Gentrification without growing pains? This inner Melbourne suburb has stayed true to its roots while boosting its cool cachet. By Larissa Dubecki.
ALL ARE WELCOME A former Christian Science Reading Room has turned into a bakery and coffee shop par excellence. All Are Welcome (all-are-welcome.com) takes its name from the previous incarnation’s gold window lettering, deemed too lovely to vanquish. Pull up a pew for dulce de leche tarts, croissants, poppyseed ensaïmada pastries and excellent coffee.
ESP When Scott Pickett opened ESP, many asked whether Northcote was ready for a glamorous fine-diner (estellebysp.com). Turns out it was. Settle in for a modern Australian tasting menu (including supreme snacks such as smoked wallaby or nasturtium-wrapped pickled quail egg) under a statement Christopher Boots light. Want something more casual? Eat next door at Pickett’s bistro, Estelle (estellebistro.com). MERAH Coolly minimalist by design and fiery by nature, Merah (merah. com.au) nails new-school Malaysian cooking. From the super-spicy sambal to the chilli oil dumplings and kerabu pipis that are ideal for tucking into fried bao pockets, it’s a take-no-prisoners approach to the food of the Malay peninsula.
WESLEY ANNE This 19th-century stone church has been transformed into a bar and live-music venue (wesleyanne. com.au) without sacrificing its moody charm. Soaring ceilings and a Gothic chandelier are excellent backdrops for tap ale or cocktails with a soundtrack of bluegrass, jazz or folk, while the confessional-style booths are perfect for sharing secrets. BAR NONNO Sit by the window at this brickwalled salon (barnonno.com.au) with a glass of soave and watch Northcote’s colourful residents pass by. As the name hints, the wine list finds its sweet spot in Italy, with an emphasis on low-intervention styles. Add platters of charcuterie or head out back to the restaurant proper, where it’s Italian all the way.
SHOP THEN DROP Northcote is bursting with proudly parochial retail experiences. Take a twirl down High Street for eclectic treasures at The Aquarium Vintage (theaquariumvintage.com) or locally designed women’s fashion at Obus (obus.com.au) and Leonard St. (leonardstreet.com.au). Hunt down homewares at Pop & Scott (popandscott.com) and Danish Modern specialist Grandfather’s Axe (grandfathersaxe.com.au). CATCH A FLICK Palace Westgarth cinema (palace cinemas.com.au) is an icon of Art Deco grandeur with the very 21stcentury addition of a courtyard deckchair cinema.
QT MELBOURNE Northcote options are decidedly lo-fi so we recommend staying in the CBD ( just seven kilometres away) and heading to the ’hood on the No. 86 tram. The elegant quirkiness of QT Melbourne (hotel. qantas.com.au/qtmelbourne) is just the ticket to channel Northcote’s boho vibe. Be sure to check out the 11th-floor bar, Rooftop at QT, for tongue-in-cheek glam at its best.
But first, caffeine…
Visit Penny Farthing Espresso (pennyfarthingespresso.com) for a morning heart-starter or an afternoon Espresso Martini.
Head to High Street (above) for cocktails at Wesley Anne (left) or the dégustation at ESP (below)