Many locals choose to live in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne because they either grew up in the area (lucky them) or they moved to the area attracted by the interesting streetscapes often lined with deciduous Plane trees and in some cases evergreen Palms. The inner north was the first area to be developed outside of the traditional Hoddle Grid and was home to many blue collar workers until the gentrification, or more recently, the hipsterfication of the area set in during the 1990s.
However there is one strip along Nicholson Street dividing Carlton North and Fitzroy North, that goes some way into illustrating the appeal of Melbourne's inner north. Starting at Reid Street (known to the locals as the Tasmanian end) and heading to the northern end up to Park Street (aka the Cape York end), the photo tour below aims to give you a little taste of an interesting and gritty strip full of independent shop keepers and street art, and hopefully entice you to venture down to experience the wonders.
Firstly, we can see a couple of stalwarts of the Nicholson Village with Woodstock Pizza and L'Osteria restaurants that have occupied the corner of Reid and Nicholson for a while now and have a strong following of locals that love their take on the Italian cuisine. Recently, Woodstock have expanded their operations in nearby East Brunswick which has also proved to be popular.
Upstairs is the newly opened Neighbourhood Wine which in a by-gone era housed a gangster casino operated by no other than the Black Prince of Lygon Street, Alfonse Gangitano. The story goes that the illegal casino was shut down by police shortly after it opened and lay empty for many years until the current owners transformed the space into a fantastic wine room. A must go for those who love great food and a great wine list.
On the other side of the street, we can see the King Kahuna beanbag shop which has become somewhat of a landmark of Nicholson Street over the years. Further north, we come across the Beth Hulme art gallery which showcases a regularly rotating ensemble of art works from primarily local artists.
Next door and over Bik Lane, we have the very popular café Annoying Brother which opened its doors in January 2012 and has staked a claim in the Tasmanian end of Nicholson Village for making some of the best coffee on the strip.
Switching back to the Carlton North side, we can see no less than three hair dressers (watch out, there’s more to come) located alongside the increasingly popular Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria which on a good day is filled with hipsters and granny’s catching up on the latest Yarn Bombing trends.
Moving along, we now see one of the new kids on the block, Two Tall Chefs, fitting in seamlessly to where the Milawa Cheese Shop used to placard the front of the store with witty signs saying phrases such as “Cheeses Loves You”. Thankfully those signs are long gone and the boys at Two Tall Chefs have taken the simple cheese shop to another level by creating a café/deli where you can buy the best cheeses and deli meats from Milawa and Europe. Also the Ginger Bread French Toast is a serious goer for those with a sweet tooth.
In the next month or two, UrbanMelbourne.info has been informed that a couple of well-respected Western Australian street artists will be adorning the northern wall of the café with some of their urban art, and rest assured that UrbanMelbourne.info will be there with camera in hand to cover the work as it unfolds. Next door sees Maria's Pasta which has been pumping out delicious pastas and sauces for what feels like decades now. If there is anyone else that maintains a larger range of ravioli in Melbourne, I’ll eat my left shoe. No jokes, get amongst it.
Next we see Monday Week which is an ever evolving art space depicting a multitude of sculptures and installations which sometimes raises an eye brow or three from those that pass it.
Further along another new addition is Duquessa which as far as I am aware, is a "skin sanctuary". Hipsters + Botox = Ummmm. Although, I am sure that they still have their fair share of local clientele that they can service.
Canals Seafood has been supplying the locals with some of the best fresh seafood for many years now and particularly around Christmas time, like many other seafood outlets, the line extends up to Pigdon Street corner with those wanting to fill their family Christmas tables with some tasty water born delights.
Over the road, we can find one of the best tattoo shops going around in Third Eye tattoos. I've been told on good authority that this place is where you go if you want to decorate your largest living organ. A couple of doors down, Nicholson Street Bakers delivers some great baked goods, particularly the pies. A must try is the Lamb and Rosemary for all you pie lovers out there.
