My two year working holiday visa for Australia is nearly at an end and I can't help but find myself reminiscing over the best times I've had in this amazing country. I've been lucky enough to live in the "most liveable city in the world" twice now and Melbourne has always been an incredible home from home for me. What is it that makes this city so great? For me, I always have my home-base of my closest travelling friends who live there permanently so it will always be the place I keep going back to. But even aside from that, I've always had amazing jobs there that have pushed me in new ways and have brought me amazing opportunities, I've always had great places to live and a huge group of mates that make saying goodbye the hardest it could possibly be. Living in Melbourne is a whole lifestyle that I haven't found elsewhere in cities around the world - it's festivals and events, it's health and fitness, it's eating out and partying, it's a whole attitude and a way of life.I loved every second I spent working and during my second year in Australia, I scored big when I managed to get a job cocktail waitressing at the number one rooftop bar in the city - Rooftop at QT. What at first seemed like just another bar job, soon proved to be so much more when I realised I would be working in such a high profile bar in the middle of the city at a 5* hotel serving celebrities on a daily basis. I hosted huge parties of up to 100 people almost nightly during the Christmas period from corporate functions to birthday parties and even later on working the Ferrari party for the Grand Prix, serving the likes of Nicole Kidman. It was a busy job, and a hard job at times. The hours were long and exhausting, I had to wear high heels and have my hair and make-up done for each shift. It was amazing, and I loved every second, but true to form I ended up working way too much and burning myself out as usual. So when it did come to my days off, I made sure to make the most of them and to get out exploring the city as much as possible.On one particular day off, a group of friends and I decided we deserved a chance enjoy the rooftop bars Melbourne has to offer, instead of always being the ones serving the drinks in them. We headed out on a bar crawl of the best rooftop bars in the city and this is my guide to the best ones I've visited.
The newest rooftop bar in Melbourne's CBD and already one of the most highly acclaimed, this is the best spot to enjoy a late afternoon drink in the sunshine and to spot celebrities. Rooftop at QT is a quirkier little sister brand of the hotel Rydges, expect ultimate luxury and a corporate feel, plus cocktails to die for.
Melbourne's third biggest rooftop bar, this is a great one to take a big group of mates to when you're all in the mood for good quality beers on tap and hearty meals like wings and nachos. Imperial Hotel is a great place to start a bar crawl if you fancy working your way down Bourke Street and visiting the huge number of rooftop bars along the way.
Famous for it's amazing view, you can't miss out on a visit to this fabulous rooftop bar in Fitzroy. The cocktails are delicious and the bar even have their own spirits on offer including a spiced rum that I absolutely loved. The view is incredible both during the day and at night - head into Naked for Satan and wait at the lift to be escorted up to the rooftop. There is sometimes a queue but trust me, it's worth the wait.
This cute little rooftop hideaway is easily missed from the street, but it's one you definitely want to know about because Loop Bar is one of the few bars that are fully kitted out to deal with Melbourne's crazy weather. Gas heaters and a large awning mean that even when it pours outside, you can still enjoy the rooftop experience surrounded by greenery and garden furniture.
After something a bit fancy for girls' night? Look no further than the kitsch decorations, the pink theme and fruity punchbowls to share at Madame Brussels. The cute little outdoors area will be perfect for all your Instagram shots, and it's definitely a bit different to all the other rooftop bars around.
I won't lie, Bomba had one of the most disappointing rooftop areas with no view and not much space for sitting but the menu downstairs more than makes up for this. Head upstairs for a quick drink then back downstairs for a delicious selection of Spanish tapas.
Head out of the CBD and over to South Yarra for a change of pace and a nice chilled out bar right by the train station. The Emerson rooftop is lovely and has umbrellas so you can enjoy it even in the pouring rain as we did when I went. It's right on Chapel Street so perfect for heading out afterwards.
Ferdydurke is not technically a rooftop bar, but this cool little bar is on the top floor and has a cool little smoking area that overlooks graffiti-covered walls and Section 8's awesome little container backyard bar, giving a taste of Melbourne's edgier, hipster side.
Find yourself in Richmond? Look no further than these two unexpected gems for a perfect rooftop experience - both used to be locals of mine for after work drinks and you can always expect a great atmosphere especially with regular gigs taking place downstairs from The Corner Hotel. Expect busy venues and a lively crowd, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night. Richmond Club Hotel also offers an incredible view over the train tracks and into the city - head here for sunset.
That old favourite will never leave my top list of rooftop bars - Carlton Club was just around the corner from Rooftop at QT so I was a regular there for after work drinks. It's always a guaranteed laugh with old school tunes on a Friday night and a busy dance floor, plus cheap drinks and a lovely outside rooftop area that is perfect for drinks day or night.
One I only finally visited just before leaving Melbourne but had spent a long time checking out from Rooftop at QT. You can see across the skyline to the other rooftop bars and this one always looked popular with a steady crowd up there drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Completely unpretentious, this bar doesn't even need a name, just Rooftop Bar, but for those who can't find it - you'll want to head to Curtin House on Swanston Street, the building that houses popular venue Cookie, then head to the top floor.
