Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Executive summary by darmansjah

The Capital of the Australian State of Victoria, Melbourne functions as the heart of all business, administrative, cultural and recreational activities. Consisting of 11 suburbs, the city is represented by a dynamic, multi-cultural population, with residents from over 140 nations living together. This harmonious circle is reflected also in Melbourne’s physical landscape-sophisticated and slick, yet juxtaposed with edgy and rough sides at the same time. A wonderful city of contrasts, this is where it’s entirely possible to lunge at the beach in the mornings, have a picnic at the park for tea, before sinking into prolific architecture and catching a live music performance – all in a day.

With a name that offers a nod to the classic naughty-weekend pseudonym, boutique travel specialist Mr & Mrs Smith offers a hand-picked collection of more than 900 stylish hotels around the world. Each property has been personally approved by Smith, and anonymously reviewed by a “tastemaker”, Smith’s trusted band of movers and shakers in the art, food, music, and fashion fields. Luminaries such as chef Raymond Blanc, entertainer Dita Von Teese and actress Sigrid Thornton have all penned intimate accounts of their Smith’s award-winning guidebooks and on its website. We ask current resident Simon Westcott to share his hit-list around the Victorian city.


Taking its cue from the art of Australia’s enfant terrible, the late and great Adam Cullen, The Cullen hotel in fashionable Prahran is lined with original artworks and head-turning prints. Smart studios boast sinuous sofas, a nifty workspace and compact kitchenettes, perfect for whipping up a meal after shopping at Prahran market opposite. I love the New York-style burgers and baked cheesecake at downstairs restaurant Gramercy Bistro, and the to-die-for dumplings and duck at neighbouring Hutong.


Melbourne excels at the inner-city suburb, close to everything but retaining a neighbourhood charm. Fitzroy suburb is its epitome, and nowhere more vibrant than Gertrude Street, with its eclectic mix of fashion, vintage knick-knacks and fabulous food. For a while, everything was east of Fitzroy artery Brunswick Street, but heading west towards Exhibition Gardens is also now being colonized. My current favourite is the innovative Casa Ciuccio, from the guys who brought us Bar Lourinha.


If you’re on Gertrude Street, try you luck at recent accolade-grabber The Everleigh, though you’re likely be pm’call-back’ with its de rigueur no-reservations policy. Or maybe it’s time to leave the intellectual, boho North and head south of the river for more laid-back bayside style. Try the recently re-imagined Circa Bar at the Prince of local hot spot the Albert park Hotel. The CBD is ground zero of Melbourne driking right now, with more cocktails per square metre than Manhattan. Just find a laneway and fullow the lights.


I never tire of going back to Craft on Flinders Lane, for gifts or something wearable or ornamental for myself. Don’t be put off by the ‘Craft’; rather than crocheted quits or stuffed teddy bears, think cutting-edge jewellery design, collectible ceramics and rotating exhibitions from some of the country’s finest artists and artisans. I hate shopping for clothes, but when I must, I kick up a block to the menswear hub at the top end of Little Collins Street, or to local shirtmaker and Japanese fashion importer Andrew Chodo.


It may be a bit of a bleak and soulless journey down Sturt Street to the glorious old tin shed (and former Fosters Brewery) that now houses the Malthouse Theatre, but once there you’ll see some of the best contemporary theatre in Australia. Expect both Malthouse-made creations and drama cherry-picked from the nation’s independent theatre scene. Come early for dinner and a drink, pop across the courtyard to esoteric and under-visited ACCA for head scratching art installations, or limber up with a Saturday morning dance class at the adjacent Chunky Move studios.

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