Waking up in my hotel room knowing I didn't have to shove breakfast down my throat and rush off to the Exhibition Centre to start work was refreshing, to say the least. Sunday mornings are all about relaxation and taking it easy, I reckon. The sun was out, Collins Street was devoid of the usual traffic and I was getting peckish.
The direction to head was already on my mind so as Melbourne awoke I walked along the glassy Yarra River and ended up in the inner city streets of South Melbourne in search of one place - St Ali. Breakfast here is something I've heard only good things about but it wasn't eggs or muesli I was craving. Number one it was coffee and number two it was the Reuben sandwich. A Reuben for breakfast? Why the hell not.
The St Ali Reuben ($19) is an impressive structure of toasted white bread, multiple layers of pastrami, a good wodge of sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and two cornichons harpooned at the top with bamboo skewers. There's not a whole lot going on to keep the whole thing moist, even with the small amount of mustard on the side but it's still a bloody good sandwich.
South Melbourne is one of those typical inner city suburbs rich in Victorian heritage with wide tree-lined streets and terrace houses that have been converted into boutique shops, cafés or remained as residences. It isn't all pretty and village-like, though, as the 1950's style public housing blocks and industrial warehouses scattered about add a certain grit to the suburb.
One of the old relics that has been going strong since it first started trading in 1867 is the South Melbourne Market, the oldest running market in town. Housed in a covered Victorian building partly modernised with a lovely 1970's roof-top carpark, the red brick and wooden building houses a great array of green grocers, butchers, deli's, specialty providores plus restaurants & cafés. Popular with locals stocking up and the occasional tourist drifting through to see what all the fuss is about.
The Cecil Street-side of the market holds a strip of eateries including a dim sim joint that's a bit of an institution. If you can't find South Melbourne Market Dim Sims just look out for the queue of devotees waiting patiently for their steamed or fried goodies. The hole-in-the-wall kitchen has been running since 1949 where the late Ken Cheng began attracting fans to his famed tennis ball-sized dim sims ($1.6) and since his departure the family has continued the dimmie legacy. Many swear they're the best dim sims in the country but personally I can't see what the fuss is all about as I found them over-seasoned with either too much salt or flavour enhancer. If I was a Melbournite I'd have been pelted with heavy objects for my negative and unpatriotic words but maybe I've just tried better.
A quick pit stop at Sofia's Espresso Bar to lose the heavy cabbage flavour and salt from the dim sim and I was re-energised for the rest of the market stalls. Smokey smallgoods, gorgeous cheeses, breads, chocolates and pastries. Something for every foodie and something I wish I had in my neighbourhood.
When I finished up with the markets I ducked outside and stumbled upon this donut van cooking up fresh jam donuts ($1) near one of the entrances. The still-warm little pillows of goodness are just the way a donut should be - simple, unadulterated and tossed in sugar. No icing, although I don't mind a bit of that occasionally. Time for another coffee, I reckon. Perhaps a loaf of that bread, and one of those salamis ...St Ali12/18 Yarra PlaceSouth Melbourne 320503 9689 2990Mon-Sat 7am-5pmSun 8am-5pmstali.com.au South Melbourne Market322-326 Coventry StreetSouth Melbourne 320503 9209 6295Wed, Sat & Sun 8am-4pmFri 8am-5pmClosed Mon, Tues & Thurs South Melbourne Market Dim SimsStall 91, Cecil Street 0418 334 202
Sofia's Espresso BarStall 20-21, 233 Coventry Street
South Melbourne Market Jam Donuts93A Mobile Food VanSouth Melbourne MarketsSouth Melbourne 3205 Simply Spanish116 Cecil StreetSouth Melbourne 320503 9682 6100