Coast­ing Around Mel­bourne

Ram­bling through five dis­tinc­tive neigh­bor­hoods

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­mara Thiessen

Away from the buzz of the cen­tral busi­ness district and the river­side precinct of South­bank, the soul of the Aus­tralian city of Mel­bourne lies in its sub­urbs, and the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and vil­lages at their heart.

Un­der­pinned by new mi­grants and skilled traders, the sub­urbs shot up from the early 1800s, mark­ing out Mel­bourne’s vil­lagey char­ac­ter. Like the bor­oughs of Lon­don or NewYork, they all of­fer some­thing dif­fer­ent and can be dis­cov­ered in just a cou­ple of hours thanks to ex­cel­lent pub­lic trans­port. Stretch­ing north, south and east on the city’s iconic ur­ban grid, they range from in­ner Mel­bourne’s coastal and work­ing-class districts to more gen­teel, green neigh­bor­hoods far­ther afield.

To­day they are en­joy­ing a cul­tural, cre­ative and culi­nary re­nais­sance, nour­ished by new eth­nic in­flu­ences,

flour­ish­ing artis­tic life and all sorts of idio­syn­cratic en­ter­prises. Jump on the near round-the-clock trams and trains that serve the city and you can dis­cover them all for yourself.

Bo­hemian, cos­mopoli­tan, artsy and al­ter­na­tive, Fitzroy’s in­evitable

In some of Fitzroy’s vin­tage-strewn, mel­low-lit bars, you might feel you have time trav­eled to the Marais in Paris

gen­tri­fi­ca­tion has put an ul­tra-cool gloss on work­ing-class ec­cen­tric­i­ties. A ten­minute tram ride north of the city (take the 112 from Collins Street), this is a rare neigh­bor­hood where both night and day are on a par – from specialist book­stores, vin­tage cloth­ing, cafés and gal­leries to cock­tails, cabaret and fine din­ing.

The ac­tion cen­ters on a triad of sip, shop and eat streets – Brunswick, John­ston and Gertrude. Brunswick Street, the main tram-lined drag, is chock-a-block with es­tab­lished eater­ies where you can grad­u­ally eat your way through the A-Z of cul­tures, from Afghan to Viet­namese.

Gertrude Street is home to the most mod­ernist up­heavals. Try the old metal works fac­tory Cutler and Co, at 55-57, for de­signer in­te­ri­ors and dishes such as scal­lop, chilled pea and sor­rel soup (din­ner daily from 6:00 PM, lunch Fri and Sun from 12:00 PM; tel +61 3 9419 4888; cut­lerandco.com.au). At 211, the Builders Arms Ho­tel serves up clas­sic pub fare in a land­mark build­ing mod­ern­ized with ban­quettes and Thonet café chairs (Mon-Fri 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM, Sat-Sun 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM; tel +61 3 9417 7700; builder­sarmshotel.com.au).

In some of Fitzroy’s vin­tage-strewn, mel­low-lit bars, you might feel you have time trav­eled to the Marais in Paris. The Elk Room is a vel­vety den of Ch­ester­fields and antiques (150-156 Gertrude Street, daily 5:30 PM – 1:00 AM), while the Black Pearl is retro heaven (304 Brunswick Street, daily 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM). For cof­fee, try an oldie – Jasper (267 Brunswick, daily 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM) – and a new­bie – Slow­poke Espresso (157 Brunswick, Tue-Sat 7:00 AM – 3:30 PM).

If you have free time dur­ing the day, tour Fitzroy’s street art, jew­elry stu­dios, gal­leries and venues such as the Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Pho­tog­ra­phy (404 Ge­orge Street). Free weekend? Go shop­ping at the

Wan­der through Carl­ton Gar­dens and you’ll come across the World-Her­itage

listed Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ing

won­der­ful Rose Street Artist’s Mar­ket (SatSun 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM; ros­es­t­mar­ket.com.au).

Carl­ton

Many cities have a lit­tle Italy – in Carl­ton, Mel­bourne has a big one. West of Fitzroy, a zippy five-minute tram ride from city cen­ter (also on route 112), Ly­gon Street is Carl­ton’s buzzing Via Veneto.

An Italophile’s dream, it’s home to ev­ery­thing from cafés, gela­terie and pas­tic­cerie to su­per­mar­kets, delis, cloth­ing and shoe stores, as well as the usual tourist-ori­ented pizza and pasta joints.

For ice cream, stop by Il Dolce Freddo at num­ber 116 (Tues-Sun 12:30 PM – 11:00 PM), or for pas­tries and cof­fee try Brunetti at num­ber 380 (6:00 AM – 11:00 PM, un­til 12:00 AM Fri-Sat; brunetti.com.au).

