Veg Travel Guide travels to Melbourne for a weekend getaway St Kilda style! St Kilda delivers on the veg food front, the festival front, and all around fun times and atmosphere! Through sheer coincidence Travis & I found ourselves with a Melbourne trip booked on the same weekend as the legendary St Kilda Festival! (Festival Sunday ran on 9 February 2014.) What began as a foiled attempt by Travis to visit family, transformed itself into an opportunity to explore St Kilda and festival it up with old friends. Winning!
Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit. I’m not going to lie, I pretty much fell in love with Melbourne the moment I opened my mouth and took my first bite. If memory serves me correctly, my first bite was at Lentil as Anything, followed later that day by Vegie Bar. I can’t get enough of how vibrant, inclusive, and thriving the food and drink scene is. And each time I go it seems to be getting better and better! But Melbourne is far more than amazing vegan culinary delights alone. Did someone say shopping?! And oh my goodness what about the museums, galleries and exhibitions?!
This trip we got cultured at ‘Designing 007 – 50 years of Bond Style’ at Melbourne Museum. I may have been somewhat less enthusiastic about this particular exhibition than the three Bond-loving fanatics I was accompanying, but I still quite enjoyed it!
A trip to Melbourne normally involves catching up with my favourite Melbourne hipsters from way back, and staying somewhere in the CBD. However this time we decided to stay in St Kilda to avoid the hassle and the hordes travelling there for the Festival. St Kilda has gone through a number of transformations over the years, and is currently experiencing a resurgence as a premiere destination in Melbourne. In our brief weekend stay, St Kilda seemed to have a lot to offer: proximity to the city; popular beaches; bars, bars, and more bars; Botanic Gardens; unique shopping venues; a healthy live music scene; an abundance of people and dog watching opportunities; delectable food precincts; captivating street art and sculptures; and a kind of eerie, Boardwalk Empire-esque esplanade with the imposing Palais Theatre and Luna Park fairground.
Need another reason to love St Kilda? It recently played host to Animal Liberation Victoria's Vegan Market Day! This year the Vegan Market Day was held in March at the Port Phillip Eco Centre. Keep track of the next Market Day and other ALV events by liking their Facebook page.
Friday: We booked a boutique hotel through Agoda that seemed to be right in the thick of things on Fitzroy Street. Would I recommend Tolarno Hotel to fellow veg travellers? Totally! Check out Veg Travel Guide's review of Tolarno Hotel here. We arrived late on Friday night, so after checking in decided just to grab a quiet drink across the road at Cushion Lounge. I thought the name was a little deceptive (or it could’ve just been that my expectations of wall-to-wall cushions complete with a cushion pit were somewhat unrealistic). The bar staff had some impressive beards on display, but that alone probably isn’t enough to for this girl to go back.
Saturday: We’d been given a hot tip about a new vegetarian café in St Kilda, so on Saturday we decided to try it out for brunch with a buddy. However we weren’t very well prepared for the 20 minute walk there in the extreme heatwave conditions Melbourne had graced us with. Did I mention it was sitting around 41 degrees that weekend?! Tip: if you don't want to be a complete heatwave amateur, at least wear a hat. By the time we arrived at Sister of Soul, we were hot, whingey, half blinded by the sun, and had worked up quite an appetite.
Sister of Soul opened in December 2013. For such a young venture, they’ve got a pretty slick operation going on. We were slightly too early for the lunch menu so ordered from the breakfast menu. There are two clearly marked Vegan options (V) for breakfast, the Coconut Sago Pudding, and the Scrambled Tofu on Multigrain Toast. The menu key also includes a VO code (Vegan Option available). I thought I’d be sneaky and ask if I could substitute the scrambled eggs for scrambled tofu in the Sister’s Big Breakfast, despite it not having a V or VO code. This was checked with the chef, and I was told that the scrambled tofu had a lot of other ingredients so is a standalone meal, however they could definitely make it with their standard tofu.
My veganised Big Breakfast came with toast, grilled mushrooms, avocado, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, a potato rosti, and more tofu on one plate than I have ever seen. This was most definitely a big breakfast, and I think I spent about an hour trying to get through it but in the end I had to admit defeat. Every element of the meal was tasty, but I do love me some well-cooked mushrooms, so they were the highlight for me.
Other impressions: the space is nice and open, the staff are friendly, great location on Acland Street, and it’s the perfect spot for watching pooches pass by outside. (Being crazy dog people, we often rate a place based on the number of dog sightings we have there.)
After brunch we did some wandering around Acland Street. You instantly feel like a hipster and one of the cool kids in these parts. One thing I absolutely loved was the ease of finding vegan offerings, when not even looking for them. In a small radius you’ve got Sister of Soul, Lentil as Anything, Mr Natural Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza, falafel and burger joints, juice bars etc.
After some more wandering, we found ourselves at Luna Park. Before we knew it we were lining up with a bunch of kids to ride the great Scenic Railway roller coaster. The Scenic Railway opened in 1912 and is the world’s oldest continually operating roller coaster. As we jumped on board, we were reminded by the ride operator that as the ride is over 100 years old, it is a bit bumpy. Holy moly, she was not lying! Within seconds we were holding on for dear life, all the while screaming and laughing our heads off. This ride has some serious climbs and dips, but also offers picturesque views of Port Phillip Bay below.
After a stroll along the beach we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before our date at the Designing 007 exhibition, followed by dinner. My local veg girlfriend had hooked us up with a reservation at Moroccan Soup Bar, in Fitzroy North. Our dining experience here was amazing! Check out our separate review for Moroccan Soup Bar!
Sunday: On Sunday we got our troops together for ‘Festival Sunday’, part of the St Kilda Festival. If you’re planning on attending St Kilda Festival, it’s worthwhile to plan ahead, as it’s quite the madhouse on the day. The Age reported a grand total of 300,000 people attending to see 150 different artists on 50 stages!!!
Our first plan of attack was to try and escape the wind and heatwave by chilling in a nearby bar for a while. We got some drinks, scored some free matching hats, then took to the streets to see what else was happening. While wandering the streets we stopped to take in some bands, Brazilian samba dancers, food stalls, and even some volleyball. There is really so much to see and do at the festival, but unfortunately, Travis and I were running out of time and had a plane to catch. I heard from our festival buddies who had stuck it out that it picked up even more into the evening.
All in all, Melbourne delivered another stellar weekend, cementing it as one of Veg Travel Guide's favourite weekend getaways! Thank you to our local hosts for providing us with the best of company over the weekend. Until next time.