Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
I recently had the privilege of attending a Food Safari in Richmond. It involved meeting at O'Connell Reserve and choosing lots of delightful foods to load into a picnic hamper and then being whisked by an upmarket boat along the Yarra River to Herring Island for a picnic.
The sun was shining, the water was sparkling. It was a magic day.
This was before setting out on the food safari in O'Connell Reserve
While you probably won't have chance of repeating this same experience until next year's Food and Wine Festival you can certainly replicate the same stunning tastes by doing your own food safari up Bridge Road.
I lived in Richmond in the early 90s and Bridge Road was always a mecca for outlet shopping. That probably changed with the advent of the huge DFOs and a number of shops in Bridge Road were laying idle.
But Bridge Road has reinvented itself as a foodie's heaven. This is especially because of the rapid influx of apartments in the area. Hells bells, there are people who live in Richmond who have never even used their fabulous splash backed, stone benched kitchens because they eat out for every meal. There are just so many great eateries along this well known strip.
So in order to replicate that fabulous food safari you might well want to put on your walking shoes and march up Bridge Road for some of these great food sensations.
Mazzitelli is a dark brooding eatery not unlike those found tucked away in the laneways of Rome and Venice. On the food safari we tasted a couple of their signature dishes.
My favourite was the porchetta panini. Every morning at Mazzitelli porchetta is cooked in a wood-fired oven with fragrant rosemary. It is then sliced thickly and cradled in a thick crusty panini with a thin blanket of rocket, fennel and aioli. These sensations are only available from 11am and the locals know all about them so get in quickly as they sell out fast.
We also got to try their tradizionale tiramisu. Simon Plant from the Herald Sun describe this slice of heaven as "gooey and crunchy with liquor notes dancing on the tongue" Dancing is the operative word here because it is such a door stopper you would have to do a few high kick to get over such a thick slab of lusciousness.
Touchwood is housed in what was once a furniture shop and the name cleverly echoes the beautiful timbered tables once sold here. Huge tables still fill the space and out the back there is a sunny open courtyard with plenty of seating.
On our food safari we had a container of the Mexican bean and grain salad with jalapeno and chicken which was thoroughly delicious. But I must walk up Bridge Road to the cafe as the peanut butter and jelly wholemeal waffles served with poached raspberries, whipped peanut butter ricotta and peanut brittle juices sound incredible as does the fresh juice made from cucumber, kale, celery, apple, lime and parsley. They also serve five senses coffee which is another reason to have this cafe on your Bridge Road safari list.
The watermelon orange and feta salad with brioche croutons, watercress and roasted tomato vinaigrette we had from the Empire Cafe was amazing. This place is another Bridge Road gem worth visiting. They have a quiet sitting room away from the street traffic where you can really unwind. They also roast their own coffee and everything is organic. The milk and yoghurt is unhomogenised and all the eggs, bacon and chicken are free-range and locally sourced.
Richmond Larder is a bit of an old hand on the strip these days. It was started up nearly two decades ago by Stephanie Alexander and cheese doyen Will Studd The original foodies might be gone, but the Cafe Larder is still going strong It has lots of events such as wine and cheese pairing nights and it even has it own fromagerie (cheese room) which stocks cheeses from around the world. Eating there is a great experience which I have written about here. Less well known is that they also do some stunning picnic fare which you can collect on your way to one of Melbourne's many glorious gardens or sporting events.
Here are their picnic hampers.
The Laikon Delicatessen have been serving the Richmond community for decades. They make their own spanakopitas (a Greek spinach pastry) and their baklavas are incredible. They have trays of these on display. They also sell cheeses, dips, olives, cold cut meats, oils, dried fruits, nuts, pastas lunches and take home meals amongst other things. It is worth visiting this Richmond institution.
The charming Collection Bar is another important foodie stop on Bridge Road. They have quite a few Southern American dishes on the menu and inspiring classic cocktails made from homemade ingredients. If their overnight-smoked pulled pork brioche bun with red cabbage slaw was anything to go by this is another great eatery to check out on this foodie strip.
Bridge Road has changed habits. It's not so much about finding a bargain anymore (although there are still plenty of those) but it is certainly about finding sensational foods. This Food Safari pointed the direction for all those who wish to follow.
I work just off Bridge Rd, near the Yarra and am often looking for nice places to eat myself, or new places to send the Managers when they want to entertain. Think I just found some of both. Great article.