It's a cold Melbourne morning, and the sun is just starting to poke its head over the horizon. You had intended on sleeping in this morning, but instead, wake up ridiculously early. Why does this always happen on your day off? You roll over to where your phone has been resting all night and you open Instagram. That was a mistake. The tanned, smiling faces of everyone you have ever known beam back at you from faraway places. Sicily, Paris, Istanbul, Majorca....They just keep popping up, again and again and again. Are you the only person left in Melbourne? Then, like a shot of electricity, you see a most unusual post. "Le Tour de Burbs" you say quietly to yourself. "Has Ben Shewry gone mad?" you think. Yes, perhaps he has. Or perhaps a tour around the suburbs is exactly what you need today.
Congratulations! You have made it to the first stage of Le Tour de Burbs. You know what they say; you gotta to be in it to win it. Luckily, this tour starts with an excellent coffee at Custodian Kitchen. Owned and run by Melbourne hospitality stalwart, Hugh Sanderson, Commodity serves consistently wonderful coffee along with warm hospitality. As it’s the start of le Tour, you might even be tempted to order a freshly baked muffin covered in chunks of dark chocolate to go with your coffee.
The coffee is kicking in and your legs are feeling great. Time to make a move. The first hill climb in Le Tour de Burbs is the tricky decision of what sandwich to order for breakfast at Applehead Deli. Perhaps a deceptively delicious bacon and egg roll with melty American cheese, seasoned wonderfully? Or is the hearty Ruben on crispy rye with tangy pickles more your style? Oh no! They have a meatball roll with basil pesto and tomato sugo as well. You must decide if you want to choose a single paceline (one sandwich) or a double paceline (two sandwiches). Of course, Ben Shewry chose to go with a triple paceline. He couldn’t leave anyone behind and there is safety in numbers when touring.
The first twinges of food fatigue may be creeping up on you, so stretch the legs with a stroll through the streets of Beaumaris, wondering at the mid-century architecture. These gorgeous examples of Australian modernist architecture are fast being bulldozed, so take your time and appreciate these beauties whilst you still can. Stroll past the Beaumaris Library, the Iggulden House on Wells Road, and around Bellaire Court, or lose the pack and veer of course to see what discoveries can be made without a map.
You begin to feel peckish after all of that strolling. Time to climb that food mountain again, so it is off to Sri Dawaraka in Clayton for lunch. We happened on this place by (a very happy) accident, lured in by the amazing smell when wandering by. The restaurant itself is small, but the flavours are large. The best way to try a bit of lots of different dishes are their very generously sized Thali. Both the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian are excellent. There is a little potato curry which kept me going back again and again. Also, don’t miss the Masala Dosa, a thin lentil pancake filled with a gloriously seasoned potato masala filling and served with a spicy sesame sauce for dipping. Don’t worry about overindulging, you will need the surplus energy for the next stage of Le Tour de Burbs
You are now approaching a challenging mountain pass that is not for the faint hearted. Choose your team wisely for this stage of le Tour. Do your teammates have the stamina, endurance and strength of mind to tackle this challenging stage? If not then it’s time to reassess your strategy. Unassuming from the outside, you will realise the scale of the mountain once you enter through the front doors. Over 240 stalls are packed into a large warehouse, all filled with every kind of second-hand goods you can think of. A vase ceramic vase from 1956 to go in your new fantasy mid-century home that you have just purchased in your mind? Check. A slightly creepy mannequin torso with no limbs or head? Check, check. Just when you think you might be close to the end of this trying stage, you will turn the corner and realise that the hill pass has only just begun. This massive warehouse stretches as far as the eye can see, but buried treasures are abound for those with tenacity, patience and (if you are Ben Shewry) high levels of obsession.
Your mind is growing weary. The arms you have been using for antique collecting grow heavy. Is it possibly time for another meal? I know you have had a lot of food already today, but this is YOUR time to shine: The Final stage. You can’t quit now. You approach the mountain that is 4 Seasons Laksa, but once you smell the food all thoughts of tiredness will disappear. You suddenly find extra room in your belly and enter the restaurant. Try the Fried Kuoy Teow, Roti with Curry Beef and Hainanese Chicken Laksa, and thank us later. Actually, it’s probably better to thank Alicia – the charming owner of this wonderful Malaysian restaurant. The Laksa is spicy and the windows are steamy, and you sit in the window, wondering why you don't holiday at home more often.
You make your way back home, your mid filled with images of your Le Tour de Burbs: the friendly faces you met, the delicious food you ate, and the cultural sites visited. Your step count is up, you have a new vase (but sadly, no mid-century house just yet) and a hot list of local small businesses to support. “Is it bad to have a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast every day?” you ask to yourself.
Of course, you post a few shots to Instagram, tagging @benshewry and #letourdeburbs. Everyone is amazed at your ability to sniff out the best of any place you travel to. The likes start streaming in. You curl up in bed, happy and warm, and with a full belly. You fall asleep knowing that fun can be had almost anywhere if you are curious, remain open, and are keen to explore.
Celebrate finishing Le Tour in Style!