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The Best of Brunswick

Explore Sydney Road for the day, one of the longest and most diverse shopping strips in Australia.

You’d go a long way to find a Melburnian who hasn’t spent some time on Brunswick’s Sydney Road. Along its vast length, which stretches from the edges of Princes Park right through to the beginning of the Hume Highway, is an all-day destination. Whether you’re looking for some indie threads or want to check out a band as night falls, it’s all there. We’ve come up with a few of our favourite places to set you on the way to Sydney Road heaven. Oh, it’s easy to get there, too. Just jump on the number 19 tram to North Coburg and jump off when you see something that catches your eye.

Somewhere to Shop

For avant-garde local fashion that’s been sustainably sourced and ethically produced, try New Model Beauty Queen – it’s great for anyone who’s keen to stand out from the crowd. More local designs are on sale at Finki, which stocks both the eponymous Melbourne label as well as more than 40 other independent designers, jewellers, artists and makers. If your tastes are more old-school, Vicious Venus stocks vintage-inspired rockabilly and pin-up fashions. Swing and wiggle dresses, separates and accessories are all on offer. For well-priced denim, drop in to Dejour Jeans. Stacked with hundreds of pairs in every size, shape, design and colour, the store also offers an alteration service, so they fit just right – and all for about $60 a pair.

Those looking for something other than clothing, should head to Brunswick Bound, an independent book store, stocking all sorts of tomes, as well as CDs, vinyl records, stationery and gifts. Those into Japanese anime and manga should visit Anime Town, which stocks a full range of scaled figures, gundams and neodoroids, as well as spray-painting facilities.

A Place to Eat

You won’t find many French-Senegalese restaurants in Melbourne (or anywhere else for that matter), so drop in to cosy, rustic Bar Oussou to enjoy dishes like yassa poulet (spicy, slow-cooked chicken) and thiuiou (spicy lamb and vegetables in a red sauce). Thai eatery Tom Phat not only has great South-East Asian food – massaman goat curry and chilli caramel pork belly are just a couple of the dishes – but it’s also set in a cool space decked out with buddhas and bonsai. Tasty traditional and modern tapas, excellent wine and cold beers are on offer at Bar Estrella, Sydney Road’s own little corner of Spain.

The street is known as an important part of Melbourne’s Middle Eastern community and the food doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find kebab shops and bakeries just about everywhere, but we recommend Tiba’s, a Lebanese restaurant run by three brothers. The set menus offer loads of excellent food – meats cooked on the grill, dips, fresh pita, salads – at a great price, and there are plenty of options for vegetarians. Another excellent option is Very Good Falafel. Each day, owners Louisa Allen and Shuki Rosenboim grind the chickpeas grown by Louisa’s dad in the Mallee to make the falafels that are stuffed into pita with pickles and tahini. There’s also a daily selection of salads.

To Finish the Day

Beers and a boogie are all part of a day out on Sydney Road. Drop into The Retreat Hotel, a favourite with just about everyone, for free gigs, from bluegrass to full-on rock, every day of the week. The beer garden is ace and full of characters, but we suggest clearing out before all the youngsters arrive for the DJs on Saturday night.

The Spotted Mallard is one of the cutest band rooms in town, has an excellent roster of acts – a blues version of Bizet’s Carmen, US singer-songwriter Joe Pug and a tribute to Prince are all on the calendar – and some super-tasty snacks.

Many other pubs along the street have live music some or most nights of the week. A couple of our favourites are the low-key Edinburgh Castle, with its relaxing beer garden and great local performers, and The Brunswick Hotel (more commonly known as ‘the Brunny’), where there’s live entertainment – poetry, comedy, open mic nights and bands – every night of the week. Again, it’s got a cracking beer garden and is open till 5am on Friday and Saturday nights (in case you can’t sleep).