For many years, it’s been overshadowed by streets and suburbs closer to the city. But if you’ve already explored most of the inner north’s bohemian beauties it might be time to jump on the 86 tram and discover the many highlights of Northcote’s High Street. It’s actually quite long, so we’ve divided it into two parts: the bottom end (near Westgarth train station) and the main part.
You won’t do better for a coffee and brunch than Barry. The big, airy space is always humming with diners’ conversations, and the menu is diverse, creative and full of healthy options. If Barry is packed or you want something a bit more chilled, head across the road to Gypsy Hideout, where you can feast on brekky burritos, salmon and potato pikelets and freshly baked muffins.
If you’re in the neighbourhood and like vintage offerings, there are a couple of great stores on the block. Flashback Fabric stocks amazing retro fabrics and wallpapers, some of it made into cushions, lampshades and simple skirts. Looking for a show-stopping piece? Grandfather’s Axe has an ever-changing collection of mid-century Danish and European furniture, lighting and art for sale.
Later in the day, there are a couple of solid options for dining: Bamboo Vietnamese Restaurant serves excellent pho and bun (it’s like a vermicelli salad) at fantastically budget prices; seasonal European-inspired dishes are on the menu at Merricote; and Shokuiku is a raw food cafe in a beautifully designed space. It’s only open until 4pm, except on Saturday, when dinner is also served.
Lots of people head to this part of Northcote for the Palace Westgarth. It shows a range of films, from popular Hollywood fare to more arthouse offerings.
Up the hill and starting at about Northcote Town Hall is a few hundred metres of High Street that will keep you entertained for hours. Shoppers will want to check out the gifts and homewares at The Phoenix and the Turtle and Mim Found Ena. Those in the market for a new outfit or two are well catered for. Local brand Obus has its flagship store and studio here, where you can pick up great designs in a range of innovative prints and quirky colours. For preloved gear from another era, try Yesteryear Vintage. Accessories from a range of independent labels can be found at I Dream a Highway. Readers will love Brown & Bunting Booksellers, which stocks a huge range of second-hand tomes.
There is great food in this part of town. Chef Scott Pickett has neighbouring restaurants, Estelle Bistro and Estelle by Scott Pickett. The former is a more rustic, relaxed experience, while the latter, with its degustation-only menu, is a showpiece for Pickett’s considerable skills. For something a little different, Mesob serves Ethiopian cuisine. Korean food is having a moment of glory in Melbourne and Seoul Soul dishes up excellent dumplings, kimchi pancakes and bibimbap in a hip space. Duck around the corner from High Street to Radio Mexico if you fancy some tacos and margaritas.
It’s renowned for its spacious beer garden and great bistro food, but the Wesley Anne, a pub set in an old church, also has live music, usually something fairly acoustic and mellow, most nights of the week. Another small venue, 303, showcases the local scene, jam nights and comedy, but its neighbour, Northcote Social Club, is where you can catch international and local acts in a range of genres, from electronic to rock.