Hide & Seek Melbourne
How well do you really know Melbourne?
“Do you know where to find a witch’s house in the middle of the CBD, where you can cook up a spell? Or a shop where you can design your own pair of glasses – the colour, the shape, you name it? Or where there’s a cafe on the ground floor of a guy’s apartment?”
I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of some of Melbourne’s hidden gems with a few other bloggers. This coincides with the book launch of 4 new Hide & Seek Melbourne titles. I thought I knew some of the hidden gems of Melbourne, but really, I didn’t. As we were guided up flights of stairs in old arcades, and weaved our way through the CBD, we were all saying, “Oh wow, I wouldn’t even have thought to go there!”, and “I thought there was nothing up here!”.
First published in 2009, it has sold over 20,000 copies. There are also Hide & Seek guides to Brisbane and Sydney, but the team expanded the Melbourne series to four more books. It’s concept is to seek out those hidden places that offer unique experiences. Their readership is not just tourists, but locals who are sick of the typical attractions their city has to offer; and want to uncover those unique and interesting places.
We did however start at a classic Melbourne icon everyone knows, the steps of the Flinders Street Station. We crossed the road and started outside Federation Square where Neill Martin shines shoes. Neill explains that he had troubles with alcohol (or the booze as he tells it) growing up, and ended up in a boys home. There he was forced to shine shoes as punishment. After developing it as a skill, he started shining shoes as a trade at various locations around the CBD; getting kicked out of every location as he went. Eventually, he was scouted by Harrod’s on Collins St, and has shined shoes for their clientele since.
It was one of the only things he was good at and he has been shining shoes for years (for some reason, I have lost my photo of him!). He doesn’t care who you are; if you have dirty shoes, he will clean them. Neill says he cleans about 365 pairs of shoes a week!
Whilst a few get their shoes shined, Dan and Mellie have kindly brought us moreish cannolis from T. Cavallaro & Sons. Not really being a overly creamy/custardy based dessert fan I normally wouldn’t be interested. But after watching too many episodes of Cake Boss, I have been craving a cannoli for a long time now. It didn’t disappoint; crispy cannoli shell, and luscious creamy centre.
Fuelled with sugar and gleaming with shiny shoes, we are off. Down Swanston Street we are then led up a staircase in the old Nicholas Building; a building you would just walk past and not even think to look twice at. Weaving through the corridors we walk into a space filled with gorgeous Japanese textiles; everything from fabrics, kimono and decorations. Kimono House started in a 2 bedroom apartment in East Melbourne.
After 4 years, it took over the space it is in today, with another space on the 6th floor reserved for workshops, tea ceremonies and the like. Leanne, the owner, hand picks and designs everything in the store. She lived in Osaka for 5 years and now travels back yearly to buy for the store. She recently started selling craft kits for those interested, and runs workshops on how to make things from belts, to kimono. Kimono House also runs kimono wearing workshops. Leanne explains alot of Japanese women move to Australia and never learn the art of kimono; so they run a 6 week course on how to wear kimono.
On the same level in Buttonmania. It has been in the button trade for 16 years and has bought out 9 different button businesses. The elaborate button shelving unit came from Sydney, specially made for a button shop. We are informed that buttons are the 4th most collected item in the world, after stamps, coins and dolls.
Buttons here are made on 100 year old machines, and pretty much anything you want can be made into a button; you can even put money into a button for an extra special gift. Hand painted buttons are also something that can be done.
Kate, explains she can make about 300 buttons an hour! One of her clients includes Collette Dinnigan; so check out how pretty those 9mm buttons are; now you too know where they came from.
We stumble down Manchester Lane to a bunch of trendy fashion shops. Zoologie was started by the husband and wife team that run it. Menswear is designed by George (the husband), whilst the women’s wear is designed by Bonita (the wife).
Then it’s over to Melbourne Central to the STREAT trolley for a cuppa. They are all about organic, fair-trade and being eco friendly. They also run a 6 month program for homeless people interested in hospitality. They get to work with STREAT and get their Certificate 2 in Hospitality at the William Angliss. They are paid during this time and are helped to pursue apprenticeships.
