Beat's Guide to Eating Your Way Through South Wharf
South Wharf is an island within the bustling Melbourne city precinct. Spacious alleyways duck and weave along the water’s edge, filled to the brim with a treasure trove of culinary delights. Tucked away on the Yarra River, the area also has a long and rich history. Boasting a birthday of 1870, the South Wharf area was once a maritime boat building yard. Artefacts both big and small still remain from this time, scattered amongst the modern, comfortable refurbishments.
Because of the huge variety on offer, you can start your South Wharf adventure at any time of the day. When the hour for caffeine strikes or you need a hearty brekkie, wander down a few cobbled laneways until you find Citizen Cafe and Bar, or down on the water at Charlie Lovett’s. Both are specialty coffee houses, offering a variety of specialty blends and breakfast foods.
For a little later in the morning, Common Man has got the heartier options. There’s an all day breakfast menu, and heaps of huge plates to share. Choose from crispy fried chicken, salt and pepper squid, tacos, burgers, pizza, fish and chips, beef brisket and more. Big bright windows fill the high ceilings with soft sunlight. The perfect place to lounge away, in rain, hail or shine. Though when the sunshine hits the surface of the Yarra, you can’t resist the outdoor garden setting, which sprawls across toward the water’s edge.
If you’re craving some tapas at this time, you can’t miss Bohemian tucked away on the little street corner. A European influenced menu and aesthetic is home to authentic Spanish cuisine. If you think to book ahead, they even hold the occasional paella cooking class.
So you’ve already had lunch and you’re in the market for a few cheeky frothies. Get yourself down to the waterside and into one of the biggest pubs in town. The General Assembly features 17 varieties of lager on tap. Take your time with a list filled to the pint glass of new and old favourites. There’s also an array of delicious pub food if you’re feeling peckish, with the charcoal oven always burning to serve up something delicious.
Should your thirst be of the German variety, trundle yourself across to Munich Brauhaus. It’s german ales galore, with a variety of steins to choose from. While you embrace the sweet sounds of the live German band, you can also have a munch on your choice of schnitzels, sausages, pork knuckle and more. Wunderbar.
If beer isn’t so much your thing, just skip across to The Boat Builder’s Yard. Stepping on the same boards that once lined the docks of the maritime, you can literally sit along the river and chill out to your heart’s content. One of the really beautiful things about the area, is just how close you are to the water and the docks at all times. It’s easy to forget you’re in Melbourne - despite being in the very heart of the city. The great thing about The Boat Builder’s Yard is that the capacity is actually huge. So heaps of people are free to wander about without ever wanting for more space.
At this stage of your journey, why not throw in some historical appreciation as well? Beyond The Boat Builder’s Yard is a towering ship at bay, with a life longer than most. The billowing sails of Polly Woolside have set upon the seas since 1885 - when it was built as a cargo ship from England to South America. Chuck a selfie with a real life ship, or take one for a friend.
Before you know it, it’s dinner time and you’re busting for a feed. BangPop will catch your eye, probably with the bar that is constructed entirely of lego. The fun and bright atmosphere also features an outdoor setting by the river, which is decorated by lovingly restored vintage bicycles. The menu caters to both hungry and thirsty, with a huge array of traditional thai tidbits and cocktails, in addition to Coopers Pale on tap.
If you’d prefer something meatier in every sense, walk down the laneway or just along the water before you hit Meat Market. The rustic setting with lots of wood and high ceilings, best showcases the restored boards underfoot, made of the same that once lined the dock. If you pay attention, these actually feature in a lot of the venues lining the riverside, tying the old in with the new. The overall feeling of Meat Market is warmth, and their menu is a delectable cut above.
Should the night be of the more special variety, Akachochin is in a prime position to host. Enjoy a Japanese menu so renowned, the restaurant was named for best sushi by the The Age’s Good Food Awards. There is also a selection of gourmet sake on hand, if you could do with some colour in your cheeks. Otherwise simply graze on the immense selection of Tokyo style treats.
Once dinner is said and done, roll yourself on over to Plus 5 for a night cap. Or just enjoy the way those famous Melbourne city lights bounce along the water, as you take a moonlight stroll.
Suffice to say, there’s a plethora of activity going on down at South Wharf every day or night of the week. Without even naming all of the 20 operators in the area, it is easy to see that there is something for everyone. You can find all this information, including operating hours and more, at the newly launched South Wharf website.
By Bel Ryan