We don’t know how 2013 was for you, but this was one of the biggest years that Broadsheet has ever seen.
First things first – after four years, 24 print issues and thousands of online articles, Broadsheet’s editorial director and first employee, Caroline Clements, is moving on. We’ll miss her around here, and wish her the best on her next adventure.
Outside of the office, Melbourne is moving quickly and we’ve had a hell of a year just trying to keep up with it all. Just when we think Melbourne has already exploded, it just keeps going. Looking back at the year that was, we’re proud of a city that is continually moving out of the shadows of other metropolises we’ve long looked up to – New York, London, Paris. We’re seeing our city step ever more proudly into its own unmistakeable identity.
As we edge towards the end of another year, we’re taking a moment to step back and look at 2013 meant to Melbourne’s cultural landscape – what we ate, what inspired us and made us think, where we migrated to drink and socialise, and our current trends and habits.
Here’s a glimpse at what 2013 looked like from our point of view.
At the rate restaurants and cafes are popping up in this city, you’d think we’re going to end up with one each. We’ve seen an enormous wave of openings this year, with the number of food venues even surpassing retail stores in the CBD for the first time. While it seems our appetite is insatiable, if you look below the surface you’ll find it’s a thin line between success and failure. Despite the Melbourne’s boundless enthusiasm and vibrant culture of dining out, we’ve seen a spate of surprising closures this year as well – Little Hunter, Mercy Bar and Eatery, Senoritas, Libertine and more – reminding us that the restaurant business is still, ultimately, a business, and not untouchable.
We have seen a number of exciting restaurants and cafes stir up our dining scene – from Hammer and Tong 412, The Town Mouse, Barry, Smith Street Alimentari, Saint Crispin, Sydney’s Gelato Messina and Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal Canteen pop-up in the north; and Saigon Sally, Top Paddock, Touchwood, Adriano Zumbo in the south.
ART & CULTURE
When is Melbourne not having a festival? It seems we’ve hardly had time to take a breath before we’re jumping into another one, but we’re not complaining either. White Night was the dark horse that took everyone by surprise – an all-nighter of music, art and illumination that saw 300,000 people rediscovering the creative energy of their city into the early hours of the morning.
The highly anticipated Melbourne Now opened early in November, unveiling the largest and most ambitious exhibition in the NGV’s 152-year history. Featuring the works of over 300 contemporary Melbourne artists, it’s a colossal testament to the fierce energy of our local artists.
Amongst countless film festivals, we also danced under the dome of The Residence at Melbourne Music Week, connected to our independent theatre and dance scenes at Melbourne Festival, engaged in deeper thinking at the Writer’s Festival and The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, and the bravest amongst us sat through 16 hours of German opera during Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle.
We caught up with plenty of young up-and-comers like Courtney Barnett, Remi, Jagwar Ma, Hiatus Kaiyote, The Preatures, I’lls, Flume, Saskwatch who have all gone on to make waves this year, along with touring international acts like Bloc Party, Alt-J and Bobby Womack.
In terms of bricks and mortar retail: no one told Chanel that retail is supposed to be dead – in an extravagant move, the French design house relocated its Australian flagship to an opulent, four storey building on Flinders Lane; and Josh Goot finally succumbed to his Melbourne fan base and opened a double-frontage boutique in Armadale.
In less positive news we saw some of our leading designers fall from grace - Kit Willow was dismissed from her own line, Collette Dinnigan closed her label in October after failing to sell, Bettina Liano and Lisa Ho’s businesses both went into liquidation. As international giants like Topshop, Zara, Gap and H&M (slated for next year in GPO) continue to move in, we can expect more local designers to be inevitably pushed out of the market.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – a young crop of local designers are staying small, smart and online, and are managing to stay afloat. We got up close with six of them in our Off the Runway series during Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. We’ve seen exciting collections from PER-TIM, Kinoak, Roopa Pemmaraju and newcomers Kloke, while POMS jewellery has been up to some interesting collaborations.
Despite new openings like Howler, Boney, Shebeen, Los Barbudos, Mesa Verde, Bar Economico (after Der Raum closed shop) and Loop Roof, 2013 has been a slow and frustrating year for Melbourne’s bar scene. The reason has largely to do with particularly rigid licensing laws that effectively put a “freeze” on businesses wanting to serve liquor after 1am. With intentions to counter late-night, alcohol-fuelled violence, the ban is effectively placing a well-meaning pillow over Melbourne’s vibrant bar scene and greater live music culture too.
The new chain
We’re seeing an increasing number of successful restaurants and cafes not simply expanding, but actually replicating their brand across the city. From The Meatball & Wine Bar to Misschu, Huxtaburger, Market Lane, Fonda, Touche Hombre, DOC, Jimmy Grants, Hellenic Republic and Ladro, it seems this is a case of operators thinking, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. We wonder whether consumers will enjoy the convenience, or start to tire of the déjà vu.
Pop-ups aren’t going away – it’s a smart and productive way of making use of dead space. From Shophouse Ramen to Doughboys Doughnuts, Kerala doing Indian dinners at Tomboy and Pop & Scott/Mr Lincoln florist setting up on Spring Street – it’s a model that works for everyone.
As the dining scene gets more competitive, it naturally becomes a harder sell. Everybody is leaning ethical, locally sourced (where possible) and sustainable, and they want you to know it. It’s easy to get tangled up in the wording, and we had a go at picking apart the jargon.
Moving out west
It’s all happening out on the western front, particularly Spotswood, Yarraville and Footscray. Aside from the abundance of cheap, fresh and authentic Vietnamese and Ethiopian fare, we’ve seen Matt Forbes open up Cobb Lane Bakery alongside Guerrilla Espresso, Candied Bakery, The Art of Cycling, La Tortilleria and more. In our spring print issue, we wrote an in-depth piece on Footscray and how the suburb is changing.
Southern American food
The burger train hasn’t slowed, but we are heading deeper and deeper south. Fried chicken, pulled pork, soft shell crab, po’ boys and gumbo are finding ground at Po’ Boy Quarter, Rockwell and Sons, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack and Meatmother, and we even ran a series of American barbeque events around town with Fancy Hank’s and Bulleit Bourbon.
Standing room only
We’re seeing more cafes throwing out the seats to fit more of us in. In new venues like Sbriga, Traveller and Standing Room there is a changing cafe culture towards the European model – a more familiar and friendly exchange between customer and barista, and also with the people knocking back their espresso beside you.