Like its topography, Paddington’s evolution has had its ups and downs but this Brisbane suburb is defending its character in the face of blooming modernisation.
Gentrification came swiftly to Brisbane’s Paddington. A suburb born of necessity, characterised by its timber and tin shacks – cheap to build, easy to maintain – only a short tram ride to the city, it provided the ideal base for its working-class inhabitants.
By the 1970s, Brisbane’s creative middle class began to converge, seeking cheaper rents and the greatest of real estate tenets: location, location, location.
Close on their heels came the cafés and eateries, the boutiques and galleries, all signalling a certain rebirth.
The suburb’s layout presented challenges for modern revitalisation, though, and businesses struggled to gain a foothold.
Now, the eclectic neighbourhood, scattered haplessly across some of Brisbane’s most pronounced peaks and gullies, is a pleasing melange of old-meets-new: refreshed workers’ cottages, tree-lined streets, cafés, art galleries, tiny bars and a smattering of fashion boutiques all share frontage along the two terraces (Given and Latrobe) forming Paddington’s crooked spine.
Although reminders of the reality of a harsh economic climate remain, with new ‘For Rent’ signs appear almost monthly, there’s a thriving community of residents and businesses attracted to the hilly district for its history-laced charm.
If you struck out from the CBD, you’d walk two kilometres west before you hit the edge of Paddington, sandwiched between Red Hill, Bardon and Milton in a valley at the foothills of Mount Coot-tha.
You’d also be walking uphill, generally an unfavourable situation in Queensland’s weather, so kick off your exploration from the top – it’s also a happy coincidence that the lion’s share of bars and pubs sit at the bottom of the hill.
Just off Latrobe Terrace, sitting slightly askew on a steep corner block, is Shouk Café, serving up Middle Eastern-inspired breakfast, lunch and coffee.
The latke stack is a delightfully fried tower of crispy potato, house-made pickles and gooey poached egg that will put you in good stead for the day’s wanderings.
Inside a cavernous building that was once the magnificent Plaza Theatre, built in 1929, the centre is home to more than 50 dealers, peddling everything from antique furniture and jewellery to vintage clothing, knick-knacks and art. The peeling, cobalt-blue ceiling only adds to the charm.
Cross Latrobe Terrace for another dose of history; Trammies Corner, where trams rounded the corner to continue their descent to the city and West End’s factories, was erected as a tribute to the tram drivers who frequented the local cafés in the area.
The shaded park is filled with mosaic artworks depicting the history of Paddington’s trams.
Back at the antique centre complex – and more proof that the old and new easily coexist – Green Tangerine stocks home goods, fashion items and accessories from Australia’s best modern artisans, and labels including Nancybird and mud australia.
If you’re feeling peckish, slip into Paddington Deli & Epicerie for traditional deli fare alongside breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here, Fonzie Abbott beans are brewed to perfection daily, while smallgoods and preserves line the crowded shelves. Grab a gluten-free Nodo Donut or fresh pastry for the road.
Further along Latrobe, Lethbridge Gallery, occupies one of the many workers’ cottage-cum-retail-spaces found in Paddington.
The space is effective, more like walking through a friend’s house than an austere gallery; the work therein is a collection of local and national contemporary artists.
If art appreciation isn’t quite your thing, continue down the hill towards Remy’s where, by day, the shade-speckled courtyard makes for a great spot to scoff a burger and craft beer.
Check out the live music on Thursday and Friday evenings, and Sunday when the sounds of a live DJ set spill out onto the street.
Known for their pooch-friendly approach and down-to-earth breakfasts, the café-turned-bar also serves up lunch daily, plus dinner and post-work brews on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Another remnant of post-industrial Paddington, the heritage-listed Substation’s Art Deco lines loom overhead from Cooks Hill on the corner of Enoggera and Latrobe. Formerly the electrical substation for the tramline, it’s now home to a community art space holding regular ‘hands-on’ art classes.
As you roam, keep an eye out for the brightly painted signal boxes on stoplight corners – these are part of ‘Artforce’ a Brisbane council initiative to transform everyday objects into art.
Past Japanese designer Masayo Yasuki’s Dogstar, with its racks loaded with locally handmade fashion, Given and Latrobe Terraces unite and provide the location for Biome, brimming with eco-living supplies and gifts.
Skip further down Given Terrace to Martha Street and you’ll hit health shop and café Fundamentals – aka Fundies Wholefood Market – for abundant superfoods.
Make a well-earned pit stop at boulangerie and patisserie Le Bon Choix on your way past.
If you arrive at this end of Given Terrace before 3pm, try Anouk for their all-day menu.
As the sun fades behind the hills, aperitivo hour starts to look very good: sip a glass of wine at French restaurant Montrachet, which is all red-boothed bistro class and Friday evening’s supper club is a local secret.
The tidy cocktail list and craft beer on tap at hipster brunch and bar slashie Kettle and Tin is also considered cool, while Yard Bird Ale House brings casual American charm and some of Brisbane’s best wings to the mix.
Let the drinks roll into dinner wherever you find yourself, or head to Darling & Co, adjacent to Suncorp Stadium.
Here, among the vertical gardens and warm fairy lights, it’s easy to see the appeal of Paddington and its gracefully ageing ‘society girl’ airs and graces.