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The South Melbourne market has become an iconic Melbourne landmark, having been around since 1867. Arguably it’s most recognisable trademark is South Melbourne Dim Sims, which has been operating at the market since 1949. Unfortunately the legendary identity who started the stall, Ken Cheng, passed away in 2006; however the stall continues to operate (although it’s well argued whether at the same level of quality) and still does command long, snaking queues each week.
As my market trips usually take place on a Saturday morning, I am often carrying around the wounds of excess from the night before, so the rite of passage when I first arrive is a visit to Pizza Espresso for a delicious, oversized slice of pizza, at a not-break-the-bank price of $3.00. However there are also a number of other quality takeaway food options. Of note is Simply Spanish, who in the warmer weather, roll out their large paella stands onto the street, tempting the passers by with mouth-watering aromas of seafood and spicy rice.
There is an abundance of butchers at the market, and even though all offer fantastic produce, habitually I visit Tony’s Meat Supplies, finding their meat slightly better value whilst offering the same level of quality. One of the greatest benefits of buying your meat through a butcher’s stall, rather than the traditional pre-packaged supermarket style, is that they will cut up the meat for you in any particular way you require, saving finger-risking knife escapades at home.
The Aptus stall is a seafood lover’s utopia, with piles of freshly caught whole fish and fillets, calamari, bugs, lobsters and freshly shucked oysters staring tantilising out at you from behind the glass cabinets. If you find yourself so tempted by the displays that you are unable to wait until you get home to try their goods, you can purchase one of the freshly shucked oysters with a tomato and tabasco shot to wet your appetite.
One of my favourite places at the market would have to be Theo’s Deli, a place where my carefully sculpted shopping list gets thrown to the wayside, as I stumble away with overflowing bags of smallgoods, homemade dips and freshly baked breads. Expect to pay slightly more than usual for their goods; however rest assured the quality easily accounts for the elevated prices.
Hunt around and you can find some great fruit and veg bargains, especially late on a Sunday when the traders stock up trestle tables along the street and sell off bags of fruit and veg for $1. However I beeline straight for Fruits on Coventry, which not only has excellent quality produce, but also stocks all the weird and wonderful varieties which feature in the “find this ingredient” challenges that Gourmet Traveller set with their recipes each month. From giant Jack Fruits and Pomegranates, Chokos to Chicory, each week there are new discoveries to be made.
South Melbourne Market is a food lover’s delight, with delicious takeaway options and fantastic fresh produce, but also has an ample selection of traditional fashion and giftware stalls for those who enjoy hunting down a bargain.