On the corner of Scotchmer and Nicholson Street lies the veritable Empress Hotel which has played host to some of the world's great live acts including Silverchair and The White Stripes over the years along with bands and musicians who can only hope to have the same success.
Pressing the large silver button and crossing over to the other side of Pigdon and Scotchmer Streets, we find ourselves mixing it with the middle section of Nicholson Village, where things gets a bit more interesting. North Carlton Quality Meats is located on the corner and delivers some great and interesting produce; well worth a visit when you are preparing for your next barbeque. Next the Happy Inn Chinese restaurant has been plugging away for while as well but to what appears to be not much success, though I’m sure they get the odd person coming in but certainly not creating queues.
Over on the Fitzroy North side, there is Lyceum language centre where you can work on your Year 10 French that you thought was long lost in the depths of your grey matter - believe me, it is still floating around in there somewhere, you just need a bit of practice. Moving further down the street, the Spin Room is a fitness studio dedicated to spin class only using spin bikes that are used by professional cyclists. No memberships required, just book a spot online and spin your life away.
Hidden behind the strip of shops would have to be one of the last potential and sizeable redevelopment site remaining in Fitzroy North on the city side of Park Street. The Ventura bus depot has been operating at the site for many years now and is also where the iconic City Circle trams go to bed at night after a long day carting numerous visitors around Melbourne City and surrounds. It will be interesting to see what happens to this depot as time progresses.
The largest and easily most blokey pub still gracing Nicholson Village is The Railway Hotel where you can really get to know some of the long time locasl with similar gusto as there would have been back in the inner north's work class era. As we reach the northern extent of Nicholson Village, we come across the highly attractive and readily utilised linear park land that accommodates the widely used Capital City Trail which hugs the north side of Park Street.
The story goes that the park catered for an Inner Circle railway line that made its way through Fitzroy North and onto Northcote before being decommissioned in the 1950's. Remnants of the train line can be seen in some parts including the former Carlton North train station and the name of the aforementioned Railway Hotel to name a few.
Recent inhabitants to the linear park can be found on the Carlton North side of Nicholson Village where we find St Ali North and Velo Cycles. If there is a more perfectly positioned bike shop and cafe anywhere else in the Australia, let alone the world, I would like someone to post a link because the dynamic duo of Velo Cycles and St Ali North is a killer one-two hipster punch.
Most weekends the queues to get a table at St Ali North are substantial and one could only describe the items on the menu as "fine dining breakfast", truly an experience and vastly different to your standard bacon and egg sanga.
As we begin to move south back towards the city, the Natural Tucker Bakery which is Melbourne's Oldest Traditional Sourdough Bakery according to their street signage, then as we meander a few shop fronts further, a regular hangout for the UrbanMelbourne.info team is encountered.
Bar Fred is arguably the place where the concept of UrbanMelbourne.info was born in early 2012 over a many chats between the sites contributors whilst sipping a few of the tasty craft beers available in the two bar fridges. Make sure to try the famous pizzas next time you pop in the try a local, interstate or even international micro brew beer.
Nearby Mary Street which is paved in bluestone was most likely used in the late 19th Century to collect waste before the construction of our current sewerage system, is now adorned by some clever street art which constantly changes and is a great example of a your typical back street that is commonly found in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Near Mary Street, we come across the Little Bookroom which stocks a wide array of children's books and toys which on weekends is quite popular with young minds with a thirst for knowledge and fun guided by their ever watchful parents.
And now we've reached the end of my tour of Nicholson Village. I certainly hope that you enjoyed viewing this small but interesting pocket of Melbourne's inner north and will hopefully entice you to visit Nicholson Village next time you are in the vicinity. In coming weeks, UrbanMelbourne.info will head to the south side of the river and do a similar photo tour or two.
In the meantime, feel free to click on the images in the gallery below to get more of a feel of Nicholson Village.