12 hours in Fitzroy, on foot
We land. Melbourne Tullamarine. Abrupt customs checks. Suspicious immigration people. Comical taxi system. Then we make it to Fitzroy, our home for the next 4 nights. 30 degrees, wall to wall sunshine, tree-lined streets, and smiling, happy people. This is perfect. We meet Lulu, our friendly Airbnb host, and feel even more at home as she shows us around the quirky, artsy garden home that she and her husband built above their studio. “This is the rooftop bathroom”, Lulu explains to the children with a smile. “Make sure you watch for stars when you bath tonight.” It’s not often you land in a City and feel at home as quickly as this, and Lulu and her home have a big part to play in this.
Excitement over bath time stargazing quickly wanes as we approach the lunch hour. We need food. Armed with suggestions from Lulu, we head out into Fitzroy to see if all the hype is justified. Having travelled from Hong Kong, the first thing that hits us as we walk around Fitzroy is the pace. No one seems in a rush, or at least if they are, they hide it well. The weather certainly helps, with people sipping iced coffees on the street outside cafes and bars, and so does the location, with Fitzroy seeming to possess both an energy about it, as well as a relaxed, laid back vibe that we immediately settle into.
Naked For Satan. Pardon me? No, not a typo, and definitely not your average restaurant name, instead this is where we are having lunch today. We’ve come for the Pintxos - small, canapes-styled morsels that do little damage to your wallet at 25p a piece, but pack a tasty punch. With about 20 different offerings, we don't even get to try everything before we’re full, and we're told you can head upstairs to the rooftop bar for great views and even more food. We promise ourselves we’ll do this next time.
Coffee. We need it, right about this point in the afternoon, having pounded the streets with the two youngsters in the hot summer sun. But it’s also been 3 hours since we last ate something, so we head to Lune for not just Melbourne’s best Croissant, but apparently the world’s. We’re late enough in the day to have missed the queues, gladly accepting this for the compromise of a smaller selection of viennoiserie, and they do not disappoint. Almost as impressive as the flaky pastry is the cavernous space itself - a polished concrete, bare brick and black painted warehouse with a single glass cube in the centre where layer upon layer of puff pastry is rolled. It’s a perfect example of Fitzroy - and is easy to fall in love with.
Topped up with caffeine and calories, we carry on this walking adventure, patting ourselves on the back for choosing shoes that couldn’t be more perfect for the brief. Travelling light with two children in tow is hard, so the ideal is always that mythical product that works in all environments so that you only need to bring one of it. One light-weight coat that works when it rains, one watch that you can also wear in the pool, and one pair of shoes that look good, are comfortable, breathable, and keep you dry when it rains. If we were skeptical of all the claims Baabuk make on their site, we needn’t have been. We’re also not surprised when we walk past a Baabuk shoe shop here in Fitzroy - possibly the perfect travel shoe, and a godsend pulling two children around on scooters all day in this heat.
The end of the day is near. We need a good meal to close it out properly. Dinner is at Marion, a lovely looking place on the corner of Deadman’s Lane and Gertrude Street. This place takes its food, and also its wine, very seriously. They even offer something called the “Deadman’s Dozen”, where for about £150 you can take home 12 of the restaurant’s favourite wines of the moment. We resist the temptation, and just focus on dinner. Crudo is a lightly cured Kingfish dish, uncomplicated and ideal to start the meal after this hot day. Prawn Rolls arrive, essentially prawn sliders with nasturtium leaf and horseradish, and perhaps the highlight of the meal. Demolished by the kids, two more are swiftly ordered and devoured as quickly. Roast chicken is impressively crispy-skinned and tender, served with the kind of thin, salty chip that goes perfectly with mayo (what chip doesn’t you ask!). The only sour note comes in the form of Grilled Pork Neck, a normally glorious mix of fatty and tender meat that grills perfectly, but unfortunately in this instance is bland and underwhelming. Other than this, a very good meal with some exciting wine. Having promised the kids ice cream, we pay up and dash out the door for dessert.
If you were to wiretap our family conversations, a common argument you’d hear is the one about ice cream, and whether its best eaten on a hot, sunny day to cool you down, or on a cold, frigid one so it doesn’t melt and can be enjoyed better as a result. The debate rages on, but standing in Messina, apparently the best Gelato in Australia if the Good Food Guide are to be believed, we focus our attentions instead on picking from the myriad flavours, landing on Caramelised White Chocolate and Macadamia, Salted Coconut and Mango Salsa, Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla (don’t judge us, the youngest is going through a particularly strong Vanilla phase!).
With our 12 hours in Fitzroy almost over, we sit outside Messina in the cooler evening air, eating our ice creams and watching the people walk by. Well played Fitzroy - we like you very much.