Food and Drink
Posted by Elyse Wurm
21. Jan, 2015
As soon as you get within cooee of the Queen Victoria Night Market, you will realise that the use of the term ‘market’ is a little misleading. Forget the leisurely strolls on slightly sodden grass and juicy barbequed sausages enveloped in Wonder White that are traditionally associated with the popular Sunday pastime, and instead prepare yourself for a whirlwind of noise, colour and energy that creates an atmosphere that buzzes with life underneath Queen Victoria’s iconic tin roof.
The hordes of people that spill into the Night Market from all available angles constitute the most comprehensive cross section of the Melbourne population that you are ever likely to find in one place. Adolescents with floor-length velvet skirts and Docs meander down the aisles next to older married couples who still hold hands, while businessmen with top buttons undone and young sweethearts on awkward first dates sit side by side at trestle tables. All are united in their determination to nab the most exciting midweek meal they will have all year, whilst celebrating Hump Day with a cold one. The rumble of inaudible chatter created by the colourful crowd is only interrupted by the scraping of woks being tossed, the thumping fresh roti on benches and the harsh sizzle of fresh meat on hotplates. It is not until you reach the Victoria Street end of the market that you realise that this soundtrack has shamefully drowned out the live band, which has drawn a reasonable crowd from those who have also stumbled across it.
By the looks of the busy-as-Bangkok strip of street food stalls, it is undoubtedly the food that seduces so many Melbournians to the Night Market. But there is no pleasure without pain, because the amount of people shuffling through the aisle combined with the smokey heat radiating from the army of stovetops makes perspiration inevitable no matter the temperature. Great inner torment will also ensue for all those susceptible to food envy, as plate after plate piled high with different cuisines glides under your nose. Luckily, the range of stallholders ensures that any decision is a good one, as Melbourne’s culinary heavyweights are lined up alongside food truck veterans as well as some fresh faces.
In the heavyweight division we have Mamak rolling out their famous roti bread, Wonderbao steaming their melt-in-your-mouth bao and 400 Gradi serving up their trademark pizza, which has been graciously reduced in size to give market goers the stomach space to sample other delights. Billows of smoke gather above food truck veterans Hoy Pinoy as they grill up sticky BBQ skewers, and Hammer and Tong smash out a production line of their crowd-pleasing soft shell crab burgers, which may not be as lovingly put together as their in-house version but are no less irresistible. In the fresh face category we have Boss Man Food serving up Jamaican jerk chicken and vegetarian street food gurus Rice and Dice, whose vegetarian dumplings are flavour-filled sensations that are fried to crispy perfection. It is also impossible to go to the Night Market and not try the notorious Potato Twisto, whose oversized skewer threatens to stab anyone who comes too close. Although the piping hot, thin potato slices covered in crispy batter and dusted with your choice of salt are definitely worth risking your eyeballs for.
Thankfully, the choice of drinks is much less stressful. The bars are run by Robert Oatley Wines who have lovingly crafted a wine list to match any chosen meal, while Little Creatures have filled the fridges with Pipsqueak apple cider, and White Rabbit and Little Creatures beers. A special mention must also go to the sangria from Running Bull Sangria, whose fruity mix is spiked with generous pinch of spice and sings of summer.
The people may come for the food, but they stay for the shops, because the Night Market is where you will find all those bits and bobs that you didn’t realise you needed. From boutique jewellery and handmade candles, to nautical knickknacks and vibrant vintage clothing, there are stalls to suit all tastes. The wacky creations are the true gems, such as the wrist cuffs made out of bicycle tyres and clocks made out of Grandma’s crockery, while a visit to the Henna artists will leave you with a memento that you can show off for the next couple of weeks. Each stall hosts a decent gathering of onlookers, which is a great sight to see at a market that gives producers of weird and wonderful wares the attention they deserve.
It may betray all that we have come to know and love about markets of old, mostly because you have to give up your right to personal space after 7pm, but the Queen Victoria Night Market shows that sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Any event that leaves you with a full belly, tingling taste buds and a bounty of boutique goods is fine by us, even if you do need a good lie down afterwards.
Queen Victoria Night Market
Corner of Queen Street and Therry Street, Melbourne
Every Wednesday night from 5pm-10pm until Wednesday March 25th
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