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The most important reason I am now writing this post all the way from Melbourne is to attend Mellissa’s 21st birthday. She has one of the easiest to remember birthday of anyone I know, on 8.8.88, you can’t get any more auspicious than that.

Just a night after I arrived, on the eve of her birthday, we had dinner at Vialetto, a little restaurant at Hardware Lane serving Italian food. The food was very pedestrian and nothing to shout about, so despite taking a tonnes of photos from the restaurant, I shall refrain from writing about a place that I wouldn’t return.

Mellissa's 21st Birthday
Charlie’s bar is located at the quaint Hardware Lane

Right after dinner, we adjourned to Charlie’s bar a couple doors down the lane. The bar itself is located at the basement level with some tables outdoor (not exactly very awesome to be outdoor in winter, though heater is provided). The service was really good, our server made sure the reserved area is vacated as soon as we arrived and took orders in very efficient and professional manner.

The guys arrived soon enough and by 11pm the group grew to some 30 people, including all of Mellissa’s housemates, university friends, and other friends from KL including Zehan, Pinky and her bf Kah Kit too.

Mell's birthday at Charlie's bar
Zehan, KY, Mell, Kah Kit, Sam, Pinky, Mell,
JW, Harvey, Singz, Graeme, Mark, Ian, Mrina, and more!

At the end of the night Mellissa got quite tipsy, though luckily still quite manageable. The guys love the drinks at Charlie’s bar, the cocktails were made just right with enough amount of proper alcohol. The place was quaint and comfortable, even the music too was good. Everyone had a great time, and of course, the no indoor smoking policy in the city always help.

Minor set back of the whole evening was the lack of a cake but oh well, Mell did bake a chocolate cake 2 days later, heehee. Happy Birthday darling!

p/s: Going skiing at Mt. Buller in less than 12 hours, I’m very anxious for my first ski trip in 8 years, gonna be Mell’s first heehee.

Cafe Italia must be one of the most uncreative names for an Italian restaurant to assume, especially one that is tucked in a small lane connected to the little Italy of Melbourne, Lygon Street. Fortunately, it is also one that serves up very good authentic Italian cuisine in for pretty reasonable prices.

Cafe Italia at University St, off Lygon, Melbourne
alfresco dining at Cafe Italia when weather permits

Incidentally, this is also one of Mell’s housemates, Jun Wei’s favorite Italian restaurant in Melbourne. The eatery is located on a rather small 1-way University Street (between Melbourne University and Carlton Garden) and only has a small 3’x3′ sign on the outside. Pretty easy to miss especially since the place sorta look like a green house from the outside during cooler months.

Together with Zehan (who also needs a bf, a good Muslim boy perhaps?), the four of us went there in the middle of April during my last trip to Melbourne.

spaghetti fruitti di mare and fish special
spaghetti frutti di mare (seafood), fish special (barramundi)

The restaurant has three different area, conventional dining, private rooms, and court yard (which, as mentioned, converts to green house like area when it’s colder). Interior is tastefully decorated with a bar, wine racks, and plenty of plants. Very comfortable and yet not overly done.

The menu is not any different from most Italian restaurants, offering pasta, beef, lamb, fish, pizza, and of course, a variety of appetizers, desserts, and wine.

lamb chop and rigatoni ragu
lamb chop, rigatoni ragu (pasta with eggplant)

I ordered the lamb special ($27.90)- a generous piece of char grilled lamb chop marinated with lemon and wine served on pea mash. The meat was tender, juicy, and the taste of the lemon and red wine marinate was just right. I was so glad I ordered it. The pea mash was interesting and I actually liked it better than mashed potato by quite a bit.

Mell had the pesce del giorno (fish special $28.90)) – a piece of barramundi (I think) fillet served with fire roasted peppers, brocolini, and lime saffron sauce. The seafood was fresh and sauce went well with the whole combination, no complains at all there.

jun wei, KY, mellissa, and zehan at cafe italia
Jun Wei, KY, Mell, Zehan

Zehan and Jun Wei had the rigatoni ragu (spaghetti with eggplant, $17.90) and spaghetti frutti di mar (seafood spaghetti $22.90) with both of them expressing approval for their dishes in terms of taste as well as presentation.

Comparing to the more student friendly (budget wise) places such as Cafe Notturno, Cafe Italia is 30-50% pricier, but if you look into the place, service, as well as food quality and taste factor, then it is a very worth while place to visit.

map to cafe italia at lygon street, Melbourne

At the end, our bill came to just a bit less than $100 for the four of us (we only ordered water). Dollar to dollar, an excellent value don’t you think? Now I think I might need to go back there again for the next Melbourne trip.

Address:
Cafe Italia
56/66 University St,

Carlton
Victoria 3053,
Australia
ā€Ž
GPS: -37.799366,144.967926
Tel: +613 9347 0638ā€Ž
Website: cafeitalia.com.au

Lygon Street in Melbourne, also known as Little Italy, is littered with quite a number of gelati shops. Between Queensberry and Grattan, there are some five such outlets. However, there is only one award winning gelati shop out of the five: Il Dolce Freddo.

