Uniquely Melbourne: Alternative St Kilda

Ah, St Kilda - surely the place in Melbourne with the richest combination of social ingredients. Glorious, diverse, artistic and a little bit seedy, Melbourne's young bohemians started flocking to St Kilda and its bay beach after the Eastern Europeans who settled there after the war gave the suburb its alternative cache.

Traditional Jewish food culture flourished in the delis and Hungarian restaurants of Acland Street, musicians played at the Espy, penniless artists rented out crumbling old-style apartments for a song, the windows of the cake shops became a drawcard for tourists and the Kooglhoupf made its appearance on Melbourne's Sunday lunch tables.

St Kilda's popularity has changed the suburb, which is much more upmarket these days. But when I went in search of its soul recently I didn't have to go far. There's plenty of life left in St Kilda, as these small cafes and retailers attest. Come with me on a journey to the soul of St Kilda. (As you can see, my photography skills are still 'evolving'.)

Before we hit the shops, let's stop at a hidden oasis south of Acland Street, the Blessington Gardens. I once lived opposite them, and they weren't as superbly maintained then as they are today. There are several discrete sections - a rose garden, an area of native Australian plants, a rotunda for weddings, and a lake with white ducks. Here's a pleasing vista.

Now we're ready to hit the road. Our journey starts at a charming group of cute little cafes bunched together in Blessington Street. Kotch Lane is arguably the sweetest of these.

The cafe has some lovely personal touches.

Next door is the famous Lentil as Anything with its 'pay as you feel' philosophy. There are no prices on the menu - instead you decide how much the meal is worth. There are now three Lentil as Anything restaurants in Melbourne, and St Kilda was the first. The 'pay as you feel' model has since been adopted internationally.

Below is a shot of the restaurant's interior.

It's now time to cross Barkly Street, lured by this charming clothes store, dot & herbey, on the corner of Barkly and Blessington.

dot & herbey is an independent Australian label, with all clothes manufactured in Australia.

Crossing to the corner of Acland and Barkly streets, in need of refreshment, we find Leroy Espresso Bar, which takes its coffee very seriously. Manager Sam obliged with a pic:

Striking exposed brick walls make the interior of this cafe distinctive, giving it a warehouse feel.

Here's the cute tiled exterior.

Wandering in a north-westerly direction up Acland Street, we hit the group of cake shops that first made the street famous. One of these is Monarch Cakes, which has apparently been recommended by Tourism Australia as one of the top 25 places to visit in Australia. This cute window display caught my eye.

This store interior definitely retains the feel of 'old St Kilda'.

Crossing the street, we come to the St Kilda RSL on the corner of Albert Street, where we find the Southside Handmade and Vintage Market. This is held on the last Saturday of each month (except September and December) on the first floor of the RSL, a charming art deco building. It's the perfect setting for the market, which is full of lovingly crafted clothes, soft furnishings, jewellery, knick-knacks and vintage fashion. There's even a cafe at the back.

Wendy Scully's wonderful hats, Chapeaux by Wendy, caught my eye - the hats are all handcrafted original designs, and there are plenty of summery designs as well as the winter ones shown here.

We then head off to the Galleon, a long-established cafe around the corner from Acland Street, in Carlisle Street. I used to come here in the late eighties - my favourite dish was the spanikopita, which was about four bucks! The Galleon is still a retro oasis, much-loved by the locals; the ones there on Saturday looked as if they had settled in for a good few hours.

The bold use of colour gives a funky feel to the place.

Soon after this point in our travels we meet Rebecca Kennedy, a creative fashion stylist known as the 'style guru' who lives in the area. (I'd never met Rebecca but thought she looked amazing and had to stop and ask for her photo. As I had unintentionally added an arty setting on my camera, the pic doesn't do justice to her great use of colour but it shows her amazing style, which I'd describe as 'street glamour'.)

It's time to leave Acland Street and head off down Barkly to the corner where Inkerman Road becomes Grey Street. This is a groovy corner indeed and the hilly topography combines with the terraced shop fronts to create a village-meets-inner-urban-cool atmosphere. Scout House is a charming homewares store in Grey Street that has  a carefully curated collection combining the old and new.

Here's part of the store interior:

Next door is Mollisons, a contemporary homewares store with a shabby chic feel. I fell in love with this charming group of knitted light shades in the window.

So ends our visit today, but I've really only scratched the surface of the soul of St Kilda. There's still a lot to discover in this town.

BTW, if you're in Melbourne, the StripFest festival, in Acland Street and surrounds, runs until 30 August.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Uniquely Melbourne: Alternative Carlton.


Rebecca Kennedy said...

cool babe xoxo

Inspired said...

Thanks Rebecca xx