’s incredible side street graffiti to your right and the Yarra river streamlining the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground on your left. If that isn’t enough, the famous landmark Flinders Street Station will soon come to your attention in front of you. Pat yourself on the back for filling your exercise quota for the day and head back to the room to get ready for a well-deserved breakfast.

The Hyatt view

9:00am
There’s a world of benefits from being able to stay in the city when you’re in Melbourne. The thing that I love about it is everything is so incredibly centralised there; the Treasury gardens were a five minute walk from my hotel on Collins St, the most attractive shopping zones and bars are in the middle of the city, and if you’re interested in taking in the Victorian religion that is the following of sport, The MCG, Etihad stadium and Aami Park are all less than a 15 minute journey away. Now that the rush of refreshment and self-satisfaction has poured over you following the strenuous exercise, it’s only fair to reward yourself by visiting one of the most famous breakfast locations in Melbourne, Cumulus Inc. This renowned cafe on 45 Flinders lane gives you the complete spectrum; whether the simple bowl of cherries is enough to maintain your health kick or the full english breakfast is an all too strong temptation, simple avocado on rye and an appropriately strong coffee was enough for me to approach the day.

10:00am
The geographical convenience of the hotel was emphasised on my way back from breakfast, quickly noticing my next door neighbour was none other than Harrolds department store, arguably the finest men's sartorial destination in Australia. With countless past experiences of empty pockets and pipe dreams of tailor made suits, the Brioni shirting window was too much for me to drag myself away from the sliding doors. With two stories of style perfection, the store appeared to build in excitement the further I walked. The modern dominance of edgy designers was apparent with Alexander Wang, Comme des Garçons and Saint Laurent showcasing innovative patterns and materials. Perhaps it's the inbuilt English bias,  but the Church's shoe display in Harrolds was good enough to be the sole cause of my first and probably second loan in the future. Being taught about the painstaking procedure surrounding the bespoke suits of Tom Ford and Pal Zileri justified why I almost fainted glancing over the starting consultation cost, thinking it was probably a good time to exit the store. 

Even though getting around anywhere nowadays is powered by the touch of a button or the awkward movement the iPhone compass needs to be calibrated, the grid layout of Melbourne is extremely easy to follow and to navigate. Enter trams. With virtually no traffic to get in their way, catching trams throughout Melbourne will give you a sense for what's around you, and please place a 50 cent piece on the tracks of an oncoming tram, my six attempts to get the perfect curved coin was a waste of three dollars.....

11:00am
Getting off the tram on Bourke St, Melbourne's central shopping hub, offered something that I wasn't expecting. The city's unique reputation is highlighted through the modern buildings paired with graffiti filled side streets and more boutique coffee shops than you can count. Curious on how Australia's first H&M was presented, I'm surprised I made it out alive. Given the option of a trolley or a large mesh shopping bag, the look on the assistant's face indicated to me that she'd never heard the term 'just browsing' before. The large white pylon layout of the store reminded me of Jay Gatsby's ball room, with getting lost an inevitability. With a solid 12 or 13 minutes of trying to find the exit, the harsh realisation set in that I was in the middle of the women's lingerie section with a concerned mother leering at me. 

Continuously making acquaintances 

The new Emporium shopping centre on Lonsdale Street is a look into retail futuristics, with close to nothing unavailable for those with disposable income. Strolling along the chrome and marble surroundings, I noticed a few stores had built in coffee bars, and as I conversed with a shoe store manager, I learned that the trend of the "complete shopping experience" is something that is apparently here to stay. Managers and sale consultants are pushing the idea of a miniature 'shopping spa', with your double macchiato arriving as you're slipping into shoes and jackets. Be warned, it also makes it that much harder to thank the assistant for the refreshment by uncovering that you are 'just looking'. 

12:30pm
Long blocks and busy streets means constant fuelling up, and luckily for lunch we brought past visits into play, re-visiting the highly acclaimed bar/restaurant 'Cookie' at 252 Swanston St, a two minute walk from Emporium. Throughout my life I've been lucky enough to travel to and experience plenty of restaurants, each with their own notable qualities, and I challenge those who disagree to e-mail me a larger beer list than Cookie's. The hefty leather-bound presentation of the beer choices was enough to make me think I was back at school about to tackle a text book. With blends from around the globe, you may have to come back for late afternoon tea to even scratch the surface of this brews bible. The mix between fusion Asian cuisine and creative mixology behind the bar was a distinctive spin on what you would usually find for lunch almost anywhere. If you need a serious afternoon pick-me-up, you can't go past Cookie's infamous Bloody Mary (pictured) - but make sure you leave enough time to drink the whole thing! 

