Ultimate Foodie Tour, Queen Vic Market

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Ultimate Foodie Tour, hosted by the Queen Vic Market. The tour runs three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with each tour running for 2 hours and consisting of a range of tastings, learning about the history of the market, and picking up on some interesting tidbits here and there regarding the stalls and its produce. Each tour comes with a Vic Market shopping bag as well as a $5 shopping voucher that can be used at the market itself.

Our tour started off in the Meat and Fish Hall, where we got to try oysters from the Seafood and Oyster Spot store. These were really fresh, didn't have too strong a fishy flavour that some people don't like, and were a decent size. At the next store, we got to try turkey sausage, which was juicy, but a little on the salty side, as well as peppered kangaroo meat. This was my first time actually trying kangaroo meat, and I found that it was similar to beef, though a lot more lean and similar to eating game.

At Tribal Tastes, an African store, we got to try candied salmon as well as dried beef biltong. The candied salmon is similar to the texture of jerky; the fresh salmon fillet is marinated first, then smoked before it's dried, and still retains a really strong natural flavour. The candied salmon was served on a sweet potato chip, and was really enjoyable. Biltong, like the candied salmon, is lean pieces of meat that is salted and dried in strips. It tasted similar to beef jerky, just a thicker slice with a hint more moisture to it.

There's nothing better than fresh baguettes and warm foccacia bread, and we got to try both with eggplant and hummus dips from Andrew's Bread Shop and Hellenic Deli in the Dairy Hall. We also got to try saganaki olives, dolmades (a Greek vegetarian appetiser made from vine leaves wrapped into small rolls and stuff with rice and herbs) and pickled octopus. The olives were quite salty, even stuffed with saganaki (fried cheese), and I couldn't really taste much flavour in the dolmades, but it was an interesting experience and something I probably never would've otherwise tried!

We also tried Moroccan mint tea from Gew├╝rzhaus Herb & Spice Merchants, which taste like a fusion of green and peppermint tea, with the mint flavour quite subtle and only appearing in the aftertaste, which I actually prefer, as well as a really cool spice blend called Mukhwas. This is an Indian spice that is actually an after meal snack/digestive aid, and  tastes quite strongly like liquorice for some reason! After this, we moved on to a Polish deli where we had a range of ham sausages, as well as rose and sparkling wine from Swords Wines, an Australian wine company that specialises in boutique wines, craft beers and artisan ciders.

No foodie tour is complete without trying cheeses, and this was no exception. At the Epicurean, we tried out camembert cheese, blue cheese and 20 month old vintage cheddar cheese. I'm not a big fan of blue cheeses as the flavour can be a bit overpowering, but this was really enjoyable, and camembert, similar to brie, was a lighter cheese with a very soft texture.

To finish up, we visited the fruits and vegetables section, and tried out a finger lime, which looks a lot like a lady finger, but when squeezed out of its shell actually looks a lot like caviar! The taste was extremely sour and acidic, but tasted great when we tried it with some fresh sweet strawberries.

Our final stop was the Gelosa Gelateria, where we got to try a bunch of the flavours they had, and pick out a cup of our favourite. There's a good mix of fruity sorbets and sweet flavours, and I ended up getting the choc mint one. I found that the sorbets here were a bit creamier than others I've tried, but with a great fruity flavour still. The choc mint gelato was light and creamy, and had a good balance of chocolate to mint.

Big shout out to our tour guide Sarah, who made the experience so enjoyable! I definitely learnt a lot, both about the market itself and random facts as we went through the different stalls. For example, eating/drinking honey from a 5-10km radius from where you live helps negate the effects of hayfever/the pollen build up in your body?

Massive thanks to Darinka for organising this foodie tour, and I would definitely recommend trying it out. Different seasons means you get to try different things at the market, for example in winter they have pastas and mulled wine, as well as the famous jam doughnuts, so there's always something for everyone.

Hash Specialty Coffee, Camberwell

Hash Speciality Coffee is one of the most popular cafes in Melbourne, probably most well known for its fairy floss hot chocolate drink. A second cafe opened up in Camberwell not too long ago, close to the junction, and a short walk from Camberwell Station/trams 70, 72 or 75. The cafe prides itself on using high quality ingredients and supporting local producers.

