Friday, 16 July 2010

Introducing... The Warburton Quarter

I've been back from Poland for two weeks, the jetlag has mostly gone, and I'm getting used to the icy winter we're having this year in Melbourne.

Winter aside, what I'm enjoying most is the coffee. Beautiful, delicious, flavoursome espresso coffee, mmmmmm.

The glow hasn't quite faded yet, after two months of drinking insipid filtered coffee and low-quality, badly-prepared espresso coffee in Central Europe (I hasten to point out that I love Central Europe - but not for its coffee).

The best thing about this fine Melbourne coffee is its proximity to where I live.

My apartment is on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Little Bourke Street in Melbourne's city centre, and I most frequent the section of Little Bourke which runs as far west as Warburton Lane.

It's a small area, comprising about 80 metres of Little Bourke Street and four alleyways leading off it at right angles: Somerset Place, Rankins Lane and Warburton Lane to the south; and Whitehart Lane and Warburton Alley to the north. This little zone doesn't have a name to itself, as in marketing terms it's part of the city's larger Hardware Precinct.

But I think it has a special identity all its own (at least in my head). So I've given it a title: The Warburton Quarter. Snappy, isn't it?

Let me take you on a quick tour of my favourite Warburton Quarter hangouts:

COFFEE & FOOD

Brother Baba Budan, 359 Little Bourke Street
Fine, fine coffee in an always lively setting. I like to take the laptop down there occasionally, squeeze in around the communal table and work to the background social hum.

Brood Box, 8 Rankins Lane
This combined gallery and cafe is an atmospheric place to sip the morning coffee over The Age. I like to take Sydney media people here for coffee, to make them jealous.

Captains of Industry, 2 Somerset Place
Another fine cafe above the street in a big roomy space which also houses a tailor, cobbler and barber; the place exudes a kind of elegant masculinity. Fine hand-made sandwiches and a great view over Elizabeth Street and the General Post Office building through the big windows.

+39, 362 Little Bourke Street
 Great cafe which is also a restaurant. I eat breakfast here a lot - it's simple stuff like panini but expertly made. The sole e luna semi-calzone pizza is also great for lunch.

Bushwa & Hooey, 361 Little Bourke Street
I particularly like this cafe's homemade lunch options - the arancini are great, and nothing beats their giant sausage rolls teamed with the Greek salad.

BARS

Murmur, 17 Warburton Lane
Cool bar above the laneway, in a big roomy former warehouse space that still has the opening in the floor where gear was once hauled up by hand from the street. Good cocktails, comfy lounges.

Softbelly, 367 Little Bourke Street
This is more like your local pub - relaxed, friendly, social and with good bar food. It also hires out DVDs, which is handy as no-one else does so in the city centre.

TRAVEL

Paddy Pallin, 360 Little Bourke Street
Cavernous place selling all manner of travel gear, tending toward the adventurous. I buy all sorts of stuff here for my travels - combination locks, power adaptors, combination fork/spoons etc.

Backpacking Light, 29 Somerset Place
Another good travel gear retailer; I bought my brilliant foldable plastic bowl here (I use it to eat muesli for dinner in hotels when I'm too tired to go out again).

Camera Action, 217 Elizabeth Street
On the Elizabeth Street corner, and where I get all my photographic equipment. Good service and knowledgeable sales people.

Crumpler, 355 Little Bourke Street
Sellers of very cool bags, including camera bags of various sizes and funky satchels. I bought the bag for my largest camera here; it's a tough but good-looking bag that's lasted for six years so far.

HEALTH

Sakura Lounge, 8 Warburton Lane
Classy little massage centre specialising in Asian-style treatments. I had a shiatsu massage here once that was damn good.

And those are just the places I use reasonably regularly within an 80 metre stretch of Little Bourke Street! There's also an Indian restaurant and a sushi place and a footwear shop and a travel agent and a classy homewares shop, among others within the zone.

The Warburton Quarter is a fun place to live (and drink).