Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Melbourne - Brunswick St, Fitzroy

After a very long day wandering around Melbourne, we ended up on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. We had planned to check this street out as we'd read about the variety of cafes, bars, and shopping and so were very keen to see what it was all about! We'd just gone to Queen Victoria Market (an amazing place and worthy of its own post!), and so we walked from there. Turns out that day we walked about 7km, for some reason we had an aversion to the trams (more likely, S thought places were much closer than they actually were on the map!).

We got to the very start of the street, and started to walk up it. For the first 500m there was really nothing and we were wondering why on earth we'd bothered as there was nothing here. We found a cool cafe called Slowpoke, a cool urban space in amongst gritty laundromats and abandoned buildings. The feature wall is very cool, made of recycled wood which doubles as shelves which gives the place almost a log cabin feeling. Its decorated with old bottles and knick knacks and it makes the place feel alot warmer amongst the cement floors and low lighting.

We ordered a coffee each and they came out quickly. As was becoming standard, the coffee looked great with the creamy swirls, as well as backing the aesthetics up with great tasting coffee. 

We had been walking for ages and so sitting down  here was just what we needed. It was peaceful, the staff were attentive without being intrusive, and they had local papers and magazines to read while we sipped our, again, delicious coffees. I wandered out the back to find the ladies, and discovered they have a tiny courtyard out the back, as well as little tables lining the hall leading outside. Very secluded and private, and really cute. Even the toilet was cute.

Slowpoke had a great looking menu and provides a quiet relief from the hustle and bustle of the main drag of Brunswick St. Should we live in the area Id say it'd become a local, for sure!

 Slowpoke on Urbanspoon

After Slowpoke we wandered further down the road to where the action was, and we were overwhelmed with choice! We checked out a shop called Polyester Books - Totally Weird Shit, which did indeed have weird shit in there - books, magazine etc, and the owner and her friend having a chat with weird too, not the kinda conversations that are conducive to a friendly shop environment! 

We found a warehouse selling crazy discounted Allanah Hill clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus a bunch of other things! I came out with a bag, shoes and a bangle for less than $50 and the shoes cost $45 of that! S got a fedora that hes been wanting for ages - trying to find one that suits him is hard, but we got one!

Walking down the road I was struck by how similar this area was to Amsterdam. The trams, the old buildings, graffiti, modern eye catching buildings in between... There were people on bikes and the general vibe was very similar, its just alot more spread out in Fitzroy than in Amsterdam! This is probably why I felt so at home here...

We wandered down the road and back again, and found a fab little place called Naked for Satan. S had read about a place that serves tiny tapas for cheap, and this was the place. These tiny tapas are called pintxos and are bite sizes morsels of goodness! These guys had shelves set up with both vegetarian and meaty bites - all a piece of baguette topped with something. They work on an honesty system, and all the pintxos are held together with a toothpick - you keep the toothpicks and based on how many you have, you pay at the end. Sometimes theyre only 80c!! Such a bargain...

The first plate we went with (L) had bread with; smoked salmon, onion and dill, caramalised onions, anchovie and olive, cream cheese, roast beetroot and walnut, and cream cheese, chorizo and chilli. They were all really nice, a fave being the onion and beetroot ones. S went back and had a couple more (R) getting the smoked mussel and chickpea puree, and roast veges, lettuce and balsamic. I dont like mussels anyway, so cant comment, but the salad one was fine. Nothing outta this world, but nice n fresh after some rich flavours. All up they cost us $16, which was decent. It would certainly be a better deal going there for lunch when you can get them for 80c! At the time we were there, it was pretty empty, but that was at about 3pm. We didnt really feel inclined to stay for a drink afterwards, but thats mainly because there were so many other places for us to go and explore! The story of how the place got its name is written on their kitschy menus, and in the middle of the room is a big copper distilling set up, which looks cool. The ceiling has all kinds of weird and wonderful creations hanging from it, looking like theyre made from scrap metals and bits and pieces. This would be a place I would come when I was poor and hungry, getting a few nibbles and then moving on - apparently when its busier they come around with hot pintxos which would have been great as all of ours were cold. A great place with a different angle!

Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

We had filled the holes in our stomaches, and were ready to wander. We passed plenty of generic looking menus, with a few interesting things, but we usually go for tapas and tasting plates, and finding something a bit different can be difficult because theyre very often all the same... We wandered past dingy looking bars that would likely have been packed at night time (when you dont notice how run down they are!), a place we didnt know if it was a garden shop or a bar, and a cafe/bar/restaurant that sold "thrice fried chips". Yes they actually used the word thrice. So we had to go in and have a go! The place was called St Judes and it had a really nice vibe inside, big shared tables and benches, green plants everywhere and there was alot of space. I had a local cider and S tried a new Polish beer they had started stocking, on recommendation from our waiter. Our drinks came out pretty fast, and our chips soon after. They didnt come with any sauce so we asked for some aioli, which they didnt have. They offered us mayo which was fine, but it never came. So we asked another waitress who looked at us like we were asking for something really weird. We eventually got it though... S wasnt a fan of his beer, just cos it was a bit tasteless, and my cider was fine, nothing to write home about. The chips, being thrice fried, couldve done with just the 2nd fry really... they were cripsy for sure, but a bit overdone. They needed more seasoning, and needed to be thicker, in my opinion... 

