Telling people in Melbourne that you’re from Werribee tends to evoke the subtle expression people make when they’re trying to hold back raising an eyebrow or laughing; I’ve come to recognize it well. Perhaps due to some sort of “Western” pride, I have never been tempted to avoid saying it upon meeting people. Actually, in the past couple years and among a festival-going crowd especially, I’ve had some good reasons for being proud of where I’m from. What with St Jerome’s Laneway Festival moving to Footscray and the new Harvest Festival at Werribee Park Mansion, the West is on the rise – I don’t see The Flaming Lips or Beck playing in Toorak; just sayin’.
In order to break Brass of the Bear readers into the Western suburbs gently, however, I’ll start with Yarraville, the first suburb west of the Yarra River and somewhere I’ve loved hanging out for a long time. Yarraville gained some rep in 1995 with the restoration and reopening of the Sun Theatre, a 1930s Art Deco landmark which now screens art-house, foreign and mainstream films alike; it’s very popular on Friday and Saturday nights so I recommend getting tickets early. Anderson and Ballarat Streets are these days lined with cool independent boutiques and bookstores, as well as award winning cafes and restaurants that hold true to a Melbournian multicultural atmosphere. Restaurants such as Lucellino and Aqua e Vino have been popular for quite some time (the former for some of Melbourne’s most authentic pizza and the latter for its tapas, drinks and live bands). However, the streets are always evolving.
A relatively new addition to Anderson Street is cafe Wee Jeanie. Its location behind Yarraville train station and car park of the Sun Theatre might suggest imagery of a derelict backstreet laneway, but the cafe’s space is in fact very open and well lit. The shop was formerly a great music and vintage clothes store (which I loved visiting when I was sixteen) but unfortunately closed down a couple of years ago. When Wee Jeanie opened, I was initially not so enthusiastic about supporting the record store’s replacement but its cool minimalist design and retro green coffee machine tempted me in, and I highly recommend that you succumb too. Yesterday afternoon, the place was relatively quiet as we got there close to closing time. My cousin Michelle and I sat at the large table outside in the sun, feeling very much included in Yarraville’s chilled vibe. I had a Gluten Free Orange Cake and Michelle had a sandwich with pumpkin and chicken; both were absolutely delicious. Michelle also had a huge hot chocolate in a hug-mug with marshmallows, which I’m sure is a favorite amongst all the little kids going in with their trendy new-age Yarraville parents. I had a double espresso, which, as the barista later told me, was made from the ‘South Blend’ beans; it had an interesting sort of citrusy bitterness to it, which I wasn’t quite used to so I was recommended to next time try the ‘Abottsford Blend’ — apparently closer to an Italian coffee flavor.
After a chat to the friendly staff at Wee Jeanie as they were closing up, Michelle and I headed to the independent boutique Mandrake and Willow — another of my favorite places in Yarraville. The boutique is a short walk away from the middle of town on Anderson Street and regularly tempts me in equally as strongly as Wee Jeanie. Mandrake and Willow stocks a small but great collection of apparel and accessories from Melbournian designers, as well as some cute and quirky pieces by local artists. There is also a small vintage section with lovely second hand shoes that are freakily always available in my size (AU 6, EU 36). In yesterday were also some gorgeous colorful woolen knit scarves and a sale on Melissa shoes. If it sounds like your thing, like M&W on facey. I know they also sometimes have live bands play at the store for promotions, so that’s something to look out for too.
A day-trip to Yarraville is a must for anyone in the Melbourne area. The station (Yarraville) is in Zone 1 on the Werribee and Williamstown lines, about 15 minutes from North Melbourne Station, with trains departing pretty much every 10 minutes. The stop is also right next to the main part of town on Anderson Street, within two minute walking distance of everything mentioned above. Just go see a movie at the Sun Theatre and spend the day there; you will have a hard time tearing yourself away from staying for shopping, coffee, dinner or drinks I promise.
– Ashley Onori