With September here again it’s time for finals fever to hit Melbourne! For the next four weeks, Melbourne is going to catch Footy fever as the top 8 teams in the AFL – that’s Australian Football League – battle head to head to earn their place in the AFL grand final on the last Saturday of September.*
Melburnians love the game so much that the Friday before the AFL Grand Final (AKA: Grand Final Eve) is now a dedicated public holiday! Want to get in on the action? Read on to discover where to eat, drink, sleep and – most importantly – get tickets to the Finals and Grand Final!
Where to sleep in Melbourne
No matter what your budget or sleep style, I’ve got a great option for the best place to stay for the AFL grand final! Best of all, all of these options are just minutes away from the MCG.
Mercure Treasury Gardens
Budget conscientious meets style at the Mercure Treasury Gardens. Inside the rooms are simple but aim for maximum guest comfort and include reference to the city through the bed head artwork. There’s also the brand new Hop Sing restaurant in the hotel lobby which proves hotel food doesn’t have to be tasteless (read the ‘Where to eat in Melbourne’ section for more info!)
Set on Spring Street, get set to explore Melbourne because the hotel location is minutes from the MCG, Chinatown, and Federation Square.
My top tip is to book a Privilege Room that comes with a balcony overlooking the Treasury Gardens and MCG. Grab a coffee and the newspaper, put your feet up and simply enjoy the view and sounds of city life beyond as you start you day – bliss!
Pullman Melbourne on the Park
For the ones seeking a little luxe and to sleep just seconds away from the MCG you can’t beat the Pullman Melbourne on the Park! Plush, sophisticated rooms with a hint of old world charm, the recently renovated rooms await guests seeking the comforts of a hotel that is close to the city but just far enough away to relax.
If you book a Deluxe Executive or Premium Deluxe Room, be sure to request MCG views. You can watch the people stream into the ground as you relax in your room, or perhaps enjoy a drink in the Park Lounge on the ground floor, before crossing the road to the game before first bounce!
If attention to detail and personal service are important to you then Hotel Lindrum is the best place to stay in Melbourne! With only 59 rooms, the property really makes the onus on you. Mixing crisp white and dark hardwood with warming earth tones, Hotel Lindrum also offers all guests complimentary WiFi!
Hotel Lindrum is one of my favourite hotels in Melbourne because of the way it mixes charm, service and history. Formally Lindrum’s Billiard Room, the hotel features one of the original billiard tables and memorabilia of champion Walter Lindrum.
If you have time, be sure to enjoy high tea at the properties felt restaurant; but I’ll let Sara tell you more about that!
Where to eat in Melbourne
Melbourne is Australia’s food capital so you are never far from something delicious to eat. For now, here are three restaurants close to the MCG!
Hop Sing Bar & Food – authentic tastes just like you are in Asia
If you want delicious authentic-with-a-twist Asian flavours and craft beers then Hop Sing Bar & Food is the restaurant you need to know about!
Whether it’s a pre-game meal or post-game drinks, Hop Sing serves up a tantalising menu that’s sure to please. Serving craft brews (Hop) and Singaporean-inspired food that’s perfect for sharing. Choose from dishes like spicy Malay rendang curry (pictured below), mouth-watering Wagyu sliders served with picked veggies, tender satay dripping with sauce, Beef & Lemon grass wrapped in Betel Leaf (pictured above), and Matcha Tiramisu, Black Sesame Mascarpone and Bundy Rum (pictured below) – yum!
The restaurant is nestled on the corner of Flinders Street and Spring Street in the ground floor of the Mercure Treasury Gardens, a 7-10-minute walk to the MCG, and shows that hotel restaurants can have amazing food!
Credit: Guy Lavoirpierre
Gazi – classics done in style
Greek has never tasted so good. Celebrity chef George Calombaris’ restaurant Gazi mixes tongue-in-cheek attitude with a set menu called “Doing It Greek Style” or their ‘Bend Over Box’ lunch menu with great tasting Greek classics. Don’t think Taverna-style food, that has its place but it’s not here. Gazi mixes classics with a modern twist and it’s echoed throughout the menu from the food to their Classic vs. Twist cocktail menu.
If you are in the mood for meat then this is the place to eat! Chicken, beef, duck, baby snapper… it’s all there. My recommendation is the Duck Souvlakakia served with daikon, spring onion, mint and hoisin mayo. Be sure to try the wood fire grilled corn topped with tarama and crushed popcorn – a great juicy starter sure to please!
All plates are a little on the smaller size to encourage meze style sharing,
My one complaint is the price. The food is good and I would go back, but it won’t be the first restaurant I’d choose. Service was a little sloppy but the staff are attentive. That being said, be sure to make a booking because tables fill fast, even on some weeknights!
Cumulus Inc. – for the brunch lovers
I’ll be honest and admit that despite Cumulus Inc. offering meals from 7am – 11pm, or 8am – 11pm on weekends, I have not visited outside of brunch. Whether it’s a work meeting or casual catch up with friends, Cumulus Inc. always serves up something delicious and I keep coming back for more.
There’s only one item on the menu that I seek out: the Shakshouka (pictured above) of baked eggs with roasted peppers and shanklish, a little twist on your usual breakfast eggs. Gooey, a little oily and just a slight hint of the cheese cutting through the flavours.
