Restaurateur Rene Spence is never tight-arsed it comes to Uncle, his fabulous mod-Viet restaurants in St Kilda and Collins St, city.
But when he knocks off, Rene’s Scottish heritage shines through. The seasoned hospitality pro is a self-proclaimed tight-arse. “This restaurant malarkey is expensive to set up so whilst doing this, the bank balance is a little lean,” Rene says. “So, despite the fact it’s the thing that every Scott hates to be stereotyped as, here I am perpetuating this folly.”
Here Rene shares his top five tight-arse ways to enjoy autumn in Melbourne. While you’re out and about, pop in to Uncle’s city restaurant for a $15 bowl of pho, a bargain taste of Dai Duong’s exquisite cooking. The pho is delicious and filling, with a beautiful view across Collins Street’s autumnal tree tops.
Ride the Capital City Trail
- This bike trail is a spectacular thing to do and something I used to do before work (pre-kids). Head along the Yarra towards the beautiful Abbotsford Convent and fuel your legs with a bowlful of something delicious at Lentil as Anything (pictured top, where you pay what you deem to be a fair price for what you eat). Keep going counter-clockwise through Yarra Bend and join the Merri Creek to ride around to the north side, skirting the Melbourne Zoo and riding under the freeway to Docklands and back to the Yarra where it all began. A fantastic cross-section of urban and green Melbourne and a workout to boot. Allow 3-5 hours.
Jump on V-Line
- Getting out of the city is easier than you think. Hop on the Bendigo line at Southern Cross Station and head an hour north of Melbourne to Woodend, right near my neck of the woods (Kyneton). Avoid the rush hour and you’ll travel with fewer people and a cheaper fare. If you have a bike, you can cycle to Hanging Rock where free entry and some absolutely spectacular volcanic scenery await. Reward yourself with a well-crafted ale and a cheap bite at Holgate Brewhouse (pictured) before catching the train back to the big smoke.
- If you live in Melbourne, chances are that you’re aware of artistic things to do but never bloody do them. The NGV has a fantastic permanent exhibition which is free but it’s the blockbuster ones that get all the press (currently some dodgy one-eared Dutch bloke called Van Gough). A hop across the road to Fed Square and you’re in ACMI with some visual poetry for your retinas. In the same precinct just up the road is the Shrine of Remembrance, a solemn but beautiful place to think about how our forefathers sacrificed for us to be here – a good way to make you stop complaining about why someone on Instagram has apparently a better life than you do. Get some bloody perspective, would ya?
Use your pins
- You’ve got pins, so use’m. This town in full of beautiful walks, like the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are stunning regardless of the season, but right about now there’s a kaleidoscope of crimson, yellow, green and brown as the leaves change and herald the onset of winter, crisp and dark. Another great walk is to wonder the laneways of the CBD, stopping for a coffee at Patricia (standing room only) or a beer in Section 8 (which has crates for seats) – both very Melbourne. If you get tired of walking, travel for free on trams in the CBD, or try a guided trip on the City Circle Tram. It’s also fun exploring Docklands, a confusing jumble of contemporary architecture. Despite the lack of a cohesion and a struggle for identity, it is nonetheless an impressive sight and it’s always nice to be by the water.
Get some zen
- Take a breath. It appears to me every day that the earth spins on its axis faster and faster. It’s dizzying and is making my beard go greyer by the second. As I get older, it really is the little things that make the difference. Watch the sun set whilst reminiscing on your day/week/year or look ahead to the one to come. Wake up and catch the sunrise (which will save you even more money in that you won’t drink that bottle of wine the night before). Take your loved one and if you can’t do this, take your dog, If you don’t have a dog, take someone else’s. If you have kids, camp out in your own backyard and watch the stars drift and the planets dance between them. Teach them about the infinite universe and our unique but minute place amongst it, plus our responsibility to do better things, or at the very least to do things better. Grab that bottle of whisky that’s in your cupboard and drink it for Christ’s sake. Today is that special occasion. You’re alive and you’re with those you love (or at least you’re with a dog).