Victoria, Australia

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited as an influencer as part of Tourism Victorias newest campaign promoting the beautiful Victoria Region in Australia. Having never visited before, I was pretty damn excited! Our trip started in the city of Melbourne - an incredibly vibrant city full of culture, passion and AMAZING food. It's not hard to see why it's been voted one of the world's most liveable cities. Just to wander through the labyrinth of graffiti filled laneways and find tucked away secret cafes, quirky bars and designer shops was such a rad time. I was really blown away by the diversity and openness of Melbourne's people; I felt like the city possesses such a energetic yet quiet confidence that leaves it's residents totally free to express themselves without judgement. The cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries are a total feast for the senses and all so easy to access with their impeccable public transport (some may argue with my choice of words here, but if you ever grew up in Auckland you will understand having a long standing love hate relationship with the buses here.)

I'd like to take a moment to now remember all the food I thought was good before. RIP food. Because Melbourne blew that shit out of the water. We had some ridiculous eats during our time there. *Momentary switch from photography blog to food blog*

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Oh.my.lanta. I don't think I've ever been somewhere sah fancyyy! The very modern, award winning menu takes inspiration from 14th Century cook books. Every dish on the menu has the corresponding date from when it originated. Eg: Meat Fruit (c.1500) - an out of this world chicken liver parfait that is shaped to look like a small mandarin. Visually confusing, but proper delicious.

I also had the following:

  • Frumenty (c.1390) - Grilled octopus, spelt, pickled red moss, chervil emulsion & smoked sea broth

  • Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) - Cooked with Ale and artichokes *cries*

  • Sambocade (c.1390) - Goats milk cheese cake, elderflower & apple, perry poached pear & smoked candied walnuts *cries harder*

I was blown away by the coupling of flavours and textures which resulted in losing my eyes in the back of my head a lot and concerning the other diners by exclaiming "AHMAHGAHD" with most mouth fulls.

That was the first night and I could have toddled back to NZ a changed woman. But Tourism Victoria had other plans for my newly awakened taste buds: Melbourne Food & Wine Festival - World's Longest Lunch. A magic 3 course meal put together by Guy Grossi enjoyed with 1,600 other guests on the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix track at one long ass table! Yet another occasion where I didn't eat until I was comfortably full, instead eating until I hated myself "whhhhyyy neevveerrr agaaiinnn" (Cheers for the extra puddings guys.)

That was the first night and I could have toddled back to NZ a changed woman. But Tourism Victoria had other plans for my newly awakened taste buds: Melbourne Food & Wine Festival - World's Longest Lunch. A magic 3 course meal put together by Guy Grossi enjoyed with 1,600 other guests on the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix track at one long ass table! Yet another occasion where I didn't eat until I was comfortably full, instead eating until I hated myself "whhhhyyy neevveerrr agaaiinnn" (Cheers for the extra puddings guys.)

The day was then followed by a Cocktail & Bar Tour hosted by Melbourne Food Experiences with Cocktail Specialist Sebastian Raeburn where we visited Union ElectricBar AmpereHeartbreaker and the Boiler Maker House. Union Electric was a real stand out for me, not only did the bar look rad (Bill Murray tributes whhaaatt!) but they served us a supperrr yum cocktail called "The Lola." Chuuurrrr Aussie cuzzies! It was also most enjoyable having Absinthe the correct way at Bar Ampere instead of sipping straight Austrian Mata Hari out of a bottle on a Thursday night and hitting Takapuna with your equally legless mate (hollah to 21 year old Lola and Starsh for that diabolical night. Jeans.)

I will now give you a brief summary of my thoughts on the rest of my actives in Melbourne because I want to get to the Phillip Island and Gippsland part ASAP. Cos FUN. Just coaching you through this part because I know this is long and if you have a short attention span like me and as soon as you see lot's of words, it's like "ugh no." So I'm hoping my photos will keep you captivated in this epic tale. *ahem*

Hidden Secrets Tour of Melbourne: Raddest. Exploring Laneways & discovering all the quirk they have to offer. Thanks so much to Shaun Layh for a wicked morning!

