Melbourne's Night Noodle Market promises hawker style street food from Asia, but after a visit on the weekend I was left with several questions, the first of which was: Where are the noodles?
On entry through the temple style gates you'll be greeted by the doof-doof nightclub music of a Swedish cider company. Hang on, Swedish? I thought this was an Asian market? Where's the Chang/Asahi/Tsingtao beer? Once past the noise, the next thing I noticed was a fenced off area sponsored by a European bank and Aussie rock/pop music blaring from another bar, this time from an interstate beer company. So far, not much of Asia on display.
The food stalls were arranged neatly in two perpendicular lines, behind which people formed long, orderly queues. There was none of the haphazard chaos of an Asian night market - where was all of that hemmed in, wonderful confusion and never-ending uncertainty of a night of bizarre food tasting on the streets of Bangkok or Guangzhou?
The food itself had some big name restaurateurs from around the CBD and beyond. Dumplings, fried calamari rings, spring rolls, satay skewers, dim sum and rice paper rolls were the most common items. The satay skewers were over-priced at $5 a stick. I had some Vietnamese sausage wrapped in betel leaf, which was quite tasty, but much tinier than the photo on the counter promised. Noodles were hardly anywhere to be seen beyond some pad thai, standard hokkien noodles and some Vietnamese noodle soup. No noodle making on display and none of the dozens of different types of noodles typically on offer in Asian markets. Not even a deep fried cricket.
If you've ever been to an Asian night market, lower your standards before you go. My Chinese relatives were bitterly disappointed. The Chinese New Year's festivities in Springvale offer a much more authentic food experience if you've never been to Asia and want to get a sense of what the markets are like.
The Night Noodle Market will appeal to the 20-somethings who work in the city, wanting to have a few drinks and nibbles after work to catch up for a chat with friends or colleagues. If you want to find out more, check out the Night Noodle Market website
The market is located in Alexandra Gardens until 30 November.