Greville Street, Melbourne’s original hipster enclave, has found its groove again with an eclectic mix of barbers, bars and bohemian bric-a-brac.
Wander down Greville Street, the petite tributary wedged between Chapel Street and Prahran railway station, and the first thing that strikes you is just how much the tables have turned in this shabby chic neighbourhood, 6 km south-east of Melbourne’s CBD.
Greville Street was long considered a bohemian epicentre until gentrification hit hard in the 1990s, with many vintage retailers abandoning the area and shoppers sticking to well-known haunts along the much trendier Chapel Street.
But in a dramatic reversal of fortunes, Greville Street has got its groove back just as Chapel Street, long feted as the home of cutting-edge fashion in Melbourne, has fallen into a dismal state of decline.
Some tenants – including the 1920’s themed bar Pawn & Co – have actually moved off the grungy high street to take up residency on Greville Street.
Now a clutter of empty shopfronts, discount chemists and kebab shops, down trodden Chapel Street is a shadow of its former self, while Greville Street is enjoying a cultural comeback.
Amble west past the Prahran Town Hall and Library, at the corner of Chapel and Greville Streets, and you’ll find a village-like vibe where restaurants, coffee shops and bars flourish alongside vintage stores, funky-edge boutiques and old-style barber shops.
The barber shop renaissance here is actually quite fitting (there’s two notable groovy groomers on Greville St). It reflects not only the revival of hipster haircuts and lumberjack beards, but also the creative culture that has always been part of the area’s DNA.
If you visit any bar or restaurant, or duck into any of the boutiques along this one-way street, you’ll notice a host of recurring styles that evoke a sense of rusticness, nostalgia and craftsmanship, regardless of whether it’s authentic or manufactured.
Products, food and beverages are eagerly presented as artisanal, organic, handmade, local and small-batch.
From the locally, handmade knitwear of fashion designer Rowena Doolan at Fool to a barber’s shave with a beer at Brother Wolf, it’s all about tactile, memorable experiences. On that score, Greville Street delivers in spades.
Angus & Bon
Housed in one of Prahran’s most famous landmarks – the heritage Prahran Post Office built in 1928 – you’ll find the Angus & Bon steakhouse and bar. With its leather booths, deep rich timber and carefully curated menu, it’s almost as though this place has been time-warped straight of New York’s golden age. With an upscale bistro menu as well as a more casual bar menu, Angus & Bon caters to all crowds. For one of the best steaks in Melbourne, it’s hard to go past their $30 Prime Cut steaks every Thursday. On Sunday afternoons, what better way to see out the weekend than with a traditional roast with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings for $29?
Angus & Bon 168 Greville Street Hours: 12-late daily.
With a street-style Japanese menu that’s designed for sharing, Tokosan is a fast-casual dining experience. With its kitsch neon signs, karaoke booth and a striking, 16m-long street art mural, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a laneway in Tokyo. Poles hang from the ceilings like chopsticks while parasols dangle upside down. The cocktails and karaoke are popular here, but Tokosan is really all about Japanese snack food. From sushi, sashimi and temaki, to oysters and katsu, you’ll never go hungry. Every Tuesday it’s all-you-can-eat sushi, where hungry punters can devour as many rolls as they can for just $29. It’s just a shame it’s not open for lunch.
Tokosan 142 Greville St Hours: Tue-Thu 5-11pm, Fri & Sat 4pm-1am and Sunday 12-8pm. Closed Mondays.
Pawn & Co
As the name suggests, Pawn & Co is a quirky venue where everything’s for sale, even the kitchen sink. In this 1920’s style bar turned working pawn shop, everything you can touch or see – the grand piano, the tables, even the stuffed wallaby at the entrance – are all for sale. A hidden bookshelf entrance leads down to a heftier two-level space, complete with cosy booths, a courtyard and three separate bars. The owners have even dialled up the steampunk aesthetic with a church organ mixing cocktails and a talking vending machine taking drink orders. With a 7am liquor licence, there’s a wide range of inventive absinthe-based cocktails, as well as beer, spirits and wine always on offer.
Pawn & Co 177 Greville Street Fri & Sat 7pm-5am. Sun 7am-3am.
Kill City Bookstore
As you venture deeper into Greville St, keep an eye out for the two-storey building that’s now home to an Aesop store and a trendy eyewear boutique. There’s nothing remarkable about those stores per se, but they do occupy the site of one Melbourne’s most iconic, long-lost book shops, Kill City Bookstore. In the 1990s, Kill City was the place to be if you were interested in crime fiction – and sometimes crime. Its clientele was said to include underworld figures who would show up with their body guards to buy true crime titles and complain about their treatment in the latest release. The specialist bookstore closed in 2005 as people increasingly bought books online.
