RADIO || My 2017 Top 5 for 3AW

Sure, I get to eat at some fancy places but more often than not it's the simple stuff that really speaks loudest. From Italian wine bar to new school Spanish bodega and cheap and cheerful Viet, I list my top five spots for the year.


My pals at 3AW's A Moveable Feast program got in touch recently to see if I would come on the show and share my favourite dining experiences of the year. Ross and Kate are good sports and their listeners are a super engaged bunch, so naturally I said yes.

When I'm reviewing restaurants for work, I'm used to judging venues against a fairly strict set of criteria. So when the show's producer, Mark 'Scorcher' Davidson, asked me to list places that just made me smile – no rules – it presented a rare, and fun opportunity.

One of my Top 5, newcomer Bar Tini in Melbourne's Hosier Lane. IMAGE: Daniel Pockett

One of my Top 5, newcomer Bar Tini in Melbourne's Hosier Lane. IMAGE: Daniel Pockett

You can listen to the episode HERE to get my full list, but I'll just say that I got a massive kick out of this process, and here's why...

One of the restaurants that I mentioned in my Top 5 is a very modest, family-run Vietnamese place in Preston called My Tho. It's a regular haunt of mine, and somewhere my partner and I eat at a couple of times a month – it's close to home, the owners are friendly, it's super affordable and reliably delicious.

A few weeks after mentioning My Tho on the radio we popped in for dinner. I casually asked the owner, Tam, if she listens to the radio very often. Immediately, her face lit up. "It was you!" she exclaimed with visible joy, before going on to tell us how huge that radio mention had been for her humble little business.

This is a place where the owners live upstairs, where you see their kids doing homework or eating dinner on one of the back tables in the restaurant;  where you see members of their extended family working in the kitchen and helping out on the floor; where babies are passed from aunty to uncle to cousin to customer, depending on who's got a free set of hands in the moment.

L-R: Goi ga (Vietnamese chicken coleslaw) and bo ba lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves), My Tho, Preston.

L-R: Goi ga (Vietnamese chicken coleslaw) and bo ba lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves), My Tho, Preston.

Adding My Tho to my mix of favourite places of 2017 meant a huge influx of new business for what is a fairly young restaurant, run entirely by one family. Tam tells me that they had people coming in from as far away as Brighton, Templestowe and even Ballarat after hearing about it on the radio.

When I drove past one day a few months later I saw some tradesmen erecting a bright, shiny new sign to the front of the shop. It made my heart burst. Business is going great and they couldn't be happier. Gotta love a tangible outcome.

After hearing about it from me, 3AW's Scorcher popped in to see for himself a few months later, which Tam tells me caused yet another wave of hungry new diners to make their way to Preston. Read Scorcher's review of My Tho HERE and if you head in yourself, make sure you say hello to gorgeous Tam.



366 High Street, Preston


REVIEW || Osteria Ilaria, Melbourne

With some of the best pasta in town and seating for just 40 diners, Tipo 00 was always gonna break a few hearts. But newly arrived sibling venue Osteria Ilaria isn’t just there to satisfy the overflow, it’s a seriously worthy destination in itself.

IMAGE: Osteria Ilaria (supplied)

IMAGE: Osteria Ilaria (supplied)

Forget Flinders Lane, there’s a hot new dining precinct emerging in Melbourne’s former camping supplies quarter. Within a short stretch, Little Bourke Street (between Elizabeth and Queen) has triumphed over the puffer jackets, day packs and tourist-trap tackiness of nearby Hardware Lane to spawn some of the city’s best dining, with names like Kirk’s Wine Bar, Tipo 00 and French Saloon leading the charge.

IMAGE: Osteria Ilaria (supplied)

IMAGE: Osteria Ilaria (supplied)

Newcomer Osteria Ilaria has quite possibly gone down as one of my top new openers for 2017 (big call, I know) and I've been telling anyone who cares to get down there stat for chef Andreas Papadakis' ridiculously good multi-course chef's menu.

Consider this your memo.





367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC.

COLUMN || Is Room Service Dead?

With the rise of food delivery apps, hotels around the world are being forced to turn the trolley tables and rethink in-room dining. So is room service really endangered or is it just getting a face-lift?



Whether it’s for a celebratory bottle of Moët or a greasy late-night cheeseburger, the notion of room service still manages to capture fantasies of lavishness and indulgence. Who could forget the glee of a boofy-haired, white-robed Julia Roberts chewing on pancakes and picking at her breakfast croissant while Richard Gere read the business pages? Let’s be honest, we’ve all wanted to live out that scene.

