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STARTING the decade afresh, Melbourne offers new and exciting things. With new pockets of experiences sprouting in every corner, visitors will find themselves spoilt for choice with the robust activities to see and do with each visit – from contemporary cafes, gourmet culinary, watering holes, attractions to accommodations.

EXPERIENCE GASTRONOMICAL FLAVOURS

1. Koko Black Como

An iconic Melbourne brand’s first ever chocolate bar. Koko Black Chocolate has just opened its brand-new flagship store in the Como Centre of South Yarra. The opening of the store sees the introduction of the first-ever Koko Chocolate Bar, where customers will be able to order Koko Black’s signature hot chocolates in a range of flavours, where purpose-designed milk wands automatically steam the hot chocolate to between 70 and 75 degree from the bar. Guests can choose from a selection of croissants, cookies and cakes, as well as freshly churned milkshakes and house-made ice creams.

2. Baah Lah

Baah Lah is Geelong’s newest modern Asian restaurant by chef-owner Brian Anderson. The menu is split into SEA and LAND – a fun way to choose your own dining adventure. Much of the produce at Anderson’s first restaurant, which channels

Singapore’s combination of Malay and Chinese cuisines, is grown by his father. The menu will adapt with the seasons, but it now stars a number of pork and seafood dishes and focuses on fastidiously crafted hawker dishes. Baah Lah serves only Australian craft beers, wines and spirits.

Gaea offers a six or eight-course degustation menu. Credit Gaea
Gaea offers a six or eight-course degustation menu. Credit Gaea

3. Gaea

Mo Zhou has been cooking in Melbourne for over a decade, working as a chef at Attica, chef de partie at Vue De Monde and sous chef at The Press Club. Now Zhou and partner Alicia Feng, have opened a small daytime coffee nook, Calère, and a petite degustation-only diner, Gaea, on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street. Taking over the former Messer site, the space has been split into two with Calère open during the day and Gaea open during the night. Gaea offers a six or eight-course degustation menu, AUD95 (RM262) and AUD125 respectively, for just 12 guests. Expect a monthly changing menu with a highlight on European techniques fused with local ingredients.

 Lagoon Dining is a modern-Asian diner helmed by a trio of chefs Ned Trumble, Keat Lee and Chris Lerch. Credit Lagoon Dining
Lagoon Dining is a modern-Asian diner helmed by a trio of chefs Ned Trumble, Keat Lee and Chris Lerch. Credit Lagoon Dining

4. Lagoon Dining

Located at the site of former delicatessen and Italian goods shop Lygon Food Store, Lagoon Dining is a modern-Asian diner by Ned Trumble, Keat Lee and Chris Lerch, who met as kitchen apprentices and front-of-house manager at Ezard. Similar to Ezard’s ‘pan-Asian’ cuisine, Lagoon Dining takes influence from Chinese culinary traditions, Trumble’s Thai cooking background and Lee’s Malaysian cooking background. But unlike Ezard’s fine-dining, Lagoon will be more casual.

IMMERSE IN THE ARTS AND CULTURE

1. Geelong Arts Centre

After undergoing a $38.5 million redevelopment, the Geelong Arts Centre has reopened its doors to the public. Visitors will see four new studio/rehearsal spaces, improved accessibility within the centre, two new foyers, a new bar and dedicated spaces for creative and education activities. The Geelong Arts Centre is the only state-owned cultural institution outside of Melbourne, and the redevelopment will position it as Victoria’s leading regional performing arts centre.

2. Rone in Geelong

Over the last two decades, Geelong-born artist Rone has built an exceptional reputation for large-scale wall paintings and immersive installations that explore concepts of beauty and decay. Rone’s latest site-specific installation will transform Geelong Gallery’s rooms in response to the architecture and history of the building, and the Gallery’s collection. The first comprehensive survey of Rone’s career to date will also be presented, charting the artist’s practice from early stencil works and street art, to photographs documenting major installations that have transformed abandoned spaces.

