Australian Open 2024 diary: The many tastes of Victoria | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Australian Open 2024 diary: The many tastes of Victoria

By, Mornington, Australia
Jan 26, 2024 09:56 PM IST

The state of Victoria is heaven on earth for foodies, and more so during the Australian Open.

The curtains are about to draw on the 2024 Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year and one of Melbourne's biggest sporting events. But hey, it's expected to go out swinging. On a two-hour long journey from the Phillip Island to the Moonlit Sanctuary, with phone battery running out of juice, you can't help but switch between airplane mode and some data to catch the updates from the first semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner. Djokovic takes a toilet break as we halt briefly on the Phillip Island Road with the backdrop of the Western Port for some sight-seeing, photos and video recording. On the next check, Sinner is a set up, and then two to have the Djoker on the mat. And roughly an hour later, the news is out. The 22-year-old has done the unthinkable: ended Djokovic's 33-match winning streak at the AO. Newsrooms are in a frenzy; sports journalists can't keep calm. And yet, for yours truly, it was only the second-biggest development of the day. Why, you ask? Because when in Australia, let alone the state of Victoria, all work and no food, makes Billy a silly boy.

When in Victoria, indulge(Aditya Bhattacharya - Hindustan Times)
When in Victoria, indulge(Aditya Bhattacharya - Hindustan Times)

For someone who's spent 27 years of his life in the NCR and hopped around places gorging on desserts, what do you reckon would beat a cheesecake? A Tiramisu from The Big Chill? A banoffee pie from Tonino's? Or an apple crumble from Fifth Avenue? The answer lies all the way down at the Doot Doot Doot – a fine dining restaurant serving a four-course meal at the Jackalope in Australia's Mornington Peninsula… called the Banana Cremeux. The food is as succulent as the name, more so when you have the tedious task of choosing between beef, fish and chicken to follow it with. But the moment that one scoop – dipped in vanilla and slicing through the cake with flavours of almond and pandan inside – is devoured, it dethrones a personal favourite.

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What's better than a non-vegetarian patty-marinated burger? And we're talking better than Chili's, where the Southern Smokehouse is a blockbuster… or the monstrous Juicy Lucy at Café Delhi Heights, which just in October, celebrated the monumental achievement of selling 6 lakh of those? It's a burger that Jason Segel's character, Marshall Eriksen from How I Met Your Mother describes 'The bun so sesame freckled and the patty so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. It's God speaking to us through food'. The Angus Burger at the Hubert Estate in the Yarra Valley is your equivalent of it. A second new favourite in 24 hours.

Now, let's savor the best for last – a hearty, sumptuous breakfast, my absolute favorite meal of the day. Usually, when home, the go-to choices are Di Ghent in Gurugram, IHOP at Cyber Hub, or the Smoke House Deli. But Friday morning marked the standout first meal of the day when we ventured to Mon Dieu, a charming café nestled in Phillip Island, renowned for its serene ambiance which is a mood lifter in itself. The owner, Gav Panesar, hails from Indian origin but radiates an Aussie vibe. He – warmly greets us, introduces himself, provides insights about the food, and seamlessly goes about his business. You just know, at that moment, it's going to be good.

Take my word: You cannot go wrong with the dessert that Doot Doot Doot has to offer (Aditya Bhattacharya - Hindustan Times)
Take my word: You cannot go wrong with the dessert that Doot Doot Doot has to offer (Aditya Bhattacharya - Hindustan Times)

The energy levels soared even higher as the food menu was perused, and let me tell you, it painted a delightful picture. Having not experienced the perfect breakfast thus far, the initial temptation was to opt for a safe choice like the egg bacon roll or the benedict. However, resisting the urge, an order for the 'Oh My Omelette' was placed and what a fantastic call it turned out to be. Accompanied by a refreshing glass of Orange Juice, it was a perfect start to the day. The weather alternated between rain and sunshine, followed by another round of showers, and then, once again, the sun emerged. Amidst all this, the gorgeously presented plates on our table were emptied, leaving the four of us only able to express our satisfaction with a collective 'Mmmmm…'. Another culinary triumph.

Over the last four days, Victoria has provided ample reasons for this writer to develop a profound affection for the state, with none more compelling than the diverse array of flavours it presents. While Melbourne is renowned for its sports, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and its iconic trams, one cannot overlook the prominence of coffee in the city. A colleague accurately captures the essence in an Instagram post: "When in Degraves Street, LATTE HARD." Unfortunately, the one typing is not particularly fond of either tea or coffee, guilty as charged. Nonetheless, it's anticipated that the narrative may take a turn on the final day.

The city is witnessing an unprecedented influx of tourists, and the roads choc-a-bloc. However, the city's splendid design makes it an ideal haven for walkers. As an enthusiastic walker myself, Christine from 'Foodie Trails' guided us through a three-hour walking tour of Melbourne, complete with delectable pit stops at a Vietnamese eatery and ChinaTown. Notably, the 'Crocodile Ribs,' a hot seller at Mabu Mabu, is hailed as a significant Australian delicacy.

While covering the regions may seem exhausting, traversing their distances is anything but. Even if weariness sets in, a brief stop at the Rusty Waters works wonders. A sip of Crown Lager beer, accompanied by Salted Calamari, Chicken Parmigiana, and the Beer-battered Fried Fish n Chips will swiftly get you back up and running. Exercise caution not to delay dinner, as the city winds down by 9 PM in this tranquil locale with a population of around 13,000 – barely 2.5 percent of Melbourne's residents. However, for those in need of a last-minute option, a Subway or a Kebab food truck stands ready to come to the rescue.

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