Breakfast scene,  Pretty Woman.  IMAGE:

Breakfast scene, Pretty Woman. IMAGE:

It doesn’t matter if you’re dialling ‘9’ in Paris, Phuket or Perth, the simple – yet irrational – act of summoning overpriced edible goods to your hotel room door at any hour always seems like a treat. While the end product might vary in its desirability upon delivery, the blinding mystique of luxury endures; somehow elevating a simple sandwich or glass of orange juice to luxurious new heights – at least in our imaginations.

Is in-room dining really going the way of the dodo or is it all hotel hyperbole? I decided to find out for my Eating Out column this month.


COLUMN || Hobart Hitlist - where to eat & drink right now

With a handful of strong new players arriving on the Hobart scene to mix things up and champion all things Tasmanian, there’s never been a better time to eat and drink your way around Australia’s southernmost capital.

Franklin, Hobart. IMAGE: supplied

Franklin, Hobart. IMAGE: supplied

It’s a no-brainer that Hobart’s eating and drinking should be so good; there are few other places in Australia with such an onslaught of insanely fresh, super seasonal, hyper local everything on its doorstep. Forget food miles; from whiskey to wagyu, saffron to sparkling wine, it’s all made here – and ridiculously well, too.

While the pace of life elsewhere on the Apple Isle might (mercifully) still be as sleepy as it’s ever been, the Hobart bar and dining scene has majorly kicked things up a gear in recent times. Gone are the days when “Slowbart” only had a sprinkling of decent places to eat, today you’ll be struggling to tick off your culinary to-do list in just one weekend.

Fico, Hobart. IMAGE: supplied.

Fico, Hobart. IMAGE: supplied.

So, organise your flights and get ready to savour the good stuff. Hobart will be sure to have you dreaming of open fires, harbour views, briny oysters and cosy whiskey bars until you next return.




FEATURE || Restaurant Etiquette 101 (or: How to be a Better Diner)

Because there’s no equivalent of TripAdvisor for rating customers, I decided to turn the tables to let some hospitality pros dish the dirt on bad diners for my Australian Traveller column.   


Since the media (and ergo, the world) became obsessed with food, it seems like every second grandma and school kid is laminating chocolate and sous vide-ing their venison. But while our levels of gastronomic sophistication might be at an all-time high, elsewhere our food experience is lagging. When it comes to being good diners we seem to have forgotten our manners.

In the process of researching this story, I heard all sorts of tall tales, sordid secrets, and noted down more than a few cases of inappropriate, un-PC line crossing endured by hospo pros. Perhaps more than most other industries, there's plenty that our restaurant industry pals can handle, but when it comes down to it, they have three things to say to you: communicate; be kind; and for crying out loud, put your phone away.


COLUMN || The Best of Australia's Destination Dining

While Australian cities have a wealth of great places to dine, nothing quite beats taking to the open road on a food adventure. 

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld. IMAGE: supplied.

Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld. IMAGE: supplied.

Remember the days when eating in the country rarely stretched beyond sausage rolls and pub grub? Oh, how times have changed. Today, regional restaurants confidently go head to head with their urban counterparts for industry awards and international recognition, which means no matter which direction from the city you head, there’s a good chance you’ll hit culinary gold.

Dining room at Brae, Birregurra. IMAGE:  Colin Page . 

Dining room at Brae, Birregurra. IMAGE: Colin Page

For my Australian Traveller column this month I made a list of some of the country's best off-the-beaten-track dining destinations so that you don't have to. Coolamon, Federal, Poowong - they're all in there! You're welcome!


FEATURE || Strangers, Secrets and Seriously Good Food

Would you risk a night out dining with strangers? I did, and here’s what I found.

I thought I knew the back streets of Fitzroy well. I’ve walked these Melbourne streets countless times, but on this particular night I’m taking detours and seeing things I’ve never seen before – all because of a text message from a stranger.

It pinged on my phone early in the day from an unknown number. “Hi Leanne. We’re looking forward to seeing you tonight,” it read. This was followed by a set of precise instructions detailing where I needed to be at 6pm and how not to get lost, signed off with a cheeky ‘x’. It’s was all feeling very blind date-isa and I had to admit, I kinda liked it.

Keen to know what happened next?


COLUMN || The Art of Aperitivo Hour

Long before they became fashionable in Australia, aperitivo drinks established themselves as a beverage genre especially close to my heart. So I wrote a story about them for my Eating Out column.

