Art, food and music reach their peak in Melbourne – Australia’s cultural capital. This cool coastal city is a popular stop on many cruise itineraries, giving visitors a taste of the country’s urban side. If you’re looking forward to your upcoming Celebrity Cruises holiday to Australia or want to find out more about Melbourne before you book, read on to discover some of the city’s hidden gems.
Combining their mutual loves of art, music and good food, the team at Easey’s (Jimmy Hurlston, Phil Martin & Jeremy Gaschk) created this surreal burger joint and exhibition space in a converted train. For a taste of Melbourne’s graffiti and street art scene, and some of the best burgers in the city, this is the place to be. “Easey’s is a quintessential Melbourne venue,” said Jimmy Hurlston. “The main dining area is housed inside an old Melbourne Hitachi train carriage that sits on top of the restaurant. The venue has incredible views of the city of Melbourne, and is adorned with Melbourne graffiti and comprises a diverse range of eating and drinking areas. Easey’s also has a fun and inclusive food beverage offering with burgers, hot dogs, sides and vegetarian and vegan options.”
We asked Jimmy why people should stop by Easey’s during their visit to Melbourne: “Travellers will get a truly Melbourne experience that they cannot get anywhere else in the world. It is the only place that you can eat and drink in a train on a roof.
“We have a great range of food for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Our most famous burger is the Rowdy Double Cheeseburger and it goes incredibly well with mac and cheese tots, a Melbourne Bitter battered potato cake and a pint of Melbourne bitter.”
The Astor Theatre
Image: Astor Theatre
This beautiful art deco cinema is one of Melbourne’s finest hidden gems. The last single screen cinema of its kind in continuous operation in the city, The Astor Theatre is still standing since its opening in 1936 and offers an impressive roster of both new and classic films. Its traditional golden curtains and spectacular auditorium will transport you to another time. Although the cinema keeps its finger on the pulse of the film industry, watching a classic or cult favourite at the Astor Theatre is highly recommended for the full experience.
Adorned with flowers and lanterns, Chuckle Park serves delicious food and cocktails from a vintage-style caravan bar. This hidden gem is well worth seeking out during your visit to Melbourne and promises a totally unique dining experience. To find out more, we spoke to the team at Chuckle Park: “Amidst the hustle and bustle of Melbourne's CBD, Chuckle Park brings a touch of nature into the big city. Inspired by camping trips, national parks and the great outdoors, this charming little laneway bar serves up delicious bites and delectable cocktails from a vintage-style caravan bar. Sit back among the plants, flowers and lanterns and enjoy some time in our little oasis!”
We asked the staff why people should visit during their cruise stopover in Melbourne: “Chuckle Park is a haven in the heart of the city - it's the perfect place to pull up a chair and relax from a busy day of sightseeing, shopping and experiencing all that Melbourne has to offer. Our unique decor delights visitors both local and international and our friendly staff make every visit a delightful experience.
“Chuckle Park's menu is simple yet delicious. Crowd favourites like our Reuben and Cubano sandwiches rub shoulders with everyday salad specials prepared fresh in our kitchen. We offer a number of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options for visitors. There's also a newly revamped pizza menu with 100% homemade dough and toppings made from the best local and artisanal ingredients - try the mortadella and pistachio for a real flavour hit! For vegans, there's a Japanese mushroom melody pizza with a white sauce made from cashew cheese.
“To wash it all down, we serve unique Australian spirits mixed into delicious cocktails, a variety of interesting local wines, cocktail jugs that are perfect for sharing and Aussie craft beers served in the most Australian way - the tinnie!”
Image: Hawker Chan
Dying to try a Michelin-star meal, but not prepared to fork out? Hawker Chan offers the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal. Chef and owner Chan Hong Meng first learned the basics of his now famous Cantonese chicken recipe in 1989 while working under a chef from Hong Kong. Adapting it to suit his personal style, chef Chan Hong Meng has perfected this delicious chicken dish, but you can also try roasted pork, tofu and vegetable dishes at Hawker Chan. This hidden gem is surely worth checking out.
Designed to replicate all-standing Italian cafes in which customers enjoy a quick espresso and a pastry, Bar Americano is a small but worthy hidden gem. Choose one of the bar’s exquisite cocktails but be prepared to wait in line. This tiny bar serves all the classics and has a loyal following, it is also revered in the drinks industry. But if you’re patient, both in waiting for your order and trying to find the bar, you will be rewarded with one of the finest libations in the city, if not the country.
Beer lovers should not miss out on the chance to visit Stomping Ground – a stylish neighbourhood brewery. Bringing the community together with a selection of exceptional beers, Stomping Ground may not necessarily be ‘hidden’ to locals, but for tourists is certainly a hidden gem. We spoke to Lucy Watson, brand marketing manager at Stomping Ground, to find out more: “Stomping Ground Brewing Co is a neighbourhood brewery bringing people together over a great beer. A century ago Collingwood was the epicentre of Australian brewing and breweries were an integral part of their community. Now, this independent brewery is proud to bring brewing back to its original stomping ground and put their community at the heart of everything we do.
“Inspired by the great beer halls of Europe, our Beer Hall has a giant 30 tap bar, seating for 250 people, and is designed as a welcoming place for people of all walks of life to come together. Stomping Ground believes great beer should be for everyone and brew a range of beers to suit all tastes.
“Our most popular beers are our core beers (now available in cans too) ‘Gipps St’ Pale Ale, ‘Laneway’ Lager and ‘Hop Stomper’ IPA. Our cans of ‘Bunker’ Porter and Guava and Watermelon ‘Smash’ Goses have also been popular. On tap people also live our ‘Upside Down’ Brown Ale and ‘Little Foot’ Little IPA.”
Welcome to Thornbury
A former car factory turned food truck stop, Welcome to Thornbury should be at the top of your list when it comes to lunch. Whether you fancy an authentic tiramisu, mouth-watering fried chicken, Danish doughnuts or traditional Polish cuisine, this food market has it all. To find out more about what makes Welcome to Thornbury so unique, we spoke to director Scott Assender: “The venue has a longstanding connection to the community as a former car manufacturing factory. Today you’ll find Melbourne’s largest beer garden and food truck stop populated by diverse crowds and ever-changing food offerings.
“Welcome to Thornbury is a great snapshot of what Melbourne has to offer. The accessible location boasts a rotating daily food line-up of between 3-8 food vendors, of a rotating 80+ food trucks. Everyone in the family will find something they like. We are also known for hosting huge monthly events like the infamous ‘Chicken Nugget Festival’ and super cute ‘Tiny Dog Festival’. Check out our Facebook calendar of events to see what aligns with your stopover.”
With so much to choose from, we wanted to know what Scott would recommend people try at Welcome to Thornbury: “We believe sharing is caring so definitely grab a jug of Summer Sangria to satisfy the squads’ cravings. Pair this with the fish tacos from the new Mamasita food truck and you’ve got a winner. Woking Amazing’s incredible vegan peeking duck pancake with a pint of 4 Pines Summer Ale always amazes the crowds. End your night with Danish doughnuts from Jamm’d, but always ask for extra ice cream.”
Tempted to try out city life in Australia? Explore Melbourne on a cruise holiday with Celebrity Cruises, as well as other beautiful destinations in Australia and New Zealand.
Image Credit: Easey’s, Chuckle Park – Christopher Sutherland, Welcome to Thornbury – Eugene Hyland, Stomping Ground