These days, there’s much more to Carl­ton than pasta though. The floods of Ital­ians ar­riv­ing since the 1920s have now been joined by Asians and Africans, and the district’s bright ter­raced houses ac­com­mo­date di­verse eater­ies. For a ca­sual Thai kitchen laksa (spicy noo­dle soup), drop in toY­ing Thai 2 at 110 Ly­gon (Tues-Sun 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM), or visit Shaka­hari at 201-203 Fara­day Street for so­phis­ti­cated East-West veg­e­tar­ian fu­sion dishes (lunch Mon-Sat, din­ner daily; tel +61 3 9347 3848; shaka­hari.com.au).

Bor­der­ing the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne cam­pus, Carl­ton is also se­ri­ously lit­er­ary, with stu­dents and pro­fes­sors hang­ing out at book­stores and art­house cin­e­mas such as Read­ings (309 Ly­gon; read­ings. com.au) and Cin­ema Nova (380 Ly­gon; cin­e­mamova.com.au). The best place for an espresso fix is bou­tique roaster Seven Seeds (114 Berke­ley Street).

There’s his­tory and cul­ture this way, too – wan­der through Carl­ton Gar­dens and you’ll come across the World­Her­itage-listed Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ing. Com­pleted in 1880 in the flam­boy­ant Rund­bo­gen­stil style, it is crowned by an Ital­ianate dome. Flank­ing it is the fu­tur­is­tic de­sign of the Mel­bourne Mu­seum, which host ex­hi­bi­tions on Aus­tralian his­tory, indige­nous cul­tures and nat­u­ral sci­ences. (Both Ni­chol­son Street; mu­se­umvic­to­ria. com.au.)

Ar­madale

Lo­cated just over 4 miles south­east of the city, Ar­madale is to Mel­bourne what Dou­ble Bay, or“Dou­ble Pay,”is to Syd­ney – the posh­est of sub­urbs and pure pri­vate school ter­ri­tory, but with a vi­brant vil­lage life and gor­geous stores.

The Num­ber 6 Glen Iris tram will trans­port you to the pic­turesque half-mile shop­ping stretch of High Street Ar­madale, where a re­laxed old-world charm dwells among its row of richly colored brick Fed­er­a­tion houses, built around the turn of the 20th century. Many are oc­cu­pied by the crème de la crème of cou­turi­ers, art and an­tique deal­ers, kitchen stores, Parisian café-bak­eries and food em­po­ri­ums. For fresh-baked and global good­ies, go to Thomas Dux at 1068 High Street (thomas­dux.com.au).

Ar­madale’s ap­peal lies in its fash­ion­able mélange of re­tail chic and his­tory. Some of its cor­niced, dec­o­ra­tive build­ings sport their old signs – of boot­mak­ers and tackle stores – and the vil­lage main­tains many in­de­pen­dent and fam­ily-run businesses. Though you may not see sad­dlers and iron­mon­gers, there are plenty of fur­ni­ture spe­cial­ists and out­fit­ters such as Hem­den be­spoke tailors and shirt­mak­ers (10241026; hem­den.com.au).

Ar­madale also holds a dou­ble at­trac­tion. Thanks to the tram route, there is al­ways the op­tion of hop­ping off near the Chapel Street and Toorak Road shops, or at the Royal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in SouthYarra, and walk­ing through them to the city. On the other hand, if you have an evening free you might want to dine in Ar­madale’s

re­fined sur­rounds. Barca Food and Wine at 1007 High Street is a mod­ern Euro­pean bistro with ban­quettes, wood fur­nish­ings and 1930s poster art (open Tues-Sat for lunch and din­ner; tel +61 3 9822 8515; barca.com.au).

St Kilda

A bit NewYork Coney Is­land, a bit vaudeville and a bit rock‘n’roll, the in­ner­south sea­side neigh­bor­hood of St Kilda is less than four miles from the city. Here you will find Jewish eater­ies, die-hard Aussie steaks and beer, and ex­per­i­men­tal cui­sine.

Brash and sea-breezy with its beaches and amuse­ment parks, St Kilda seems to keep rein­vent­ing it­self. From a fash­ion­ably grand, 19th-century wa­ter­side area, to 1970s red-light and junkie haunt – to­day, im­mi­grants and a large tran­sient pop­u­la­tion of world trav­el­ers con­trib­ute to its in­trigu­ing so­cial mix.

