Time Capsules, Hipsters and Hippies — A Local Guide to Melbourne’s Northside
Edit: Hey there, I just realised the little blurb I wrote doesn’t pop up when you click on this article. This is a copywriting sample of mine, to which I retain the rights. Thought I’d put it out there as entry 97/100 because, well, I didn’t write anything else today.
One of the things I love most about Melbourne’s Northside is the variety. On my Saturday morning stroll, I pass by old-school grocers, artisanal sourdough bakeries and hipster cafés selling cold-drip coffee. Usually, I settle for a more traditional espresso, brought to Melbourne by the Italian community over half a century ago. Then, when I need a break from it all, I head north along the river to explore Melbourne’s urban farmland.
After living here for two years, I’ve put together a collection of the best places to indulge your inner hipster, hippy and historian all in one day.
Carolina (Brunswick East)
I used to think this place was a shoe shop. (They still have the old gold lettering on the window which reads: ‘Invicta — Italian hand made shoes’. How very hipster!) You could be forgiven for walking right past — don’t though. Go in and sample their poached eggs and iced lattes in the rear courtyard or warm yourself with a double espresso in the front bar-area while admiring the barista’s haircut. Meals range from $13–22.
Pope Joan (Brunswick East)
Everyone knows the Pope, so be prepared for long lines at breakfast time. If you manage to snag a table, be sure to try the creamy rice pudding served in a glass and soaked in home-made rhubarb compote. I wanted to devour it from the moment its silky sweetness touched my lips, and I don’t even like rice pudding. While you’re enjoying breakfast, keep an eye out for the local hipster glitterati, including certain left-wing politicians, who are known for their patronage to the Pope. Meals range from $10–22.
Tin Pot Café (Fitzroy North)
There’s something delightfully unassuming about Tin Pot. This corner café has the good fortune to be located opposite Piedimonte’s — Fitzroy North’s first Italian supermarket and local institution. It’s utterly non-hipster in a sea of hipsterdom. The waiters are surly and, after 3pm, the place is invaded by school children. Still, this is one of my favourites. I’ve spent many hours here with my laptop open, typing away madly and hoping the staff won’t notice. But it’s fine! The staff happily ignore you. Feel free to open your laptop and pour out your novel if you like. Just don’t forget to buy a coffee. Meals range from $10–16.
Green Park (Fitzroy North)
If you don’t mind being accidentally run down by cyclists and want to sample some of the North’s best single origin espresso, Green Park is the place for you. They also serve cloudy, artisanal wine and pink lemonade. The place abuts a bike shop and is right on the Inner Circle Rail Trail (an off-road bicycle super highway). It’s also right next to a children’s playground. This is peak affluent hipsterville. If you linger over your quinoa muesli, you might see families arriving for brunch on their custom-built bikes, carrying young children as cargo. Meals range from $12–21.
A Continental Affair (Fitzroy North)
After breakfast, you might want to grab some supplies to take home with you for a lazy lunch. Of course, you could shop at one of the excellent modern bakeries in the area: Dench, Natural Tucker and Loafer Bread to name a few. Me, I like to visit ‘A Continental Affair’, the last remaining continental milk-bar in the inner north. Sometimes the ageing shopkeeper stocks bread — soft white loaves with a hard crust (pasta dura) — the kind your Italian friends were raving about long before anyone uttered the word sourdough. The other day I was buying milk and I noticed the shop has a payphone that looks like it’s been frozen in time since 1986. A hand-written note above the keypad lists Melbourne’s old emergency numbers — ambulance, fire, police. Nothing has changed in this place in the last thirty years. It’s a time-locked oasis. I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up and it won’t be there.
Ceres (East Brunswick)
Before the day is done, if you feel like releasing your inner hippy, you don’t have far to go. About a mile north of A Continental Affair is Ceres, an ‘environmental park’ complete with a plant nursery, buy-swap-sell market, bicycle workshop and live chickens. That’s right, I said chickens! This is my favourite haven after a busy week. I like to watch these genuine ‘free range’ ladies roam the grounds while I buy my seedlings and veggies. To get here, I walk along the Merri Creek where the call of native bell birds replaces the traffic noise. On Saturdays there is often live music and you can dance your cares away along with a bunch of other free spirits. I could stay here all day but, sadly, the gates close at sunset.