A visit to Queen Victoria Market, or “Vic Market”, located on the northern fringe of the city centre, is a superb introduction to Melbourne’s vibrant food culture and will have you rubbing shoulders with everyone from government ministers to the city’s best chefs. Running for 128 years, it’s one of the oldest markets in Australia and is liveliest at weekends when buskers compete with spruiking stallholders for your attention.
Follow your nose to the deli section, characterized by its strong smells and shops selling regional specialities such as Jindi Triple Cream Brie and Milawa’s tasty goat’s cheese, as well as lesser-known fusions like kangaroo biltong (South African-style dried meat). Arriving hungry you’ll find the free tastings will put a stop to the pangs as quickly as they tempt you to lighten your wallet. Greek, Italian, French and Polish stalls stock everything from marinated octopus to juniper sausage, while speciality butchers sell emu and crocodile. If you’re looking for more traditional meat offerings, head to the Meat and Fish Hall. Here, competition is fierce, with dozens of butchers supplying prime cuts from legs of lamb to Japanese-style Wagu beef, and fishmongers’ stalls groan under an impressive array of seafood ranging from northern Australian wild barramundi, Victorian crayfish and fresh Tasmanian oysters.
The fruit and vegetable market reflects the seasons, dominated by root vegetables in winter and stone fruits in summer – the proximity of Southeast Asia means exotic fruits like mangosteens, rambutan and the pungent-smelling durian are also available. If you’re after something less epicurean, however, try the German Bratwurst shop for a sauerkraut and mustard covered sausage, or the American Doughnut Van, serving up bags of jam-filled indulgence for a few dollars.
Queen Victoria Market is open Tues & Thurs–Sun, see http://www.qvm.com.au for further details.