143 Greville Street
A favourite haunt for Prahran’s weekend gym crowd is Oscar Cooper, a brunch destination on the corner of Edmond and Greville Streets. It has a modern retro feel with vegetation bursting from glass urns, wooden crates suspended on the wall and a fireplace in the winter. Their gluten-free “breakfast greens” -served until 3.30pm – is a notable hit and includes local produce like creamy goat’s curd topped with kale, spinach and cavolo nero leaves, raisins, hazelnuts, roasted cherry tomatoes and not one but two poached eggs. They also have Small Batch coffee, cocktails and all-day jaffles.
Oscar Cooper 160 Greville Street Mon-Sat 7am-5pm Sun 8am-5pm
Half way along Greville Street is a shared zone with a new small square connected to Grattan Gardens and a neighbourhood of coveted heritage Victorian and Edwardian residences. The local Stonnington Council has been pouring resources into the strip, with the aim of making it more pedestrian friendly. It’s a really peaceful neighbourhood oasis, especially in the warmer months when the fountain is running.
Das T-Shirt Automat
It looks like any other corner store, but you can’t actually enter Das T-Shirt Automat. The red and white candy-striped store has a window – behind the pole – where you hand over a design to have custom printed on a t-shirt, hoodie or even a tea towel. Just bring along a photograph or a design on a USB stick and you’ll have your personalised paraphernalia back the same day.
Das T-shirt Automat 127 Greville Street Tue-Sat 11am-6pm. They close for lunch from 2.30-3pm.
The bygone era of service has returned to the traditional barber shop, with Kings Domain often booked solid with guys grabbing haircuts, clips or cut-throat shaves. Greville Street is just one of five Melbourne locations in the Kings Domain group, and there’s also one at Myer Sydney City. For around $50 you get a hair wash, head massage, a beer and a modern salon cut by a barber who is trained to cut men’s hair.
Kings Domain 154 Greville St Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm Sat, 9am-5pm
In its heyday, Greville Records clandestinely dealt out black market copies of rare imported records from underneath the counter, while up the street, soon-to-be-iconic bands like The Dingoes and Spectrum played to eager crowds at the Station Hotel (sold in 2012 and turned into a block of apartments). The times may have changed but Greville Records is still an institution on Greville Street, and the longest surviving shopfront here. The store has more than 20,000 LPs and 10,000 seven-inch singles. There’s also an equally impressive collection of CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, books and vintage tour posters for sale.
Greville Records 152 Greville St Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm - Fri 10am-7pm Sat 10am-6pm - Sun 11am-5pm
It sounds like the original man cave. At Brother Wolf you can sip on a beer, savour a whisky or just shoot the breeze while getting a hot towel shave or a bit off the top. Walk in, put your name on the board, take a seat and enjoy a drink. What could be better? It’s said that some regulars drop by the groovy groomer just for a chat and a drink even without needing a trim.
Brother Wolf 113 Greville St Mon-Wed 9am-7pm Thurs & Fri 9am-8pm Sat 9am-5pm / Sun Closed
We stumbled across Chez Mademoiselle early on a Saturday morning and it was doing a roaring trade. The cosy Coco Chanel-inspired cafe was one of the few places open for breakfast so we ventured in and were not disappointed. The brainchild of Sylvain and Tiffany Bernard, the cafe is a welcome addition on Greville St with its colourful macarons, fresh croissants, strong coffee and simple breakfast and lunch options. The French born couple are not strangers to Melbourne’s food scene; they also own Chez Olivier – the French restaurant next door.
Chez Mademoiselle 123A Greville Street Tues-Fri 7am-3pm Weekends 8am-3pm
College Lawn Hotel
For classic pub grub in one of Melbourne’s best beer gardens, wander west over the railway crossing, and you’ll come to the College Lawn Hotel. Hidden away at the quieter, tree-lined end of Greville Street, this is a popular pub and bistro with a lounge bar and astro-turfed beer garden. There’s even accommodation above the pub. They do $15 steaks on Tuesday while there’s a $20 burger and beer special on Wednesday.
College Lawn Hotel 36 Greville Street Public Bar: 11am-11pm Sun-Mon Main Bar: 12-11pm Sun-Wed & 12-12 Thu-Sat
Getting To Greville Street
TRAIN: From Flinders Street Station, take the Sandringham Line to the Prahran Station. The station is at the western end of Greville Street, near the signal crossing. Take a casual stroll east past all the bars and restaurants towards Chapel Street. TRAM: The 72 tram from the CBD heads down Commercial Road. Get off at the Prahran Market and head south along Chapel St. You'll find Greville Street on your left by the Prahran Town Hall. Alternatively, the 78 tram runs along Chapel Street from East St Kilda and Richmond.
© 2019 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved
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