As the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne takes its last gasps for the year, some may be wondering if there is life after this flurry of horse racing fever? Well, for the sporting philistines amongst us, who are nonetheless celebrating Michelle Payne’s historic win with Prince of Penzance in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, we know there is much more to this fine city and its surrounds to fulfil our every desire!

Prince of Penzance wins the Melbourne Cup 2015

With its world-renowned coffee obsession, its predilection for edgy and ‘fringe’ events, its showcase of local designers and artists, its awe-inspiring diversity of food and wine experiences, and its moody, grey, sophisticated, yet slightly grungy, ambience, Melbourne is the cultural melting pot of Australia.

Degustation at Morris Jones, South Yarra

Degustation at Morris Jones, South Yarra

Never content with the mundane, the city has an abundance of quirky and boutique places to stay, such as the Art Series Hotels, each of which features a different Australian artists’ works liberally splashed across the public spaces (namely Olsen, Blackman, Cullen and Larwill); and the Adelphi in Flinders Lane, which greets you with an Angelina Jolie pout in the foyer, complete with liquorice all-sorts stools and award-winning Om Nom Kitchen and Bar and Ezard restaurant. The Ovolo Laneways in Little Bourke St likewise has a heavy art focus (this time graffiti), a ‘help yourself’ foyer buffet and a rather fabulous penthouse suite with balcony and full-sized kitchen – perfect for that special milestone celebration. There’s also the more refined Lyall Hotel and Spa in South Yarra and the regal Royce Hotel on St Kilda Road.

Artwork at The Cullen Hotel

Artwork at The Cullen Hotel

But my favourite would have to be the Hotel Lindrum.  Once home to coffee and tea merchants and then a billiard hall, this now 59-room boutique hotel in Flinders St is oozing charm and character, with just the right amount of service intervention, whilst still managing to feel like you are relaxing at home, albeit with servants! The foyer and bar areas are welcoming and luxe – with an open fire in the winter to accompany your pre-dinner cocktail.  The Felt Restaurant is casual yet sophisticated – and effortlessly manages to transition from airy breakfast venue to an intimate evening dining experience.  The billiard table in the nearby ante-room is a key attraction and a novel way to socialise with friends before bedtime. A wide staircase and corridors lead you to character-filled rooms, which are comfortable with a subdued elegance – so very Melbourne!

Hotel Lindrum_bar-01

Hotel Lindrum

Hotel Lindrum

Australia’s second largest city is overflowing with dining options, and I have picked five of my favourite restaurants, which you can read about on the Evvoke blog, as well as lots of other options, particularly to be found down the myriad laneways across the city. There is also a vast array of things to do at any time of year, but if you are into cerebral pursuits, you can’t go past The Wheeler Centre and The School of Life – the latter which I have also reviewed on the Evvoke blog. Don’t pass up the opportunity to catch a tram which really is the most fun you can have on public transport, and it’s even free in the central business district!

Outside the city, there are mountains, beaches, wineries, quaint country towns and spectacular scenery.  If you’ve already conquered the vineyard trails of the Yarra Valley, then your next adventure really should be the Mornington Peninsula. Both are serviced by some fantastic wine tasting tours, of which I can highly recommend the small, intimate and highly informed Wine and Food Lovers’ Tours.  I was recently chauffeured by owner and operator Patricia Scales on the Wine and Chocolate Indulgence tour and it was a wonderful day of tasting excellent wines at boutique cellar doors, eating wholesome food at the bustling Merricks General Store, and finishing off with coffee and chocolate at Mornington Peninsula Chocolates – simply divine!

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula

If this is all sounding enticing, yet somewhat overwhelming, you can always join the Evvoke Six Senses in Six Days tour to Melbourne in January or July 2016, and enjoy the luxury of someone having sourced all the best bits and organised all the logistics for you!

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