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Showing posts from January, 2013

St Ali North

In Melbourne's coffee scene, there are two venues that come up a LOT (plus many, many more - this being Melbourne and all): Proud Mary, which I am privileged to live near, and St Ali, which until recently, meant a trip south of the river. It was therefore very exciting to hear that St Ali recently decided to bank on its good name and open a second venue in North Carlton, aptly named St Ali North (815 Nicholson Street).

It's easy to find - Velo Cycles sits on the Park Street bike path, just where it crosses Nicholson Street, and St Ali North is behind the bike shop. I imagine all those serious northside cyclists are a huge untapped market - and the northside locals will bolster the success of St Ali North.

After our large Saturday night drinking sesh at Ferdydurke, my housemate and I dragged my hungover sister and her friend out for a recovery breakfast. We got a park right outside (despite this being the busiest I've ever seen Park Street - there must be a hot new place in…


The rumour was that the crew from Section 8 were opening another bar, basically looking down over Section 8 from the building next door. Known for its 'Melbourneness' and quirkiness, Section 8 serves drinks out of the side of a caravan to patrons who lounge on shipping containers plonked in a disused city laneway lot. So I had imagined Ferdydurke (Levels 1 & 2, 239 Lonsdale Street) to have a similarly grungy style.

Not so. Entering from Tattersalls Lane via a couple of staircases chock-a-block with strong, bright wall art, you emerge (a little puffed) into a clean and surprisingly light, brick and wood-based bar, reminiscent of Scandinavian design and art studio galleries. Manned by cool and moody-looking staff, the bar appears well-stocked and runs the length of most of the main room. A few tables grace the Lonsdale Street side, and a raised mixing desk area overlooks the main room and entryway, and also backs onto a hidden nook on the Section 8 side, accessed via a priva…

Shark Fin Inn

Yum cha! Who doesn't love it?

I'm always surprised by the amount of people I come across who have never tried yum cha. Usually once they have, they're converted. It doesn't even have to be great yum cha. There's just something innately cool about being brought food on trolleys to choose from, then stuffing yourself silly, all for not-very-much-money. AND, you can drink if you want to! Bonus.

I've mentioned before that I was brought up on 'going out for Chinese' as a restaurant treat in Sydney. So, you could say I've been enjoying yum cha my whole life. In Sydney, we used to go to the Marigold in Chinatown (where the hostess would, without fail, pinch my chubby cheeks with pure delight), Mathew's Peacock Gardens in Crows Nest (reliable and traditional), or the Sea Treasure, also in Crows Nest (great for seafood, but came under fire at one point for inhumane treatment of its live seafood). All were great, and when I moved to Melbourne in 2009, I w…

99 Problems (closed), Jim's Greek Tavern

I could make a pun here about how at 99 Problems (31 Johnston Street, Collingwood), the bar ain't one, or something equally bad. But I won't. It's a bit overdone, don't you think?

The odd thing, for a place with such a punchy name, is how understated it is. Not far from the corner of Smith and Johnston Streets, in the 'hood of the illustrious Tote, 99 Problems lies among an unassuming strip of Collingwood. There are lots of unusual places nearby - ranging from African, Czech and Greek food to quirky stores spruiking bicycles, retro eyewear, and mannequins - and although many are full or on their way, there is a quiet buzz about the area, as though a parade of hipsters has just passed through, leaving behind only the ultra-committed and genuinely non-caring cool.

Hiding under an awning labelled with something else, it can be easy to overlook the brown-gold lettering on the window that identifies the bar. But once you know it's opposite Jim's Greek, it's …

Belle's Diner (now Belle's Hot Chicken), La Niche

My little sister had just arrived in town from Sydney with two friends, and I wanted to have a girly gasbag over dinner whilst showing them somewhere 'Melbourne' and funky. I picked Belle's Diner (150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy), which has been open for maybe a year (in the old Dante's site) and been quite a hit so far. It's slipped right in with Melbourne's 'Americana' craze: burgers, ribs, fried chicken, French fries... basically kitsch comfort food. But rather than overdoing the retro, Belle's Diner is very clean and fresh - a modern take on the prototypical diner.

Located right in the guts of the ever-cool Gertrude Street, slowly building into an empire of awesome, it was going to be pretty difficult for Belle's to fail. We arrived at 7pm-ish on a 39-degree day, and it was surprisingly easy to grab a booth. But after five minutes there, we realised why: no (or poor) air con! Ohhhh. Nevertheless, we were seated and had wine and food waiting in …