Sunday, 20 May 2012

The University of Melbourne - historic buildings and lazy lunches

If this were a university assignment I would fail.  I know a blog post should only be 250 words and focused and not filled with so many photos that you think it will never end.  If you want short and sweet, this isn't the post for you.  If you want an ode to The University of Melbourne, filled with meandering memories, plus some rambling recommendations on where to eat on campus and its fringes, bear with me.  Just don't expect to find recommendations on coffee, as I don't drink the stuff.

This post has been some time in the making.  I started taking these photos a year ago.  But my associations with the university go back far more years.  In fact, my first memory of the university is in the above 1888 Building.  (No prizes for guessing when it was built!)  I still remember playing drawing games at child care here when it was known as the old Melbourne Teachers College and my mum studied here.  These days the building is more notable to me for the magnificent Gryphon Gallery with its beautiful stained glass windows.

The historic buildings are where my love of the university started.  I still love to wander through the campus and admire the hotch potch of buildings that have seen so many students.  At school, I chose to study at the University of Melbourne because I wanted a place steeped in tradition.

The foundation stone was laid in 1854, not long after Europeans had founded the town of Melbourne.  It was built with gold rush wealth and made an important statement about the sophistication of the new town.  For over a century it was the only university here.  I will not bore you with the politics of prestige, the Group of Eight and the pompousness that comes with it.  Suffice to say, I have studied and worked here long enough to see the good and the bad.

Whenever I have cause to wander through the campus, I still love to go through what I have always known as the Old Law Quad.  It is much photographed with brides in large white dresses and graduates in gowns and capes.  In fact I had my own graduation photo taken there.

If you look at the University website it will tell you it is called the Old Quadrangle and that it now houses Philosophy, Classics and Archaeology.  In my day it was the home of the Law Faculty. They now reside in one of the fancy new buildings south of the main campus.

The Quad was commenced, in Tudor Gothic style, in 1853, the oldest building on campus.  Its final wing wasn't completed until 1970.  A plaque on the wall of the quad points to its place in the broader history of Melbourne: "In April, 1856 stonemasons working on the building, downed tools, marched to the city and inaugurated a movement which won the Eight Hour Day for building workers in Victoria.  The victory became an international landmark in the history of the labour movement."

A glance around the campus, however, will demonstrate that the history of buildings i not always straightforward.  Take the Old Commerce Building above where the Architecture Faculty now resides.  It was actually built in 1941 with a facade taken from the demolished Bank of New South Wales on Collins Street.  Authentic?  Well the National Trust have listed it.  I suspect today we would treat it very differently.  Seeing how it was done in the 1940s gives an insight into another era.

Another fascinating integration of old and new architecture is this entrance to the Underground Car Park.  The archway, flanked by Atlas statues, comes from an old doorway in St Stephen's Green in Dublin.  The carpark is famous as one of the film locations for Mad Max.  On a more personal note, I remember seeing a student play set in there.  It brings back memories of student days when I saw far more plays than I do now, including many student productions.

Ah, the student lifestyle!  Living close enough to walk or bike to classes.  Hours spent in the library, not always studying.  Endless cups of teas and intense conversations about life, the universe and everything.  Discovering authors, music, films.  It is no longer my lifestyle but I still catch glimpses of it on campus.  Student chalking messages about balls and events on the pavement.  Queues of students for bbqs with free beer.  Advertisements for plays and gigs on bollards and the banners outside the student union building.

While it can seem unchanging, the University seems to be in a constant state of flux.  Last year I went to Bullwinkles stationery store that had been there since I was a student.  I discovered it had closed and a new stationery store had opened in the basement of the student union building.  This happens every now and again.

The Bailieu Library and Educational Resource Centre (ERC) are barely recognisable to me any more.  The internet means that knowledge is managed very differently now.  It has changed the way students enroll and submit essays and communicate.  Even buildings no longer have the same uses.  I always loved that the above Babel Building was the location of many language schools but apparently this is no longer so.  And don't get me started on the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism!

I have spent far longer here as an employee than as a student.  In fact my two longest jobs have been at the University.  I no longer work there but I have worked in a laboratory, in student services and in a research centre.  This is how I know it is called the University of Melbourne not Melbourne University.  I also learnt of the difficulties of implementing university-wide databases (such as THEMIS), how to work with Asian names (a great short course), and to have a healthy cynicism for peer review and journal impact factors.

I would like to tell you that I know all there is to know about where to eat.  But like the rest of the place, the food offerings keep on changing.  For years the Middle Eastern place in the Student Union Building food hall had these fantastic cheap chocolate balls that I loved but they seem to have disappeared.  So have the nice people at my bank at the university who used to know my name and give me money even if I left my purse at home!

One constant is the Melbourne University Food Co-Op tucked away on the first floor of the Student Union Building (apparently now called Union House).  I was a member there in my student days and used to work behind the counter.  I loved the cheap little salad rolls - they were usually tomato, grated beetroot, grated carrot, alfalfa sprouts with a choice of spreads such as peanut butter, tahini and hummus.  The pies were lovely too with lots of hearty fillings and wholemeal pastry.  Above is a recent tofu and tempeh pie.  The co-op still has a bulk food section too.