Set in Flinders Lane, Cumulus Inc.’s high ceilings and natural lighting mixes a certain amount of warmth despite its industrial feel and cool long marble bar bench where I like to sit, watching the open kitchen and muse if I’ve got food envy or if I’ve ordered correctly as the Chefs work.
Where to drink in Melbourne
If you want a cheeky drink or two pre-game, head to one of these Melbourne favourites:
Siglo or Melbourne Supper Club
Through a nondescript wooden door, you’ll discover two of Melbourne’s most loved evening spots. On the first floor is the cosy Melbourne Supper Club and above sophisticated Siglo.
For many Melburnian’s, The Melbourne Supper Club will hold a special place in their heart. For me, it’s always been the perfect way to cap off a good night. Walking up the flight of stairs and sinking into one of their well-worn leather Chesterfield couches for a sneaky nightcap from their encyclopedia-like drink menu, and maybe a gooey croque monsieur.
For those seeking something with a view, climb the stairs to Siglo (above). Well loved by Melbourne’s top chefs – I’ve spotted Matt Moran and George Calombaris drinking here before – it certainly has a more sophisticated and business-like appeal than the casual Supper Club below. Well known for their extensive cocktail and wine list leaning towards old-world delights and cigar bar, there’s also tasty delights like Joselito Jamon Iberico on the menu. If the weather is nice, be sure to ask for a table overlooking the Parliament building to really set the mood.
Combining two of Melbourne’s most beloved aspects: laneways and quirky cocktails, Lily Blacks is a place where old-world meet modern-cocktail concoctions.
In an art deco designed bar and served by chaps wearing suspenders, you’ll find classic cocktails, an ever-changing wine menu and plenty of spirits, particularly generous with gin. Their speciality is Pre-Prohibition cocktails from the tasteful Old Fashioned to the blood orange liqueur and gin topped Suzy Q.
Up for an adventure? Try one of their Picklebacks. That’s a shot of spirit followed by a chaser of housemade pickle juice!
Quirky, kitch, and all-together totally delish: that’s my review of laneway bar Double Happiness. Set back on Liverpool Street you’ll find a bar that definitly doesn’t take itself too seriously and while it’s not hidden it’s a bar that you need to be in the know to find.
Named after the traditional Chinese character for joy and happiness, Double Happiness mixes a quality cocktail menu with Tiger beer, Tsing Tao beer and plenty of Communist propaganda kitch, with tributes to Chairman Mao and a multitude of communist propaganda posters artfully presented around the bar.
Tongue-in-cheek names accompany their cocktails like The Great Leap Forward, Justified Rebellion and Anti-Rightist Movement, to name a few. My personal favourite is their Hundred Day Reform filled with elderflower liqueur, rose, lemon, peach bitters and sparkling wine – perfection!
If you can come on a quieter night, with its fireplace, it’d be a great place to bring a date. That being said, the bar atmosphere is usually filled with the louder hip and stylish types.
What to do on the Grand Final Long Weekend
Melbourne is buzzing all Grand Final Weekend long. Here are some ideas to get you started on the celebrations:
- Grand Final Parade – on Grand Final Eve (the Friday before the big game) the players of the two teams will take to the streets of Melbourne in a parade of Toyota HiLux’s, marching bands and plenty of other entertainment! Get in on the action which starts at the Treasury Building and winds its way through the streets to Yarra Park at the MCG.
- Virgin Australia Premiership Party (AKA: the post-Grand Final party) – the game may be done and dusted but the night is just beginning. From 6pm the gates of the MCG will re-open and Vance Joy and The Living End will headline the post-game party! Best of all, it’s FREE!
Tip: The event runs from 6-8pm. You can access the grounds from Gates 5, 6 and 7 only.
- Explore the city – most people will avoid the city on Grand Final Day because of traffic and crowds but if you choose to go by foot or public transport, you’ll have the city virtually to yourself. Take this chance to shop at the Emporium for a mix of cult favourites and high-end labels, explore what’s on at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), or – if you want to see what all the fuss is about – head to Federation Square where I’m sure the game will be streaming live!
- Head to the beach – no matter whether your team wins or loses, you can always enjoy some time at one of the cities beaches and enjoy the warming weather. I recommend St Kilda beach due to its ease to reach and numerous cafes and restaurants, but if you’re up for a road trip then the Great Ocean Road is always a crowd pleaser!
- Just escape! – okay, so you’re a little fed up with all this ‘footy’ talk in the news and across social media, so much so you need to escape. Don’t lock yourself away in the house, get out and go on a road trip! If you seek wine, why not head to the hidden secret that is the Bellarine, close to Geelong. For those who want to be able to hike to waterfalls and enjoy country hospitality, I recommend Marysville. If food is more your forte, hope a flight or the Spirit of Tasmania and spend a day or two driving the island states North-East Touring Route or Tuckerbox Trail.
Let me know in the comments below
Have you caught AFL Finals Fever?
What’s your top tip for the Grand Final weekend in Melbourne?
And, where do you want to escape to this coming long weekend?
* There’s an asterisk next to the ‘Last Saturday in September’ because – fun fact – for the last two years the AFL Grand Final has been held on the first Saturday of October due to an increased number of teams and scheduling issues. Never fear footy lovers, next year (2017) the AFL Grand Final will be held on Saturday, September 30th. 😉