it´s nearly summer in melbourne

December 2018

It’s officially summer in Australia, but judging by the ever-changing climate, it has not quite arrived, writes John Nielsen. But hey there are plenty of things to do that are not too weather dependent…….. so here are a few things you have to do when visiting Melbourne!

Have a coffee…… Melbourne’s dining scene is in general pretty good, but taking it up a notch is the “café scene” where you can really feast your pallet on great coffee and various delights. Melbourne has been the Australian capital of coffee, mainly due to the early Italian settlers who inspired a new generation of cool gourmet cafés. Here on the menu is not just great coffee, but excellent food. Lygon street in the inner-city suburb of Carlton was the early trendsetter, with great Italian family dining. But as Melbourne has grown from a classic European business city to a more modern metropolis, you’ll find side streets with unexpectedly trendy transport caffs, where the beans are often imported from exotic regions of Central & South America or parts of Africa. The lanes are also often home to wonderful street art, attracting first rate graffiti artists who bring the streets to life. A visit to Hosier Lane is a must and will change most people’s view about graffiti!

One “importer” and multi-café owner is the award-winning barista David Makin of, who many believe has coffee running in his veins! His charisma and strong foundations have seen David encourage numerous young café entrepreneurs & leading baristas. The HQ of Axil is on Burwood Road, Hawthorn, but if you look around the city, you will find a few boutique cafés or hole-in-wall style cafés, where Axil Coffee is the brand. Walk down Flinders Lane from the Sofitel on Exhibition Street and you will come across various cafés. Try Chapter House café next to St Paul’s Cathedral, where local business people meet for coffee and great food!

Have some chocolate….

A new concept opened in January 2018: Ratio Cocoa Roasters at 196 Sydney Road, Brunswick. The founder, Debbie Makin, sister of Axil Coffee founder, David, saw an opportunity in the market for setting up a “Bean to Bar” chocolate concept, importing chocolate beans from traditional coffee-growing areas and serving organic chocolate, desserts and, of course, Axil coffee, in the chocolate café. The place is a must for any chocolate lover, but also a great educational experience as you discover that chocolate does not come just from Belgium or Switzerland!

Have a great meal……..

More food, you say…… well yes! With a huge array of top-class restaurants in Melbourne, ask the hotel concierge to help you book (you’ll almost certainly require a booking); anything from great Asian dining to more modern Australian & European fare. There are flavours to suit most pallets and… wallets! Dine at Vue de Monde and experience a truly stunning view of Melbourne during your spectacular 16-course Australian-inspired menu. Or walk down Flinders Lane and choose between French bistros or maybe the best Italian “Il Solito Posto” in St. George Parade by Grand Hyatt Melbourne for a rather more corporate lunch/dinner. Cecconi’s is ideal for any celebration. For sensational pasta, head to Tipo 00 on Little Bourke St. The depth of dining in Melbourne is endless.

Have to visit the A O

As the summer heats up, the world’s top tennis players begin arriving down under in late December to play various tournaments in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth, culminating in Melbourne with the Asia Pacific Grand Slam: the Australian Open The tournament played at the superb Rod Laver Arena is well worth a visit. From mid-January, you can walk around at your leisure and watch the best players, or try and secure tickets to the main arenas of centre court and other show courts.

Why not try the Boxing Day test?

A wonderful tradition is the annual Boxing Day test match at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), where 90,000 cricket fans gather to watch Australia and, this year, India, battle for honours as part of the test series. Only a short walk from the Rod Laver Arena and a short tram ride from the city, it’s well worth spending an afternoon enjoying a truly international sporting event.

You have to visit the wine regions……….

Yes, you simply have visit the wine regions that are only an average hour’s drive from the city. Rent a car and head to the delightful playground of Melbourne’s rich, the Mornington Peninsula, or head up to the beautiful Yarra Valley and visit Moet & Chandon’s Australian home, Domaine Chandon: If you feel like staying the night, no worries: both wine regions offer excellent accommodation, be it the traditional Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley or the uber chic Jackalope Hotel on the Willow Creek Estate in the Mornington Peninsula. Needless to say, dining in the wine regions is a never-to- be-forgotten experience and so, of course, are the wines! Stay at Jackalope and dine at the 1-Hat (star) Doot Doot or just do lunch at the Rare Hare, modern family dining in the Willow Creek Estate winery.

You have to visit the Tan……

After all this eating,, you might feel the need for a walk or jog! The beautiful Botanical Gardens are located along the Yarra River in the inner city and have a 3.9 km path, known as The Tan, around the gardens, much favoured by locals for keeping fit. The gardens are simply stunning, with over 10,000 floral species: a wonderful way to spend a morning gazing at Nature’s beauty.

I hope these recommendations will give you inspiration and food for thought.

Melbourne’s international airport is served by most leading airlines from capital cities in the Americas, Europe & Asia.

The writer; John Nielsen has spent 20-years living in Melbourne and over 30 years in the global hospitality industry. He is founder of