Il Dolce Freddo gelati at Logan Street, Melbourne
Yummy gelati, with wide variety of flavors

It is also the only gelati shop Mellissa (and everyone else that I know of) swears by in Melbourne. We made it a point that I must try out this place during my trip, so went there I did, with Mellissa and Zehan (hello single and available guys out there please go and buaya her ok)

Freddo Gelati at Lygon
check out the their famous durian flavored gelato!

Freddo offers quite a variety of gelati flavors, but the one absolute must-try flavor wouldĀ  be Durian. Yes, good ol’ spiky stinky durian flavored gelato. There are other interesting flavors such as Pandan, various types of berries, rocher (with Ferraro Rocher), mango, lychee, passion fruit, and the more conventional chocolate, green tea, and coconut. Over 20 flavors in all.

KY, Melllissa, and Zehan at Freddo
KY, Mell, and Zehan

I ordered a cup with a scoop of Durian and Pandan flavored gelato for $4.80 (prices range from $4.80 to $7.80). It was lovely, the durian gelato actually made a very fair representation of the fruit, sticky, flavorful, and taste exactly like what you’d expect from the king of fruit. The pandan gelato too was quite lovely, sweet and fragrant.

The weather was quite lovely that day, if not just a little too cold. Then again, the temperature did keep our gelati in good shape and not turn into puddle of colored sweetened milky syrup so it was all good.

map to freddo at lygon street, melbourne

Can’t wait till I go there again this winter. šŸ˜€

Address:
Il Dolce Feddo
116 Lygon St,
Carlton, VIC 3053,

Australia

ā€ŽGPS: -37.80424, 144.966488
Tel: 03-9639 3344ā€Ž

Before I go to Melbourne, I received quite a few suggestions on restaurants and eateries that should visit from friends and blog readers alike. Among all the suggestions, the one place that I was pestered to visit over and over again by Jessica was MART 130.

“You must go to MART 130, they serve the best breakfast!”
“If you don’t go there, I will kill you!”
“Take a taxi, take tram, take whatever, just get yourself there!”

MART130 with Zehan and Mellissa
MART 130, Zehan & Mell

So on the 2nd to the last day at Melbourne, Mell, Zehan, and I took the 96 St. Kilda tram to MART 130 after stopping by the city early to buy the tickets for Wicked the musical (which was very awesome and worth every penny of the $85 ticket.)

MART 130 is actually a reverse anagram of TRAM 130, which is only apt because the restaurant is converted from an old tram stop. Which also means that getting there is a short 20 minute ride and you don’t actually have to walk more than a few stops after getting off the tram.

KY and Mellissa at MART130, Melbourne
flat white & latte, ham hock and cannellini beans

The restaurant is busy but relaxing, old but clean, and simple but sophisticated. Furniture consists of well maintained old wooden chairs and tables, with most diners seated at the semi alfresco area on the side not facing the track. Whole side of the wall is made up of transparent plastic that can be reeled up when the weather cooperates.

Mell ordered a glass of flat white and while I asked for latte (apparently they are basically the same except that flat whites have a slightly higher caffeine content.). The coffee arrived in a very aesthetically pleasing form that is well in line with the great taste. Now why can’t our local baristas do that too?

MART130 at Melbourne
Zehan with her french toast, Mell’s scrambled egg and Portobello mushroom

After much deliberation, we ordered 3 breakfast from different category in order to have a bit of variety. I asked for the Ham Hock and Cannellini Beans since there’s pork in the ham, of course. Mell ordered Scrambled Eggs and Portobello Mushroom, while it’s the French Toast with Orange Syrup for Zehan.

The ham hock and Cannellini beans ($15.9) came with organic sourdough toast with crumbled goat’s cheese, I’m normally not a very big bean person, but this was very tasty and wholesome. The sourdough toast fresh and very delicious too.

MART 130
Mellissa and the friendly owner

The other two sets were, in some ways, even better than what I had since they provide a slightly more varied ingredients. The scrambled eggs ($9.9) were done to perfection, with spinach, mushrooms, and fetta cheese (add $3). You can also have grilled bacon, goat’s cheese, and sausages (add $4)

Zehan’s French toast ($15.9) was pretty interesting, the mixture of orange syrup, with organic brioche and pistachio mascarpone (I didn’t know this is yet another type of cheese) was very delicious, according to the eccentric girl.

map to MART 130
MART 130 is at tram stop number 130 on 96 St. Kilda line

Over all it was a very good breakfast experience and certainly a place I wish to visit again. The prices might seem a little high (for Malaysian standard anyway,) but the ambiance was very good, quality of food excellent (organic & free range), and above all, it tasted great.

The place is opened from 7:30 to 4pm everyday, so you don’t even really have to wake up that early to enjoy their breakfast.

Address:
107A Canterbury Road,
Middle Park 3206,
Melbourne, Australia

GPS: -37.850103, 144.965608
Tel: 03-9690 8831