Melbourne has some beautiful and interesting buildings, and we recently booked in for lunch and a tour of one of them – the Manchester Unity Building on the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets in the CBD.
Trent’s parents had given me a gift voucher last Christmas for the experience. The tours are held roughly every fortnight on a Sunday but due to a reasonably busy year it took us awhile to find a suitable date…9 months in fact. So we were more than ready when we finally booked in on a beautiful sunny September Sunday.
We arrived a few minutes before our booking time and joined the line of people inside the foyer of the building ready to enter the cafe. At the exact booking time they took each group one by one to their designated table. We were seated inside the cafe which had a good atmosphere. There were also tables outside the cafe in the foyer area which would be ok but a bit cold so I’d recommend requesting a table inside.
We were a bit surprised to be the youngest people there, but also pleasantly surprised that it seemed to be mainly locals rather than tourists. On our table when we sat down was a lunch menu and a drinks menu. We were able to select a main course from 4 options, and a dessert from 4 options. As usual we picked two of each that we planned to share.
After we ordered we were poured a glass of sparkling each (included in the package) and ordered a coffee each. The service was friendly and we felt like we had plenty of time and weren’t being rushed to do anything. For our main meals we had the seasonal mushroom ragu and the lamb shanks. The ragu was nice but a little plain. The lamb shanks were also nice and came with a very creamy mash.
For dessert we had the chocolate pleasure dome and the hazelnut praline. The praline had a great hazelnut flavour and the pleasure dome was yummy but very rich. We were thoroughly satisfied at the end of the meals. There was another lunch option of a crispy calamari salad that looked like it would have been a good option for a lighter lunch.
As we were finishing dessert we were told the tour would be starting in 15 minutes giving us plenty of time to finish up and gather in the foyer. The tour started at the foot of the ‘magic elevator’ – Melbourne’s first elevator. We learnt that in 1932 the Art Deco style building was built as the new headquarters of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).
The tour took us to the Level 1 old mezzanine shopping level (now a dental practice), the rooftop on Level 12 (with a great view of the Manchester Unity Building tower and to the east up Collins St), and finally the Boardroom on Level 11. A lot of restoration of the building has occurred over time, especially during the last decade by the owner of the dental practice.
It’s a great experience that we would recommend, whether it’s for the architecture, the view or to experience a bit of Melbourne history. Thanks Bill and Maree!