Northcote: the final frontier of low-budget, high-culture, community living. They say it’s the new Fitzroy – a tag previously pinned to Clifton Hill before house prices boomed and the DINKS moved in. Yet despite being only a few tram stops away, Northcote remains relatively untouched and arguably unsullied by the gentrification of its southern neighbours. It remains a strong reminder of the kind of suburb we can be proud to call Melbournian. The restaurants are well priced, the cafes are light-filled and the short blacks are strong-bodied blends from fair-trade farms. Welcome to the North.
Breakfast: Red Door Corner Store
Red Door Corner Store is the type of café you wish you lived near. It’s young, well priced, well stocked and has the sort of gentle vibe that makes you wish you brought your laptop. Previously the sort of gem that only the locals would visit, RDCS now sees a regular stream of brunch commuters that hail from the north, south, east and western parts of Melbourne. Is it worth the trip? I sure think so and my dog does too, as this is the sort of place where even your pooch feels comfortable enough to curl up with a cup.
The quality of the ingredients coupled with the ingenuity of their pairings have you staring at choices too good to be true. This café caters to all Breakfast types: the health conscious will jump at the organic Dench bread, watermelon salads and coconut crumpets; those with a sweeter tooth will feign contemplating such items before settling on the mecca of saccharine breakfasts that is their brioche French toast with poached pears, salted-caramel sauce and crème fraiche. And don’t worry, with the house blend roasted by the Mailing Room, your coffee will be just as delectable as the fare before you. See you tomorrow morning.
Red Door Corner Store: 70 Mitchell Street, Northcote, 3070.
Lunch: Gypsy Hideout
Gypsy Hideout looks like one of those cafes you’d find in a matte-page mag on Scandinavian coffee-houses. The windows stretch from your knees to the ceiling, the interiors range in soft shades of wood and the music purrs from unseen speakers in whitewashed walls. This is Gypsy Hideout and the four people waiting ahead of you in line, are here, in line, every Saturday. But let’s not just judge this book by its crisp cover, there’s more to Gypsy than meets the eye.
The menu is a classic fare of good quality produce meets upmarket café favourites. The peasant style pork is an all too easy way to get your iron levels in check and with their lean cuts, you’ll be doing your waistline a favour too. And for the vegetarians and vegans amongst us, Gypsy are happy to ensure that your roasted eggplant, mushrooms and whatever else are cooked in plant-based products only. But it’s not all about the lunch and breakfast fare at Gypsy, for if you’re an early bird, you’ll witness the great morning rush where cars pile down High Street (mostly illegally) in order for little feet to scurry out and return with coffee in hand. The coffee here is superb. Using various methods such as syphon, cold-drip and your classic roast, these guys know a thing or two about beans. If you’re feeling particularly wicked, accompany your lunch with an affogato and let an iceberg of rich vanilla sink into the depths of your short black sea.
Gypsy Hideout: 68 High Street, Northcote, 3070.
Otsumami is the sort of Japanese hideaway you’d expect to find in a busy Tokyo district. From the minimalist décor to the fresh, portioned menu, Otsumami breathes an eastern flavour onto western plates. On any given night, this place is buzzing with the clinks of plates being shared and glasses brought together in toast. The menu is vast and separated into the three categories of ‘small, medium and bigger’ meals. The selection ranges from your classic miso starter to your more innovative Tai Ume Mushi Yaki (whole baby snapper baked in foil with konbu and a Japanese plum sauce). The chefs sample classic Japanese produce like that of konbu, shiitake and daikon and blend them seamlessly with more Mediterranean flavours such as eggplant and cherry tomatoes. The fusions both classic and unique, will have you eagerly passing the plate to the person next to you, having found a joy too good not to share.
Book ahead to save face and don’t leave without the sweet notes of black sesame ice cream tingling your tongue.
Otsumami: 257 High Street, Northcote, 3070.