If you find yourself in Melbourne on a Wednesday night during the summer, and I highly recommend that you do, run, don’t walk, to the Night Market. It’s located in the Queen Victoria Market (running since 1878), a very, very long covered set of built-in stalls barely containing the most glorious farmers market/street food/hawker faire I have ever experienced.
The Night Market is a scene. A cross between Venice Beach and Berkeley, CA in the way that it feels, there are booths full of soaps, leather goods, clothing, jewelry, and other randomness that you’d find on the Venice Boardwalk or Telegraph Ave. And then there is one long strip of stall after stall of glorious, international food. Even though I walked away with a lovely bar of lavender hippie soap for my travels, the food is the reason to go. I had trouble deciding between a South Indian Dosa and a Malaysian Roti. I went for the Roti because I’d never had one before. The dough was toasty tan and slightly sweet, the dipping sauce savory, light, red, and spicy. The Roti came to me hot off the griddle. Men flung the wafer thin dough around mindlessly as they prepared the Roti one by one. I was mesmerized.
If I could, I would go every night until I’d tried everything there, or, almost everything. I’m not sure I need to sample a Philly Cheesesteak anywhere but Philly. It’s both confusing and hilarious to know that a Cheesesteak and Texas BBQ are considered international food. As they like to say here, we’re spoilt for choice.
I took a few panoramic shots of the market with my iPhone, giant frozen moments from the evening. It was packed tightly with people, particularly around the food stalls. The bands that played were good and gathered generous crowds. There were a few food stalls that straggled along the perimeter, clearly latecomers to the scene. The rest of the offerings were random, as I mentioned before, but most stuck to the theme of hippie, crunchy, and earthy. You can drink in there too: beer, cider, wine, and cocktails. After my Roti I got a cider and wandered the stalls looping around more than once as a slight buzz kicked in, looking, contemplating, and wishing this wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience.
The people there were mostly young. Loads of kids from the local Universities. Some families. A few tourists, I'm sure, but it's hard to spot them except for the really obvious ones, like when a whole bus shows up and spews them out onto the sidewalk jabbering and clicking their cameras. We're too far away from the U.S. to get the jeans-shorts-wearing, camera-dangling, black socks and sandals, pudgy old American tourists here. I think those folks take cruises. At least that's where the ones I ran into in the airport were headed.
In any case, if you wanted to picture the crowd here, take three parts college students, one part wanderers, one part families, and a whole slew of randoms. You'd end up with Venice Beach Boardwalk pretty much, and that's about as close as I can come comparison wise.
Doesn't matter though. Just go. You won't regret it.