TOP TEN SECRETS OF THE NORTH
By Jane Pike | Image via
From funky new cafes to table tennis for hire, here’s ten hangouts in Brunswick and Coburg that are popular with locals, but not so widely known further afield. Residents of the People’s Republic of Moreland might even discover some new favourites.
425A Sydney Rd, Coburg
There’s plenty of worthy cake shops in the north, but Yiannis Pantheon gets the vote for price and consistently great quality. A huge glass cabinet lines one wall of this popular bakery, displaying row upon row of freshly baked cakes and biscuits. Try the excellent chocolate layer cake and the range of chocolate dipped shortbread biscuits. On top of all that, the staff are very friendly and helpful.
Coburg Table Tennis Club
50 Murray Rd, Coburg
Step back in time for some old-school ping pong fun. Housed in a grungy building overlooking the Coburg outdoor pool car park, the Coburg Table Tennis Club consists of a big hall filled with tables divided by handy nets, plus a few rooms on the side for private games. You’ll see club members displaying impressive skill as they whiz the ball back and forth with lightning speed, but all abilities are welcome here. Rock up after 6.30pm on a weekday or on weekends after 1.30pm. Table hire is $10/hour plus an extra $2 to use the club’s bat and balls. Check out the website for further details http://coburgtt.com.au/.
870 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Not your regular Foodworks, this traditional Italian grocery store even smells like the real deal. Check out the huge selection of hard cheeses and Italian groceries, then head to the back for the deli section. Remember to take a number at the deli, as it’s always thronging with locals. Next to the deli counter is a compact butcher’s section with homemade sausages strung up to dry. Don’t leave without buying some pork sausages – they are out of this world.
51 Waterfield St, Coburg
Al Alamy is like a second home for those of us who have been coming here for years. With dedicated staff and a family vibe, it’s always busy and a true representative of Coburg’s melting pot. Half cafe, half middle eastern grocery store, it’s a great place to grab a snack and stock up on lentils and nuts. Lebanese pizzas are a staple, with the meat pizza, cheese pie, and chicken and mushroom pie being the standouts. Try the awarma, a dish of eggs and minced meat accompanied by a selection of pickles and a basket of flatbread. Enough for two, it’s satisfying and delicious.
542 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Australian-made jeans, tailored at no extra cost. A great way to avoid the big chains and support our local rag trade, Dejour Jeans is the solution for those (most) of us who have problems finding the perfect pair of jeans. Choose from a selection of styles and colours and the staff will alter them to fit. By all reports this place gets super busy at times, so bring along your sense of humour and patience.
87 Melville Rd, Brunswick West
Northerners in the mood for Vietnamese fare should try this unpretentious, tiny place situated on a nondescript stretch of Melville Road. Mister Truongs produces a small range of tasty food including great crispy pork rolls and pho with a delicious sweet broth. You can also get coffee and huge muffins for a steal. The food is fresh and authentic, and the service friendly. A hidden gem.
33 Charles St, Coburg North (entry from Hossack St)
How about a genuine factory outlet where you can buy top quality linen for greatly reduced prices? Commercial grade bed linen manufacturer W.H. Amad has been operating in Australia since 1910. They supply linen to The Grand Hyatt Melbourne, RACV and a host of others. You can buy a range of bed linen, doonas, face washers, tea towels, cushion covers and more. Ask if they have any seconds available – on my visit I picked up a beautiful 100% cotton European pillow cover with a small mark for only $5.
133 Bell St, Coburg
Best new cafe in Coburg, wedged into a dusty corner on Bell St right alongside the railway line. Not your average cafe fare, the food is flavour-laden Eastern European including a range of bratwurst with all the trimmings. A clean and funky interior, great coffee, family friendly and super helpful staff. The brownies get the kids’ vote, but don’t forget to try the pierogi (Polish dumplings), they’re amazing.
Coburg Lake Reserve Playground
Murray Rd, Coburg
Most locals will be familiar with Coburg Lake Reserve, but there’s more to this park than pleasant picnics and strolls beside the creek. Climb the stone steps on the eastern side of the creek to discover a beautifully designed playground with a giant twister game, a flying fox that’s fun for children and adults alike (tried and tested), and whimsical brightly coloured furniture sculptures. Walk a bit further down the bike path to try the outdoor gym equipment. You won’t get a rigorous workout, but it’s a fun way to shake off the cobwebs.
Half Moon Cafe
13 Victoria St, Coburg
Best falafel in town. Half Moon Cafe is occasionally listed in Melbourne food guides, but deserves a mention because it’s easy to forget about this tiny place tucked away in Coburg’s Victoria St mall. Delicate, soft broad bean falafels, tangy pickles, and salad fillings all blend into a harmonious flavour symphony. Can falafel wraps be an art form? Half Moon Cafe comes close.
Do you have any favourite lesser-known local places? It could be in Coburg and Brunswick or any other suburb in Melbourne’s north. Get in touch with us and let us know your suggestions.
Jane works in the communications field and runs a small business, Jungle Jane Skin Care [www.junglejane.com.au]. Her interests include spicy food, Russian literature and environmentalism.