Negroni at  Fatto , Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

Negroni at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

I still remember the first time I ever tried a spritz. It was late summer in Verona, northern Italy, circa 1999 when my admirably well-versed Aussie-Italian cousin, Fiona introduced me to the joys of drinking bitter, fizzy things while eating salty snacks and observing the passing parade of well-grooed locals in Verona's Piazza Bra.

Almost 20 years later, I'm still loving a spritz (always Campari, never Aperol), annnnnnd a Negroni, an Americano, a Cocchi on ice, a vermouth and soda. There's just something so laidback, lighthearted and social about aperitivo drinks. It's never about getting smashed and it's always something – a bit like coffee – you do with a friend as a way to catch up.

Aperol Spritz at  Fatto , Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

Aperol Spritz at Fatto, Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied.

NEWS || 6 Hotel Bars Worth Staying in For

While hotels are forever falling over themselves to impress with infinity pools, pillow menus, refurbs and celeb chef collabs, sometimes all you really want is a good bar where nobody knows your name.

Flaggerdoot bar at Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula. IMAGE: supplied.

Flaggerdoot bar at Jackalope, Mornington Peninsula. IMAGE: supplied.

I'm excited! Why? Because my lovely editor at Australian Traveller magazine has given me MY VERY OWN COLUMN! (I've always wanted to add "columnist" to my bio, so this is awesome).

Every month I'll be writing about the intersection of my two favourite things: food and travel. This means finding interesting stories, new angles and fun things to write about in the worlds of food and travel, not just in Melbourne but all around Australia (I'd love your ideas, so email me!).

The Clare Bar, The Old Clare, Chippendale. IMAGE: supplied

The Clare Bar, The Old Clare, Chippendale. IMAGE: supplied

To kick things off, I've just written my first piece, a handy listicle on the best in-house hotel bars around Australia. And let me tell you, you can forget about cheesy piano muzak and sleazy businessmen, hotels bars ain't what they used to be. 


INTERVIEW || Travelling with Herb Lester

On day one of my first New York trip, I traipsed Manhattan on foot, then stopped for lunch at Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. Two years later, I’m still thinking about it – along with a few other places I shared here with my mates at Herb Lester.

Russ & Daughters Cafe , New York City. IMAGE: supplied.

Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York City. IMAGE: supplied.

Remember when I wrote my travel guide/love letter to Melbs, An Appetite for Melbourne for UK publisher Herb Lester Associates? That was the beginning of a lovely friendship and I've continued to admire their wonderful work, which is always, always witty, pretty and worth collecting.

So it's only natural that I should say "yes" when ole Herb asked me for a run-down of my fave local  and international haunts for the Herb Lester Journal recently.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA. IMAGE:

Joshua Tree National Park, CA. IMAGE:

From Northcote to the Lower East Side and Los Angeles, Tokyo to Varanasi it's a list of some of my local haunts and most memorable travel spots.



RESTAURANT REVIEW || Camus, Northcote

Melbourne newcomer, Camus combines Moorish spice and classic French technique with a big dose of heart.

Front bar at Camus. IMAGE: supplied

Front bar at Camus. IMAGE: supplied

Twentieth Century philosopher, Albert Camus, once penned an existential essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, about a man’s futile exercise of pushing a boulder up a mountain over and over just to see it roll back down (over and over).

In High Street, Northcote, there’s a big hill (Rucker’s Hill), but no such wearying challenges for the strip’s prospering flock of cafe owners and restaurateurs. The place is positively buzzing – on both sides of the slope, and the Algerian-French accented Camus is one of the strip's brightest new stars. 

I recently donned my hat and wig to check it out for Australian Traveller magazine. In true North African style, the food was aromatic, generous and super tasty. If you love Moorish flavours you should totally get over and give it a try.

Camus' Turkish delight shuffle with pistachio baklava and halva ice-cream. IMAGE: supplied.

Camus' Turkish delight shuffle with pistachio baklava and halva ice-cream. IMAGE: supplied.




61 High Street

Northcote. Vic.


HOURS: Dinner Wed-Sun, 6pm–late; Lunch Fri-Sun, midday-3pm.


FEATURE || Stephanie Alexander – On a Mission

Armed with a passion for giving kids a proper taste of real food, Stephanie Alexander has revolutionised food education in Australia. 

IMAGE: Earl Carter

IMAGE: Earl Carter

I recently interviewed Australia's doyenne of home cooking, Stephanie Alexander for East&Co. – a super well-designed lifestyle mag that I edit and produce a lot of content for in my day job.

