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City Guide: Writer and model Ben Ilobuchi shares his favourite spots in Melbourne

IMAGE VIA @SLIMES_NEW_ROMAN/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“If I go to Romantica there’s a high chance I will see a friend of mine but there’s also a high chance I will see an ex making out with a guy who I owe money.”

Here at Fashion Journal, we want to unearth the hidden spots in Australian cities that only the locals know about. There’s no gatekeeping here – this is a breakdown of the best bits of our cities. We want the underrated date spots, favourite restaurants, treasure trove op shops and the bars people will always want to go back to.

This week, we’re exploring Melbourne with Ben Ilobuchi, a writer, model and self-described “professional attention-seeker”. Born and raised in Melbourne’s southside, in recent years he’s made the city’s north his home.


Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.


“I do not go anywhere without indulging. I am indulging in every moment of every day,” he says, completely seriously. Below, he shares his favourite spots in the city.

Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Ben Ilobuchi. I’m a typical Melbourne resident in that I have no real job title. I sometimes write, sometimes create content (a meaningless term) and sometimes model. Professional attention-seeker is perhaps an apt term.

How long have you lived in your city?

I was born in Richmond, but I’ve only really ‘lived’ north of the Yarra since 2019 when I moved out of home. I used to come up here in my teen years but didn’t partake in anything of cultural significance. I think I had Korean one time.

What do you love most about living/working in your city?

The best thing about living in Melbourne, and something I took for granted until I visited other states, is that it’s a very interconnected city, at least by Australian standards. It’s easy to traverse, there are plenty of areas to congregate and meet up and there’s always something going on. It’s easy to daisy-chain activities all in a row and there’s plenty to do.

Eat

Trang Bakery and Cafe, 382 Smith Street, Collingwood

 

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The Trang Bakery Instagram account hasn’t been updated since 2015, but it doesn’t matter. If anything, it’s more endearing. Trang Bakery is unpretentious and completely delicious, for vegans and meat-eaters alike.

“I’m sure this will be on other people’s lists, but Trang’s Vietnamese Bakery on Smith Street in Collingwood is great,” Ben tells me. “I’m not a vegan and don’t think I ever will be, but the vegan banh mi at Trang’s is so good that I would almost consider it.”

Drink

Marquis of Lorne, 411 George St, Fitzroy

 

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Fitzroy’s upmarket pub Marquis of Lorne is a favourite for stylish people and cute dogs, which is a great demographic. Apparently, it’s also one of Paul Mescal’s favourite spots, which is reason enough to check it out.

“The rooftop is really nice in summer and the drinks are fairly cheap,” Ben says. “They serve a lot of seafood there and I don’t like fish so it’s not really my thing, but if you’re a sick animal then you might enjoy it.” A glowing review.

marquisoflorne.com.au

Bar Romantica, 52 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

 

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Melbourne’s Northside is not a particularly large place. “It’s very communal and you’ll see familiar faces wherever you go. You’ll end up running into people at galleries that you met at a pub then see them later that day at a bar,” Ben explains. One of the best places to run into someone you like (or despise) is the pizza-and-wine place, Bar Romantica.

“Whether running into people you know is a positive or negative is up to you,” Ben tells me. “If I go to Romantica there’s a high chance I will see a friend of mine but there’s also a high chance I will see an ex making out with a guy who I owe money.”

barromantica.com.au

Date

Fiftyfive, 55 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

 

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Ben has some sage advice for those considering a date spot. “Literally anywhere that isn’t Monty’s. It’s a great place but you will end up seeing someone you’ve already been with also there. If you’re a serial dater (I’m not, but if you are) going to either of these places is like Lee Harvey Oswald going back to the grassy-knoll to buy a cocktail.”

Instead, he opts for Fiftyfive, the basement-level bar a stone’s throw away from Flinders Street Station. “It’s a nice date spot,” Ben says. “Great ambience and it’s in the CBD so you know no one cool will be there to show you up.”

fifty-five.com.au

Indulge

Piccolina Gelateria, 296 Smith Street, Collingwood

Ben is admittedly a ‘treat yourself’ kind of guy. “I do not go anywhere without indulging. I am indulging in every moment of every day,” he says, completely seriously. And when it comes to his favourite treat, he chooses the hand-churned ice cream from Piccolina’s Fitzroy location.

“There was a period this summer when I was going there literally every day,” Ben admits. “For context, I don’t even shower every day. I was eating ice cream more than I was bathing myself at that point.” I saw a lot of Ben during his ice cream summer and I can attest to this fact. The man’s metabolism never ceases to amaze me.

piccolinagelateria.com.au

Ben’s ideal Melbourne day

 

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  • Wake up at midday. Shower. Dress.
  • Go get a bagel or a banh mi; any carb with the letter ‘b’ in it.
  • Get a long neck from Dan Murphy’s then go to Edinburgh Gardens by myself. Throw things at the pigeons. Look at everyone’s inbred dogs. Read my book.
  • Go and see any movie that’s playing. Doesn’t matter whether it’s good. Might even be better if it isn’t.
  • Go out to a restaurant or pub with my friends. Throw things at the pigeons in the beer garden.
  • Go to a club for a dance. Maybe throw things at the pigeons in smokers.
  • Get an HSP.
  • Go home and shower profusely. Stare at the kitchen wall.
  • Sleep.

Where do you go for a bit of R&R?

I like to sneak food into the State Library, pick a random book and read. It isn’t in the city I guess, but I also like going down to Laughing Waters in Eltham and have a swim and a float down the river.

You can keep up with Ben here.

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