If you have read some of the Hungry Hinch restaurant reviews recently you’ll know that 2006 was the year I went on a mission to seek out great Bed and Breakfast places throughout Victoria.
The adventures have been made even more fun now that I have acquired (bought it myself for my own birthday) a sleek, two-door, 1984 Cadillac Biarritz. It is black with a stainless steel roof. No wonder they call it the ‘pimpmobile’.
These weekend forays have led us to places like spa country at Daylesford and the Yarra Valley. And in reviews of country estates I have raved about the fresh fruit and muesli and a variety of breads for breakfast.
(Occasionally, because I am not a walking Melway and my sense of direction can leave a lot to be desired we have seen more of the countryside than we planned. My wife rightly complained that everywhere we were heading can’t possibly be through Dandenong!)
A trip to Mt. Macedon which I used to do to my vineyard and farm in just over any hour – and which has been cut to even less with the news bypasses and ring roads and highways – took us nearly three hours. That included a couple of breakdowns when we ran out of petrol and then out of oil and the engine blew up. I catalogued that disaster after disaster in a feature about the ‘holiday from hell’.
The drive to Yarra Glen should have taken an hour. It took us three. Somehow I did end up in Dandenong!! The trip home took nearly two hours after I somehow lost the Eastern Highway.
My wife, no better at navigating then I am, jokingly suggested that the next time we check into a boutique Hotel in Toorak. And take a cab there and home again. All of ten minutes.
What she didn’t know was that I had already booked our next mystery weekend at a charming little hotel in the CBD where we could spend a weekend as tourists in our own town.
It was great. Didn’t go anywhere near Dandenong., And the place I chose to stay was a small B &B in West Melbourne that its owners describe as the ‘ smallest boutique property’ in Melbourne. Can’t argue. Robinsons In The City has six guestrooms in a warm and friendly environment. It is charming. And it is more than 150 years old.
Robinsons was Melbourne's earliest commercial bakery (circa 1850) and the huge, wood fired, brick bakery ovens are a grand feature of the "Bakehouse" breakfast room.
Each of the guestrooms (two upstairs, four downstairs) is individually furnished and has "private" modern bathroom facilities. Four of the rooms are in the baker’s original home featuring; 12 -foot high, pressed tin, ceilings, an ornate timber staircase and antique furnishings.
From the outside the red brick building looks nondescript. It is obviously Heritage-listed so there are no blinking signs to announce its presence. To be honest, when we pulled up outside the first thing I saw was a crash repair sign for the place next door but inside is a beautiful, tranquil, piece of olde Melbourne. And the location is great as a base for playing tourist in your own town.
It’s right on the edge of the CBD not far from the new Southern Cross (formerly Spencer Street) railway station. Robinsons is a short walk to the main city shopping precinct and not far from Southbank, the Crown Entertainment Complex, Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne Observation Deck, Docklands (New Quay), Telstra Dome and all of Melbourne's transport links. The interstate bus station, the shuttle bus to the airport and the free City Circle tram. As they put it: ‘We are close enough to the action, yet far enough away from the hustle and bustle’.
Our city sojourn was a foodie’s marathon. For lunch we went to The Brasserie at Crown. It was so good I have been back several times since.
They have the best bowl of fish soup I have ever tasted. You know that it has been laboriously made from scratch when you can taste prawn shells and a heap of other fish flavours. It comes with crispy strips of ‘crouton’ on which you smear a tasty spread and then float it in the bowl of soup.
The Brasserie has some of the best French food in Melbourne and is proving to be real competition for No.8 which is right next door.
From there we went for a wander around the Queen Victoria markets which I had forgotten is so big that it seems to cover about three MCGs. Right in the city.
Back to our large clean and comfy room with a massive super-king sized bed and a game of Scrabble (well I did write two books about it) before heading out for dinner.
I had heard some rave reviews about a new place in Little Bourke Street called Oyster. It has the ritzy feel of Circa in St. Kilda. Not surprising when I discovered that they had poached a lot of Circa’s staff. It’ll feature in a detailed review in the Hungry Hinch column shortly but let me tell you it is a great, stylish place to take interstate guests.
Next morning I drove through a fine misty early morning rain to Flinders Street station to pick up all the Sunday papers and then back for yet another great BBB – Bed & and Breakfast breakfast.
In the Bakehouse, alongside the huge old ovens with their yawing mouths, my yawing mouth was fed with heaps of fresh fruit salad and Greek yoghurt plus muesli. And some toast with a choice of jams, marmalades or honey. And a plunger of ground coffee .
We were going out for lunch at Riva in St.Kilda (see review) albeit a late one and so I passed on the “country- style” breakfast – organic eggs, locally smoked bacon, market fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. And the pancakes and seasonal berries.
They also have a ‘butler’s pantry’ for complimentary late night tea or coffee and a port. Plus a communal fridge that you can keep white wine and beer cold in.
A good party idea: A group of family or friends could book all six rooms for a weekend getaway and maybe go to a show in the theatre district or a footy game at Telstra Dome.
It may be located in an old bakehouse but Robinsons is no half-baked idea.