Five Australian cities will be in the grip of Ashes fever this summer. Here’s what to do before, after and between matches in Melbourne (test matches 26-30 December).
GO AGAINST THE GRAIN
One of the city’s favourite eating and drinking joints defies pigeonholing. Cumulus Inc. is not a café or a restaurant; it’s a place that rocks merrily to its own beat from early until late, with the combination of Andrew McConnell’s mod Oz menu and the room’s lived-in white- marble grandeur summing up the best of Melbourne. As a bonus, it’s only a hop to the Melbourne Cricket Ground via the scenic riverside route.
It’s been there forever, tucked down aerosol-art-filled Hosier Lane, but MoVida is still the hottest dining ticket in town. Its global reputation rests on a bold Spanish menu that turns tapas into an art form, from traditional croquettes to Pedro Ximénez-braised beef cheek and the signature anchovy with smoked-tomato sorbet. Reservations can be hard to come by but MoVida Next Door, just down the street, is a bookings-free zone outside of lunchtime.
A lushly planted inner-city oasis set over four levels, Garden State Hotel is the Aussie pub all gussied up for a night on the town. The front bar screens sports events but don’t be fooled – this is a venue where people dress to impress over cocktails and craft beers. It’s also where you’re most likely to see members of the Australian cricket team in après-match mode.
STEP BACK IN TIME
The grande dame of Melbourne’s hotel scene, The Hotel Windsor has been a meeting place for people on their way to the MCG since the reign of Queen Victoria. The old-school Cricketers Bar, decked out in more than a century’s worth of Melbourne Cricket Club memorabilia, brings the buzz on match days.
PAY WARNIE A VISIT
Yes, that’s a life-size, lifelike Shane Warne – re-created in 3D hologram – discussing his career at the National Sports Museum, which is conveniently housed at the MCG (go to Gate 3). Chew the fat with Virtual Shane then take in the history of the baggy green in the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. And if you have a taste for Aussie Rules, soccer, cycling, netball or basketball, the museum covers those and a host of other sports, too.
TAKE A PROMENADE
Stroll through the city’s sports and cultural heart. The 525- metre-long William Barak footbridge wends from Yarra Park, in front of the MCG, to riverside park Birrarung Marr. On the bridge, listen for the “sonic corridor” – a sound installation representing people from the 53 Commonwealth nations (in 2006) now living in Australia – then head past Federation Bells, 39 upturned bronze bells that chime three times a day. Finish at Federation Square, home to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australian art collection at The Ian Potter Centre.
King of the East Melbourne café scene, Persillade pays homage to the great cricket nations with breakfast dishes such as kedgeree with smoked haddock and boiled egg, and corn fritters with Bombay salsa and yoghurt. Rev up your energy levels at Square & Compass with a health-conscious menu of charcoal chia pudding and poke bowls, served in a reinvented terrace house. And you can’t go past Hard Pressed for its obsessive menu of specialty coffee beans.
SEE ALSO: 8 Melbourne Bars for Spring Racing
Illustration credit: Rohan Cain