When visiting Melbourne, I believe many travellers stick with the tried and true locations like St Kilda, Toorak, South Yarra, Carlton and the CBD, diving into iconic destinations like the MCG, Southbank, Docklands and Lygon St to name a few. Not this time around for me! On this adventure I decided to step outside the box and see if the word I had heard about Melbourne’s West was on the money.
First on the agenda was to sort some accommodation, so while I was stepping out of the box with my location I elected to do the same with where I’d rest my head. My destination and base was Williamstown, an enjoyable 60 minute ferry ride from the Southbank precinct down the Yarra and across Port Phillip Bay.
I must be honest and say I have never been big on the old B&B. I guess I just thought I would be governed by the home owners and maybe it would be a little awkward with the other house guests. Not that I am backward in coming forward, I was probably worried that I might invade their space more than the other way around. Anyway, I was biting the bullet and after seeing the reviews of The Captains Retreat, the choice was made for me, and I was actually keen as mustard to check it out. It also had an intriguing past having once housed a Nunnery and also a brothel, now that’s ironic!
I was greeted by the owner Melissa who’s charm more than matched that of the exterior itself and made me feel at home from the get go. I managed to get a look at a few of the rooms and they were all varied in style and size, but all very cosy and all with queen beds and ensuites.
It just so happened that I scored the best on ground and was shown to The Captains Spa Suite which was enchanting to say the least. Old style furnishings with its own loungeroom and fireplace and a super-sized bathroom to boot. Yes, this was definitely the right choice.
After settling in and giving myself a little spruce up I decided to go for a little pre-dinner wander and check out some of the heritage buildings that are very prominent in this historic seaport. I love that they have preserved and maintained the history here; you really get a sense of what it was actually like in days gone by.
Amongst these beauties I just happened to come across a little watering hole that was calling my name. The Steam Packet Hotel was built back in 1863 and was a favourite to many of the local seamen. It’s a cosy tavern that has kept a lot of its charm. The clientele has changed a little though and is now popular for its upscale pub grub and local craft beers. A good venue for lunch or dinner or in my case a pre-dinner beverage.
Excited by my dinner choice I downed my bevy and took the short walk back along the foreshore to a venue that probably has the best location in Williamstown. As the lights of Melbourne city came aglow across the bay I was hoping the food would be as pleasing as the view. Pier farm has just reopened with new owners and I was warmly greeted by Roberto Scheriani.
As it was a little chilly for the outside deck I was happy to take a lovely corner table that looked across the non-complicated but chic restaurant floor and still see the lights in the yonder. To me there is nothing more disappointing when an establishment has a brilliant location and relies on it to prop up misgivings in other areas. Well that is certainly not the case at Pier Farm.
Every part of my experience was absolutely top shelf. Friendly and attentive service, a superb selection of wines and the food itself was just divine. Oysters served simply and not over complicated, letting the freshness and nature itself do its work. This was followed by, without a word of a lie, the best seafood pasta I have ever eaten in my life to this day.
Once again unpretentious, fresh as fresh can be and the perfect mix of the oceans delicious offerings gently massaged into house made al dente pasta by head chef David Maclean.
I can only imagine how enjoyable a lazy Sunday arvo on the deck would be like, quaffing a few oysters and sipping on some bubbles while watching the maritime movements.
Back to my home away from home to a wonderful slumber and up early for another big day in Melbourne’s West.
I knew today was a bit of a foodie exploration so I took advantage of the terrific bike and walking track that goes right around the foreshore from beyond Williamstown itself around to Altona. It’s all about deposits and withdrawals my friends! Plenty of locals and visitors out burning a few calories while enjoying the outlook.
Now that I had appeased my conscious and the guilt factor in knowing I will partake today. I made my way back to The Captains Retreat for a breakfast fit for a King. Fresh fruits, homemade muesli, and a fully cooked offerings as well, served in open dining area that backed out to a lovely deck and it was actually enjoyable having a chat to fellow boarders as they consumed some sustenance for a day of business meetings or exploring like myself.
Too early to continue my foodie forensics of the region I decided that more exercise would only benefit me in today’s undertakings so I planned a little SUP experience – that is, stand up paddleboarding. Sunseekers operate out of Altona beach and can help you out with SUP hire and lessons are if you are really keen. Or get on board for a 90-minute sunrise tour during summer. I was more than happy just to enjoy a paddle around on my own. Relaxing and getting a little workout at the same time.
Invigorated, washed and dried I popped into a local café that offered an extensive menu that began at breaky and continued until it was end of the day drinks. Vince and Me has a few different areas to enjoy depending on the weather. A lovely little alfresco spot for those summer delights, a light and bright upstairs level if you looking for protection from the elements. On this day both were getting a workout. The food looked delicious as you can see by the photo, but not being a coffee drinker, I can only vouch that the hot chocolate was delectable.
The afternoon had me making my way to what may be described as the melting pot of Melbourne’s West.
Sunshine is known for its mix of nations with people of Vietnamese, Chinese, Afghan, Maltese, Greek and African heritage calling it home.
This has only been a bonus for those looking for an eclectic mix of foods from these many backgrounds and I thought the best way to tackle this was to just have a small graze and get a taste of Sunshine. A quick summation from me, but you could come here for a month and still be trying something new!
I figured a touch of Yum Cha would be a good start as I could contain myself with a couple of small offerings, well at least try! Gold Leaf is apparently an institution in Sunshine and I could see mid-morning on a Tuesday it was certainly popular, with plenty of punters digging in heartily.
I settled in with some Chinese tea and a serving of Prawn Har Gow.
From my first bite I knew I was going to struggle holding back on the intake – they were so delectable. By the time I had inhaled them I somehow had two more dishes on my table. Well I didn’t come here for the decor, which was a little garish. When the food is as tasty as this was, well who cares what it looks like. I will return!
Next stop was one of the many Vietnamese options.
Pho Hien Saigon sits in Hampshire Rd and the beef pho is not only the best in the west but would take on any comers from the whole of Melbourne! It’s this simple, flavoursome, fresh cheap eats served quick and easy!
I rolled myself to my final foodie feast which was out of the main drag in Glengala Rd Sunshine West. Sunshine Social is something out of the box. Setting up camp in an old service station site you will enjoy the best local produce cooked over smoking hot charcoal. It’s a BBQ with a creative spin and even though I was busting at the seams, I managed to devour a super tasty pork and coleslaw roll with vigour. On that note it was time to lie down and let the food coma subside.
Really, I had only scrapped the surface of what Melbourne’s West had on offer and will return for part two soon.
Visit www.melbourneswest.com.au for more info.