Perched on the southernmost rim of the earth, Melbourne is often referred to as the cultural capital of Australia – a title it holds on to with great gusto. A relatively new city, sky-scraping architecture dominates the skyline, but scattered church spires and buildings with carved gables provide a glimpse into its Victorian past.
The climate in Melbourne is unpredictable and a visitor may experience all four seasons in one day. But, autumn (March to May) and spring (September to November) when the temperatures are at their pleasant best are the ideal months to visit. Cross your fingers and hope that a freak storm does not thunder in that day.
Abundant venues for art, film, theatre, music and opera ensure that there is never a dull moment in Melbourne. A vibrant coffee and wine culture and gastronomical delights that can seduce the most stubborn taste buds add to the city’s appeal. All these factors combined to gain Melbourne the rank of the World’s Most Liveable City by The Economist in 2011.
PUTTING THE VIEW IN VUE
After 11 years of winning awards and acclaim, Chef Shannon Bennett decided to take his restaurant to new heights, thus its shift to the top floor of Melbourne’s Rialto building.
Located on the fifty-fifth floor, restaurant Vue de Monde provides a wondrous and unforgettable experience aided by the dramatic view and chic interiors. The vision for the interiors was that it should be as much a testament of Australian history as a reflection of modern Melbourne.
Ink-black walls were chosen to give the place a sophisticated gloss. The armchairs were upholstered with kangaroo leather and furs procured through government-controlled culls. At the heart of the restaurant, the open-plan kitchen counter radiates an orange-yellow glow and exudes warmth into the cool sophistication of the space.
One wall is adorned with neon artwork by artist Joseph Kosuth while light fittings have been used to create interesting montages on another wall. Full-length windows add an element of constant change as the skies transform from the vibrant sunset hues and fill up with sparkling stars and illuminations of the city beyond.
The adjacent Lui Bar may be separate in its existence, but it serves as an ideal complement to the restaurant. The bar faces the south and takes in the view of the bay stretching into the horizon. A variety of seating arrangements have been conceptualized to suit different moods. Sinkable lounges some draped in gold, some in black are clustered in the inner sections, while low sofas form intimate settings along the long windows. But, the head-turner is the ‘chandelier’ that spreads across the ceiling over the bar. Sculpted to appear like transparent clouds, it has been created by Mikala Dwyer from industrial residual plastic.
While the food at Vue de Monde has managed to appeal to all palates across the years, with its new location and makeover, the restaurant has now entered the realm of classic, fine dining amidst a contemporary ambience.
DOWN MEMORY LANE
The Parkville Campus of University of Melbourne serves as an open-air museum tracing Australia’s sculpture history since the 1880’s. Works by celebrated artists grace the campus grounds and facades of the university buildings, and make the routine walk to class a rich cultural experience. The art here ranges from the Atlantes created in 1880 by James Gilbert installed in the porch of the Old Physiology building to the late 20th century black steel creation, Sun Ribbon by Inge King in the Physics building.
LOST AND FOUND
With a city that has so much to offer, it is possible that you may miss a few of its delights. Not if you manage to book yourself into the Lost and Found Hotel Room. Initiated last year, this lost room finds itself in a different location each year for a period of three months, May to July. Furniture, artwork, little knick-knacks that line the shelves and even the bathroom products are resonant of Melbourne’s rich culture.
WANDER IN WONDER
Is it a shop? Is it a museum? It is Wunderkammer! German for Cabinet of Curiosities, it is a storehouse of the bizarre, the esoteric and, at least to some eyes, even the aesthetic. Medical instruments, framed and mounted bugs and flies, world maps and globes, skeletons and more are crammed into this little space. So while the mounted head of a reindeer or human skulls may not be on your shopping list, it is worth stepping into this store for an educative browse.
Text By Himali Kothari