Its dark and twisting laneways hint at a multitude of sins and secrets so it’s no surprise there are still are still a few corners of Melbourne yet to be discovered by the hoards. Here are our picks of the city’s clandestine happenings.
It’s one of Melbourne’s most storied – and most beautiful – buildings but, like all grande dames, the Neoclassical State Library Victoria has her secrets. Sign up for the free weekly Dome to Dungeons tour and you’ll access all areas, from the library’s sixth floor, which offers an aerial view of the stunning domed La Trobe Reading Room, to the original Melbourne Museum catacombs, a secret underground labyrinth.
Home sweet home
Both sophisticated and kooky, the under-the-radar 29th Apartment sums up the contradictory wonders of the Melbourne bar scene and puts a cherry on top. This New York-apartment-styled parlour, complete with boudoir and claw-foot bath, is soundtracked by DJs and lubricated with sparkling cocktails. For entertainment of a more G-rated nature, there’s a giant Jenga set. Or you could open the retro Kelvinator fridge for a smorgasbord of board-game delights.
Is Dom, is good
What’s that mysterious black box lurking in the lobby of Vue de Monde? A Dom Pérignon vending machine, of course. For the gourmand who’s seen it all, The Illuminator is a world first: a machine that dispenses chilled bottles from one of France’s finest champagne producers. To keep the party going après dîner, purchase a branded brass token, put it into The Illuminator and voilà. To really get into the spirit, book Vue’s private dining room, where you can try a special dégustation paired with Dom Pérignon in surroundings fit for a Sun King.
Lining up outside the latest scorchingly hot, no-bookings restaurant is so passé. Fortunately, the shadowy cabal from Well Sensered Food is here to inject the excitement back into dining. Their mystery pop-up events are the ultimate in avant-garde dining, combining recherché Melbourne locations (guests are told where to go only 24 hours in advance) and a themed dégustation menu peppered with enough visual trickery to make Heston Blumenthal look like a rank amateur. Events are held every few months but these food gangstas will create one-off experiences if you ask nicely.
The story goes something like this: long-time Flower Drum aficionado Neil Perry mentioned he felt like crab and noodles without all the mallet-and-cracker bother so the chefs at this venerable Cantonese institution whipped up a dish of pickled mud crab stir-fried with ginger and spring onion on a bed of egg noodles. Neil Perry Mud Crab Noodles is just one of several dishes you’ll never see on the Flower Drum menu but those in the know are aware that a quiet word with the waiter will see it rustled up with aplomb. Another tip? Try your luck with the steamed egg custard laced with crayfish or even a retro sweet-and-sour pork.
The lane less travelled
Hosier Lane gets all the press as the epicentre of Melbourne’s world-famous street-art scene, with hordes of Instagramming tourists to prove it. But get off the beaten aerosol track with a trip down Rutledge Lane. The walls, windows and even the wheelie bins of this furtive Hosier Lane tributary are home to an ever-changing landscape of edgy murals. Locals know that to get the perfect shot, you need to take the elevator to the second-last floor of the nearby Flinders Gate car park (enter from Flinders Street) for an aerial view.
Top image: Vue de Monde