Melbourne’s restaurant scene is globally renowned, with Heston Blumenthal having added some Fat Duck magic to the city’s reputation during their residency at Crown Towers. But away from the likes of Attica, Cutler & Co and other renowned eateries, Melburnians enjoy a fresh market landscape with few peers in the southern hemisphere.
The city’s multicultural tapestry means that pretty much every cuisine and country you can think of is represented somewhere across the scores of food markets. Here are some of the venues which demonstrate why markets are such an integral part of Melbourne’s way of life:
Slow Food Farmer’s Market
Slow Food’s mantra of ‘Good, clean and fair’ is truly taken to heart at this monthly market. It’s appropriately situated in the beautiful surrounds of Abbotsford Convent and if it’s not in season and not grown or raised organically, then you won’t find it. They promise “no long cold storage, no gases, no over processed chemical laden foods and no GMOs” but do offer free range, rare breed and heritage meats, fish, cheeses, pasta, condiments, bread, honey, olive oil, flowers, seedlings and more.
As the name suggests, the suburb of Footscray is home to one of the most authentic Asian markets outside of the Asian continent. Tanks of live seafood, mounds of fragrant herbs, sugar cane juice and cacophonous shouts from vendors and buyers in multiple languages means you can close your eyes and feel instantly transported many thousands of miles north. It’s a comparatively small venue but the atmosphere more than makes up for the size.
If you thought Little Saigon was diverse, then wait til you hit Dandedong. Like Melbourne in microcosm, the faces, voices and produce truly span the globe. Spices are front and centre, from fiery Ethiopian chillis to sacks of aromatic Indian cardamom and cloves. On the cooked food front, there are more than 25 cafés and takeaway food options, while kids will love the alpacas, lambs and guinea pigs at the animal farm.
Boroondra is one of the largest and longest-running farmers markets operating in Melbourne. Accredited with the Victorian Farmers Market Association, the market encourages shoppers to talk directly to the farmers and producers and learn about the ingredients and processes. It’s all part of their philosophy of shopping in a community, reducing food miles and supporting small primary producers. The market is held on the third and fifth Saturday of each month in Hawthorn and money raised supports local community projects.
Located in the chichi suburb of South Yarra, Prahran is a domestic gastronome’s paradise that calls itself ‘The food lovers market’. While prices can be higher than elsewhere further out in the city, few can rival the depth of knowledge and experience of the producers and merchants here. Whether it’s the silkiest Jamon Iberico, fresh pasta, gelati or coffee to make even caffeine-mad locals weak at the knees, Prahran delivers in style.
Last but by no means least comes the daddy – or mummy – of the city’s food markets. This open air giant is apparently the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and has been going strong for over 135 years. The location couldn’t be more central in the heart of inner city Melbourne, while the outstanding array of fresh food, variety of stalls and cosmopolitan atmosphere ensures that it’s one of Melbourne’s most visited attractions with over three million visitors a year. Sundays offer Bazaars and Food Fairs featuring feasts and cultural celebrations from different communities and food-themed indulgences such as “food on a stick” or proper barbecue, while summer night markets ensure the wine and music flows in equal measure. The seven-acre site is an all-day gourmet discovery, even before you hit the lifestyle and brocante sections.