01 April 2009

Private Lawns

A hotel for royalty, secret gardens and some of the most exclusive and obscure locations- Varia Karipoff embarks on an invitation only tour of Melbourne.

Located in genteel Collins Street is Melbourne's oldest and most prestigious gentleman's club. Members of the Melbourne Club have had an unprecedented influence on our nation's history - naturally, this club is impenetrable to mortal men. Founded by well-to-do squatters in 1839, the neo-Renaissance building has been a flagship for old money, tradition and sophistication since its inception. Boasting a walled garden where Moreton Bay Figs and grand Oaks peer into side streets, it is an Eden in a big city.

Melbourne Club
36-50 Collins Street, Melbourne


An obscure location gives this eatery a label of 'exclusive Melbourne' even as the city's secrets are sold on tourist maps; the Waiters Restaurant has been a prized venue since the 1960s. Tucked away behind bustling Bourke Street, down an alleyway and up a dubious staircase, patrons will be rewarded for their effort with surprisingly fine fare. Serving Italian cuisine to well-heeled theatre goers along with the initiated, the restaurant winks knowingly over its facade of run down simplicity and veneer tables.

The Waiters Restaurant
1st Floor, 20 Meyers Place, Melbourne


During the Melbourne Cup Carnival, extreme luxury is to be found at the Birdcage- the half dozen or so marquees that make up the A-list area. Sponsored by international brands, no expense is spared in pleasing the VIPs. Last year, Emirates impressed with an Austrian theme which included a gold statue of Johann Strauss, a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra pianist and a 70kg, $20,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier. Not to be outdone, Saab went with a Swedish theme complete with a sauna.

Garden State
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's property, Cruden Farm, began life in the 1920s as a cottage garden in the outer suburb of Langwarrin. It would go on to become one of the most photographed and quintessentially Australian gardens. The garden features the famed avenue of Lemon Scented Gums and a highly regarded collection of sculptures. The influential matriarch and mother of media baron, Rupert Murdoch, is said to have lovingly planted all of the trees herself- with majestic results. Occasionally opened as part of Australia's Open Garden Scheme and exclusive fundraising events.
Cruden Farm
Corner Cranbourne-Frankston & Cranhaven Roads, Langwarrin


If you're the kind that counts golden fleece instead of sheep, then look no further. The Georgian Manor Villa at Crown Towers is lauded as one of Australia's finest city hotel suites and is invitation only. Comprising of 260 square metres of onyx, marble and golden luxury complete with handmade Italian furnishings, the suite name drops Bill Clinton, Princess Anne and Luciano Pavarotti among guests. The stunning panoramic views of Melbourne's skyline will have you reaching for your Ventolin (as will the price tag).

Crown Towers
8 Whiteman Street, Melbourne


White Hat go beyond the tourist traps into private residences, major mansions and off limits areas of public buildings with their Private Hidden Gems Tour. To take part, written references, police checks and natty outfits are called for- as is your best behaviour. Those lucky enough to be invited are rewarded with a silver service dinner and a rare glimpse into the heart of the city's upmost elite and hidden world. In the interest of cultural sustainability and security, tour locations are not released to the public.