Acland Street is the nu­cleus of friv­o­lous and eclec­tic St Kilda, with its ar­ray of vin­tage vinyl stores, gifts and con­ti­nen­tal cake shops. Among the line-up of old bak­ery fa­vorites are Monarch Cakes (num­ber 103), the Cake­hole Café (95), the Europa Cake Shop (81) and the Ital­ian­fla­vored Il For­naio (2C). Bagel fans might like to wan­der fur­ther east to Glick’s at 330 Carlisle Street.

Acland Street’s cozy café ter­races are a great, peace­ful place for people-watch­ing and par­tak­ing in the rit­u­al­is­tic St Kilda al fresco brunch. Fitzroy Street has a Mi­ami feel, an ur­bane bar and din­ing strip peo­pled by glam­orous movie hope­fuls and cut­ting-edge chefs. For ca­sual but chic graz­ing or pic­nic pro­vi­sions, the glass­walled Fitzrovia at num­ber 2/155 (open for break­fast and lunch Tues-Sun, din­ner Wed-Sun; fitzrovia.com.au) spe­cial­izes in provin­cial Ital­ian-Bri­tish com­fort food.

In cul­tural pur­suits, too, St Kilda pre­sents a di­verse spec­trum – from rides at Luna Park and gigs at beach­side ho­tels to con­certs at the art deco Palais Theatre (palaisthe­atre.net.au) and ex­hi­bi­tions at the Jewish Mu­seum of Aus­tralia (jew­ish­mu­seum.com.au). An­other op­tion is to take a stroll to St Kilda Pier or one of the bustling mar­kets. As well as the long-run­ning crafts-heavy Es­planade Mar­ket on Sun­days (10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, stk­il­damar­ket.com), a twi­light mar­ket is held in the O’Don­nell Gar­dens, un­der the palm trees near Luna Park, on Thurs­day evenings in sum­mer (stk­il­datwi­light­mar­ket.com).

St Kilda’s bars and venues rock all night. For­tu­nately, the trans­port is al­most around the clock too. The Num­ber 96 light-rail tram runs be­tween here and the CBD from 5:30 AM – 1:00 AM ev­ery ten to 20 min­utes.

Brighton

Con­ser­va­tive and fam­ily ori­ented, Brighton might other­wise be con­sid­ered dull if it weren’t for its beau­ti­ful bathing spots and leafy el­e­gance.

Lo­cated eight miles south of the city, with stun­ning sky­line views over Port Phillip Bay, the Mel­bourne Bay­side area boasts miles of swim­ming (but not surf­ing) beaches, coastal prom­e­nades, cy­cle paths and gar­dens. If you have time off dur­ing the day it’s a great place to head for a dip, stroll or sail.

The best way to reach it is by rail – take the San­dring­ham line from Mel­bourne Cen­tral to Brighton Beach sta­tion. Safe and volup­tuously sandy, its beaches roll out like a red car­pet down the coast – first Dendy Street, then Mid­dle Brighton and Brighton beaches. The Es­planade over­look­ing Dendy Street Beach is home to a lo­cal icon – the Brighton bathing boxes. Painted in bright col­ors and de­signs, these pri­vate beach huts were built by wealthy lo­cals and date back to the 1860s.

Brighton is all about leisure and re­cre­ation. All along the shore­line are pub­lic bathing and bar­be­cue fa­cil­i­ties, yacht clubs, out­door cafés, park­land, play­grounds, two-way cy­cle paths and pro­tected dune ar­eas. It also takes in part of the Bay­side Coastal Art Trail, which cel­e­brates no­table artists such as Fred­er­ick McCub­bin, who painted Sum­mer Sea here in 1895. Es­tab­lished in 1881, the land­mark Mid­dle Brighton Baths (mid­dle­brighton­baths.com.au) has an Olympic-sized open-air pool, as well as a café, bar, restau­rant and gym.

The es­planade is a dream place for a passegiata ei­ther be­fore or af­ter a meal. Brighton has two dis­tinct ar­eas, on Church Street and Bay Street. Drop by the Pantry at 1-5 Church for a quick lunch (daily, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM; tel +61 3 9591 0393; thepantry.com.au), or Vi­vace, at 317 Bay, for a fine-wine din­ner. (Mon-Sat from 5:00 PM; tel +61 3 9596 9511; vi­vace.com.au).

vis­it­mel­bourne.com. BT

Main pic­ture: Brighton Beach

A Above: Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street

Left and be­low: Rose Street Artists’ Mar­ket

Clock­wise from far left: Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ing; Luna Park, St Kilda; the iconic Brighton bathing boxes; St Kilda Pier and Pavil­ion at dusk

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