Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published January 8th 2012
Melbourne's known for 'four seasons' weather: days that combine summer heat, winter chill, spring rains and autumn warmth. This constant bait-and-switch can get old, though, and veteran Melbournians often long for consistent sunlight. In the middle of cloudy skies and gloomy afternoons, can we find a tropical atmosphere?
Fortunately, yes – there are a few places in this city that successfully evoke the spirit of palm trees and coconuts – but you have to know where to look. Here are a few suggestions for where to look once summer's over.
You can't go wrong with Trippy Taco on 234 Gertrude St. Be aware that Trippy Taco has moved recently from its previous location on Smith St – however, it's barely shifted twenty metres. It's a very self-consciously Mexican restaurant, with bright orange walls and a general sun-and-sand feel. Try a Corona (or something that actually tastes like beer) and kick back with a smile on your face. Trippy Taco's dishes are full of strong, varied tastes – the breakfast burrito, for example, with scrambled eggs, avocado, black beans and salsa – just the thing to banish thoughts of the uniformly grey sky outside.
The person who decided to put this in a burrito must have been a genius.
The music is upbeat, tending to classic and yacht rock. It really helps to create the illusion that you're on a holiday, whether you're taking a half-hour break from work or the whole day off. And who says you can't have a half-hour holiday? Not the staff here, that's for sure.
Another Mexican place, Fonda (on 248 Swan St, Richmond) manages to evoke a summer feel without any décor tricks at all. Their formula is simple: authentic Mexican beer, frankly stellar food, and friendly service. Whatever you order here, you'll go away satisfied – from the quinoa burrito and zucchini tacos for vegetarians to the juicy beef burritos and fish tacos for everyone else. Order a bowl of chips as well, if only to sample the delicious chipotle aioli. You might just end up going for seconds.
The power of excellent food to give a hint of the tropics can't be underestimated. Try it for yourself: sit in the outdoor area on a rainy, miserable day, shut your eyes, and bite into one of the burritos. You'll be instantly transported to a better (or at least a tastier) place.
Tropicana Juice/Food Bar
At 213 Elizabeth Street, Tropicana Juice/Food Bar does its best to capture a sunny atmosphere. The entrance is quite literally covered in fruit: mesh bags of oranges hang around the door frame, while bananas and pineapples decorate the walls and the sign that reads 'Tropicana'. There's no Melbourne black here, everything is brightly coloured and vibrant. Hang out inside on a rainy day and let the cheerful attitude of the staff and beautiful décor shake you out of a foul mood.
Tropicana Juice/Food Bar's great strengths are its breakfast menu and juice menu. Widely touted as the greatest hangover cure in Melbourne, their complex and fresh juices are guaranteed to give you a vitamin fix in the morning. The breakfast is delicious as well, with reliable standards like fried eggs and beans next to sweeter options like waffles. The coffee is subpar for Melbourne, unfortunately, but who'd order coffee when such elaborate juices are available? Try the Mango Colada or their mysterious Mystery Special.