Worth the schlep? Absolutely. Every motherloving spice, seed and grain from Afghanistan to India and Ethiopia is available for sale at what is without doubt Melbourne’s most culturally diverse food market. Load up on banana blossoms and traditional Turkish lokma (fried dough balls soaked in sugar syrup), chuck a few sacks of basmati in your trunk and make out like a bandit with change to spare. You’ll feel like Marco Polo.
Bring your trolley to defend yourself and nerves of steel. This is a pure slice of Asian chaos, replete with vicious nannas, tanks of live crabs, cheap meat, and vendors selling sugarcane juice and pushing bean spouts by the sack. If you don’t know your hairy melon from your dragonfruit – tough. Just follow someone who looks like they know what they’re doing.
They’re the kings of specialisation at Prahran markets. Here you’ll find a goose merchant, exotic nut vendor and mushroom man, all of whom are experts on their wares. Coffee up at Market Lane (point of origin for Melbourne’s third wave coffee movement) and beware the ham lady, unless you want to swap all your money for sweet slices of pig (trust us, she’s a sorceress).
Cheap and loud. Rough and ready. That’s Preston Market. In operation for more than 40 years, it rambles through a massive hall past a muchutilised piano at its centre, and out into the carpark. It’s a Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern and Asian affair with plenty of discount meat and flowers for haggling over; pho, doughnuts and Cornutopia tacos for eating; and street performers for the watching. We condone putting your kid on a leash.
A sprawling carnival of musicians, doughnut vans, and eight-year-old fruit vendors belting out their best hawker cries, this is Melbourne’s closest relation to the London Borough Markets. As well as the permanent shops selling deli goods, hand-pulled candy canes, fish and fowl, temporary stands spruik organic wines, live ducklings, and designer clothes of questionable authenticity.
It’s like catnip for those who like to know where their food came from and how it got from there to here. Held at the Abbotsford Convent – which is always a pleasure – this is a market with principles: all produce is seasonal, organic, and delivered direct by the ruddy hands that grew or raised the goods.
Multiple butchers, bakers, grocers and fishmongers, fortune tellers and snack stands making good use of the produce at hand (hit Evening Star for some fresh grilled scampi if you’re down for a snack) make this one of the best fresh markets in the city. It’s a little more David Jones than Delhi (less yelling, more truffle oil), but come summer, rowdiness galore is to be had at the night markets when bands and booze are on the agenda.