Melbourne's 7 funkiest laneways
Melbourne is a planned city, with an unplanned offshoot that makes it as fun, funky and fashionable: its laneway culture.
Robert Hoddle designed the city center in 1837 as a grid, with streets wide enough to cater for the ox-team carts of the day. This made for large blocks, resulting in the evolution of narrow laneways as access points for businesses -- and the tradesmen and delivery men who served them.
These days, it makes for cool and quirky alcoves to hang out. Whether it's food, drink, coffee, art, shopping, music or dancing, there's something for you -- as long as you know where to go.
1. Rock 'n' roll: ACDC Lane
Formerly called Corporation Lane, it evolved to the much funkier ACDC Lane, minus a "slash" or "lightning bolt" as both contravened the naming policy of the Office of the Registrar of Geographic Names.
It was renamed ACDC Lane, of course, after the legendary Australian rock band.
Now, Cherry Bar promotes itself as the “best rock 'n’ roll bar in the world." Such a statement is backed by Oasis’ Noel Gallagher’s offer to buy the place in 2002.
With a capacity of just 200, Cherry Bar packs ‘em in for local live acts and DJ sets. It's the bar of choice for touring musos from all over the world to unwind or party after their gigs.
Cherry Bar, ACDC Lane, +61 (0)3 9639 8122, www.myspace.com/cherrybarmelbourne
2. Wagyu rump and wine: Hardware Lane
Hardware Lane has long been renowned as the go-to place for eating in Melbourne, from traditional Sicilian cuisine at Il Nostro Posto to pub grub at The Mill, or Thai at Aloi Na. There’s something for everyone and the spruikers at each venue will surely tell you that theirs is the place for you.
Pop Restaurant & Bar is the new eatery on the block, trading for just a couple of years but already recognized as one of Melbourne’s best tapas restaurants.
Their Nine Score Wagyu Rump is pan-seared with slow-braised rib on a truffle of mashed potato and sautéed mushroom in a rich jus ($37). Accompanied with a glass or a bottle of the 2008 Thorpe Shiraz from McLaren Vale ($9/$34), laneway dining has never been so red.
Pop Restaurant & Bar, 68 Hardware Lane, +61 (0)3 9642 1341, www.poprestaurant.com.au
3. Perusing street art: Hosier Lane
Melbourne’s laneways are a haven for street artists and none more so than this bluestone alleyway between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. It features the work of hundreds of local and international artists and is the most photographed place in town.
This urban gallery of murals, stickers, stencils and paste-ups sprung up in response to former Lord Mayor John So’s hard-line, anti-graffiti stance -- and it's now curated as if it were an actual art gallery. The Warhol-esque, pop art images of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by local stencil artist Haha is the current top pick, as well as a mural of the Hindu god Ganesh.
Whilst viewing, stop in at the darkly cool tapas and wine bar Movida. The Anchoa –- hand-filleted Cantabrian Artisan Anchovy on Crouton with Smoked Tomato Sorbet ($4.50) goes nicely with a glass La Goya Manzanilla dry sherry ($9), from San Luca de Barrameda, Spain.
Movida, 1 Hosier Lane, +61 (0)3 9663 3038, www.movida.com.au
4. A dumpling and a cocktail: Tattersalls Lane
Section 8 bar has so much street cred it’s actually part of the street itself.
Made from a shipping container, it’s little more than a roof and chicken-wire fence, using the building next door’s outer wall and street art as its own inner wall -- complete with original, local art. Patrons perch on packing pallettes, dig the cool beats played by the resident DJ and, during winter, warm themselves by the plentiful portable heaters.
The bar staff pride themselves on their mojito, made with two types of rum ($15).
For patrons who drink up an appetite, faces can be fed at the Shanghai Dumpling & Noodle Restaurant or Gaylord Indian Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, which hosts live classic music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Section 8, 27-29 Tattersalls Lane, +61 (0)430 291 588, www.section8.com.au
5. People-watching over a velvety coffee: Degraves Street
Take a seat at the window of Degraves Espresso, which offers a velvety smooth coffee made from Sensory Lab beans (from $3) and a freshly toasted Panini ($11).
But on Degraves Street, the main pastime is watching the city pass by. The boutique businesses along the alleyway are diverse, from eateries to art supplies. Men wondering what to do while their missus shops for shoes, jewelery or lingerie can even get an early-bird haircut ($20 before 10:30 a.m.) at Barber on Degraves.
Degraves Espresso, 23 Degraves St., +61 (0)3 9654 1245, www.atablefortwo.com.au/2009-02-08/degraves-espressobar-melbourne-cbd
6. Shopping: Albert Coates Lane
A bit of medical history -- Melbourne’s first hospital once stood on this site. It was named for Albert Coates, OBE, who served as a medical orderly at Gallipoli in 1915 before becoming a surgeon at Royal Melbourne Hospital in the 1920s. He was Senior Surgeon during World War II in Singapore and Java before his capture, and he subsequently treated the sick and dying on the Burma-Thai railway.
Part of the QV (Queen Victoria) shopping complex, this modern arcade was built in 2002-03.
Now you can stock up on women’s labels at the likes of Guess, MNG, Zimmerman and Christensen Copenhagen, or pick up a Versace or Studio Italia suit at Platinum Menswear. Take your pick, then walk through to the four-level QV complex for everything from fresh produce to large-screen TVs.
7. Nothing says Melbourne quite like Crossley Street
Up the top end of town, between Bourke Street and Little Bourke Street, Crossley Street is rich in history, style and charm. Formerly known as Romeo Lane, the once seedy home of brothels and gangsters is the archetypal Melbourne laneway.
Perch on a red vinyl stool and drink coffee at Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar (since 1954) or sip wine and eat German comfort food at the intimate Von Haus wine bar, named for 19th-century landscape and portrait artist Eugene von Guerard, whose living room it once was. The building is older than the state of Victoria itself and the retro look is designed to transport you back to the 1800s.
Von Haus is a hangout for VCA (Victorian College of the Arts) types, as well as a popular haunt for after-work drinks and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Try the Lyonnaise sausages with sauerkraut and warm potato salad ($18.50), with a bottle of Warsteiner Lager ($8.50) or a glass of the northern Italian blend, Terlano Terlaner Classico ($14/$65).
Von Haus, 1 Crossley St., Melbourne, +61 (0)3 9662 2756.
Other lanes worth checking out include Meyers Place, Liverpool Street, Croft Alley, Celestial Place, Centre Place and Bennetts Lane, where you will find the eponymous jazz bar.
But anyone looking for the St. Jerome's Laneway Festival, named after the bar where it started, which has successfully exported Melbourne’s love of a street party to other Australian cities -- as well as Auckland and Singapore -- will be on a road to nowhere. Its birthplace, Caledonian Lane, is currently a building site, so the festival has relocated to inner-western suburb of Footscray.