Another staple of student life and the Melbourne lunch scene is the freshly made salad roll.  The above one, from Bouverie Deli at 154 Bouverie Street, is typical.  Lettuce, sliced tomato, grated carrot, tinned beetroot slices and sliced cheese.  Such sandwich bars are not hard to find.  There is one in the Student Union Building food hall and probably others if you care to look.  They are cheap and healthy, though I prefer them in summer than winter.

This vegetable calzone with cheese is more my sort of winter lunch.  It is from the Italian counter in the food hall.  The food hall in the student union building has a wide selection of cheap food.  Not all is brilliant.  I have been let down by the rotis at the Indian counter.  Upstairs is a bar where I have eaten occasionally but I think it has changed hands more recently.  If I don't buy a salad sandwich or calzone, I usually stroll down the hallway from the food hall to get sushi at Plush Fish.

Plush Fish is also very good for sweet food.  They do lovely muffins and hedgehog (above).  Other sweet food in the Student Union Building includes a lolly shop, bubble drinks, doughnuts and French pastries.  Other small places do some lovely slices.  Just recently I had a lovely chocolate caramel peanut slice at what I think is called Romano's Coffee by the ERC Library.  This place also does great salads.  The problem with the University is that the Parkville campus is such a cluter of tiny lanes and buildings, that it is hard to given directions.
 
Another place I have recently enjoyed is the Potter Espresso Bar (run by Blueprint Catering).  I didn't take my camera because I am quite shy about being snap-happy with work colleagues.  It has a nice range of panini, salads and pasta.  It is also easy to direct people to.

More notable though is the adjoining Ian Potter Gallery of Art.  I love the artwork on the facade called Cultural Rubble by Christine O'Loughlin (see above).  I was under the impression that they were rejects from the Louvre's collection but in writing this post I found it was actually made out of plaster cast moulds of the originals.  The Potter Gallery is worth a visit.  It has interesting exhibitions and you can always see the stained glass windows salvaged from the grand Wilson Hall that was burnt down in 1952.

When I have had time, while working at the University, I have enjoyed a little oasis of calm and culture every now and then.  In addition to the Potter Gallery, there is the Grainger Museum, the recreational Roden White Library, the Systems Garden, and the Medical History Museum.  The medical museum fascinating for its installation of a nineteenth century London pharmacy.  It was also the museum where as a student I assisted a researcher to curate an exhibition on this social history of venereal disease.

When the sun shines there are lots of lovely places to sit and eat.  Above is the South Lawns in front of the John Medley Building.  Not my usual haunt.  I'd much prefer the seats by the Old Arts Building or the shady courtyard at Tsubu Cafe.  Or the outside tables at Lot 6 - at the bottom of the stairs by the ERC.  I particularly loved a recent lunch there of avocado, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and goats cheese on sourdough toast.  I have also eaten at University House and Graduate House, though not being a member of either.  The former is ok downstairs but far more impressive if you eat at one of their function rooms.

As I have mentioned it has taken me some time to write this post.  So long that when I recently went past this stand behind the John Medley Building it had changed.  Crepes a la Carte is a fascinating example of student entrepreneurship. It was started with a grant and since its beginning in 2010 already has expanded the premises.  I stopped here some time ago for one of the surprisingly thin crepes filled with nutella.  It was rather good and I have been meaning to return and try some of the other fillings such as melted chocolate and coconut or nutella and peanut butter.

One of my colleague's used to call Melbourne University "the university that swallowed a suburb".  Being situated very close to the city means that it hasn't had much room to expand.  I have vague memories of protests about pulling down a bowling green to make way for University Square but need to read more about it to be sure it caused a ruckus.  What I can tell you is that there has been a huge program of constructing new and often tall buildings in Carlton to the south of the Parkville campus.  (Incidentally, I was once told that the university's address is Parkville rather than Carlton because Carlton was once an unsvaoury address but I also haven't been able to verify this.)

Along with the buildings works in Carlton have been an explosion of cafes to accommodate the academic community who have moved into this area.  Baretto sits at the bottom of the Alan Gilbert Building, Porta Via at the Law Building, Tre Sette at 139 Bouverie Street and Briscola at 157 Pelham Street are ones I have visited regularly.  I love the soup and salads in Tre Sette and at one stage ate a lot of Briscola's toasted panini with mozzarella, pesto, rocket, eggplant, red capsicum and zucchini.  I even ordered one and took a photo (below) for old times' sake.  They all do some interesting wraps and deliciious sweet bakes.

One of the bright new cafes in the area is Animal Orchestra at 163 Grattan Street (opposite the 1888 Building).  Unfortunately I have lost my photos of the fantastic mural of magazine clippings that adorn the walls but you can see then at the link in the previous sentence.  The top photo is the exterior of the terrace house where it is located.  I love their soups.  They always have a vegetarian one, though sometimes a bit spicy.  Below is a photo of a takeaway soup I had at my desk with a florentine.  Their biscuits are great and so is their vegetarian pizza. The staff are friendly and I love their quirky old furniture in the best of student traditions.  They even have an upstairs room for private gatherings.