 


2:00pm
With dinner ruined for sure and probably enough drinks to convince my liver that it was 5pm, I still wasn't convinced Melbourne had the edge on Sydney in the way of undisputed men's style stores, until the next few hours. In an unexpected arcade off Bourke St, hidden behind a simple coffee shop, kept secret with two flights of stairs, I found Marais. A Harrolds-esque layout with black suited staff, marble fittings and a cold granite floor, Marais maintains their prestige through hiding; meaning only those who know, know. Marais was the first store in Australia to be granted the licence to stock Maison Martin Margeila, is well known for their exclusive footwear and accessories range, and is Kanye West's favourite shopping destination when he is down under. With labels such as Balmain, Rick Owens, Kenzo and Givenchy all staring you in the face, you'll regret spending all your money on beer at Cookie. 

3:00pm
Once again dragging myself out of another store, it was time to head to the store which I had great anticipation for the moment I heard a Melbourne trip was on the cards. Double Monk (53 Smith St, Fitzroy) is in my opinion is the greatest example of the wardrobe of a gentlemen, the modern voice of classical elegance, placing itself as my favourite store in Australia. Founded by brothers Nick and Chris Schaerf, pure passion and determination has brought the artwork that is fine footwear to our shores. The boutique stocks some of the most prestigious shoe designers in the world including Crockett & Jones, Alden, Church's, John Lobb and G.J Cleverly. With stylish nostalgia of barber blades, vintage colognes and intricate silk pocket squares and ties, the duo have hit the mark on every single product they sell. The five minute cab ride is something I will always recommend to experience the sheer enthusiasm and devotion these guys have for their store. Fortunately the one hour plane ride soon may not be necessary, as I was told that Double Monk is in line to secure a space in Sydney's Strand Arcade for 2015, to finally assist some poorly presented men of Sydney. 

5:00pm
Thank God it reached five o'clock so I could lose the guilt of drinking too early and forget all impulse purchases throughout the day. Stepping into the bar '1806' on 169 Exhibition Street is the closest I'll probably come to experiencing the Roaring 20's in downtown Manhattan. With a heart starter in mind, the famous Zombie caught my eye with a $50 deposit taken when ordered due to the quality and rarity of the clay pot in which it is served. I started to think some duct tape wouldn't have been a bad idea as this insane kick in the teeth and cautious bartenders looming wasn't a great mix as my grip was continuously in question. All I can say after conquering the zombie is make sure your dinner plans are close by; my embarrassment set in when I handed an invalid bus ticket to the owner for payment. 

6:45pm
A slow and careful stroll back to Flinders Lane gave me time to shape up and look forward to Chin Chin. The well known cuisine focuses on South East Asian style dining with the creative Benjamin Cooper directing recipes. With seemingly endless flavours and dishes available, I would recommend the banquet to be able to try most of the vast range on offer. A possible plan B may be necessary however, Chin Chin maintains a strict 'walk in only' policy; our tendency to always eat early allowed us to snap up a table before we constantly saw disappointed faces being turned away - get there before seven and don't miss out!

8:30pm
Subconsciously wondering when I would next be able to repeat a Melbourne weekend, it was time to end the night by following the apparent pattern of the day, drinks... We were told if you're in Melbourne during the warmer months, it wouldn't be a trip complete without dropping into Siglo, one of Melbourne's most famous cigar and dessert bars. I was instantly sold by the combination. Across the road from the State Parliament building, Siglo sits above three stories of restaurants and bars with a grand view over the city if you're lucky enough to secure a balcony table. A cuban inspired jet flame ignition and a subtle crack of the spoon to a créme brûlée capped off the end of magnificent day away from the harbour city. 
Because one Bloody Mary a day is never enough

Stumbling back to the room anxious of an early airport transfer the following morning, I instantly looked forward to the next 24 hours I'll spend in Melbourne; Concluding my ongoing Sydney vs. Melbourne competition to be, satisfyingly enough, a draw. 

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