You can even buy their coffee if you like it. For me, the chai latte wasn’t the best, but I find I can be very fussy when it comes to chai.
A trek over to the Spellbox Witch’s House nearly has us walking past it! It has a quirky sign out the front, but up a few flights of stairs; you are in a spiritual zone. With jars of spices, potions and other spiritual items, the place transports you out of the CBD and into another place. It is peaceful and tranquil. They run a whole range of workshops, as well as psychic readings, and creating potions and lotions just for you. It is a popular place for baby showers, birthday parties (young and old), corporate events as well as the full moon ceremony held on the roof top.
Then it’s over to another office tower for a hidden paradise, Dansk. I had no idea such an amazing looking restaurant could be hidden away in the CBD. It’s bright airiness is a change of pace. You do need to become a member if you want to come frequently, but you can attended occasionally by signing in at the front desk. Full of Ikea lights and Nordic treats for the homesick, it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in the city before.
We start with a snapas (schnapps + tapas = snapas); cured herring with a shot of schnapps. The herring is just divine, we were all shocked at how much we like it.
It was then an array of mini smushis (open sandwiches).
Crumbed fish with remoulade and lemon
Prawn salad with dill and caviar
Pork terrine with house made mustard and beetroot
Rolled pork belly sausage with black pepper
Roast beef with horseradish and fried onion rings
Slow cooked Gippsland lamb culotte with red currants and waldorf salad.
Bente Grysbaek’s aim is to use Australian produce with Nordic food preparation. As not all ingredients for traditional Nordic cuisine are available in Australia, this is a great approach to getting the Australians still to eat the not very easy to find cuisine.
Oh, and yes, everything tasted amazing. Thanks Penny for sharing that mouth watering prawn salad smushi.
Final stop for most of us is the Design Dispensary. The moment I walked in I said to Hamsley, “I could spend alot of money in here!”
Run by another husband and wife team, they also go overseas to buy for the shop. Mainly Germany and Switzerland; you won’t find something here that doesn’t make you sequel “omg how awesome!!” For me with my graphic design background…. I was squealing and wanting lots, from the hand soap, to the key holders and little fold-able animals. A definite must if you are looking for something unique for your place, or that person who has everything.
The final stop which most of us weren’t able to get to was the Until Never Gallery. It’s near Movida in Hosier Lane, I didn’t get to go there, but if the tag line is anything to go by, I think I’ll have to one day; “The Art Gallery for People Who Hate Art Galleries”
You can attend the Hide & Seek book launch:
What: To celebrate the launch of the four new Hide & Seek Melbourne guidebooks ‘Feeling Peckish?,’ ‘Treasure Trove,’ ‘Night Owl’ and ‘Hit the Streets.’
When: Tuesday 1 March, from 6pm to 9pm
Where: 24 Moons: AC/DC Lane (off Flinders Lane), Melbourne
Price: $20 for all advanced ticket sales before Monday 28th February at 4pm / $30 for ticket sales on the night
What‘s included: A goodie bag containing a free copy of one of the four books (your choice), a complimentary cocktail, finger food and the chance to win prizes straight out of the various Melbourne locations featured in the Hide & Seek books!
How to attend: Please visit www.hideseek.com.au to purchase a ticket.
T. Cavallaro & Sons
98 Hopkins Street
Phone: (03) 9687 4638
Neill Martin Shoe Shine
101 Collins Street
Phone: 0438 305 030
Room 7, Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street
Phone: (03) 9639 0565
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street
Phone: (03) 9650 3627
14 Manchester Lane
Phone: (03) 9639 8848
Federation Square / Melbourne Central Shopping Centre
Phone: (03) 9629 4222
Spellbox The Witch’s House
Level 2, 387 Little Burke Street
Phone: (03) 9670 2668
Level 3, 428 Little Bourke Street
Phone: (03) 9600 4477
322 Little Lonsdale Street
Phone: (03) 9670 7221
Until Never Gallery
Level 2, 3-5 Hosier Lane
Phone: (03) 9663 0442
Thanks to Hide & Seek, Hardie Grant, Media Moguls, Melissa Krafchek, Mellie & Dan, and all the hidden gems we visited for their hospitality.