During our chat, Stephanie shared stories about her childhood on the family farm in Rosebud and gave me a sense of how her legendary passion for all things home-grown developed. She also recanted tales of being a chef and restauranteur in 1970s Melbourne, providing some insight into how she got that trademark feisty spirit of hers.

IMAGE: Earl Carter

IMAGE: Earl Carter

As the founder of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, Stephanie has changed the way that kids (and their families) look at food. Her ethos of "pleasurable food education" has influenced the minds and palates of thousands of young Aussie school kids. We talked about that too.

Keen to read the story?







A new boutique hotel in an old Melbourne cinema is full of surprises (and one of the best beds I've ever slept in).

IMAGE: QT Melbourne (supplied)

IMAGE: QT Melbourne (supplied)

Known for their quirkiness, QT Hotels seem befitting of a city like Sydney (where you’ll find the flagship), but I wasn’t convinced that their cheeky, OTT brashness would translate here in Melbourne.

So when the new QT Melbourne hotel opened in September, I went and checked out for Australian Traveller magazine to find out once and for all.

When it comes to first impressions, QT Melbourne has a particularly strong game. For a start, you can’t miss those shiny copper-capped entrance doors, even from half a block away. 

On arrival, we were greeted outside by two perfectly coiffed young women. Their flawless make-up and megawatt smiles set the scene for what is to be a suitably theatrical hotel experience."

Rooftop bar, QT Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied

Rooftop bar, QT Melbourne. IMAGE: supplied


The upshot? QT Melbourne is a heap of fun and has brought some much-needed personality to the city’s boutique hotel scene. The dining is great and the rooftop bar is just what Melbourne needed.

Although I'm not sure I could endure the exuberant, always-on energy of the place for more than three days, it makes a great weekend stay for visitors or staycation spot if you're a local.





133 Russell St, Melbourne VIC


Tamsin's Table: exploring Gippsland's Secret Garden

A day spent at Tamsin’s Table in south-west Gippsland, is like dropping in on the nurturing, food-loving country aunt you always wished you had.

The Poowong hills surrounding Tamsin Carvan's Gippsland property. IMAGE:  Brenner Lowe .

The Poowong hills surrounding Tamsin Carvan's Gippsland property. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

Back in September, I had the great pleasure of realising a dream and spending a day at Tamsin's Table, a self-sufficient farm, creative retreat and foodie's paradise located in the lush green hills of west Gippsland.

Every weekend, owner Tamsin Carvan opens the doors of her beautiful hilltop farmhouse to a handful of visitors who come for a range of hands-on workshops and seasonal lunches.

Depending on the time of year you might spend the day baking bread, learning the art of floral arrangement, bottling the summer harvest, or just enjoying a languid lunch at Tamsin’s shared table (cooked by Tamsin with produce straight from her garden).

Tamsin Carvan preparing hand-made pasta in her kitchen. IMAGE:  Brenner Lowe .

Tamsin Carvan preparing hand-made pasta in her kitchen. IMAGE: Brenner Lowe.

Or, like me, you might come for a watercolour painting class followed by a gorgeous shared lunch.

“People come here seeking something real,” explains Tamsin. “They value experiences over ‘stuff’. And they tend to love eating, too!”

I wrote about my day at Tamsin's in a feature for Australian Traveller magazine.




2255 Main South Road
Poowong East 3988 VIC


Summer's Hottest Iced Coffee

Back in the day, the choice was simple: the archetypal Aussie iced coffee usually meant International Roast, ice blocks, a big slosh of full-cream milk and a scoop of Peter’s ice-cream (or, god forbid, swirly fake aerosol cream). If you’re old enough to go back that far, you’ll know that it was likely served in a tall, heavy parfait glass (with an equally tall teaspoon) too.

Affogato at Il Melograno, Northcote. IMAGE: supplied.

Affogato at Il Melograno, Northcote. IMAGE: supplied.

Today’s iced coffee is a very different beast. It’s classy, mature and well-travelled; sometimes cheeky, sometimes out-there, but in most cases just straight-up delicious and the perfect foil for sweltering summer days.

Bubble cup iced coffee at Industry Beans, Fitzroy. IMAGE: Industry Beans.

Bubble cup iced coffee at Industry Beans, Fitzroy. IMAGE: Industry Beans.

In the lead-up to summer, I checked out some of the country's most inventive chilled caffeine options for SBS Food.