The rest of the menu at St Judes looks fantastic, and would head back for sure, for a more substantial meal, but would pass on the thrice fried chips in future! Unneccesary.

St Jude's Cellars on Urbanspoon

Finally, after more wandering, we ended up at The Alchemist, the lure of outdoor tables and tapas too much for us to resist! The prospect of people watching, tapas, cocktails and a clear balmy evening was just what we needed after such a long day. Our waiter was a friendly scottish guy who sat down and had a chat with us, asked us where we were from, what were we doing over here, what do we do... really friendly! We checked out the menu, both for tapas and cocktails, and needed a bit of time! The menu was seperated into single bites, bigger bites, salads, bar snacks, as well as degustations menus, and antipasto platters. To start off with we went for the bechamel, jalapeno and parmesan croquettes and the crostinis, with hommus, crispy prosciutto, chorizo, shredded apple, Japanese mayo & caviar. 

The croquettes were awesome!! I have missed these since I lived in Amsterdam, and while they werent the same as the ones I used to get from the snackbar, they were still great. They were nice and crunchy with a soft potato/bechamel inside, they were spicy and really peppery, and the cheese gave it something extra. We both loved it. I could have done with a little less heat or pepper, as it was a pretty dominant flavour, though a flavour we both liked! 

The crostinis were pretty great - the waiter told us we shouldnt share one, to definately get 2 as they go fast and we'll want more! I really liked these crostinis, however I thought there was a bit too much mayo, and my first taste of caviar resulted in me deciding I didnt really like it much. I hated how it pops in your mouth, it grosses me out just thinking about it! However the rest of it was really nice, the apple was needed to counter the saltiness of the chorizo and the rich mayo.  

I ordered a couple of sangrias from their cocktail menu - for $15. They have a cool cocktail menu set out like an alchemists lab, with the flavours and aromas listed. I thought the sangria was going to come in a big glass, which is what the menu implied, however it just came in a red wine glass... It was nice and I had a couple of them but Im not sure they were really worth $15. The food was really well priced however the drinks were expensive... The cheapest glass of wine was $10 so I figured I may as well go for the cocktail!

After a few drinks we ordered some more... the peking duck pancake and the patatas bravas. I didnt bother to take a pic of the potatoes because they were pretty underwhelming - cubed potatoes, fried, served with a mildly spicy sauce on the side. We could have ordered something way cooler - we were expecting spiced potatoes or something more exciting...

 The pancake was great though - pretty decent size and full of duck! It was seasoned really nicely, the hoisin sauce was tasty and it was packed full of tomato, cucumber and other refreshing goodies. Ill admit by this stage, Id had a few drinks and the nuances of the pancake are a little bit hazy... But I remember that I liked it!

The Alchemist Cocktail Bar on Urbanspoon

Overall S and I both agreed that Brunswick St was our favourite part of Melbourne that we visited on this trip. It was alive, vibrant, had such a huge variety of shops, cafes, resturants, you could sit in any kind of place you felt comfortable and people watch for hours. There were a few places that I loved the look of, corner delis where you could get platters to order from whatever cold cuts and cheeses you liked the looks of, thumping live music bars, super cheap pizzas and pricey bistros. I loved it. It was a fantastic end to a first day in Melbourne!


  1. I love those tapas places - they are Basque, and always run that way, with the cocktail sticks, and waiters coming round with trays of fresh hot food. I went to one in Barcelona earlier in the year, and hope to visit the Basque country itself before too long to try them on their home territory ! Meals made up of little tastes of this and that are lovely !

  2. Brilliant Liz I was hoping youd know more about that! I would love to go back to Spain, Ive only been to Madrid and loved it!

  3. I love Naked for Satan. i thought the lighting (at night time) was entirely too dark but the combination of hot pintxos and cold ones and infused vodka is totally my thing. I loved the ambiance and the wall down to the toilet was even really cool!
    I loved it and your Alannah Hill purchases *WAY JEALOUS*. theres so much to eat and drink in Melbourne

  4. Yeah its SUCH a great place, I loved it... so many places to chose from, a huge variety! We found the same as you, the restaurant part looked really dark, we stayed in the bar area, but were only there for a little while...

  5. This is what i am looking for ........really you made my day.Scrap Metal Buyer Melbourne

  6. Such an informative post! Can't wait to try out Slowpoke tomorrow! :)