As a concierge I spend a lot of time recommending places that are easily accessible to my guests. Most prefer to enjoy locations that are within a few kilometres of the city centre and the hotel. There is a huge variety of great things to see and do within these parameters, but there is more if you are willing to venture just a little further.
For this article I thought I would venture afield to Northcote and Thornbury which are quickly becoming two of Melbourne’s hippest suburbs. Once a working class neighbourhood filled with Greek and Italian immigrants, now a hip inner suburban mecca filled with professionals and families. High Street is easily accessible from the city on tram number 86 which runs off Bourke Street in the city. The journey will take about thirty minutes and provides some interesting site seeing along the way.
High Street has become a popular spot for some of Melbourne’s best mid-priced bars and eateries. The area certainly provides great value and will reward the adventurous with a true impression of how Melburnian’s live and play.
One of my favourite places for breakfast is Umberto Espresso (also serving lunch and dinner). Marco is a second generation Italian barista and together with his father Umberto have created one of the friendliest cafes around. Add to this a delicious menu of Italian favourites with Nona’s (Italian for Grandma) family recipes and you are in for an authentic Australian/Italian experience. Northern Soul is another favourite with excellent coffee, food and service. They are also open for lunch.
Northcote and Thornbury really come alive in the evening and summer is the perfect time to wander through the area to discover the area brimming with activity.
The live music scene in Melbourne thrives in Northcote. One of Melbourne’s most unique venues is the Wesley Anne built in 1854 as a church. Converted to a one of Melbourne’s most unique bars you can now enjoy a tipple, some food and live music on many nights. Just down the road you will find the institution that is the Northcote Social Club. This unassuming bar looks a bit shabby from the front but don’t let this deter you, there is a massive deck out back serving up great food and beer. This deck is hugely popular on sunny days. Upstairs the band room is one of the best live venues in the city. Next door you will find Bar 303 which has a more eclectic line up of live folk and jazz. This is one of my favourite places for live music on Sunday afternoon, especially when they have jazz.
The inner northern suburbs also boast two Age Good Food Guide hatted restaurants. Merricote in the famed Westgarth area is a local favourite and one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets. One of my personal favourites is The Estelle Kitchen which serves a five or eight course degustation menu available with matched wines. The head chef Joshua Pelham won the Age Good Food Guide’s Young Chef of the Year 2015. Joshua and his team create an amazing array of contemporary and artistic creations. The Estelle is hands down one of my favourites and has made my top 10 restaurant list for Melbourne best fine dining restaurants. Quite a feat when you consider they are up against the finest restaurants in the city.
If you are looking for something a little more casual you must try Northern Git. Chef and owner Michael Slade, formerly from the famed Bistro La Luna has created a wonderful restaurant serving modern British fare with a nose to tail philosophy. This restaurant should be on every meat lovers list. There are of course plenty of great vegetarian options too so everyone in your group can enjoy.
If pizza and beer is more your style, have I got a special treat for you! The Back Room Bar at Carwyn Cellars has twenty of the best craft beers available in Melbourne on tap. You can enjoy your beer and order one of Melbourne’s best Lebanese pizza delivered to your table from the famed Moor’s Head restaurant which is just across that road. My favourite is the vegetarian Beiruti which goes wonderfully with a pale ale. If whiskey is more your style the Back Room Bar stocks over one hundred varieties. They have a great selection of Australian whiskeys if you prefer to sample how the locals craft whiskey. Here is a great tip for the Back Room Bar for those on a budget, you can select a bottle of wine from the bottle shop out front and bring it to the bar out back or the tables outside and only pay a $5 corkage fee. This is easily one of the best deals in town!
If cocktails are more your thing Joanie’s Baretto has one of the nicest outdoor areas in the area. They serve a delicious Italian menu from the kitchen at Umberto Espresso and have a great range of wine and beer from Italy. The cocktails here are fantastic and in particular the espresso martini is a specialty! This is the perfect place to enjoy some food and drink with family or friends especially on a warm summers night.
Just down the road is Pallino complete with an astroturf Bocci pit out the back. This wonderful bar is reminiscent of a New York Italian local and is the perfect place to meet the many characters who live in the neighbourhood. If you are lucky you may just meet Bill from Scotland. He will gladly tell you stories of the Thornbury of old. There is no better way to explore the history of Thornbury than to meet a local and get their perspective, especially if you from a character like Bill.
Finally Trumpy is one of the best cocktail bars in town. It’s located behind an unassuming blue timber door in an old warehouse. This is a serious cocktail bar with a great menu that is well priced with nothing over $20. Open late they serve up an excellent martini and have a great cocktail list. The team are friendly and quirky, Thornbury style, so an entertaining evening is assured along with your quality beverages.
As a special sneak peek I will mention the newest development heading to High Street which is currently being created in an old factory. Slated to be a 700 seat beer garden with multiple food trucks on site this development will be run by the same people who have opened the hugely popular Munich Brauhaus at Southwharf. This will no doubt be a popular addition to the uber trendy neighbourhood. I’ll see you there!