Andy Warhol / Ai Wei Wei Exhibition at National Gallery of VictoriaSo so so good. Honoured to have been able to see some of Andy Warhol's work in the flesh and Ai Wei Wei is my spirit animal.

Press Club Projects dinnerFood geeks unite! A 6 course degustation created in front of us in the experimental kitchen of Chef George Calombaris & Chef Reuben Davis to which I can only describe as a flavour and texture adventure. And I love a good adventure. The whole thing is essentially a fun lab for the chefs who use the space to be a creative as they want and you can watch the whole process from prep to plate while they explain all the steps and ingredients as they go! Thanks for having us and putting up with my loud laugh in such a small space.

Crown Metropol: Also worth mentioning here our absolutely insane accommodation! Veddy nice veddy handsome I like it. #softestpillowseva

After that blurr of art, culture, bread, cheese and booze, I was off on my own to Phillip Island and Gippsland! Before this trip, I had never heard of either of these places let alone consider them as a holiday destination, but I'm already planning my return.

Phillip Island brings a multitude of activities and wild life. After a morning of freaking out at the koalas cuteness (and how much they poo. Like wow, so much poop why.) I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Cape Kitchen with uninterrupted views of the Bass Straight. Followed by an explore of the cliffs to help digest my veggies. The afternoon was then filled with seals (aka water dogs, I luff yew) and an evening at the Penguin Parade. Now the penguins really did blow my mind - literally thousands. THOUSAAAAAAAAAANDS (I put more A's in there to help with the scale of how many I actually mean) of penguins all waddling up out of the water and up the beach at dusk. Unfortunately strictly no photography here, but I can give you a visual: it was my fave when the fat ones fell over because their bellies had absorbed their legs. Legit running full tit up the beach and then like BAM. Penguin down. For animals that spend a lot of their time on the land, they are so very un-agile. I was then lucky enough to have my time end with a scenic helicopter flight around the island which was really the cherry on top of my time on Phillip Island. It was such a buzz to see the entire island I had just explored from above.

Gippsland Gippsland Gippsland. I have this new found love for a place I never knew existed. The only problem I had with this place was I didn't have enough time there! Sitting at the very southern tip of the Australian mainland this place is a lush and vast playground. The rural farm land and a lot of the bush actually reminded me of New Zealand. Highlights of this area had to be lunch and 4WD off roading with Jenny from Gippsland Food Adventures, meeting Spud the farm dog, staying with the beautiful Mary and Peter Riedel at the Church House (a brand new Bed & Breakfast built from a 1887 Anglican church featured on the first episode of Grand Designs Australia!) and of course Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory. My jaw was on the floor the whole drive. Incredible landscapes, white sandy beaches and turquoise water. I really was itching to have more time here as there was so much to explore and unfavourable weather conditions meant I couldn't hike to the summit of Mount Oberon, weehhh. So I will definitely be back to conquer that one! And I'm determined to see a Tiger snake in the bush - plenty of those out there.

To top off all the incredible things I had seen and done during my time in the Victoria Region, we were treated to a VIP evening at the Melbourne Fashion Festival. I have never been the biggest fan of fashion shows, but this one really swayed me. The awesome combination of front row seats, loud music and visually seeing the intricate craftsmanship that goes into the garments was really amazing to see. Not to mention the fab unseasonal heatwave with a comfortable 39 degrees in an old historic building with no air con. Delish.

We did so much in the space of 6 days yet there is still so much more to see. A maaaassive shout out to all of the amazing people that hosted me and welcomed me into their homes and to my new mates Julia & LibbyArt & MatildaDelaneyMegan and Aimee! Y'all are hilarious and very talented!

If you are after any more info on my trip (as if I didn't give you enough geez.) drop me an email at hello@lolaphotography.co.nz!

Kthnxbi.