This weekend I ended up at Cookie on Swanston Street twice, on two consecutive nights. I’d been before, for coffee in the afternoon, had dinner there on Thursday night, and drinks on Friday night. I now feel like I’m sufficiently equipped to review the place from every angle possible.

My two beverage experiences were fantastic. I had a great coffee with great atmosphere on a Saturday afternoon, and last Friday night the bartender took at least 20 minutes making my mojito and it was worth every minute.

However, my dinner experience left something to be desired. Our waiter returned to the table to tell me my choice of wine had run out, and then again to tell me my choice of meal was unavailable. The wine I did get was fine, and the meal was decent, but nothing amazing. I would have been happier if I hadn’t gotten my hopes up for two choices that turned out to be unavailable.

My friend ordered the sparkling red, and though there is only one sparkling red option on the menu, that had run out as well and she was forced to have white wine.

My feeling is that if it’s on the menu, it should be available to order.


Marios Cafe

I live clear on the other side of the planet from my mother. My boyfriend’s mother lives on the other side of the country. So on mothers day, the last thing on my mind was that people might be out and about treating their mothers to breakfasts and brunches (and flowers, walking down Brunswick Street I could barely squeeze past the queue at the flower shop).

So I was dismayed when it started to look like my brunch date with some out-of-town friends might not be possible, as there might not be any free tables at any café all along Brunswick street.

But luckily we found Mario’s, and the man himself had a table for us. That and a waiter in a waistcoat that was so attentive that a couple of times I looked up and realised he’d been perched by our table for a few minutes waiting for a lull in the conversation to ask if we needed more drinks.

The place isn’t glam, it’s not trendy, but it feels like a staple that’s been around for ages, knows it’ll outlast all the new young things, and sticks by the favourites it’s been serving for years.

And all day breakfasts. Did I mention all day breakfasts?

I have to admit that I rarely venture to Chapel Street for nightlife. This may be a generalisation, but I’ve found that usually it means standing in queues and running the risk of having most of my male friends left standing outside the door, knocked back by the bouncer.

This is entirely the case at Electric Ladyland. But the place is so cool that I’m willing to set it all aside. The bar is one large room with small groups of red leather couches clustered along the walls, and a large bar in the middle, with plenty of bar staff.

The music is great, not too loud for good conversation, and the atmosphere feels cool and sophisticated without being stuffy. Go early on weekends and you’ll walk straight in, snag a couch spot, and be set up for the rest of the night.

Lee Jeans

I love jeans, and it is my opinion that a quality, classy pair of jeans can beat out a dress or business attire any day, when worn appropriately. Just look at all the stars that turn up on the red carpet in a glitzy top and a great pair of jeans.

Last weekend I was shopping on Chapel Street and stepped into the Lee Jeans shop. If you can’t find a pair of jeans in the place that suits you, you’re a lost cause. The shop is almost like a jeans bar, where all the options are spread out in front of you on a wide counter, from widest to skinniest leg. Behind the bar is a sales associate, who gives you your size from the racks behind the bar and is ready to offer suggestions on different fits and colours, and how to care for each pair.

Lee jeans don’t come cheap, but they’re not exorbitantly priced either. Besides, you’ll live in them, and you pay for what you get.

I may have found the best coffee in Melbourne, and it comes from a very unexpected location. I won’t say I’ve definitely found it… in a city like Melbourne where coffee is more important than almost any other food or drink that would be much too ambitious an assumption. But in my three months of living here it’s the best I’ve come across so far.

And it is served in the RMIT City cafeteria. Unlikely, yes. But undeniable. Smooth, never bitter, thick foam, nice and hot, and with just the right amount of choc sprinkled on top of my capp.

Who knows how it came to be? But I’ve also been told that some of the best dim sims in Melbourne are produced in that very same cafeteria. So maybe RMIT is doing something right in there.

For the Anzac day game, Collingwood v. Essendon, a friend of mine grabbed a group of us tickets in the MCC members section. Now, perhaps I should preface this review by admitting that I would have normally been sitting in my Collingwood Members seat, as I have for every other game, amidst the crazies and loudmouths. Just to put things in context.

But in the MCC members section, this was not the rowdy footy spectating I was used to! All those collared shirts! All those designer handbags! All the polite applause! And while the rest of the supporters roared, my section remained quiet, with maybe a quiet mutter of dissent here and there.

I could blame this on Essendon supporters falling quiet after the middle of the second quarter (there wasn’t much to roar about after that point). But where was Collingwood? I could see the scarves throughout my section, but where were the shouts and the yells and the rude swearing?

Maybe it’s a sign of my lack of class, but put me with the loudmouths any day, thank you very much. That way when I involuntarily stand in my seat and shout for improper disposal I’ll be joined by a chorus of others, even louder than myself.

Now that temperatures in Melbourne are dropping, I’ve been on the lookout for a great little cosy pub for the winter. Somewhere to meet friends spontaneously for drinks, grab a warm meal, or go for a lazy weekend breakfast. Finally, I’ve found one.

The Gertrude Hotel is a great, classic, simple pub with street-side tables out front and warm leather couches by the fireplace inside. It’s down to earth, friendly, and a great neighbourhood retreat.

I’m sure that on chilly nights and weekends I’ll be popping in for a Pipsqueak cider or warm breakfast. Most nights during the week they also serve up featured $10 mains.