Melbourne is a city of start-ups and up-starts; more than just pop-ups but a lot of mostly young entrepreneurs having a go. They’re opening cafes, bars and shops with little more than a dream; quite often with crowd- funding as their base. Some are short-term but many are here to stay. Novelty, change and innovation is a driver in Victoria’s capital.
The constant hum of innovation, creation and sheer determination is really what makes Melbourne, Melbourne. And many are making a difference either by assisting or training the disadvantaged, using sustainable and environmentally friendly practices or assisting food and water projects in the Third World.
World Class Restaurants
Melbourne and Sydney’s food scenes have been ahead of the curve for decades. Waving the sustainability banner by not just sourcing local, organic and seasonal produce, restaurateurs are now focussing on water and energy saving and waste management systems. Melburnians are always hungry for the next big thing and local restaurants and cafes are delivering new experiences weekly.
2014 saw George Calombaris’ crew, the team from Melbourne favorite St Ali and Chris Lucas combine forces to create Rue & Co at the Paris end of Collins Street for just six months. All three eateries were housed in converted shipping containers and the mostly outdoor space was overlooked by Australia’s largest street artwork by RONE – perhaps Australia’s most internationally recognised street artist.
The Broadsheet Restaurant was born from a local online publication that had garnered so much attention for its restaurant reviews it took the not-so-obvious next step and opened a restaurant.Not just any restaurant but a continual cavalcade of Melbourne’s best chefs, bartenders and more — in what might be the ultimate hospitality industry collaboration. Queen Victoria Market continues to surprise with Night Markets and a Community Kitchen program. South of Johnston is Melbourne’s first completely solar café. Pope Joan composes menus from their home-grown veggies and herbs from the patch out back.
What’s your poison?
It’s a city of drinkers – coffee and tea drinkers, rum drinkers or those who like a good aperitif or digestif. A bar where boilermakers are the drink of choice and of course there are many favourite haunts such as whisky bars, gin joints or vodka dens.
Bar Americano is tucked away at the end of Presgrave Place. Not necessarily a spot for a quiet tete-a-tete. Here it’s standing room only – which makes it all the better to watch Hayden Lambert mix a mean apertivo. Many of the cocktail recipes here are based on the Belgian Robert Vermiere’s ‘Cocktails: How to Mix Them” the cocktail bible from the 1920’s.
The new kid on the block is Arbory built on the disused Sandridge line at Flinders Street station with over a hundred metres of uninterrupted Yarra river frontage.The simple menu is big on burgers, sandwiches and share plates and is also open for breakfast from 7.30 every morning.
Giving back makes for clever business
Victoria’s capital is also ground zero for social enterprise in Australia. Many of these start-ups are giving back to the socially disadvantaged, homeless and refugees. This works well in a city where people want the good things in life but like their consumption with a side of social awareness.
This is 21st century consumption with community at its heart.
From its first coffee cart in 2010 STREAT has grown rapidly to three cafes, a coffee roasting business, catering kitchen and training rooms. STREAT provides work experience, life-skills, training and support networks to disadvantaged youth who need a leg up. Since 2010, STREAT has served over 1 million customers and provided over 32 years of training and support for youth at risk, with many successful students gaining a whole new life. Currently, STREAT has cafes in McKillop, Melbourne Central, RMIT and Freshwater Place.
Charcoal Lane is a Mission Australia social enterprise focussing on creating a skilled workforce for the hospitality industry. Many of the trainees are indigenous. The food? Modern native Australian that showcases many Australian herbs, vegetables and fruits.
12×12 makes serious shoppers feel good just by shopping. Melbourne’s first permanent social enterprise precinct has 12 retailers – every 12 weeks a new group of retailers move in. Products here range from vintage clothing to sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly cleaning products or even vinyl records. The retailers here all donate part of their profits to various charities.
At the Soup Place there are always 9 steaming cauldrons ((actually more like slow cookers) of simmering soup. Starting at just $7.95 you can get lunch for yourself and for just $3.50 extra pay it forward and purchase a soup for a homeless person. With a community of volunteers, 100% of profits at Kinfolk support charities such as the Cathy Freeman Foundation and YGAF’s effort in Rwanda and Ghana to eliminate child trafficking.
Art on the Street and Art on the Walls
Street Art became mainstream years ago, but being a tourist attraction hasn’t diminished its impact and relevance today. Contemporary urban art is part of Melbourne’s heart and soul. Beyond Hosier Lane, the streets of St Kilda, Brunswick, Fitzroy all feature stencils, paste-up, murals and installations by some of the world’s finest street artists. This continually changing urban landscape is now embraced by local government, business and locals alike.
Rone who is most famous for his evocative paintings of beautiful women adorning the walls of Melbourne and beyond adds a particular beauty to cityscapes. Starting first with stencilling and screen-printing his craft has progressed to more free-hand creations, allowing a little more rawness to his images. His muses now grace both the streets and the art galleries of Paris, New York, Tokyo and London.
An upcoming exhibition at the NGV ‘Thirty years of graffiti style’ will explore the relationship between Melbourne and street style, examining the changing aesthetics of Melbourne graffiti from the early 1980s to the present.. The NGV has acquired pieces from artists including Miso, Ian Strange (Kid Zoom) and commissioned artists such as ROA, RONE, LUSH and Ash Keating to undertake sight specific works.
ACMI or the Australian Centre of the Moving Image presents this year’s blockbuster exhibition, ‘David Bowie Is’. This groundbreaking sell-out exhibition comes exclusively to Melbourne from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. It includes over 50 of Bowie’s costumes, original set designs, handwritten lyric sheets, album artwork, video and photographs chronicling the pop icon’s 50 year career.
Postcode 3000 is a world leader in café culture. With over 2000 cafes, not only is it a city obsessed with espresso, cold-drip, pour over and more it boasts not one, but 2 world championship baristas.Once Melbourne’s café owners travelled overseas for inspiration and to keep up with coffee trends. Today, the world comes to Melbourne to learn how to make coffee.
Down laneways,, in arcades in basements & above stores in converted banks or old shopfronts cafes thrive. Cookie cutter design doesn’t cut it in Melbourne. Each is unique in style, design, style of coffee preparation and food. In 2014 the New York Times reported on the rash of Australian cafes in the Big Apple like Little Collins and Bluestone Lane both started by former Melburnians. New Yorkers are embracing the flat white and smashed avo on toast.
At Patricia Coffee Brewers on Little Bourke Street the choice is simple. Black, white or filter. The look is pretty straightforward too – white subway tile, a tiled entrance plate that informs it is standing room only and a cheery neon light feature.
Courtney Joel and Jon Freeman opened Cup of Truth in Campbell Arcade – a station underpass linking Degraves Street and Flinders Lane. This hole in the wall serves up coffee to Melbourne’s commuters using an unique payment method. Look at the price on the board and just put your coins in the big red Cup of Truth on the counter – an honour system that seems to work for everyone. What it lacks in size it sure makes up for in the quality of the coffee. Cup of Truth is consistently rated as one of the best in the city.
Love it or loathe it, the gentrification of gritty inner suburbia is well and truly happening. Proud Mary was one of the first slick but still neighbourhood places to open in Collingwood. With a custom-made six-group Synesso machine, the team at Proud Mary take their coffee very seriously.
These are just 5 reasons to love Melbourne now. There are so many, many more. www.visitvictoria.com