Melbourne’s hipster haven is home to dozens of superb restaurants, watering holes, and independent boutiques. As the oldest suburb in Melbourne, Fitzroy has a je ne sais quoi that draws people in, and it’s not just the nonchalant beanie-d herds. The susurrus of gentrification has become a constant accompaniment, though it has yet to drown out the vibrant chatter that emanates from the main and side streets of this lively neighbourhood.Gertrude, Johnston, Smith, and Brunswick Streets are arteries that ceaselessly feed newness into the area—it seems that every few weeks there’s a new store or bar or restaurant or pop up mushrooming into existence. Read on for our best picks for where to eat and drink in and around the Fitzroy neighbourhood.
Nomada serves elevated Spanish tapas for dinner every Wednesday to Sunday, and for brunch as well on Sundays. Woven bamboo and warm wooden surfaces add a bucolic touch to the largely tactile dining experience. The entrance is located just off Brunswick Street, camouflaged within a two-dimensional graffiti forest.Ides is the brainchild of former Attica sous chef Peter Gunn, providing a dining experience as darkly seductive as a sultry mistress. The finest Australian produce is magicked into flavourful and intriguing performances, presented in a culinary black box theatre. Only a set menu is available; a choice between four or six courses. The chef’s more experimental, off-menu items are available for patrons to sample from Tuesday to Thursday in the form of a four-course dinner at just A$80, as opposed to the A$100 and A$180 for the regular menu.
For something more casual, Rustica’s sandwiches and baked goods are sure to satisfy. The bread is baked onsite using traditional sourdough techniques and has been hugely popular ever since its inception in 2012.Another famous bakery calls Fitzroy home, albeit with a more concise menu. Lune Croissanterie’s croissants have been touted by numerous sources as best in the world, but we’ll leave the judgement to you. Just be sure to head to its airy, brutalist space early, as they usually sell out by noon. Luckily, they open their doors at 7.30am in the morning on weekdays and at 8am on weekends.
The Bentwood Fitzroy café is a terracotta dream for design lovers and the brunch bunch. The coffee comes from their own in-house roastery Inglewood roasters, to be enjoyed in all iterations.A cone from Compa transports you to the toe of Italy, and the same goes for the gelato-stuffed brioches and cannolis. Their Sicilian gelato and sorbetto are made from natural and locally-sourced ingredients, enjoyed across all seasons along with sips of wood-roasted coffee from Ricci, the owner’s own roastery based in Northcote.For serious coffee aficionados, make a detour to the adjacent neighbourhood of Collingwood to experience Auntie Peg’s, a coffee bar and roasting house by Proud Mary, a speciality coffee roastery based in Melbourne as well as Portland. The space is dedicated to the appreciation of coffee culture, where the baristas are more than happy to discuss the finer points of the bean-brewing process.
Bimbo, previously Bimbo Deluxe, is a true Fitzroy institution that has recently reopened. Famous for their A$4 pizzas and retro interiors, the new and improved Bimbo is no longer the ragamuffin that the locals are used to, though its spirit is still intact. The iconic Kewpie doll that hangs above the entrance is still there, the grub is still cheap and delicious, and the people still head there for a good time. A newcomer to the scene is Mono XO, a kushiyaki joint serving skewers with a side of rock and roll. The fizz of highball cocktails combined with the frenetic energy of this hole-in-the-wall makes for a visceral chemical reaction that definitely sparks joy.
The notorious Black Pearl claims a recurring spot on the list of World’s 50 Best Bars, and rightly so; the drinks are expertly crafted, and even though its accolades have attracted plenty of international attention, the atmosphere remains one of unalloyed coolness. Though the main bar is walk-ins only, there’s an upstairs area adequately named the Attic that does take bookings.The Rooks Return is “your best mates’ living room”, whose unassuming fit-out belies the bustling community housed within. Sometimes there’s live jazz, sometimes an exhibition by a local artist. The outdoor courtyard at the back beckons spiritedly with a whimsical game of Connect Four or a good book; the epitome of your favourite neighbourhood hang-out.
Wine bars in Melbourne are ubiquitous and fickle, given the proximity to some of the best and most popular winemakers in the world. The bar is set very high for the ones that wish to remain relevant, which brings us to Marion. The robust list of local and international wines, painstakingly categorized by character, is their main selling point, but the small bites complete the pitch.Tamura Sake Bar creates a multi-layered drinking experience with new-age unfiltered sake, small-batch craft beer and izakayas staples like karaage and yakitori. The vinyl-and-liquor-lined walls will cocoon you while you steep in jazz and jubilation.