We’d never heard the term ‘So:Me’ before. No Melburnian I have ever met has referred to South Melbourne as SoMe and the one I was with, Brendan from The Travel Pop, didn’t seem so keen on the moniker (which is a polite way of wording his objections.) We had a debate over it, which turned out to be pointless as no-one is trying to rebrand South Melbourne, we’d simply misunderstood the name of a retail initiative.
But I liked it. South Melbourne is a little-known enclave of foodie and coffee delights on the south side of the Yarra River – why not give it a trendy name to help put it on the map?
Regardless of the name, South Melbourne deserves a visit. One of the main draws here is the head quarters of coffee roasters St Ali, which is tucked down the graffiti decorated Yarra Place. I was familiar with the St Ali name before we arrived in Australia due to being taken to its London offering by my Aussie boyfriend. But the converted warehouse in South Melbourne is where it all begun. Behind the unassuming doorway is a generous sized cafe, with crumbling walls and exposed wires, which look like they haven’t been touched since they opened the place. The street art from outside continues into the cafe, with the aid of glassless windows and work of local artists adorning the walls.
The coffee is, of course, delicious – Mark Dundon who began St Ali in 2005 is also behind the Melbourne coffee greats Seven Seeds and Brother Baba Budan. The St Ali staff are super friendly and warm and I would recommend the peanut butter and chocolate cookie, which I just had to taste!
Aside from great coffee and cake South Melbourne offers a unique form of snack in the shape of Dim Sims. Not Dim Sum. Dim Sims. Dim Sims are also something I was familiar with before my visit because of the love I head heard expressed for them from almost every Australian I meet – even a monk in the Lebanese mountains! They are like a westernised version of a Chinese dumpling, a ball of meat and pastry dunked in the deep fryer, and the South Melbourne Market is said to produce some of the best. So I had my first taste of South Melbourne Dim Sims and my final verdict was: they’re not as bad as you’d think! (It tasted to me like a Chinese Cornish Pastry – if that makes sense to any of you!)
South Melbourne Market is actually full of good food. It opened in 1867, making it Melbourne’s longest continually running market. Today it’s a great mix of the fruit and veg stalls that have always been there and up and coming designers and independents who have just moved in. Along-side the fresh produce the market hosts hardware stalls, vintage stores and the So:Me Space (which started the whole debate over the name.)
So:Me brings together new and established brands in a fashionable corner of the market, strewn with relaxed seating and striking art. Four pop-up spaces rotate every four weeks so there’s a great excuse to keep going back.
Speaking of excuses, there may have been a cake stall in the market that I just had to try! You know I can’t resist a rainbow of macarons – these larger than usual goodies are offered at 10 for $25.
In fact, the market’s got cafes, bakers, cupcakes and eateries galore. It also hosts cooking classes and special events, like the night markets that run through the summer. Hidden throughout the aisles are stunning works of street art, such as these eyes by James Beatty.
Street art and sweet treats, could South Melbourne Market be any more up my street!
I’d recommend one more pitstop on your tour of South Melbourne and that’s to the Melbourne Style store on Clarendon Street. What better way to remember a trip to Melbourne than by a gift inspired by Melbourne and made in Melbourne? The store is like a gallery and gift shop combined, a tribute to Melburniana. I grabbed myself a tram sign tea-towel and skyline teacup, as a little memento of this awesome place.
South Melbourne is So Me! Reckon it’s a bit of you?