Melbourne multicultural food tour with Foodie Trails
Over the course of this delicious new walking tour, you’ll get a taste of the multicultural mix that makes Melbourne’s food scene so special. Indulge in a progressive style lunch that includes Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian and Indian cuisine — along with the quintessential ‘Aussie’ cultural dish. You’ll also learn about the history of migration to the Victorian capital. The total walking time on the tour is a leisurely 30 to 40 minutes. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
As a proud Melbourne local, I take it for granted that there’s a veritable smorgasbord of exotic food at my fingertips.
However, in a city that’s renowned for its culinary excellence, how many of us really understand the provenance of the vast array of cultural influences we enjoy on our menus? On a brisk autumn morning, I’m joining Foodie Trails on their new Melbourne Foodie Culture Tour to savour new tastes and discover the fascinating stories of Melbourne’s early migrant cultures. I’ll finish the day with a whole new appreciation of our acclaimed nosh — and isn’t that the very best kind of day?
We meet our guide Giovanna at the Immigration Museum on Flinders Street. Entry is included as part of the tour, and the museum offers the perfect introduction to how the multiculturalism of Melbourne evolved. With just four in our cosy group, we have a chance to chat and get to know each other as we spend a wonderful 45 minutes checking out the exhibits. As we wander, Giovanna relates how the various waves of immigration helped shape not only Melbourne’s culture, but also its cuisine.
Departing the museum, we make our way through the city streets, ducking down into the unobtrusive Bank Place to see the Mitre Tavern — an anomaly of Tudor architecture nestled between soaring modern office towers. As one of the city’s early buildings, it’s an interesting touchstone from which to measure the melting pot of culture that was to come.
Our next stop is Collins Street and the beautiful Block Arcade to visit the aromatic Gewürzhaus spice merchants. Giovanna gives us a brief overview of where some of the vast array of spices come from, then steps back and allows us to immerse ourselves in this exotic little trove of edible treasure.
Laden with our beautifully packaged spice purchases (who could resist?), we move on to Melbourne’s iconic Italian cafe institution — Brunetti — in Flinders Lane. It’s time for a much needed coffee and the first installment of our progressive food tasting. As one of the city’s oldest and best-loved pasticcerias, Brunetti is a meeting and eating place with a very authentic Italian flavour. We savour a generous selection of their famous calzone to sustain us on our short stroll to Chinatown.
Giovanna takes us on a ‘secret’ route to Chinatown via a nondescript arcade, where we’re treated to a sit down serving of very delicious dumplings and Chinese tea at a tiny café. It’s an unexpected treat and, as is often the case, the more low key the venue, the better the food!
Next we explore a labyrinthine Asian supermarket tucked away in Little Bourke Street. It’s an amazing experience to see all the unfamiliar ingredients and try and figure out what they are. Luckily, being a seasoned traveller and a genuine foodie herself, Giovanna is able to help us out. Set right in the midst of the bustling city, this store is a wonderful example of Melbourne’s cultural diversity.
A few steps away on busy Swanston Street, our next food stop is Rice Paper Vietnamese restaurant. We dodge the busy pedestrian thoroughfare and sit at the pavement tables to tuck into sublimely fresh rice paper rolls. Again, it’s a real pleasure to be able to put Giovanna’s extensive cultural and historical knowledge to the test in this culinary context. (Oh, and she passed!)
Time-wise, I feel we must be drawing to the end of our tour, but Giovanna still has a couple of surprises left for us. We stroll down to Howey Place to a hole-in-the-wall bakery called Princes Pies. Chef Matti Fallon has created a pie-sized palace of deliciousness here, and put his ethical spin on the good old Aussie pie (by only using grass-fed, free range Australian beef). I’m as full as a goog (as the saying goes), and horrified to discover that we are expected to taste test (aka eat) half a pie. However, they smell delicious and it’s a food tour after all, so I take one for the team…
Luckily it’s downhill from here and we make our way to Flinders Street, where the tour is scheduled to finish. However, there’s one last stop for one of Melbourne’s favourite cultural taste sensations — Indian cuisine! While the décor and ambience of the place are no nonsense (refer to previous comments about Chinatown), the food samples presented to us are spicy, exotic and out-of-this-world delicious. I have no idea what they are, but I know I want more!
As I roll onto a tram to head home, I reflect on four hours very well spent. The tour (encompassing just a few city blocks) has provided me a true insight into how Melbourne’s wonderful melting pot of cultures has shaped its amazing food scene. My only issue is that it’s nearly Saturday night and I have no room left for dinner.
Julietta travelled as a guest of Foodie Trails.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.