Monday, 1 September 2014

Urban urchins

Port (and South) Melbourne received the attention of the RACV last month, courtesy of their magazine's regular feature on urban wedges to explore. "A pocket of Melbourne between the city and the bay that never dates" is the preamble into a colourful sprinkling of some of the neighbouring suburb's well known (to locals) gems, that thankfully avoids repeating the "heart of wellness" slogan.
According to the 2011 census, the under 15's make up only 12.4% of the Port Melbourne population (versus 19.3% nationally). Nevertheless, another dominant retail area seems to be emerging to join the hair salons, nail bars and bike shops on Bay Street, with Little Urban now joining the likes of Buckets & Spades, Junior Republic, Tiny Polkadots and Cotton on Kids. Hopefully the parents are a little friendlier to the staff than they are to parking officers.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Art crush mob

The vacant lot opposite Matilda Bay brewery currently provides a rare Port Melbourne street art canvas, with this not too taggy piece appearing since the Google Street View car last drove past in April.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Southern fox

Slowly, but surely, the near total domination of great pubs North of the Yarra is dwindling. And a surprising number of those Southern upstarts are conveniently congregating in a small area between South Melbourne, Port Melbourne and Albert Park. The latest arrival is particularly symbolic as it is the remote outpost of one Collingwood's best.
The Fox has moved into the, classy but troubled, Montague that overlooks one of Melbourne's more peculiar junctions. And, to the raised eyebrows I'd wager of nearby St Vincent Place residents, they've brought a pool table, a whopping twelve taps of craft beer (and a further eighty bottles) ... and a grouse pub grub menu that deftly satisfies both the parma appreciators and vegos/vegans of the world. It feels a world away from the its Northern brother's rooftop outlook over the Eastern highway, yet somehow its inherited claret red walls and homely carpet fit this Fox very warmly.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Room 101

Having done their part in the ritual humiliation of the English soccer team, Italy themselves bowed out of the World Cup ... with a little help from Mick Jagger. Which must've hurt, at least as much as a shoulder bite, at number one hundred and one Bay Street where, everywhere you look, there's reminders of the heritage of Port Melbourne's latest in a long line of pizza parlours.
Despite The London's rather excellent transition to Middle Eastern cuisine, there's still a lot of local competition in the melted mozzarella stakes. Fortunately the pizza at Bay 101, though not wood-fired, is undeniably authentic; the thin, yet airy, dough up there even with the recently opened Albert Park branch of legendary D.O.C. And their cheeses are far from one-dimensional either with tallegio, provola, asiago and fontina all on offer alongside a similarly authentic range of cured meats.
The wall of customer graffiti has now gone, replaced by black and white images of Vespas, supplanted by shelves filled with San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, and seemingly exclusively Italian wait staff. And along with the superb patisserie counter at Noisette opposite, their chilled display unit makes the beach end of Bay Street resemble a certain cake-laden stretch of St Kilda. However, despite the tempting delights, it's hard to resist the call of the huge tubs of Nutella used to make their delicious sweet Calzoncino

Monday, 30 June 2014

State route 30

It is now possible, thanks to Google's recent addition of historical imagery to their Street View, to step back in time and see how Bay Street (aka State Route 30) has evolved since 2007. Though not as dramatic as this scene from WA, the change in sky-line resulting from the Bianca complex is pretty stark.
The time lapse shows the gradual replacement of cafes like Bay Treat Cafe, the Fergusson Plarre Bakehouse and Tallship Cafe with today's coffee heavyweights. It also a reminder of some of the chains that decided to move on from this suburb; like Pepe Jeans, Readings and Urban Burger. But it's the colourfully named independent stores like Fat Zap, Shoe Fetish, Boils and Kinki Koko I think I miss the most.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Inflationless

In the first year after I started my highly scientific annual comparison of grocery prices there was a fair degree of change, but since then the price of tins of Whiskas has remained surprisingly static. The relative pricing of these supermarkets and servos too has managed to remain the same for a full five years now...
But then as pet related stories this week go, no amount of statistical wizardry was ever going to topple the tale of adventurous Frank; a very worthy successor to Ricky Nixon as Rouse Street's most infamous character.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Masala choices

After a short-lived run as Badyals (complete with misguided World-on-a-plate external graphics which made it look like it must be a travel agent) the tired exterior of the former Bengal Tiger has been stripped back to reveal the original exterior tiling of the Nelson Hotel. Following successive failed experiments now at operating a successful Indian restaurant on this corner (and with Montague Street's other pub building currently laying empty) I'd imagine that there's a plot twist in store in the next chapter of the landmark. 
Which is good news for tiny upstart My Masala, who popped up unexpectedly not far along City Road last year, in the narrow terrace next door to the wondrous Wayside Inn. Peering through the window it really does look like this is a restaurant of just four tables; although in reality there is a second, even more bijou, room behind. However some tasteful decorative touches manage to make the modest little restaurant welcoming once you step past the vivid livery.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Good beer

If, like 3AW, you count the Palace Hotel as a Port Melbourne pub, then there'll be no contest as to the place to go to soak up some of this year's Good Beer Week. They're turning over all ten of their, already impressively adventurous, taps to take on some "Southern" themed wonders from South Island NZ, South Australia, Southern Belgium etc...
Meanwhile a survey of the town's other pub taps reveals minimal changes since last year. Both the Prince Alfred and The Pier pay homage to our local brewery by taking on Minimum Chips (shame it's Matilda Bay's least inspiring beer by a long shot). A much bolder addition is Little Creature's IPA in The Exchange yet not, surprisingly, in the Rose Diner (which does however now offer Schöfferhoffer Hefeweizen). However these days the most adventurous taps with a 3207 postcode now come courtesy of Mr Lawrence (at The London).

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Harry Truman

The intersection of Kerferd Road and Montague Street might not sound like the most peaceful spot to sip on a soy latte, yet by the weekend the triangle outside Albert Park's presidential answer to the Harold Holt cafe is surprisingly calm. Inside Truman is a different matter though, with a veritable army of hipster wait staff carrying intriguing plates, under the watchful eye of an even bigger army of plastic soldiers marching across the ceiling.
The World War reference makes more sense than the pineapple kitsch or teaspoon collection, though the odd assortment of curios makes for a pleasant ambience for the new owners of The Block apartments around the corner, as they wait for their order. Which is handy because the wait can be noticeable, with what feels like all food being cooked by a single stressed chef.
However it is worth the wait. This halloumi breakie squeezes an autumnal pumpkin and leek smash between poached eggs and multi-grain sourdough, and then adds kale pesto, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on top for added textural and taste interest. These are just the sort of imaginative dishes that give you a warm feeling about living in these parts, and deciding to venture out for brunch.