Since I will be working for 3 weeks straight starting on Monday, I decided to explore today. I do not want to spend much money on it so I just searched for some free things to do or places that I can explore for free online. I am a huge fan of markets. Not because I love to shop but just because I love to browse through shops upon shops and discover amazing things in there. I do end up buying something sometimes, but more often than not, I just end up going home with the satisfaction of being able to satiate my curiosity.
I have already gone to a number of markets here in Melbourne but I have not given South Melbourne Market a go until today. As I finished my driving lesson for the week, I just ran upstairs and grabbed my trusty trolley bag and went outside again to catch the tram going to the station. This is the first leg of my three-legged journey to South Melbourne. ♥
When I arrived at the tram station near the market, nothing gave away what I would be expecting from South Melbourne Market. Only when I ascended the stairs from the tram station to ground level I was able to see the line of food stalls up ahead of me. The hallway was lighted up with festoon light bulbs even in the middle of the day. It was a magnificent sight. I was greeted first by a Vietnamese stall on the left and a gelato shop on the next one. In between them is the entrance to the Food Hall which features a good-size eating area in the middle and a mix of about 8 different stalls and restaurants, surrounding the eating area, that are each offering their own specialties. There was the extension of the gelato shop and Vietnamese restaurant inside, a Japanese stall selling different variety of those long sushi that I usually see around Australia, a French pattiserie, a breakfast place, A Chinese restaurant, a stall that sells Borek (which I have to try the next time that I go there), a canteen and a deli shop. I live nearby Footscray which all Melburnians know is a place where you can get your fill of great Vietnamese, other Asian and African food, so I wasn’t really excited to eat anything Asian at that moment so I continued on with my journey.
Just turning right from the Food Hall is another hallway, a bit shorter in size, which was enveloped by more food stalls. There was South Melbourne Seafood, a seafood shop where you can get your fix of freshly shucked oysters at $1.50 each. It was evidently very popular with market-goers as can be seen from the volume of people buzzing around it and waiting for their turn to eat. If only I have not been restricted to eat raw seafoods by my GP then I would probably had a go at it! Next time, I definitely will.
There was also a dumpling shop in there, a Polish deli, a stall that sells a huge variety of nuts and an Asian grocer at the farthest end. Still, nothing had caught my attention! I walked again, this time towards Cecil Street, which is another perimeter strip of the market that features more restaurants! If the Food Hall was already bustling, the crowd in Cecil Street is more superior! ♥
While walking along Cecil Street Food, I came across a Spanish restaurant which has a stall across it that exclusively sells Paella; a Turkish restaurant which I already noted that I’ll go back to if ever I found myself in South Melbourne Market again; a Mexican restaurant and a seafood restaurant at the far end.
At the opposite side of the strip is another restaurant that showcases some Australian - Asian fusion dishes, a dimsim stall, a hole-in-the-wall cafe and another sushi joint!
The choices were overwhelming but at that point, I had already made a decision where to eat. I ended up falling in line in the stall in front of the Spanish restaurant. I think I was able to take a whiff of that lovely Paella when I passed by that I just wasn’t able to take it off my mind.
The restaurant was jampacked and there was already a long line forming of people waiting to be seated so I just decided to had mine for to-go. They put the Paella in a medium-sized microwaveable container; filled it to the brim with those lovely orange rice, chicken bits, calamari rings and 1 mussel; closed it and gave it to me along with a fair amount of table napkin and a plastic fork. The size is already good for 2 persons and I only paid $13.50 for it.
The Paella did not disappoint! It does not only look good and smell good but it also tasted spectacular. It was beyond what I expected it to be. I now get why they dubbed it as the best Paella outside of Spain. It was superb. I would be willing to travel that far again and spend at least an hour commute-time just to eat that Paella. Very unforgettable!
I downed my Paella in less than 10 minutes. I know, because I timed it. After getting satifisfied by the Paella, my palate was then looking for something sweet. Without time to spare, we scoured again the market for a dessert. What to choose out of all the choices in there? Good thing I found a stall that sells some delectable pastries along the Deli Aisle. It is really hard to miss because of all the yummy-looking pastries they had there. My eyes were initially set towards the Vanilla Slice but since it was an awful big slice, I realized that I won’t be able to finish it in one seating. I got a chocolate-dipped Viennese fingers instead for just $3. For just less than $20, I was already full and satisfied!
Because of my experience there, I can’t wait to go back to South Melbourne again. It may be small relative to the Queen Victoria Market but that’s what I precisely loved about it. Though it is compact, I think the choices are already wide enough for anyone to lose themselves in them. I know I did!