Melburnian Sheridan Wright wanders north of the Yarra to see how the the bo-ho’s live in Fitzroy, Carlton, Collingwood and Coburg.
North is to south as Brooklyn is toManhattan. Northerners are stereotypically more bohemian than their southern river siblings… and don’t they know it.
Greet the morning in the sunshine at Grub Food Van (87-89 Moor Street) courtyard. The coffee is good and served open-air style directly from a shiny silver airstream caravan.
The Cliff Notes to shopping in the north reads a little like this: Smith Street (Alexandra Parade end) for sports and adventure-wear bargains from big brands like Adidas and Kathmandu; Gertrude Street (between Nicholson and Smith) for one-off boutiques like the beautiful pairing that is Little Salon (71 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy) and next door neighbour Cottage Industry; and Brunswick Street for everything in between.
Visit Zetta Florence (197 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) for all things paper and stationery. Apart from bursting with the excitement of letters yet written, here you can get your hands on a hard-to-find custom wax seal, which will make your written correspondence feel like royalty.
Head south down Brunswick Street from here and over Johnson Street for a visit to the impressive scent selection at Kliens Perfumery (313 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy). Specialising in the special, unique and hard-to-find, it’s a sure fire way to avoid mass-produced, celebrity-named fare. Purchase the bottled scent of birthday cake or freshly mowed grass to keep for bad mood days.
Even if you’re not vegetarian it’s worth visiting Madame K’s Vegetarian (Brunswick Street). The modern Asian-style café has soy, faux-duck pancakes that are so good it’s hard to believe they never quacked.
From lunch to learning, the Brahma Kumaris Centre (256 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is a welcome respite from hectic inner-city life. Register for a meditation or positive thinking course or peruse the spiritual book titles. The shop itself is clean, light and fresh and the staff are more self-help than hippy – perfect if you’re interested in a little enlightenment but have no intention of joining a commune anytime in the next century.
Once centred and spiritually aligned, make friends with a different sort of spirit by heading towards Johnson Street for pre-dinner drinks at The Black Pearl (304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy). The upstairs attic bar is seating-capacity only (meaning no seat, no entry), and in turn a space where you can actually hear the conversation of the company you keep. The staff here is seasoned and friendly so explain what tastes you enjoy and relinquish your cocktail order to bartender’s choice.
A short 15-minute walk along Johnson Street and a left down Rathdowne Street will bring you to the lovely terrace restaurant Epocha (49 Rathdowne Street,Carlton). The European menu is designed to be shared, although you’ll need to order two serves of the venison carpaccio – you’ll be unwilling to split it.
Post-dinner activities are plentiful in the north. Schedule your visit to coincide with Smart Bar just across the road at the Melbourne Museum (Nicholson Street, Carlton) and enjoy short evening lectures combined with exhibitions and an open bar.
Those with a car and romantic natures should make the 15-minute drive out to the Coburg’s own drive-in for a healthy and memorable dose of nostalgia, or just kick back and enjoy the atmosphere.