Friday, 6 September 2019

Melbourne...It's All About The Burbs

I had a recent epiphany whilst buried shoulder-deep amongst imported antique French wall sconces and hundreds of hanging chandeliers. As good a place as any to have a light bulb moment (dad joke alert!).
What do French sconces and chandeliers have to do with anything? Well, these particular lighting wonders, many pre-Edison with their gas fittings still intact, were hidden behind an unassuming corner door on an unassuming street in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy North.
What dawned on me as I fawned over this shockingly affordable and masterly curated collection was that Melbourne is the coolest place on earth.Overstatement? I think not. I have put in a lot of legwork around the world and Melbourne still delights me every time.
If you’re inclined to hit the Melbourne CBD you will have a fine time but you are going to miss what makes Melbourne one of the coolest cities on the planet. While the city centre does have some unexpected twists–European laneways, hidden bars and lots of graffiti–for me, Melbourne is all about the burbs.
Here are four you might not have considered.


Now I am under no illusion that everyone is in the market for antique lighting and it’s accoutrements, if you are head to Gregory's. But that is just the tip of the iceberg here.
Firstly, let’s talk about soup. I love that soup is a thing in Melbourne. You could put it down to the climate but Canberra is cold too and we certainly don’t have a soup culture. 

Do you know anywhere else in Australia where a vegetarian Moroccan style eatery serving soup would have survived since 1998? That’s exactly what the Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy North has done. Not only has it survived–it’s become a Melbourne institution and even has a popular cookbook.
Making your way further along grungy St George’s Road in Fitzroy North you’ll come to Obelix and Co. Black and gold lettering on the window will tell you this is a delicatessen, charcuterie and larder, but the description belies that this place is from the pages of Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France.
The glass cabinet is abundant with meats cured in the French tradition, rillettes, pates, handmade sausages and other delectable delights.
The basket of crunchy baguettes on the counter scream picnic even if the Melbourne weather doesn’t and the shelved glass jars hold back homemade pickles and relishes.
If you’re just visiting and can’t stock up, be sure to grab some toasties for the road. Gooey Raclette on potatoes in toasted sandwich form is life-affirming.


Moving away from Fitzroy North, a day spent walking Chapel Street is a must-do. For the full experience, start on the South Yarra end where you’ll find women in ballet flats trying on chic fashion. From there, make your way through the suburbs of Prahran and Windsor. It’s all one road but the vibe, architecture and people change the further along you get.
The sheer quantity of incredible food along this street will boggle your mind. Many restaurants here don’t take bookings leaving you free to pop in and take your chances at getting a table.
That being said, you may want to call ahead to South Yarra’s tiny Italian trattoria Cucinetta. Its incredible Cacio E Pepe with truffle keeps the 15 or so seats here pretty full.
In the Prahran section of Chapel Street, you’ll find a quirky mix of small boutiques, artists galleries, unusual florists and some of the best eating in Melbourne.
Save at least an hour to wander The Chapel Street Baazar. Here dozens of separately run stalls come together seamlessly to form one store in living homage to the saying that one mans trash is another man’s treasure.


Further down Chapel Street, things start getting a little wild as Prahran morphs into Windsor, however, the suburb’s dodgy reputation is not long for this world as gentrification takes hold.
The opening of Shane Delia’s high-end restaurant Maha East may be the death knell for the once rough and tough neighbourhood.

It still holds onto some of its murkiness though and people watching can be a good pastime…even if it is just to watch Melbournians eating ice cream in the driving rain at midnight.
For me, fusion Asian food is at it’s best in Windsor.
Yes, fusion has been a dirty word when talking about food since it’s abuse in the ’90s, but there is no denying that Melbourne does incredible fusion Asian food.
Mr Miyagi’s is as much fuelled by its incredible food as it’s amusing slogans.
Here you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their technique of transforming nori, traditionally used on sushi rolls, into the crunchiest of taco shells, and the pumpkin toast, although far removed from Japanese food, is one of the best things you will put in your mouth…ever.

Actually, I take that back. Maybe the best thing you will ever put on your mouth is just over the road at Hawker Hall where dipping flaky, buttery roti canai into curry is second only to doing so in Malaysia.
Or maybe it’s the Salmon Tartare at the nearby Tokyo Tina or the Pho at Hanoi Hannah…all incredible food experiences and all in Windsor.
Although food is a big drawcard for the Prahran/Windsor area, you’ll also find some of the weirdest (in the best way) homewares.
One glance into home decor supplier Fenton and Fenton will confirm that you are not in Kansas anymore.
Loud artworks line the walls, monkeys in the form of lighting swing on ropes from the ceiling, ceramic heads form vases holding an abundance of flowers and retro cane drink trolleys lurk amongst cacti, palm fronds and concrete swans.
Eccentric doesn’t cover it. It’s insane, yet it works, it’s inspiring and it reminds you that your home should reflect your personality, not become some beige monument to “resale value”.

This article was originally published on Her Canberra.

Originally posted on Friday, 6 September 2019 by


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