The cafe is very spacious; it takes up most of one half of the arcade-ish area opposite Boost Juice leading to the Camberwell Sunday Markets. The interior of the cafe is simple, with dark walls and furniture that contrast with the wooden tables and the bright lights from outside of the cafe. Artwork by local artists hang on the walls of the cafe, which are also available for purchase. The staff were friendly and attentive, and there was only about a 15 minute wait for our food.

Lights in the Attic, Hawthorn

Lights in the Attic is located in Hawthorn on Camberwell Rd, about a ten minute walk from Auburn Station with plenty of parking on the side streets. The cafe pride themselves on quality food and coffee, with a relaxing atmosphere to 'bring light to the space in your day'.

The cafe is located on the corner of Camberwell Road and a side street, and is quite spacious with seating both inside and out. Inside, there are booths with curtains to one side, and the use of pastel colours and simple designs gives it a simple and minimalistic decor. The service was really great, with attentive and friendly staff, and our food came out in less than 10 minutes. I had planned to have the Scotch Eggs Birds Nest dish as I had seen it as one of their most popular dishes, but unfortunately when we were ordering, were informed that they were already out, which was a little disappointing.

Darling Cafe, South Yarra

Darling Cafe is a small eatery location on Darling St, the street down from South Yarra station towards the city and also easily accessible by trams 1 and 8. The Asian inspired cafe has a good range of western style breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as a wok section for lunch dishes and a display cabinet of desserts.

The atmosphere at Darling is very lively and vibrant, and the decor is simple with a few plants hanging on the walls on one side, and lights over the communal table on another. Large windows allow plenty of natural light to enter the cafe, which is very brightly lit. We went around 12:30pm on a Sunday and luckily there was only about a five minute wait for a table, however they did put us on a table that was clearly meant for two people even though there were three of us, and so two of us who sat on the one side together ended up being pretty squashed which was quite uncomfortable.

Humble Rays, Carlton

Humble Rays is a small cafe in Carlton located just off Queensberry St, about a 5-10 minute walk from Melbourne Central on the way up to Melbourne Uni. The cafe prides itself on a fun, relaxed environment and the use of seasonal local produce, with a focus on dessert dishes.

We went on a Saturday morning and were lucky enough to only have to wait for about 10 minutes for a table. The service was really great at Humble Rays, with really friend and attentive staff, and our food came out in less than ten minutes, something I'm not really use to at Melbourne cafes! The cafe itself was a lot more spacious than expected from the exterior, and I love the use of pastel green colours with white and wooden furniture to match. It was a little dark in the area we were seated in at the very back, but the front half of the cafe near the large windows allowed for plenty of natural light to enter.

Light Years Cafe, Hawthorn

Light Years Cafe is located in Hawthorn East on Camberwell Road just past the Rivoli Cinemas. It's actually opened by the same people who own Journeyman in South Yarra and Hammer & Tong in Fitzroy, both of which I've been too and thoroughly enjoyed the food at. There's plenty of parking nearby, or the tram 72 is also a short walk away from the cafe.

The cafe itself is a lot larger than expected, and has quite an open, clean space. Tables for four or more make up most of the cafe, with a bench facing outwards, tables of two towards the back and a large communal table near the display cabinet of desserts and sandwiches. Loud upbeat music plays in the background, giving the whole cafe a vibrant atmosphere. The staff were friendly and attentive, and our food came really quickly - it was less than a ten minute wait.

Dish & Spoon, Camberwell

Dish & Spoon is a small cafe in Camberwell, nestled in a little shopping strip opposite Highfield Park just off Riversdale Road. It's close to tram 75, and there's also plenty of parking in the surrounding streets. Priding itself on using local seasonal produce, the cafe has strong customer service which was reflected in the attentive and friendly staff who served us when we were there.

The decor at Dish & Spoon is quite simple, with white walls surrounding most of the cafe apart from the front counter with its black and brick wall. Large wooden lights hang from the ceiling, and the furniture is mostly pale wooden and pastel colours, complementing the walls nicely, and there's also an outdoor seating area to the back of the cafe as well. We went at around 12pm on a Saturday and were lucky enough to grab a table immediately. The atmosphere at Dish & Spoon is lively; there's a constant stream of people coming in and out, in particular people who just come for a coffee, but it never got too noisy or loud that you couldn't hear the people at your table.

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