How to Spend a Saturday in Melbourne

By Mark Trodden | October 10, 2006 1:57 am

On Saturday, I slept in a little, to get rid of the last vestiges of jet-lag, and got up at 9am, showered, dressed, grabbed a book and headed out to Lygon Street, half a block from my apartment. I spent a lovely leisurely morning in the university neighborhood, getting cappuccino and croissants at Thresherman’s Bakehouse, followed by a wander around the stores, and a second cappuccino at another cafe.

Then I dropped by a local wine merchant to pick out something for my apartment. I am very partial to Australian Shiraz, and here my choices were so varied that it took me forty minutes to pick out something, and even then, I felt that it was essentially a rather random choice, within my chosen price range. On the way back, I stuck my head into an internet cafe to check email and comments on Cosmic Variance, and then deposited the wine back at my apartment before heading out to meet my good friend and one of my hosts here – Ray Volkas – who treated me to a wonderful Saturday in Melbourne.

We started with a very nice lunch at Chocolate Buddha, a cute Japanese restaurant in Federation Square, across from the famous Flinders Street Station. After that, we took a long walk through town, stopping for an excellent espresso at one of the countless excellent coffee shops, and ending up at the Melbourne Observation Deck, from which we could see the ocean, the whole of downtown, Melbourne Cricket Ground, the roads along which the grand prix is held, and lots more.

Next stop was the Crown Casino. I only really had time to take a quick look at the poker room (where 2005 World Series of Poker winner Joseph Hachem played occasionally, I believe), but there is a distinct possibility that I will find time to go back and play for a while before leaving Melbourne. Ray and I had a nice drink in the atrium bar at the casino, before resuming our tour with a quick walk through the National Gallery of Victoria, which was hosting the final day of a wonderful Picasso exhibition.

We decided not to queue up to see the exhibit, opting instead to head to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, which is housed in a remarkable building, constructed from rusted metal (at least in appearance) and in which we strolled through a (mostly) thought-provoking exhibit of the work of Gillian Wearing.

Modern art is notorious for making one thirsty, and, since we had passed one of the most famous pubs in Melbourne – Young and Jackson’s – on our way into the city center, we walked back across town and stopped in for a couple of pints there. Pubs are something I miss a lot about my home country and it is fun to experience something very close, at least as far as ambience goes, so far away from home.

Before dinner we decided to drop in to The Gin Palace for a spectacularly good martini (OK, I know this is sounding like a boozy day, but it was the weekend, and some ways to see new cities are just so much more fun than others). This gave us just the kick required to get us over to Chinatown, for dinner at The Spicy Fish where we had the famous entree of the same name – a wonderfully prepared dish that is probably the best food I’ve had in Melbourne so far.

No “lads day about town” is complete without a nightcap, and so we headed to the Melbourne Supper Club, to finish off the evening with an after dinner drink (Madeira for me) and a Cuban cigar (that’s right America – a filthy communist cigar – aaaghhhh).

A truly wonderful day, full of culture, fine food, fine drinks, fine cigars, and great company. I’m already a fan of Melbourne, with two weeks left to enjoy its other pleasures.

  • schnitzi

    Welcome to town! I could bore you with recommendations, but I’ll just throw one your way — since you’re up near Lygon St, check out Brunetti’s ( for a lovely caffeinated beverage and astounding desserts.

  • Manas Shaikh

    Hmm looks like I have to go soon. :)

  • JoAnne

    Which Shiraz did you buy? When I was Down Under a few years back I had to buy an extra suitcase just to bring all the wine home.

  • Yvette

    Melbourne, sigh… I went there once for ten days and am now completely nostalgic reading your post. Must find a way back ASAP.

  • Mark

    Thanks schnitzi. You join a list of people recommending that place, so I just had lunch and coffee thre and it was great!

    JoAnne. I think it was a Bobby Burns Shiraz, but don’t have any other info at hand. It turned out to be fine, but nothing special, and in particular, not as good as one that, back in the U.S., I spend far less on and is highly-rated.

  • Brett

    UniMelb physics grad here. I remember Ray’s (third year? long time ago now …) QM lectures well; they were admirably clear, concise and logically structured. Just what you need for quantum!

    I have to say, I never understood the general obsession the department seems to have for Thresherman’s (or Brunetti’s for that matter). Much prefer Universita or Papa Gino’s. Then again I was never a very good physicist so there might be something in that 😉

  • donna

    Ah, fine Australian fighting wine… one of those lovely wines clued me in to my sulfite intolerance… sigh….

  • Henry Holland

    a Cuban cigar (that’s right America – a filthy communist cigar – aaaghhhh)

    Uh oh, you’re going to be on some No Fly list soon, that’s for sure. :-)

    I now have bits of the Monty Python sketch about Australian table wines going through my head…..did you sample any Perth Pink? :-)

  • Michael D

    Another melb uni physics student here…

    Glad to hear Ray showed you a good time.

    I also second Brett’s comments (that’s not Brett from the MARC group is it?) that Ray is one of the outstanding physics lecturers of the school, and few undergrads don’t come out of his 3rd year quantum course saying the same.

    Ray’s students are also fond of taking note of his “Volkarisms” or quirky phrases he likes to use, such as:

    “We take a garden variety set of vectors..”

    “After the dust settles we see that the integral is now just…”

    or one particular great line

    “we look each other in the eye and say ‘we’re physicists’ and just pass the derivative through the integral sign” (mathematicians in the class nearly fainted…)



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  • Clint Jnr

    WOW, That is a great day here in Melbourne.

    Everyone needs to finish a day at the Supper Club, I’m glad you experienced our hidden treasure early!




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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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