Everyone knows St Kilda for the beach and its laid-back culture. After all, it’s the home of Melbourne’s icons: the Pier and Luna Park, St Kilda Fest and the Espy, and of course, Paul Kelly’s “Sweet Promenade”.
Stepping off the 96 and feeling the tickle of the seaside breeze, it’s easy to think you’ve stepped into a different Melbourne.
Cross St Kilda Road and you’re in a different St Kilda; the twin that’s quirkier, grungier and urban. Some call it hipster and they’re probably right: there’s an excess of buttoned top-buttons, instagrammed photos, and first-hand op-shop clothes.
Chapel St South Yarra might have Topshop, but the other end has no less to offer. Dukes (169 Chapel St) has you covered in the mornings. The menu offers breakfast staples and a changing selection of other dishes, and the coffee’s always strong. The chocolate brioche sandwich was my favourite lunch for a year.
With the same owners, food and feel, Lucky Coq (corner Chapel St and High St) is Bimbo’s sister south of the Yarra. It’s just as much of an institution as its Fitzroy brother. The newer Parlour Diner (64 Chapel St) is serving up polished versions of American staples from hotdogs and curly fries to pork sliders and onion rings.
Takeaway’s not hard to find either from Hooked’s (172 Chapel St) Fish and Chips; everybody’s favourite, Grill’d (157 Chapel St); their new competitor, Babu Burger (156 Chapel St); and the choose-your-own fun of Mad Mex (131 Chapel St). No matter where you eat, the Ben and Jerry’s (151 Chapel St) store has ice-cream for everyone.
The Astor Theatre
Right on the corner of Chapel Street and Dandenong Road, the Astor Theatre (1 Chapel St) is a 1000 seat, single-screen, 75-year old Art-Deco cinema that hasn’t lost its charm. The Astor has been through several lives, but it’s current format remains true to its past. It’s the only cinema where a typical week includes Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock, and Wes Anderson.
The Rocky Horror nights are great, but only go if you’re willing to dress up and go along with every cult-film gimmick. Grindhouse, which shows both Tarantino and Rodriguez’s films back-to-back with all the faux-trailers made for them, are developing a similar following.
Fifteen minutes further down Chapel Street, turn onto Carlisle Street and you’re in the heart of St Kilda East. It’s the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community and probably the only place you’ll find Kosher Sushi.
There’s no shortage of cafes. Hidden behind a supermarket, Monk Bodhi Dharma’s (202 Carlisle St) coffee is amazing. It has a quirky menu including a mix of vegan and vegetarian as well as raw food for anyone that way inclined. Wall Two 80 (280 Carlisle St) is no longer hidden in a side-street, but the Turkish pides are fantastic and the mango granitas probably defined my childhood. Further down, Batch Espresso’s (320 Carlisle St) all New Zealand staff show off their culture with picture books and plenty of stories.
Yo Chi (292 Carlisle St) is not to be missed. Their approach to the FroYo craze is ‘DIY’ and ‘Weigh and Pay’. Flavours and toppings are in no short supply and instagramming favourite combinations can lead to delicious prizes.