You haven’t discovered the real Melbourne until you have had to walk down a dingy alleyway waiting to be mugged in order to find the place. Vertue of the Coffee Drink is no exception. Hidden behind some dumpsters at a servo — or petrol station for those from overseas — is where you’ll find Vertue. On weekends the place is pumping, and you are easily looking at a half an hour wait. They sell delicious brownie cookies supplied by Butterbing; the salted caramel brownie variety is delicious and a meal in itself. For those who like their spice, the meatball sub with jalapeños is great, and the coffee is delicious.
If you love pizza, then this place will blow your mind. On Lygon Street you will find D.O.C. Espresso and D.O.C. Deli, but D.O.C. is situated just around the corner on Drummond Street. They are all owned by Tony Nicolini, and in classic Melbourne fashion, this place does not take bookings, so you can sometimes expect a fair wait on a table. It is definitely a wait worthwhile. Once you are in, the pizzas come out fast. The staff are all Italian and speak in Italian, giving it that authentic touch. The San Daniele pizza is a standout, which can be washed down with a nice glass of Chianti.
D.O.C., 295 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9347 2998
Hidden just off Lygon Street, Steps Gallery — a small gallery owned and run by the Meat Industry Employees’ Superannuation Fund since 1992 — exhibits local Victorian artists. The person behind the desk is usually one of the artists themselves, so you can chat to them about their work, which is for sale.The current group exhibition, Five of Us, runs until 12 August 2015. Including Matthew Schiavello, his abstract photography is quite striking as it examines the beauty found in vandalized urban spaces. It is as if you are examining the graffiti under a microscope with the rust from iron bins still visible. The Artee Cafe in the same building is great if you want to grab a cup of coffee and nab some free wifi.
Steps Gallery, 62 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9650 3577
If you are looking for some pre-movie or dinner food to nibble on and you love cheese, then this is the place. After the success of their St Kilda establishment that opened in 2012, they decided to bring Milk the Cow to northsiders. Their menu includes pre-matched booze and cheese ‘flights,’ which are a journey for your palate. You can also choose from a range of pre-selected cheeseboards to share or build your own. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and provide complimentary Glühwein — mulled wine — in winter to warm up in the cold weather. It is a great place to go if you are looking to pick up some cheese for a dinner party as they do takeaway cheese.
Milk the Cow, 323 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9348 4771
The Royal Exhibition Building is located within the Carlton Gardens. It has been there since 1880 and is a symbol of wealth for the people of Victoria after the gold rush. It was designed by British architect Joseph Reed, and at the time, it was the highest building in Australia. In July 2004, it became the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage status. Today, it is used for temporary exhibitions, fairs and an examination hall for Melbourne Uni students. Perfectly symmetrical, the entrance to the Royal Exhibition Building is lined by two rows of trees making it highly Instagrammable in any season.
No matter what temperature it is outside, Pidapipo, a gelateria, always has a long line. The owner, Lisa Valmorbida, went to gelato school — yes, that is a real thing — in Italy. There’s a very 50s and 60s decor vibe going on in this place. It’s very bright and lively inside, and there are plenty of flavors. The salted caramel is great and the hot nutella sauce, which runs on tap, makes for a perfect dessert. You can tell hours of hard work and love go into making the gelato. This place will become a favorite on Lygon Street.
Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9347 4596
Vincent the Dog is a little café on Drummond Street great for a hangover cure. It has enough specialty coffee to sink a ship plus a selection of juices — the orange, lychee and lime is delicious — that will make you feel rejuvenated and refreshed. The staff is very knowledgeable about their specialty coffee, and the café is a great place to watch people. Food-wise the Chinese donut is an interesting take on the Western pastry; it’s filled with cheese, pork and a poached egg on top. The affogato with Ferrero Rocher gelato is delicious and great when you’re feeling under the weather.
Vincent the Dog, 348 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC, Australia, +61 3 9348 2068