Old-fashioned with a twist

4 01 2017

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Tucked away in the leafy well-t0-do suburb of Canterbury, and little-visited by outsiders, is the determinedly quaint Maling Road. This well-preserved stretch of early Victorian shophouses culminates in a cafe in the old post office and, around the corner, one of Melbourne’s most glorious surprises: the Egyptian revival Freemason’s hall.

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Midnight at the oasis

4 01 2017

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The palm-fringed terrace and taxidermied Alice-in-Wonderland interior of the Carlton Hotel, on Bourke Street.

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The mysterious

31 12 2016

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Chapel Street is one of Melbourne’s weekend hubs, home to a scattering of clubs and bars as well as boutiques and cafes where the permanently tanned and sunglass-clad beautiful people while away sunny afternoons listening to 1990s dance music.

What I had never really paid much attention to was the architecture. The Western end of the street is lined with a parade of towering Victorian commercial buildings, giving it something of the air of Buenos Aires.

In the very centre of the street stands this gloomy mansion, with dark void-like balconies. Its ground floor houses JB Hi Fi, a cheap electronics store, which I had never realised is located in a grandiose wrought-iron arcade.

Above this was, for many years, a secretive shop called “Day on Earth” which belonged to artist David Bromley and contained his studio as well as, apparently, atmospheric rooms full of strange things: antique furniture, old mannequins and scientific implements. It was open by appointment only. When  I called the number to visit this time, the line was dead. I saw at ground level that the space has been re-branded as “David Bromley and Co” and the door, every time I passed, was firmly closed.

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Melbourne hipster

25 12 2016

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While back in town, I wanted to see what was new on Melbourne’s hipster strip of Fitzroy. I started with “Easey’s”, a  frankly remarkable bar and burger joint housed in a series of old train carraiges, perched up four flights of grafittied stairs on an innercity sidestreet. Not only is the concept amazing, but the banging nineties hip hop, views, tasy burgers and cute straight bro waiters gave it a fun-time vibe.

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Around the corner on Smith Street is “Hotel Jesus”,  perhaps the kitschiest of the city’s burgeoning crop of Mexican restaurants, designed by the same team as Bali’s (even more riotous) “Motel Mexicola“.

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And finally, way down the end of Johnston Street near the river, is “Admiral Cheng-Ho.” The cafe is named after the Chinese explorer ( more often known as Zheng-he) who led a fleet to Africa in the thirteenth century and could hypothetically have taken coffee back to China. Since the closure of “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, a hipster congee and tripe cafe, this is the only Chinese-themed hipster cafe in Melbourne but to be honest, other than the teas on the menu it was mostly standard (and therefore, excellent) Melbourne cafe fare.

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All that glitters is not sold

15 12 2016

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Just around the corner from Samsen is the awe-inspiringly vulgar interiors shop Sicis, a see-it-to-believe-it emporium for gaudy homewares and mosaiced everything.

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Boars to robots in one surreal Hong Kong day

14 12 2016

Fresh from my unexpected run-in with Hong Kong’s urban wildlife, I headed to Mongkok after work to wander in the bright lights and dine at my new favourite spot, the robot cha chaan teng “Kam Mong” (golden Mongkok) on Portland Street. For the price of a cold drink you can be served by “Golden Future Arrives”, a curvaceous 1950s wait-bot, and the manager chatted with us as we ate, explaining the hidden significance of the name (which can also be read – at a stretch – as “Communists not yet coming”) before we hopped on to a mini-bus outside the Golden Chicken Centre to speed home through the Eastern tunnel, minds reeling from the possibilities of a single Hong Kong day.





Cesar Manrique: the wizard of Lanzarote

13 11 2016

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The Canary Islands, lying low off the coast of Morocco, are Europe’s last outpost – a crop of grotesque volcanic islands springing out of the Atlantic Ocean with rocky slopes and beaches – alternately black and golden – and mysterious forests. There are underwater museums and rugged valleys where the local people have developed their own unique whistling language, a tantalising remnant of the culture of the island’s original inhabitants, the Guanche. And, I discovered this week, the islands are also home to a wealth of incredible local design.

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Architect and artist Cesar Manrique is responsible for a slew of Barbarella-esque pleasure palaces hewn out of the rugged stone of the island of Lanzarote; there are plush Bond villain lairs carved out of caves,  modernist sculptures and cactus gardens adorning the cliffs and lava flows and a nightclub in a tunnel with a cave full of blind albino crabs and a swimming pool reserved exclusively for the King of Spain.

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Its a strange and wonderful contrast of Disco 3000 hedonism imposed onto an almost lunar landscape. Images taken from the website of photographer Alastair Philip Wiper, click on the link for some more amazing pictures.

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