Flavours of Urban Melbourne Synopsis
After the international success of Flavours of Melbourne, there was an obvious need to publish a sequel to showcase Melbourne’s thriving urban food scene. Flavours of Urban Melbourne showcases the profound ebbs and flows of styles and cultures within the café and restaurant culture in this capital city of food. East meets west, meets north and south. A fusion of cultures flourishes together, as well side-by-side. It is hard to put a finger on the pulse, let alone describe the free-fall movement that the city’s suburbs are experiencing today. Flavours of Urban Melbourne captures the essence of the city’s food scene today. Complete with histories, recipes and stories of select venues, the book is bound to be another international success. (Smudge Publishing)
BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek
The latest product of Smudge Publishing, Flavours of Urban Melbourne displays the quality design that we have come to expect from this family–run publishing house. Jonette George and her daughters specialise in presenting the best of culinary and cultural Victoria in words and evocative photography.
This time the theme is urban Melbourne and three photographers brilliantly capture the essence of restaurant dishes, atmospheric interiors and the vibe of Melbourne’s streets and laneways.
The book is in a weighty coffee table format (260x280mm 440pp HC) but divided by the compass with colour-coded end papers so that it doubles as a guide for planning your visit. It is encyclopaedic in scope and ranges from tiny cafes in recycled industrial spaces to the glossy fit-outs that make the bankers sweat.
Each venue featured provides a recipe for one dish, ranging from a simple toasted sandwich to the method of curing lamb ‘bacon’ (allow about a week…). As with many restaurant recipes the attention to detail sometimes tips towards the precious (does it have to be Himalayan salt?) but sometimes this is leavened by a more forgiving style such as “Tortillas – El Paso will do”. In short, the diversity of the recipes is a delight. So it’s a pretty handy cookbook too.
Flicking through the 400-plus pages what emerges for me is the way Melbourne food culture continues to evolve in an apparently endless, rich stew of influences. In the 1950s as European refugees shipped in, Melbourne was aroused from a Menzian, Anglo-centric slumber. Strange food started to appear. Barry Humphries in his autobiography recounts an early experience of Italian food in Melbourne and a first encounter with ‘twigs’ in his pasta. “These were herbs!” – back then, excitingly exotic.
Now the Italian and the Greek influences have assimilated and the next waves brought the foods of Asia, North Africa, North American diner and Mexican taqueria. So too, the buildings that house the cafes and restaurants have evolved, as grand 19th Century buildings and industrial spaces morph into gleaming, modern dining rooms and eclectically furnished cafes. One example is the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg. Built in 1856, now housing a Mauritian restaurant with décor designed by pop cult artist Ian Blokkeraus. In Collingwood, the Robert Burns Hotel rather than piping in the haggis, serves authentic Spanish dishes, blending the best of local produce with Spanish and South American imports.
That’s just a taste from a long list of fascinating venues with inspired dishes from diverse cuisines, served up in interiors that fizz with a modern Melbourne imagination.
BOOK RATING: 4 /5
~ Tony Ziemek is the lead editor of Ed Fresh Editorial Services.
BOOK DETAILS: Flavours of Urban Melbourne (Smudge Publishing)
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