It’s that time of year when folks fly home for Christmas - and with more than a quarter of all Australians born overseas, for many of us that means an rather long and cramped international flight and plenty of time to kill after check-in. But then again, nobody wants to be short changed food-wise just because they're skipping the country short term.
While Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport hasn’t always been a noteworthy culinary destination, they’ve certainly raised their game and aimed sky high in recent years. These days it’s way easier to get a great feed while you wait, particularly with the international and domestic terminals sporting plenty of options a step above Hungry Jacks - though sometimes that does just the trick, hangover dependent.
We take a look at the best pre-flight meals on offer.
Bar Pulpo at Movida
Frank Camorra, the brains behind Melbourne’s treasured tapas restaurant Movida, has expanded his empire far beyond the original venue in Hosier Lane’s tourist trap graffiti hot spot. The latest outpost, Bar Pulpo, is now located at Tullamarine’s International T2.
What better way to kick off a Christmas trip home than with some Spanish spirit? Plump for freshly shucked oysters followed by a gooey croqueta, patatas bravas and perhaps a calamari sambo aka bocadillo. If your flight’s early, there are great brekkies on offer too, including salmon gravalax or chorizo, eggs and bacon served on sourdough.
Whether it’s 9am or 9pm, we can heartily recommend the churros dipped in indulgent drinking chocolate to finish off, but remember - it’s not a good look boarding a long-haul flight with brown smears down your pre-prepared ensemble.
Another empire that touched down at the airport is Shannon Bennett’s Cafe Vue - and we love pulling up pew there and sipping on a little champers while perusing the promising menu.
Bennett brings a heap of his trademark charm and knowledge to the concourse offering, whether it’s a both-hands barramundi burger and fries, or something a little more delicate like the confit duck quiche served with garden salad. One of the things we love most about the Cafe Vue offering at T2 is the pre-packed lunchboxes you can carry on board with you. They might include banh mi fishcakes, crispy potato with bacon aioli (the best kind), or a French bean salad and gluten-free orange cakes with poppy seeds.
Now, we’re not one to tell you what to do, but it’s well worth packing two for the long haul.
One of our favourite Yarra-side bars, Southbank’s Ludlow, has spawned an offshoot in T2’s tarmac-side Little Ludlow. Opening its not-actual doors at 5.30am, you can warm up for Christmas sunbaking with ricotta hot cakes or a brekkie pizza with bacon, egg and mushrooms.
If you’re hanging around a little later, bigger bites take in twice-cooked pork belly, proper pub-style fish and chips, or a wagyu burger stacked with Mahón cheese. A decent beer selection might include the likes of White Rabbit’s Dark Ale or James Squire’s One Fifty Lashes pale ale. The wine list is pretty smart too, and it’s a great spot for people watching as you wait on your gate getting called. Just keep your eyes and ears peeled!
Able Baker Charlie
Here at The Urban List, we love our baked goods, pizza and wine - and thankfully if you’re winging it with Virgin Australia or Rex in T3, Able Baker Charlie delivers all three with panache up there on the mezzanine level.
There’s a stone-baked pizza oven at the heart of Able Baker Charlie, wafting out melty cheesy goodness that has us salivating from a distance. They’ve also got a big range of vino to wash down the pizza, or a crafty European beer. Fresh-baked bread makes for a hearty sandwich list if you’re on the go, or just stuff your carry on luggage with cake... in case of emergency.
For those of us flying interstate, and doing it on the cheap too, fear not: The brand spanking new Terminal 4, built to accommodate Tiger Airways and Jetstar, has also gained a great slice of Melbourne’s food culture in the newest outlet from Carlton’s Italian stalwart Brunetti.
Designed by Technè Architects, the pod-like space references the great sweeping bar of the Lygon Street mothership. You can caffeine-load with a long black or make a mad dash with a takeaway latte and a box of macaron if you’re dashing off for final call. Those of us who like to rock up well in advance can settle in for a proper feed with the likes of a Margherita pizza or a prosciutto di Parma focaccia with a leisurely pastry to follow up while we get a head start on our holiday reading.
If you’re in T4 and want some spice (or a hangover cure) in your pre-flight life, Ali Baba can deliver you a garlic-loaded chicken to keep the vampires at bay, and stink out the entire plane on departure. Hey, it might leave you with a free seat next to you for some extra leg room... You can make like it’s Smith Street at 3am and gorge yourself silly, dribbles and all.
Love your takeaway, even if you're most definitely on the ground? Check out Melbourne's Best Gourmet Takeaway Spots!
Image credit: via Brunetti Facebook.