Although we spent most of our limited Melbourne time in and around the CBD (city center), we did venture out to some of the more interesting outer districts. We found two, in particular to be especially interesting.
Fitzroy, which is technically beyond the CBT, was a near-in working-class neighborhood that supposedly began gentrifying in the 1990s and 2000s. Although the level of gentrification is much less than we had anticipated from the descriptions, it is considered one of the most “hip” neighborhoods in the city.
Brunswick Street, the neighborhood’s main drag, does have an interesting collection of shops (especially retro and vintage clothing, vinyl records and amplifiers, antiques, leather and S&M products, bicycles and craft beers and cupcakes) and casual restaurants (especially low-priced Asian). The primarily residential Rose Street, meanwhile, holds a regular, ongoing weekend artist market with some fine art, but primarily crafts, such as handmade jewelry, pottery, purses and occasional clothes.
The neighboring Gertrude and Smith Streets, meanwhile, are somewhat more gentrified and upscale, with higher-end clothing stores, art galleries and restaurants.
Fitzroy Gardens, meanwhile, is a lovely, roughly four-block park with attractive landscaping, gardens and fountains and a couple of special treats. These include a scale model of a traditional Tudor village and the oldest building in Australia, which is actually the cottage in which Captain Cook, the navigator who first charted and led to the settlement of East Australia, was born in England. (The 1755 cottage was disassembled, shipped to Melbourne and reassembled in 1934.)
Another neighborhood gem is the Victorian Artists’ Society Building. Designed and built as a galley in 1892, the Romanesque building served as a training ground for a number of the country’s most important artists. Although the exterior is lovely, the interior (which was closed the day we hoped to visit) is supposed to be (as explained in the Society’s brochure) in great need of funds for repair.
In addition to exploring restaurants, stores and galleries, we did make a couple of specific stops in the neighborhood. One for lunch and another for drinks in a popular rooftop bar.
- Rock, Paper, Scissors is an Asian restaurants at which we had a quite good, very reasonably priced lunch. While we had five dishes, three were particularly noteworthy. We both loved the whiskey-marinated BBQ lamb ribs in a sticky sauce. I, especially enjoyed two others: the betel leaf with tiger prawn, banana blossom and peanut salad (although it was a bit fiery for Joyce) and sticky, twice-cooked pork belly in caramelized tamarind sauce with herb salad. Also good, but less interesting were BBQ king prawns with secret sauce and caramelized pork, prawn and peanut on a slice of sour pineapple. Overall, we enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, as well as two undistinguished, but quaffable 2016 Central Victorian wines we had by the glass: Rock n Roll Riesling/Gwertsteminer blend and an unspecified white field blend.
- Naked for Satan where we did not partake in either its daily pintxo selection not its bar bite. We did, however, go to the very popular rooftop bar (with decent CBD views) for a couple drinks: 2016 Innocent Bystander pinot gris and Naked hared apple cider.
St. Kilda is a more distant suburb, about 4 miles south of the city along one of the area’s more popular beaches. We walked to St. Kilba along the very busy St. Kilba Road, which is lined with high-end, high-rise apartments and condos—not to speak of the Shrine of Remembrance, the still-manned Victoria Barracks and Victoria Park with its floral clock. This walk, in itself provided a very interesting contrast to the CBT and to Fitzroy. We returned along another route, through the huge, very pretty Albert Park, and along its lake around which the city holds its annual Grand Prix race.
Although the walk to the suburb was interesting in itself, we were particularly taken with St. Kilba itself. Barkly Street, and especially the half-pedestrian mall, half tram tracked-Acland Street are lined with interesting restaurants and outdoor cafes. Turning the corner, you are face-to-face with a wide-mouthed smiling clown, though which you enter an amusement park, complete with roller coaster, Ferris wheel, midway and many other rides and attractions.
Since we went on a Sunday afternoon, we then reached the St. Kilda Esplanade Market—an esplanade lined with more than 120 tents staffed by local artisans offering everything from clothing and candles, to jewelry and oil paintings.
The esplanade takes you to the pretty boardwalk-lined beach and a line of parks that lead halfway back to the city. A lovely way to spend an afternoon, especially if you combine it with a stop at one of the town’s restaurants. Although there are many interesting choices, we selected:
Claypot Seafood Bar, a very casual establishment that welcomes guests with a case displaying a large selection of fresh seafood. They explained each of the fishes to us, including their textures, their tastes and how they are prepared. We chose stingray, pan-fried and then baked with a soy-based crust, that was accompanied by rice and bok choy with soy sauce. Although the restaurant has a large selection of, and interesting preparations of fresh fish, it is also known for its claypots. It offers a choice of four very different preparations. We chose the Singapore claypot, which has rice, prawns, mussels and fish fillet cooked in a coconut milk-based broth of chili, carrot, coriander and ginger sauce. Although we enjoyed both dishes, the stingray came with a huge slab of meat, while the claypot came with very little. And while the seafood and rice in the broth were, not surprisingly, cooked a bit beyond our preference, the broth made an excellent topping for the rice that came with the stingray. Overall, we enjoyed the food, the atmosphere of the garden and the 2012 Langhome Creek (near the Adelaide Hills) Gilgamosih Tempranillo.
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