In 2009, something was happening in Australian cities. There was an energy in the air. Culture was changing. It permeated all aspects of life, but at that point it was most tangible in food and coffee.
You only had to look around to see. The queues were no longer out the front of nightclubs. They were out the front of cafes, where people happily waited over an hour just to eat smashed avocado. Specialty coffee, then called “third wave”, was taking off. A flat white with a rosetta on top was the mark of a barista who knew their stuff.
I’d returned to Melbourne a year prior, after 18 months living and working in the UK. All anyone could talk about was where to eat next. People with no connection to the hospitality industry would point to a “leased” sticker on a window and knowingly tell you that such-and-such chef was about open there.
But there was something missing. It was still hard to navigate. It was all word of mouth. The media weren’t covering it with any real insight or depth. The newspaper supplements had their restaurant reviews, as they’ve always had, but they were still just once a week in print. There was nothing dedicated, regular and immediate to help people explore this emerging new city culture.
Broadsheet was launched for this purpose. Our role has always been to help you, our readers, live a better life. We want you to know that the cafe 100 meters down the road serves better coffee, at the same price, than the place you walk past first. We hope you’ll walk that bit further and start your day just that little bit better.
We published our first article online in October 2009, followed by our first print edition a couple of months later. Two years later we expanded to Sydney, then Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in 2016.
Over the last decade we’ve watched these cities grow incredibly, Sydney and Melbourne particularly. They’re unrecognisable now. Travel to London, New York, LA, Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Berlin, Tokyo – anywhere you like. We’re not just on par with them, we’re outpacing them in many ways.
Four years ago Heston Blumenthal packed up his entire restaurant in the UK, The Fat Duck, and relocated it to Melbourne for six months before opening a permanent restaurant, Dinner by Heston, on the same site. Then René Redzepi brought Noma to Sydney for 10 weeks. And a year after that, Melbourne hosted the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, only the third city in the world to do so after London and New York.
We’re not just excelling at food and drink, though. The Australian Ballet and the Australian Chamber Orchestra are widely regarded as among the best of their kind. The National Gallery of Victoria is among the 20 most visited arts institutions in the world. Australian labels such as Triangl, Realisation Par, Zimmerman, Ellery, Dion Lee and Toni Maticevski are playing leading roles in the global fashion market.
Over the past decade, the main thing I’ve noticed is how engaged and culturally aware everyone’s become. We’re curious – keen to have new experiences, learn new things and be part of our cities’ cultural lives. We know the difference between high quality and that merely pretending to be. When Noma came to Sydney the waitlist was reportedly 27,000 strong, which is emblematic of the desire to have a singular cultural experience.
It’s this quality, more than anything, which makes our cities what they are today and compels foreign chefs, restaurateurs, designers, artists and media to travel halfway around the world and take part in our culture.
Certain people have contributed immeasurably to Melbourne – names such as Tony Ellwood, director of the NGV; Anna Schwartz of the eponymous gallery; restaurateurs Andrew McConnell and Chris Lucas; and cafe operators Nathan Toleman, Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor. But they couldn’t have built what they’ve built without the support of the community – without Melburnians showing up and embracing new ideas and projects.
We have cities to be proud of. That we get to live here and be a part of them isn’t something to take for granted. There aren’t many places around the world that combine our standard of living with such a thriving cosmopolitan culture. With this issue we’re celebrating not just 10 years of publishing, but 10 pivotal years in the evolution of Australian cities.