One of the things I love about Melbourne is all the surrounding melting pot suburbs that are layered with history that has moulded them to what we know today. Suburbs that are proud of their roots and preserve the historical elements that pay homage to yesteryear. South Melbourne is one of those suburbs. Originally called Emerald Hill, South Melbourne is one of Melbourne’s suburbs with the greatest waves of migration dating back to the early gold rush which has resulted in a modern multicultural hive. It’s now notable for its well preserved Victorian era streetscapes with many hidden laneways still lined in the original cobblestones. Along some of these cobblestone laneways the hidden space behind original buildings and industry you’ll now find community gardens and communal recreation areas fitted out with table tennis tables and park space.
Bibelot, pronounced ‘bib-loh’ means “a small object of curiosity, beauty or desire” and perfectly sums up the delicacies on offer at this luxury European inspired dessert boutique. If the sounds of Strawberry and Native Pepper Berry Macarons and Salted Butter Caramel Eclairs aren’t enough to have you salivating in the centre of the store is a chocolate tap, yes a functioning tap which when turned on out comes a flow of chocolate. Those Willy Wonka dreams may have just come true – now where do I get myself one from?!
The See Yup Chinese Temple is the perfect example of the layers of multiculturalism that South Melbourne has to offer. From the main streets you’d be hard pressed to even know it exists, but take a stroll down Raglan Street and look for the gardens amongst all the buildings. Built in 1856 by raising over four thousand pounds through mandatory contributions from the See Yup society, this cultural meeting place and place of worship is open to the public and is mesmerising. A rabbit warren of rooms and corridors, filled with people and their offerings of fruit and the burning smell of incense. Three of the rooms are stacked floor to ceiling of memorial tablets, there are over 13 000 tablets which record the deaths of Chinese-Australians dating back to the early 1950’s.
Melbourne is so good at it’s hole in the wall style stores and South Melbourne is full of laneways and side streets which are full of hidden gems. We stumbled across Thorogood Boots a stones throw from St ALi one of South Melbourne’s favourite coffee spots. Thorogood Boots specialise in premium leather handmade boots from Wisconsin and the attention to detail given to their shoes has been followed through in the store fit out. You’ll find the delightful Bernie in the dappled warehouse light behind the most beautiful vintage cash register, stop by for a chat a mini history lesson on handmade leather boots and enjoy the old school industrial feel of the building.
Make your lunch stop at Meatworks Co and from the end of March you’ll be able to make it a dinner stop too. Meatworks takes on a humble and simple approach to food showcasing meat at it’s best through slow roasting, braising and smoking. Housed in a restored mechanic the interior of Meatworks takes on a minimal industrial feel which perfectly suits the canteen style approach to simple food done well. Despite being penned the “pleasure palace of meaty goodness” your vego friends won’t go hungry either.
South Melbourne really is quintessential Melbourne, layered with good coffee, places to eat that pay equal attention to ambiance and aesthetic and layers and layers of multiculturalism. There’s one more spot in South Melbourne that we can’t wait to share with you, but that will have to wait until the next edition.
I’ve teamed up with Sandy & Penny of You’re Melbourne to share with you You’re Melbourne Finds , a collection of Melbourne and surrounding suburbs best bits, the secrets, the hidden gems and the spots you can’t forget about. Pocket guides of where to eat and drink, where to shop and what to do when you keep coming back to this place we call home. You can download the You’re Melbourne finds guide to South Melbourne below, and check out our other finds here