An awesome little find - I love Good Heavens for brightly coloured afternoon cocktails with friends - think refreshing beverages, live DJ sets and a party atmosphere. It's all set right above Fancy Hanks BBQ joint that serves all the smoked meats you could possibly eat - so head downstairs for some dinner after a few drinks.
Have you been to any of these rooftop bars? Which one is your favourite? Can you recommend any others that aren't listed?
Going out for dinner has always been one of my favourite things to do. It doesn't matter whether it's street food in Bangkok, a luxury three-course meal in a fine-dining restaurant or a stuff-yourself-silly night at the local steakhouse. I'm always open to trying new foodie experiences and I'd always much rather that than a night of partying, money much better spent if you ask me! Especially when it comes to supporting independent and local businesses, I'm not really one for chain restaurants and would always much rather eat at restaurant that isn't mass-producing its food. Give me fresh, local produce and a creative means of cooking any day. It's not just the food - although that is a huge part of why I love it - it's also the social experience of trying new foods with friends or loved ones, of sitting around a table and eating together. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to meals, growing up it was always the one time of day my family all sat down together with no TV or other distractions to eat and catch up on what we had all been up to. When you're living such busy and different lives, I think it's important to really take this time together. As a backpacker, getting to know people always seems to be done over dinner and a few beers, eating together is once again the thing that brings us all together of an evening.London is a city full of chain restaurants and well known brands, but for me, this just doesn't do it when I have a weekend away. I'd much rather peruse the food markets and explore quirky little restaurants with a lot more personality for a bit of a unique experience. I was invited along to review RustiKo Soho, a new independent Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Compton Street, just a stone's throw from some of the best theatres in London. As we walked up to the restaurant, we were excited by the cosy look of the place, the quirky, candle-lit interior, and a funky blues playlist we could hear muffled behind the windows. I was promised "the vintage Soho experience" from an evening there and I can't say I was disappointed, we were made to feel so welcome from the second we stepped in the door. The size and the decor gave it such a friendly vibe, more like you had hired out the whole venue for your friends than the formality of a restaurant. Every bar stool was already taken by those enjoying the fantastic range of prosecco, classic and twisted cocktails, as we were escorted to our table. I loved the rustic vibes of the restaurant, it was just my kind of place and I could only imagine the other levels would deliver more of the same.One glance at the menu showed me we were in for a treat as we struggled to choose our favourite dishes, there was so much choice and so many of my favourite dishes. Despite having limited numbers of dishes on the menus, every single dish on there sounded fabulous and there was definitely something for everyone. The waiters were incredibly helpful with suggesting wines to go with the dishes and offering recommendations for combinations of dishes. In the end, we started with the garlic chilli shrimp and polenta chips to start, with some garlic pizza bread. It was the first time I had tried polenta chips but they were delicious, and the garlic pizza bread was a huge hit with that super melty, delicious cheese. My favourite had to be the delicious garlic chilli shrimp - one of my favourite dishes to have as a starter - I was so impressed by the flavours and spice, it was perfect and I'll definitely be ordering that again.For our second course, we spent ages choosing our dishes, but in the end we couldn't resist the lobster linguine and the gnocchi. Now gnocchi is a dish that I've had a lot of disappointment over in the past, I've had the sad looking potatoey lumps slapped on a plate several times and decided it wasn't for me. But finally, we tried a gnocchi that was tasty and had the perfect texture, the dumplings were cooked in a tasty mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and basil sauce that was perfect for my vegetarian sister. The absolute highlight was my lobster linguine, a dish that I have loved for many years, I couldn't resist seeing the chef's take on it. This time it was half a lobster cooked with cherry tomatoes, spring onions and a brandy sauce, even now as I write this my mouth is watering at the memory. It was a deliciously rich dish full of flavours, but the chef had combined them so perfectly that they didn't overtake the delicate taste of the lobster. It's a fine balance and there's nothing worse than a seafood dish that overpowers seafood with strong flavours, the brandy was a perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed with the quality of the food, and the portion size, we were left stuffed and couldn't even manage dessert!Watching the other patrons, I couldn't resist peeking at their food and was excited at the sight of the juicy steaks, the light pasta dishes and the small plates (piattini) that were perfect for sharing. The couple next to us were loving their meal and really recommended the dishes, particularly the rib-eye. Showing the diversity of Soho, the restaurant was filled with a real range of people, it really showed how it was perfect for all occasions whether it was a family meal, a romantic dinner for two, or cocktails with the girls. Even better, after dinner, we were taken downstairs to explore the newest addition to the restaurant, the newly-opened basement bar, The Shed. With a real vintage Soho feel, the bar is a perfect place to relax with a drink after dinner, or to spend an evening with good friends. Just a small bar, it has a really exclusive feel as you walk down the spiral staircase to see cute wooden seating, bookshelves and quirky little decorations. I loved the swing music soundtrack and it went perfectly with the amazing look of the bar. There were already a couple of groups down there enjoying a few drinks and I noticed, that although the place felt busy and bustling, it was never so loud that we struggled to hear each other. RustiKo had managed to find a perfect balance between atmosphere and the foodie experience, and the result was just lovely. It really was the rustic Italian experience nestled in the streets of Soho, and I can't recommend this hidden gem enough. Book your table now.
Have you been to RustiKo - how was your experience? Can you recommend any other independent restaurants? What's your favourite Italian dish?