Christian Bonetto spends a weekend in Melbourne.
Australia's fastest-growing metropolis, Melbourne, leads the nation on many fronts, from restaurants, bars and cafes, to culture, design and sport. You'll find many of the country's finest art collections, theatres and heritage buildings along with prized wineries, millennia-old rainforests and a wild, rugged coastline.
After popping into
to get your name on the waiting list, it's a quick walk up the block to sneaky speakeasy
. Settle in at the lounge or in one of the old-school booths with an aperitif while you wait for that "Your table is now ready" SMS from Chin Chin.
6.30pm: It's time to salivate over Ben Cooper's sexy, juicy takes on Southeast Asian flavours at what is one of Melbourne's hottest, tastiest, best-loved eateries. Leave room for desserts like grilled banana roti bread with sweet condensed milk and cinnamon sugar.
8.30pm: Hopefully you've booked a ticket to a gig at Melbourne's best jazz club, Bennetts Lane, an easy six-block walk north up Russell St. On any night the talent is top-notch. Head in early for a good seat.
You'll have already booked your Laneways and
, starting at Federation Square. Spend three intriguing hours descovering the city's celebrated alleys and heritage arcades, stumbling across cool cafes, shops and anecdotes. The tour ends with lunch and wine.
2.30pm: After lunch, take a lazy amble through the city's backyard, the Royal Botanic Gardens, a quick tram ride south on Swanston St, and St Kilda Rd.
5pm: Walk back to the city along the bank of the Yarra River, crossing Princess Bridge and making your way through central Melbourne's intimate lanes to Bar Americano, a thimble-sized drinking hole down a dead-end alleyway. Hipsters in white coats fix serious, elegant concoctions based solely on revered old recipes.
7pm: Refreshed, walk a block north to Bourke St and hop on the 86 tram for dinner at Cutler & Co, a modern classic run by Melbourne food scene darling Andrew McConnell and designed by architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb. On the menu: seasonal, regional produce transformed into edible works of art.
9pm: Stay in Fitzroy to explore the neighbourhood's pubs and bars. Walk east along Gertrude St for beautiful drinking spots such as oenophile paradise Gertrude Street Enoteca or cocktail den The Everleigh.
Arm yourself with a strong espresso and a serving of home-made crumpets with whipped ricotta and honey at airy, buzzing
. If you need something more heavy-duty, opt for the comfort combo of grilled sausage, smoked hock, braised beans and 65/65 egg.
10.30am: Your crash course in Australian art awaits a few blocks away at the Ian Potter Centre - NGV Australia. The world's first major gallery dedicated exclusively to homegrown artistic talent, its 20 galleries span indigenous works and colonial and modern masterpieces. Look out for Tom Roberts' Shearing the Rams.
12.30pm: Book ahead for a lunch table at Movida, home of prolific Spanish-Australian chef Frank Camorra. Try his squid ink croquette with calamari and chive, and the hot, spiced chicken escabeche.
2.30pm: End your mini Melbourne adventure on a high at Eureka Skydeck, the loftiest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere.
Getting there with Qantas: Flights to Melbourne depart Auckland or Wellington and include all the frills; food, wine, entertainment and a checked luggage allowance plus you could earn Qantas Points.
Qantas to Melbourne on Sale: Economy one way from $195.
Book now at qantas.com. Offer ends 18 Feb 2015, unless sold out prior. Conditions apply.