All cities have their divisions. Hell, Istanbul is literally straddled over two different continents. It’s normal to have an allegiance to a particular side. Just like Sydney’s eastern suburbs are seemingly a different world to its inner-west, Melburnians often choose their cut off point by a very tangible divider – The Yarra River. Are you north, or are you south? The culture war rages on. Southsiders enjoy larger houses, designer high heels and early morning jogs past Luna Park and St Kilda Beach. Northsiders enjoy ample bicycle lanes, live music venues, vegetarian cafes and countless pairs of De Jour jeans.
We got south-sider DARREN LEVIN and north-sider TARYN STENVEI to present their cases on which archetypal suburb is best: Collingwood in the north or Windsor in the south?
Population: 7,069 (2011)
Where: 7km from the CBD
Bounded by: Dandenong Road, St Kilda Road, Williams Road and High Street
Main drag: Chapel Street
#1 It has a speakeasy
To the casual observer, Boston Sub just looks like another place you go for late-night dude food. But walk past a bank of bain–maries and through a (fake) coolroom door and you’ll find yourself in Jungle Boy, a pokey New York-inspired speakeasy created by one of the guys behind CBD laneway institution, the Croft Institute. They’ve got Negroni on tap and cocktails in tiki mugs, but best of all you don’t have to leave the premises to mop up all that booze. Walk back through the cool-room door and you can scoff down a pulled pork or braised beef sandwich. They also have four different types of Canada’s national drinking dish, poutine, including my personal favourite The Newtown, with “freedom fries” (hello 2003!), gravy and braised beef.
#2 It’s perfect for bar-hopping
Start your night with some whiskey and a charcuterie board at Woods Of Windsor (co-owned by Something For Kate drummer Clint Hyndman) then head to its rock’n’roll sister bar Yellow Bird for some cans of Tecate on one of their prized outdoor tables. Borsch, Vodka and Tears is the place you go for a vodka menu that’s longer than a Jonathan Franzen novel – needless to say it gets pretty rowdy after midnight – while Tyranny of Distance near Windsor Station has a heated outdoor section that’s perfect for outside drinks in winter. If you’re after somewhere a bit more intimate, the aptly named Back Bar (in a backstreet, off Chapel) is where locals go to sip cocktails on faux velvet coaches.
#3 There’s a castle … if you can find it
OK, so you walk down this street with a fire station, and turn left at a roundabout. Actually, there’s two roundabouts – I think – so you turn left at the second, not the first and then just walk straight for about 50 metres, or maybe 100 … ah, f**t it! Just use Google Maps to find Windsor Castle and when you see a trio of pink elephants on the roof you’re there. From the huge outdoor Tiki lounge to its great food and vibrant front bar, there’s a reason why locals have been coming here for yonks.
#4 It’s a shopper’s delight
The South Yarra end of Chapel Street is where you go for brands, but discerning shoppers head to the Windsor end for quirky one-off items and up-and-coming designers. Clothing store One Day At A Time stocks local labels like Ziggy Denim, Kroam, Neon Blonde Jeans and 2 Blocks South. Plane, like its name suggests, is great for basic everyday wear for women and men. The Sacred Heart Mission op shop has a huge range of furniture thanks to its proximity to upmarket suburbs like Toorak and South Yarra, while you can spend hours in Chapel Street Bazaar – on the border of Prahran and Windsor – hunting for highly collectible toys, retro furniture and vintage cameras and telephones. Bromley & Co. is a newly opened concept store by much-loved local artist David Bromley and his fashion designer wife Yuge Yu.
#5 Did I mention the secret deli?
In a backstreet off Chapel, you’ll find Windsor Deli, a pokey local favourite that’s home to one of the biggest sandwich boards in Melbourne. All up, there are 15 creations including the #14 with corned beef, Swiss cheese, beetroot, gherkins, caramelised onion and coleslaw. If it’s coffee you’re after, head to Journeyman – the café offshoot of the famous Dukes roastery in, yep, Collingwood – for your single origin fix.
Population: 6,467 (2011)
Where: 3km from the CBD
Bounded by: Smith Street, Alexandra Parade, Hoddle Street and Victoria Parade
Main drag: Smith Street
#1 It offers the best food, coffee and bars in Melbourne. Hands down.
Never even think about approaching Collingwood with a full stomach. Trust. The suburb offers up many of the city’s most loved eateries and drinkeries along and off it’s main drag Smith Street, proudly wearing its multiculturalism on its menus. Must-tries include charred meats and grilled saganaki from Jim’s Greek Tavern, warming noodle soup from Shop Ramen, Melbourne’s best pizza from Lazerpig, African curries from The Horn and The Cutting Table, famous fast food from Huxtaburger, creative brunches and single origin coffee at the airy and uber hip Proud Mary, cheap souvas from George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, fancy feasts at Saint Crispin and Rockwell and Sons, coffee worth waking up for at Everyday Coffee, pub staples and craft beers from The Gem, The Union Club Hotel, The Fox, The Gasometer and The Grace Darling and the first satellite shop of Sydney gelato kingpin Messina. And that’s just scratching the surface.
#2 It’s home to Melbourne’s most revered live music venue
You haven’t truly experienced Melbourne until you’ve woken up in a haze, trying to piece together the narrative of your previous night starting from massive Tote stamp across your wrist. Many long, languid hours can be spent propping up the bar at this ubiquitous music venue – arguably Melbourne’s favourite.
Over 2,000 people rallied to save The Tote Hotel when it was in danger of shutting down in 2010 sparking the Save Live Australian Music (SLAM) Campaign, with the venue reopening bigger and better than ever later that year. Local and international bands, typically of the rock’n’roll leaning, tear riffs in the main band room, the upstairs band room and the front bar most nights of the week. Once you’ve settled in to The Tote for the night, it’s a hard task to leave (and the carpet is so sticky it’s virtually impossible anyway, so why try?). There’s a reason it’s the city’s favourite live music venue. Long live The Tote.
#3 There’s a rooftop burger bar in a train carriage
Of course there is. Easey’s, Collingwood’s most-hyped new restaurant, serves binge-worthy burgers that you can eat in repurposed vintage train carriages on the rooftop of a Collingwood building. Deep breath, now expel that cynicism – Easey’s thankfully don’t let quirkiness get in the way of quality. The burgers are really, really good. Easey’s is all about consistency and purity (that’s code for “barely any green stuff”), and the quality of the burgers is the outcome of many hard yards of research by owner Jimmy Burgers who has spent the last three years eating burgers every single day and documenting his findings. Tough gig, huh?
#4 The LGBTQI scene is bangin’
Collingwood’s thriving LGBTQI scene is welcome addition to the diverse tapestry of the suburb. Queer-friendly clubs include The Peel, Sircuit and The Fox, plus there’s regular queer nights like Outpost at The Gasometer and Grouse at various venues around Collingwood.
#5 You can find that one-of-a-kind sequinned jumpsuit
You won’t find many department store retailers along Smith Street. Instead, you’ll find vintage labyrinths brimming with unique fashion artefacts and specialty shops selling hard-to-find local and overseas brands. Lovers of recycled goods can spend hours pawing through the racks at Vintage Garage, Sixes and Sevens Vintage and Shappere Vintage, whereas those looking for a more modern edge to their fashion can check out Neuw Jeans, The Social Studio, Somebuddy Loves You and Hudson, which imports most of its clothing and knick knacks direct from Japan. Collingwood is also the place to spruce up your home – think modern and sparse design with lots of wood detail from shops like Modern Times, Vintage Stash and design/art/book shop Happy Valley.