Below is my lunch I had last year at Seven Seeds at 114 Berkeley Street with fellow blogger Catherine of CatesCates.  It is on the university fringe so I decided to include it before I discovered how long this post would be.  I had a sandwich with pumpkin and herbed fetta with a side of rocket.  It was very nice but rather pricey.  That didn't stop us both having to try one of the amazing cakes.  The brownie was divinely decadent.  The cafe is in an old warehouse and was busy and hipper than thou. Only to expected in this neck of the woods.

Finally, I can't mention university food without at least acknowledging pub life.  As a student I spent quite some time at The Clyde and Naughtons but I only remember the beer rather than the food so I can't comment on lunch there.  These days I prefer my food to my drink.  Below is a photo of the Prince Alfred Hotel on the corner of Grattan and Bouverie Streets - better known to the regulars as PAs.  It is a great place to go for a group lunch.  Vegetarians can get decent pub grub classics such as burger and chips or veg pasta. It can get very full of students during semester but takes bookings.

In addition to a wealth of places on and around campus, the University of Melbourne is blessed with a close proximity to Lygon Street and the city.  As you will see from this long post, the biggest problem in finding somewhere to eat is the tyranny of choice.  Oh and you must be wary about what you say because chances are that one of your colleagues will be sitting nearby.

20 comments:

  1. such a gorgeous campus! And so rich with history!

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  2. This was definitely a post for me, although I confess to breaking the reading into two parts because my first read got interrupted :) I'm glad you took the time to include the details, though, because I love universities and this post just sung to me. I have never visited the University of Melbourne - the buildings are beautiful and now I think I need to visit.

    It was also interesting to discover we may have some similarities in our employment histories, even if the specific fields perhaps differ. I could certainly talk happily about the woes of peer review and impact factors, and I suspect Mr Bite could discuss university databases! I've certainly done my best to cling to the few aspects of a student lifestyle that one can take into adult employment :P

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    1. Thanks Kari - I think it is quite fitting you read it in parts as I had to write it in parts too - thought of splitting up the post but it all just seemed to go together so well. Hope you get a chance to see Melb uni - it is a lovely campus. Must discuss universities in more detail with you! Am sure we would have much to share

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  3. wow what a gorgeous campus! And what yummy food you had! looks delicious! thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks GlutenFreeHappyTummy - would be interested to see if you could find food to suit your diet here - I know they have gf food on campus

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  4. This was such an interesting read Johanna, particularly the historical information which I wasn't familiar with. I do admire these sort of posts that you put so much time into. Great photos too! :)

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    1. Thanks Mel - these sort of posts often hang around for a while until I am tired of seeing them in draft and finally find time for them - glad it was interesting

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  5. You've captured the building I'm sitting in right now and the one I'll be moving to in a few months! And I'm just about to wander down towards the Commerce building to buy something sweet - this post sure hits close to home. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Cindy - you must be lucky enough to be in some amazing buildings - most of the buildings I have spent time in at the uni haven't been the most spectacular - and your mention of sweet food by Old Commerce reminds me of places I didn't mention - so many options on campus

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  6. The Food Co-op has provided me with so much warmth and comfort in its cheap and dahl and rice during winter. And who can forget those chocolate almonds at the cashier? I always buy a handful if classes finish at 5. The new buildings are super swanky but I do like the new law library for those comfy couches. Thanks for the beautiful albeit nostalgic write-up!

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    1. Thanks Em - the food co-op was great when I was a new vegetarian in providing great lunch food and some useful ingredients in the bulk foods section. But I have never had the chocolate almonds - must check them out. I've been in some of the lecture theatres in the new law building and they are very swanky indeed but haven't had the pleasure of the couches

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  7. I don't remember my uni food being that nice! :O

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    1. Thanks NQN - other than the food co-op and college food, I don't have a clear memory of student food - makes me wonder what I ate

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  8. The food at my college was not that enticing. Would it be weird if I visited melbourne mostly to try the university food??

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    1. Thanks Joanne - definitely visit melb uni to sample the food - it was a great uni for me re food because it is so close to the foodie haunts of lygon street which was amazing to a young girl from the country - and I think some of these places have influenced the food on campus

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  9. This is a fun post. Being from Qld, I don't know much about Melbourne Uni, so I found this very interesting.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - universities are interesting places - a clash of innovation and tradition!

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  10. What stunningly beautiful buildings. What a lovely place to be a student and employee. I'm at a University too and sadly we have nothing like this. Like you though, I have a healthy cynicism for peer review and a number of other things! Looks like the food's a heap better than anything we can get here too.

    Surprise, surprise, you have been nominated for an ABC award on my blog ;-)

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    1. Thanks Choclette - how lovely to hear you are at a uni - I love university libraries - and am fascinated at how they are changing with modern technology - must be an interesting job - will get onto this award - sounds like fun

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