By Nina McQueen (First appeared in Issue 6 of Inner Circle Magazine, August 2017)
I am a self-professed ‘foodie’. I feel like if you went to a party and introduced yourself as such a few years ago, people would raise their eyebrows and ask if you’ve had too much to drink. But with social media a prominent platform for not only marketing, but also creating a community of enthusiastic (and hungry) followers, Melbourne’s inner north food society has boomed with popularity.
Cafes and restaurants have transformed into art rather than simply a social space to sit down and grab a bite to eat. Every detail and interaction is taken into consideration: the aesthetic nature of the space, how waitresses and waiters chat to you as though you’re an old friend, and of course, how the food and drinks not only taste, but how they’re presented on the plate. And Menus now have the pressure, thanks to social media, of enticing food-lovers through creative and inventive dishes that will, if they could talk, beg to have a photo taken of them.
I follow a number of food blogs on Instagram, and for a while attempted my own (and failed miserably) so I was curious to find out what the life is like for successful food bloggers, who are mostly responsible for the reason I eat out so much and still haven’t learned how to cook for myself.
I was lucky enough to get in contact with Munching Melbourne’s (@munchingmelbourne) co-founder Pamela Yip. I’ve been actively following and inspired by this Instagram account over the course of my ‘foodie’ obsession, and I was eager to find out exactly what it’s like to be asked to eat, post photos of food and drinks, and have an almost-40k following. I also find out Munching Melbourne’s top picks for eats and foodie treats in the inner north, as well as their choice for the ultimate foodie day in the region!
Q. What is Munching Melbourne?
A. I started Munching Melbourne with my foodbiddie, Rowena Lor in 2016. Munching Melbourne is an online platform with over 37,700 fellow food lovers. Every day, we share with them the best food to get their munch on! By using #MunchingMelbourne or tagging us in their photos, they can share their food finds and we choose the best to regram! Basically we’re a community of food lovers, sharing a love of good food.
Q. How did Munching Melbourne begin? And what inspired you to become a food blogger?
A. Among our group of friends, we were always asked for restaurant/café recommendations (we were known for eating a lot and trying new places). Over brunch one day at The Little Ox, Rowena talked about having over 200 photos of food on her phone, and myself, being a digital coordinator who was passionate about social media, I said we needed to create a food blog. So the next day I created the @ munchingmelbourne Instagram account and started posting.
Q. Did success come easily or was it a progressive build-up?
A. Overnight success didn’t happen; rather, it was being consistent and posting every day. By producing high-quality content daily and engaging with our followers, we were fortunate to accumulate a loyal following and soon were being contacted by agencies/ café/restaurants. It allowed us to collaborate with our favourite spots to do giveaways, which we saw as a way to give back to our followers for their support.
Q. What are the perks and disadvantages of the job?
A. There aren’t really any disadvantages although one part of our job is that our camera and phone eats before we do! We spend at least 10 minutes taking photos and have to refrain from eating until we get the right picture.
I think saying it’s a job is the best excuse for how often we eat out. But honestly, and it sounds cliché, the best perk of the job is the people you meet. From fellow food bloggers and passionate owners, to foodies who follow us because they resonate with our love of good food. We’re always meeting these inspiring individuals over a meal and I think that’s the best way to get to know someone.
And because we feel so fortunate, we really want to give back. We’ve had the opportunity to leverage our platform and help spread awareness for charities such as Unicef and Southern Cross Kids. Our followers are a supportive bunch. Aside from our stomachs, our hearts feel pretty full too!
Q. What can you say about the inner north’s food, drink, cafe, restaurant and bar society? What makes it so unique compared to the rest of Melbourne?
A. Diverse, niche, authentic and flavoursome. Without a doubt, the inner north is home to a culturally diverse bunch (and mate, they know how to put up a fantastic feed!) The restaurants and cafés specialise in one thing and do it well with consistency, explaining why a lot of them stick around for so long. A lot of these owners have dedicated their life to perfecting recipes – you’ll hear stories of recipes being passed down generations. Whatever your palette and dietary requirements, there’s a place dedicated to satisfying it. (i.e. Buku.cakery will satisfy all your dietary requirements, Vegie Bar for vegetarians and vegans, etc.)
Q. What are you favourite food places to check out in the inner north? What makes the place so good? And are there any currently available dishes/drinks that you’ve had recently in the inner north that you would encourage people to check out?
A. Our top pick recently would be AU79 in Abbotsford. Their interior is gorgeous with amazing service and food! They’re innovative in their approach: the staff will spend time to chat with you and get to know you. They believe that brunch in Melbourne is evolving and have designed AU79 to suit. Their venue can cater up to 200 people so you don’t feel in a rush to finish in order for other people to be seated. Their Acai soda and waffles are a must try. Their pastry range is also legendary. Basically, go multiple times to try everything!
In Collingwood, get yourself down to Papirica. They serve authentic okonomi-yaki and is our go-to destination when we want to relive our Japan experience (but can’t afford the flight there). Also check out Son In Law for their amazing sizzling roti and their newly-released fun drink with fairy floss (with faces!)
Mukka in Fitzroy creates the most authentic and delicious Indian meals I’ve had in Melbourne so far. I’ve tried half their menu and will be trying the other half soon. Dosa and curry is a must. Get yourself their Mango Lassi or if you’re after something alcoholic, their Chai-tini (Espresso Martini, but Chai!)
Q. Is there a dish that continues to resonate with you?
A. I really loved the movie Lion. So when I found out that Mukka in Fitzroy served Jalebi (an Indian sweet which was Saroo’s favourite in the movie) I had to try it. To top it off, 100% of the profits from this dessert go to charities supported by the movie Lion, which assists those in extreme poverty.
Q. What would your ideal foodie day consist of in the inner north, if you had unlimited money and the free time? Tell us where would you go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon/morning tea and what kind of dish/drink would you order?
A. I think more than anything we’d wish for a day where kilojoules didn’t exist!
We’ll kick off the morning at Tinker in Northcote for their instafamous Mango and Safron Panna Cotta with granola.
Next, Industry Beans in Fitzroy for good coffee and brunch. We’ll order the Rosewater Compressed Watermelon (again, panna cotta, and yes, we’re obsessed) and drop by the Rose St market while we’re at it.
Dinnertime, we’ll head to Mukka. Love their Chicken Tikka Masala. Shall also order their Chai-tini AND Mango Lassi. We have to order the Jalebi too.
We’ll also drop by Shifty’s in Fitzroy for our cheese fix. Plus check out their toilet, it’s amazing.
And finally, head off to Son In Law for their fried chicken, sizzling roti and fairy floss drink!
Know what you feel like but don’t know where to go? For recommendations on where to eat or grab drinks, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or directly message Munching Melbourne on Instagram or Facebook.
Be sure to also enter in Munching Melbourne’s partnered giveaway with Mukka on Instagram this August! All you need to do is follow to have a chance to win a feast for 4 people, valued at $120.