STAY IN SWANKY LODGING

1. Unyoked

Unyoked, the travel start-up that’s all about unplugging and unwinding in the wilderness, has added six new cabins to its portfolio of remote getaways. Unyoked currently has six cabins – three in New South Wales and three in Victoria. The new tiny houses in Victoria will be in Gippsland, the Pyrenees Mountain Ranges, and a pine forest bordering a national park. The solar-powered system has been upgraded, and rainwater tanks have a bigger capacity so they can stay off the grid longer. The kitchens have also been spruced up with help from Three Blue Ducks. Visit www.unyoked.co for details.

VV - Unplug and unwind in the wilderness with Unyoked. Credit Unyoked
VV - Unplug and unwind in the wilderness with Unyoked. Credit Unyoked

2. INK Hotel Melbourne Southbank

The 162-room hotel features a fun and playful design, with lobby artwork by Melbourne’s Blender Studio as well as guest rooms with art designed and customised by New York-based Australian artist Brolga. Head downstairs to The Kitchen and Bar to enjoy breaky favourites or all-day complimentary barista made STREAT coffee. For every cup of STREAT served, INK will be helping underprivileged youth get back on track. The bar serves Melbourne beers on tap from Moon Dog Brewery and Temple Brewing, as well as wines from across the Victorian region such as Lightfoot and Sons and Rochford Wines. Details at www.inkhotels.com/melbourne-southbank

CONTEMPORARY WATERING HOLES

1. Patient Wolf Distilling

Victoria’s largest independent gin distillery has landed in Southbank. After many years stationed in Brunswick, Patient Wolf Gin Co. has finally opened the doors of its new home in Southbank. Founders Matt Argus and Dave Irwin have transformed a rabbit warren of an office space’ into an airy, New York loft-style public bar and distillery. With exposed brick walls and a seven-metre-long brass-topped bar, it is inspired in part by prohibition-era speakeasies. The team plan to have a play around with some experimental small-batch gins that will be sold exclusively through the venue. Snacks such as roasted nuts and cured fish and pâté with fresh bread are available.

2. Loop Top

Meyers Place’s venue Loop has already taken the concept of a vertical garden to soaring new heights. Now, the team have gone one step further, adding a new lush, green rooftop called Loop Top, up on Level 4. It adds space for an extra 100 guests, on top of the existing 100-person capacity of Loop Roof below. The two have combined to create a split-level, sky-high oasis, boasting even more of those panoramic views across the city. Jazzing up Loop Top, you’ll find a vast array of plant life, designed to evoke the feeling of an urban jungle and complement the existing vertical garden.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

1. Grazeland Melbourne

Spotswood will soon be home to a new dedicated Food Precinct. Spanning 10,000sqm on the site beside Scienceworks, Grazeland will host over 50 sweet and savoury food vendors, three fully licensed bars, artisan stalls selling locally designed products and live performances, creating a food festival experience. Food vendors such as 48h Pizza and Gnocchi Bar, Cripps Family Fish Farm and Cannoleria by That’s Amore Cheese have all been locked in. The space will have both outdoor seating and covered areas, plus several themed zones. All consumables at Grazeland will be compostable or recyclable, so nothing goes to landfill.

Grazeland will host over 50 sweet and savoury food vendors. Credit Grazeland
Grazeland will host over 50 sweet and savoury food vendors. Credit Grazeland

2. Hedonistic Hiking

Gourmet hiking company Hedonistic Hiking has launched its 2020 program with two new tours. The Sunset Dinners on Mount Buffalo tour allows guests to embark on a 9-km escorted hike to Mount Buffalo’s highest point, The Horn, which offers phenomenal views over the surrounding landscape. Guests will receive canapés, followed by a 3-course dinner prepared with locally sourced produce, matched with wines from the area. Also new for 2020, the tour Hiking at Dinner Plain includes stunning alpine walking combined with food and wine. The weekend includes fully guided hikes past Mount Hotham’s historic cattlemen’s huts and the famous Mount Tabletop walk, punctuated by picnics showcasing the best local produce. Enjoy dinner either prepared by chef and Hedonistic Hiking co-owner, Mick Parsons, or at one of Dinner Plain’s best-loved restaurants.

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