What it's Really Like to be... an Oyster Farmer

Ever eaten an oyster and wondered about its origins? Me too. On a recent trip to Tasmania, I popped in on old mate Joe Bennett from Bruny Island's Get Shucked Oysters. We talked about how he got started, the job's pros and cons and his preferred way to eat oysters.

Bruny Island oyster farmer, Joe Bennett. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Bruny Island oyster farmer, Joe Bennett. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

"People are often amazed at my job and always ask how I got into it; then I ask them what they do and I’ll get a response like ‘accountant’, ‘banker’, or ‘IT specialist’ and I’ll be like, “Wow. How do you do that?”

"I just can’t comprehend a job like that. I have to be outdoors and preferably near the water."

Tools of the trade, Get Shucked Oysters, Bruny Island. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Tools of the trade, Get Shucked Oysters, Bruny Island. IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

The story appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Australian Traveller magazine.



Bruny Island Oysters
1735 Bruny Island Main Road,
Great Bay, North Bruny, Tasmania

INTERVIEW || Anthony Bourdain

Gotta say it was a massive career buzz to score an interview with one of my favourite TV chefs, Anthony Bourdain recently. We've met a few times in the past (heck, I've even lunched with the guy) but getting one-on-one time with him for an interview was something else altogether.

Now, almost 16 years after Kitchen Confidential whipped the cloche off the restaurant industry’s seedy underbelly, the chef and author proves he’s actually a big softie under his tough-guy exterior.


These days, Bad Boy Tony has made way for Big Daddy Tony, and in the rare times he's not flying to another obscure destination or getting wasted on backyard hooch with locals, he's all about being at home with his 9-year-old daughter, Ariane.

Spanning recipes from his childhood in New Jersey, current home life in New York’s Upper East Side, and from his extensive world travels, his new book Appetites: A Cookbook is about as far from the glossy, crowd-pleasing cookbook template as you’re likely to find this Christmas.

“Everyone lies in cookbooks. I wanted it to be real,” Bourdain told me. 



In Appetites, there’s no symmetrically styled dinner tables, no air-brushed turkeys, no smiling family portraits. Instead, you’ll see empty, sauce-smeared dinner plates; half-eaten lasagnes; butted-out ciggies; crazy-eyed dogs; dead boars’ heads. Not to mention the opinionated, expletive-studded Bourdain narrative that has become his much-loved/maligned signature.


REVIEW || The Schaller Studio, Bendigo

When the Bendigo Art Gallery started luring arty out-of-towners for its blockbuster international touring exhibitions a few years ago, the town was crying out for a suitably chic hotel to house them in.

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

Thankfully, Art Series Hotels took on the challenge, and the result: The Schaller Studio has put the handsome central Victorian town back on the map.

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

I recently took a journey up the Calder to review the hotel for Australian Traveller magazine.



The Schaller Studio

Corner Lucan and Bayne Streets, Bendigo, VIC.



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FEATURE || Finding Gold in Ballarat

When Ballarat hosted Australia’s favourite art prize last year, its streets came alive. Over six weeks, the former gold-rush city welcomed art fanciers of every kind, from the diehard to the mildly curious. 

IMAGE: supplied

IMAGE: supplied

And the good news? It’s getting set to do it all over again this spring.

IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

IMAGE: Peter Tarasiuk

Together with photographer Peter Tarasiuk, I spent a weekend in Ballarat for Australian Traveller magazine to check out the city's best food, wine, art and shopping. 



Follow me: Twitter @tourdeclance | Instagram @tourdeclance

FOOD NEWS || Dan Hunter joins the Gelinaz Chef Shuffle

Chef Dan Hunter (Brae) is in the mix of a pretty stellar lineup for this year's Grand Gelinaz ShuffleBest described as an international mystery chef swap, Gelinaz is a project like few others in the food world.

Dan Hunter. IMAGE: Tim Grey for Broadsheet

Dan Hunter. IMAGE: Tim Grey for Broadsheet

And it has a very clear agenda: to politely shunt some of the world’s leading chefs out of their comfort zones, explore the bounds of cross-cultural culinary collaboration and thrill lucky diners along the way.

Noma's Rene Redzepi will also join this year's Gelinaz Chef Shuffle. IMAGE: Jason Loucas.

Noma's Rene Redzepi will also join this year's Gelinaz Chef Shuffle. IMAGE: Jason Loucas.

This year 40 chefs from 17 countries will pack up their knives and leave their native kitchens to step into the shoes (and family homes) of a fellow participating chef. Dan Hunter is one of them.



Follow me: Twitter @tourdeclance | Instagram @tourdeclance