If tourists with limited time ask for a quick fix of ‘real’ Melbourne, they should be marched to Fitzroy (Melbourne’s oldest suburb) with the suggestion they navigate the big rectangle bound by Brunswick, Gertrude, Smith and Johnston streets.
Yes, it’s hipster central, but this block exemplifies the wider Melbourne rub-up of bluestone and bohemia — a cosy mix of contradictions that results in interesting creative tensions. It’s where you will find some of the best emerging art, fashion and design, all flowing into the neighbouring burbs of Carlton, Collingwood and Abbotsford, now home to leading design offices and furnishing suppliers. The food offerings are fabulously experimental and consistently excellent, as trailblazed by Andrew McConnell, who has made Gertrude Street his own. His appreciation of the small producer feeds into three locally resonant places, the vehicles of which suit all speeds and needs in dining. The Builders Arms Hotel bridges the divide between great-grub pub and the local punter’s preferred watering place. Marion is the chilled-vibe wine bar where deceptively simple share-food gets a thrilling spin, and Cutler & Co takes the stiff back (but not the whip-smart service) out of fine-dining in a former metalworks factory.
When in the hood, check out Mondopiero (Milan train station meets design shop), This Is No Fantasy (the gallery launchpad for next-gen local art stars), Third Drawer Down (purveyor of the perfect art souvenir pressie), the Australian Print Workshop (a not-for-profit with a print store selling limited editions by our best artists), and quaff a post-shop cocktail at the seek-and-find The Everleigh (a serial entry in the World’s 50 Best Bars list).
The food offerings are fabulously experimental and consistently excellent, as trailblazed by restaurateur Andrew McConnell
australianprintworkshop.com; buildersarmshotel. com.au; cutlerandco.com.au; marionwine.com.au; mondopiero.com.au; theeverleigh.com; thirddrawerdown.com; thisisnofantasy.com
Andrew McConnell at Cutler & Co, one of the restaurateur’s three venues in Gertrude Street.