Revelling in the grit and faded glamour of its former garmentmaking industry, the top end of Flinders Lane is an innocuous strip on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD that makes sense of the city’s ‘invisibility’ clause — if it’s an easy find, it’s not a favourite. The game starts at Hihou (meaning ‘secret treasure’), a Tokyo-style bar dishing top-shelf sake and izakaya snacks with views over Treasury Gardens and a suitably tortured entry with no sign-posting. Its ethos of slightly inaccessible excellence continues a few doors down with the climb to Cumulus Up, the loftier, less-visible addition to Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Inc, the all-rounder, all-day bistro beloved of brokers, bankers and gallerists. From there, go seek in the network of side lanes, where spray-painted labyrinths (sanctified by city council as street art) secrete drinking, dancing and dining holes as diverse as MoVida (a bit of Basque brilliance) and Coda (fabulous French-Vietnamese). This United
Nations of good nosh flows down the hill courtesy of foodie king Chris Lucas, who has contributed with Chin Chin (Thai curries that warrant street queues) and Kisumé (a layer-cake of luxury Japanese dining options, dished with images of bondage by arts bigwig Nobuyoshi Araki). Flinders Lane is La Grande Bouffe of laneways — a place where foodies can die happy after feasting at Ezard (a fine dining mash of Aussie-Asian) and finishing on a lobster roll at Supernormal (another McConnell outpost). It’s also best-in-class in fashion (Masons is a must for luxury menswear) and art, as evidenced at Anna Schwartz Gallery, the wondrous white cube so-called after the contemporary arts empress who led the charge with architects Denton Corker Marshall (designers of the Adelphi Hotel) into a lane with limited appeal in the late 1980s. Fashion doyenne Christine Barro followed their foray with her red door drop into a subterranean salon simply scrawled Christine — a crystallisation of ‘experiential retail’ long before futurists coined the phrase. Barro is relocating to the top end of Collins Street (see page 92), making way for Louis Li, the young hotelier who has commissioned March Studio to do for Flinders Lane what Jackalope did for the Mornington Peninsula — magic it up. A room in his boutique brand of storytelling is a future booking away (2020), but tourists can while away the wait in e.g.etal (startling contemporary jewellery by local talent) and Craft Victoria, where sophisticated pieces of handmade Melbourne await new mantels. annaschwartzgallery.com; chinchinrestaurant.com. au; christineaccessories.com; codarestaurant.com.au; craft.org.au; cumulusup.com.au; egetal.com.au; ezard.com.au; hihou.com.au; kisume.com.au; masonsofficial.com; movida.com.au; supernormal.net.au
THIS PAGE Chin Chin restaurant, in Flinders Lane. OPPOSITE PAGE artist Makiko Ryujin’s recent solo exhibition Shinki (Burning Vessel) at Craft Victoria.