As a city with a conscience, Melbourne’s recent urban agriculture movement is a natural evolution of the increased value placed on sustainable practices in the hospitality and restaurant industry.
While the understanding and value of food miles and provenance of ingredients are no longer new to chefs or diners, what is new is the increased number of inner-city urban kitchens and producers, reducing food miles to mere metres.
Chefs are growing their own ingredients on site in the form of farmwalls or courtyard kitchen gardens. Restaurants are offering culinary cultural tours to meet producers. Urban beekeeping is seeing bee hives on city rooftops and gardens. Coffee specialists, wine-makers, distillers and brewers are setting up production facilities with cellar doors in the midst of urban Melbourne.
There are currently 168 craft breweries in Victoria, more than any other state or territory in Australia.
33 craft distilleries can be found in Victoria including 7 in Melbourne.
There are more than 100 urban beehives in Melbourne and the surrounding precincts.
Organisations such as Backyard Honey helping budding apiarists set up and maintain their own bee hives.
It’s estimated that 57% of Victorian households grow some of their own food.
Melbourne is the leading centre of urban agriculture in Australia.
Urban agriculture has the potential to play a greater role in strengthening the food security of Australian cities and building urban resilience in a changing climate.
Honey Fingers – a creative collective project that explore the connections between farming, food, art, history, design and education, has hives in domestic gardens in Carlton, Coburn, Brunswick, North Fitzroy and North Melbourne, producing 20 varieties of honey. The hone from each suburb has its own flavour. The bees in North Melbourne make a sweeter, more fragrant variety that’s lighter in appearance than honey made by North Fitzroy bees, which prefer spotted gum, resulting in darker appearance and more intense woody flavour.
Since 2010 Rooftop Honey has been flying the flag for urban beekeeping with a vision of bringing bees back to the city and the suburbs of Melbourne. The aim is to be part a global effort to help save the honey bee from the various threats of disease and human habitation. This project not only seeks to address issues of sustainability, it also aims to raise awareness of the importance of bees whilst creating delicious honey. By placing hives on the roof spaces of cafés, restaurants, hotels and individual's gardens in and around Melbourne, Rooftop Honey has reduced the distance from production to plate to mere metres.
URBAN DRINKS PRODUCERS
Little Lonsdale, this once 'notorious' north-east corner of Melbourne, was a sight to behold in the 1850s. Its colourful past -specifically, a deep shade of harlot red- made it a magnet for the debauched, where wanton wenches and liquored-up larrikins lurched down its lamp-lit lanes. Fast forward 141 years and introducing Little Lon Distilling Co. A gintrified establishment commemorating the rich history of Little Lon with a range of characterful, small batch gins that raise a tipple to the delightful deviates that once trod these lurid laneways.
Secreted away in an unassuming warehouse in the heart of South Melbourne, Melbourne Moonshine’s alembic stills are producing hand-crafted moonshine. Described as the liquor you produce before fermentation makes it into whisky. Melbourne Moonshine is clear, strong and not to be trifled with and captures the true spirit of the American South. This authentic and unique drop is borne from bespoke copper stills in Melbourne’s own South, South Melbourne.
Craft & Co, Colonial Brewing, Thunder Road Brewery, Temple Brewing, Two Birds, Clifton Hill Brewpub, Mountain Goat, Stomping Ground, 3 Ravens, Tall Boy and Moose, Westside Ale Works, Moon Dog, Hop Nation, Burnley Brewing, Hawkers, La Sirene – this is unlikely to be the exhaustive list of an inner-city brewery scene which just keeps growing. The pure range of styles from IPA to NEIPA to sours, pale ales, lagers, saison, wheat beer, porter, red ale, amber ale, golden ale and more, plus the fresh taste straight from the keg will keep hop lovers happy in Melbourne.
Noisy Ritual is Melbourne’s first Urban Winery. With a vision to demystify the winemaking process, the guys are about brining good people together over great wine, food, music to learn about wine in an urban environment. Grapes come from a network of premium vineyards throughout Victoria, and once harvested, are transported to the cavernous warehouse space on Lygon Street in East Brunswick. This is where all the wine-making happens making Noisy Ritual a showcase of some of the breadth and diversity on offer throughout the state. With a focus on sustainable, low-impact wine-making the goal is to fruit from each vine leading to small batch, balanced wines packed with flavour.
Jamsheed Urban Winery is set to be Melbourne second major urban wine outfit to open any day now in Preston, promising guests part winery, part dive bar.
CULTURE CHANGING CAFES
All are welcome
Housed in High Street's former Christian Science reading room, the name All Are Welcome comes from the original signage in the modernist library-bookstore. A collaboration between pastry chef turned baker Boris Portnoy and coffee roasters it has an on-site bakery specialising in middle eastern treats. Honey Finders has joined up with All are welcome to create a sourdough starter from the yeasts in the bee bread.
The Recreation – Gather
North Fitzroy restaurant, The Recreation, set up by three friends from fine-dining stock in 2017, has launched a unique new initiative called Gather. The concept is a subscription-based community that unites people through their shared values around food and wine by offering culinary cultural excursions for its members. The excursions will visit local producers, farms, dairies, wineries, breweries and more. Hand-on experiences will include butchery, foraging and other culinary skills plus tastings and demonstrations. Gather will bring like-minded people together as a community to enjoy exclusive wining and dining events and unique access to the producers and their stories.
Farmwall is a pioneering Melbourne start up on a mission to transform cities into food producing ecosystems. The company designs and implements natural, edible farms by building vertical aquaponic units that grow fresh produce. The three co-founders Geert Hendrix, Serena Lee and Dr. Wilson Lennard hope to show that cities can live more closely to nature, and give cafes and restaurants a better – fresher – food experience. The Mulberry Group, headed up by café king Nathan Toleman, was the first to embrace farmwall in its iconic Melbourne cafes, Higher Ground and Top Paddock.
QT Melbourne Pascale Bar and Grill
Through the kitchen doors, hidden behind The Rooftop at QT, lies an intimate, industrial and surprisingly green space called the Secret Garden. Cultivated by executive chef Andy Harmer, this secluded setting is unknown to many, perched under string lights and the Melbourne sky, high above the city hustle. With spilling vines, fragrant herbs and vegetable planter boxes, Andy picks a selection of edible gems including vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit from his kitchen garden, presenting them in on dishes at QT’s no-expense-spared flagship restaurant, Pascale Bar and Grill.
Dining at Grand Hyatt includes everyone from bar snacks at Ru-Co to High Tea at Collins Kitchen, Grand Sunday Lunches and private dining. Chefs get their produce from their own Altitude Garden which grows all the fresh herbs the kitchen needs for the many dining options.
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