You may have bypassed them en route to the airport, but there are plenty of reasons to make an extended detour through the western suburbs. We spend a day exploring Kensington and the surrounding suburbs.
Historically, Melbourne’s western region has endured a less-than-stellar reputation. Unlike their leafy southern counterparts, the streets that stretch from the Docklands to Footscray have long been known for their working-class roots rather than their culinary and entertainment offerings. These days, however, an influx of bars, restaurants and markets – as well as a renewed interest in a number of time-honoured institutions – are enticing more than just locals to the area. From cattle yards to coffee, here’s an itinerary to give you a taste of what’s going on out west.
Launch your west-side expedition with breakfast at Luncheonette, a hole-in-the-wall cafe opposite Kensington train station. Baked eggs with chorizo, mopped up with crusty Dench bread offer a none-too-shabby start to the day.
Coffee in hand, it’s time to walk off your meal with a wander along the bluestone pavings of Kensington’s historic stock route. These days, lined with picturesque workers’ cottages and leafy vistas, the pleasant path disguises its sordid past as the death-row corridor to one of the state’s largest abattoirs.
If you happen to be in the area when this monthly market hits town, take the opportunity to fill a picnic basket or stock up on locally made crafts at Flemington Racecourse Market. Alternatively, swing past the Flemington Farmers’ Market held every Sunday morning at Mount Alexander College, for all your fresh produce needs, from fruit and veg to olives, honey and baked goods.
A trip to the western suburbs would be incomplete without a coffee from The Premises, just a short walk across (or under) the train tracks. Step ahead of the hungry queue and grab yourself a take away Seven Seeds house blend, or choose from an extensive list of rotating single origin roasts. Rich flavours (and an inviting brekkie and lunch menu) are helping to put this quiet ‘burb on the epicurean radar.
With your coffee hit sorted, jump in the car and head to the Maribyrnong River to partake in a picnic with a view. Several grassy knolls provide the perfect perch from which to observe the steady stream of joggers, rowers and cyclists passing by.
Nearby Pipemakers Park – the site of a former meat canning works and later a pipe factory – is now the home of the Living Museum of the West. Regarded as the country’s first ‘eco-museum’ and housed within long-standing bluestone buildings, the focus here is on the local natural environment and the eclectic story of its residents. Visitors can peruse a selection of displays showcasing everything from the story of scientific invention to Indigenous history.
Make your way south to visit LifeSpaceJourney. Tucked away in Seddon, this is the showroom of one of Melbourne’s most enigmatic design brands. Peruse the furniture and if you can’t quite find what you’re after, ask them to create a custom made design.
If you’ve got time, catch a late-afternoon screening at Yarraville’s charismatic Sun Theatre – entertaining film buffs since 1938. Today, six art deco cinemas retain the antiquated charm of the golden era of film, while the old-school lolly bags available from the candy bar add their own vintage flavour to the experience.
Head back to Flemington for a hot, steaming bowl of Laksa from stalwarts Laksa King. After a long day, the heady mixture of spices, coconut milk-based broth, noodles and vegetables will warm your heart along with your belly.
Complete your sojourn back where it all began, with a late-night tipple at White Rabbit Records opposite Kensington train station, either amongst the extensive collection of vinyls or under the stars in the courtyard out the back. Bar or music store, no one knows, but either way it provides a fitting conclusion to a diverse day out west.