I love markets in general, be it ones that sell cooked food, clothing or fresh food. I fell in love with Queen Victoria Market over ten years ago when I first visited, and a middle-aged Italian man sold me my first pair of mules – “These are-a made-a from the best-a Italian-a leather. Very good-a value!” I remember feeling dwarfed by the sheer size of the place and being impressed by the cleanliness. I went back again about seven years later with a much greater appreciation for food, and loved how there was a designated Meat Hall and Deli Hall which had been divided into different little outlets.
Suffice to say, there was no way I would be missing these markets on this trip. As they are closed a couple of days of the week, I made sure I allocated time for an extensive wander. I start off with the non-food stalls and am disappointed that they have become much more generic since my last visit. The merchandise seems to repeat itself every few stalls at every aisle, but I perk up when I hit the fruit, vegetable and nuts aisles. There are strawberries from Queensland that are plump, red and fragrant in the middle of winter that don’t cost an arm and a leg! I buy myself a punnet and continue on.
Along the Victoria Street perimeter of the markets is a row of stores where I discover Xocolatl, yet another Melbourne chocolatier, and I am torn as whether to buy some so as to sample their products. By this stage, I have already purchased chocolates from Cacao and Koko Black and there is always the issue of transport back to Sydney to consider. It is surprising that I even need to contemplate the issue – the answer should always be, “Yes, of course, buy more chocolate!”
Next I walk through the Meat Hall, although I have no need to buy meat and no cooking to do whilst away, and am amazed at how cheap lamb cutlets can be. The Deli Hall is in the adjacent block and is where I plan to have lunch but, oh, the choices! I do a lap of the place to check out what’s on offer and to see which outlets are the most popular. The display windows of Deli Hall outlets are high up often with more items placed on top of the windows. For a small person like me, this means that I am easily hidden by mounds of bread or that I have to repeat what I want as my voice fails to project over sticks of salami. I am met with several amused looks from retailers as I purchase tiny amounts of food. The warm, friendly Greek lady at the deli cannot help herself but comment, “Only two slices of-a the prosciutto? Oooh, they are very thin, u know!” Nevertheless, she ungrudgingly wraps up all the little components of my request and I move on the get some bread.
My picnic lunch ends up consisting of dolmades, marinated Kalamata olives, a sourdough ciabatta roll, a borek (filled with spinach, cheese and parsley), Spanish serrano prosciutto and hot Sopressa salami. I can only finish half of what I have purchased, partly because I discovered the borek outlet after I had bought the ciabatta roll. I sadly have to give the bratwurst stall a miss as well. Monsieur Poisson and I make our way through some of the remainders whilst watching television and I dump the remaining olives on Anna when I visit her.
My last stop before leaving the markets is the American Doughnut Kitchen in its instantly recognisable van. There is a long but quickly-moving queue extending from the window and I line up under Weirdo’s recommendation for some fluffy, doughy goodness. I buy two – one is better-formed than the other so I eat the uglier one whilst walking across the Queen Victoria Market carpark and save the prettier one for Monsieur Poisson. My coat receives a light dusting of sugar runoff with each bite of doughnut and I have to be careful not to scald my tongue with the runny, raspberry jam filling.
And the Queensland strawberries that I bought earlier? Well I saved some of them for Monsieur Poisson to savour after a long day at his training course along with the doughnut.
Cnr Queen St & Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC
Tel: (03) 9320 5822
Opening Hours: Mon CLOSED
115-121 Victoria St, Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne VIC
Tel: (03) 9329 4411
American Doughnut Kitchen
The parking lot of Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne VIC