Move over South Yarra (pronounced yaa-rah), there is a new ‘South’ that is fighting for your title of the best ‘South’ in Melbourne, and she brings with her some of Melbourne’s best bars, restaurants and function spaces. Let the duel begin.
Minutes from Melbourne’s CBD is a hidden city secret that isn’t so hidden, and isn’t too much of a secret, yet ask any Melburnian or visitor alike to name you their favourite bar or restaurant along the Wharf, and they will stare at you blankly like a dear in headlights, blurting out “DFO” then swiftly realising their lost reputation.
Fear not, as we have your comprehensive guide to avoid such situations, proving South Wharf is far from the mere “ghost” town, and home of the (not so) prized non-operational ferris wheel it is thought to be.
We took to the streets of Melbourne to see if anyone had tips or recommendations. Here are some of the replies we got:
– “South what?”
– “South Wharf is just a slab of concrete next to the water”
– “Oh, there are so many pigeons around the place, watch out for the pigeons… Wait no, sorry, that’s Southbank”
– “I’ve been meaning to head down to see what all the fuss is about, but it’s impossible to get to, I heard Uber’s don’t even go there”
– “Isn’t that where all ships dock?”
Hmmm. The good people of Melbourne were absolutely useless and no help for my little field diary, so I took it upon myself to find out a little bit more about this disputed location.
South Wharf, as I quickly discovered, is one of Melbourne’s best not-so-secret secrets. It is bustling with businessmen midweek, and the whole place truly comes alive on the weekend, people queuing up for a spot at the best restaurants and bars around, no pigeons insight. After much rigorous professional research, especially at the bars, I have come up with a list of my favourite bars, restaurants and function spaces that a) you have to try and b) you can now keep on hand if someone tries to prove your unMelbourne-ness.
South Wharf is far more accessible than contrary belief, and is probably easier than getting from one end of Chapel St to the other.
– It is a 10 minute walk along the river from Southbank or Federation Square and a short stroll over Seafarers Bridge if you’re coming from the Docklands.
– There are over 3,000 parking bays available at South Wharf, with a 50% discount available for South Wharf Promenade customers.
– Southern Cross Station is a short stroll from South Wharf and trams 96,109 and 12 stop opposite the Clarendon Street entrance of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Now to the important stuff.
>WHERE TO DRINK<
General Assembly [Click here for more info]
With impressive city skyline and riverfront views, General Assembly is a favourite haunt for Friday knock offs. They’re all about keeping it simple, and are the only venue outside the brewery to list the full line up of Matilda Bay craft beers as well as, one-off seasonal brews on tap. For real beer enthusiasts, you are given the rare chance of sampling Unpasteurised Carlton Draught from copper Duo Tanks. Don’t worry, if beer isn’t your thing, they have an impressive drinks list with minimal intervention wines and creative cocktails. Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.
The Boat Builders Yard [Click here for more info]
The design of this waterfront venue is stunning, and you don’t get a much better view than this. The architecturally impressive space has seating for over 500 people, it is the perfect space for both group gatherings or more intimate dates. Bringing a new style of relaxed and informal European-style eating and drinking to Melbourne, it is the perfect place to go to take it easy and soak it all up. Positioned at the top of South Wharf, it may be the first bar you come across, and maybe the last because you won’t want to leave.
Melbourne Public [Click here for more info]
Melbourne Public Bar & Restaurant located on the Yarra’s edge and set in and around the lovingly restored heritage cargo sheds. With interior inspired by 1920’s industrial flair of polished brass, exposed beams and heritage features, Melbourne Public celebrates the best of Melbourne’s past and present, in true Australian pub style. It plays host to live music and entertainment every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and always has the big games playing on the big screens.
The Common Man [Click here for more info]
Not so common, but a place without fuss. This place doesn’t need much jazzing up because it’s almost like the South Wharf local; unpretentious and all about making you feel at home with their food and drinks. Melbourne’s diversity is reflected in the decor, with the leafy green of eastern suburbs, concrete and brickwork of the north and the colourful bayside, there’s a spot for everyone no matter where you hail from, and there is nothing wrong with being a common man here!
Gasolina is the fusion of two passions, where custom motorcycle garage meets bar and restaurant. I had one brow raised as well, but stay with me. Here, you can enjoy a beer and watch some genius craftsmanship as motorcycles are built in front of your very eyes in the adjoining workshop – most definitely on of Melbourne’s most unique bars.
>WHERE TO EAT<
Akachochin [Click here for more info]
Akachochin may be a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, but every mouthful of authentic modern izakaya here is better than the last and oh so memorable. Named after the red paper lanterns that you find hanging outside of traditional Japanese izakayas, the heart of Japan can be found at South Wharf’s doorstep. From their sushi and sashimi to the traditional izakaya dishes, Head Chef Kengo Hiromatsu (formerly Nobu) brings quality, elegance and tradition to Melbourne Japanese food scene, using specialised methods whilst using high – quality Australian ingredients.
Bohemian [Click here for more info]
True Bohemia can be found in the south of Europe, so it is only fitting that it is also found in South Wharf. At Bohemian you experience authentic Spanish Dining, with patatas bravas, to croquetas, to classic paella and tapas; if you can find it in Barcelona, you can find it here. It’s a fine dining experience that has a very modern aesthetic, yet deeply Spanish feel, igniting a bout of nostalgia I didn’t imagine.
BangPop [Click here for more info]
Now I know what you might be thinking. Why would I travel to South Wharf for Thai food if I can go around the corner and they know my order by heart. But question. Does it make your mouth go bangpop? If the answer is no, then I strongly suggest you head down to BangPop. If the answer is yes, then I still suggest you check them out anyway. It is the ultimate for delicious Thai hawker food and there is so much heart a soul in every dish here, set in a modern eclectic venue, yet with a very casual dining atmosphere, it is great for any group size of any age and spice tolerance.
Meat Market South Wharf [Click here for more info]
Meat Market South Wharf was inspired by the good ole’ Australian BBQ where the act of cooking takes centre stage. Housed in heritage listed cargo sheds dating back to the 1800’s, the atmosphere is something special. The menu prides itself on being local farmer friendly with a focus on different cuts of meat from the grill including Australian beef, game meats, seafood and organic poultry. Enjoy a cocktail (or three) on one of three outdoor terraces with river front views of Melbourne city, Crown Casino, the Yarra River and Docklands.
Plus 5 [Click here for more info]
The menu at Plus 5 is designed for sharing, making it a great location to stop in with friends for some food and drinks before a night on the town. The cosy cocktail and wine bar is in the heart of the South Wharf precinct and offers artisan cocktails, an extensive wine list and craft beers, along with a small menu of tapas, hand-stretched pizza and sharing platters. ‘Good food goes hand in hand with good drink’ is their mantra, I could not agree with it more.
>WHERE TO PARTY<
Showtime [Click here for more info]
1,2,3 showtime. Located on the Yarra River waterfront, the venue is unbeatable for position, style, and service, with both indoor and outdoor spaces available. This beautifully converted warehouse is all class, featuring original trusses, polished floorboards, exquisite gold chandeliers and marble counters. It caters for 80 to 280 guests (banquet-style), up to 1000 for a cocktail function, or the outdoor space can also be utilised for up to 5,000 guests. A perfect venue for parties and events, from a cocktail party to a celebratory dinner, from an engagement party to an all-out wedding!
Cargo Hall [Click here for more info]
Cargo Hall has to be one of the city’s most impressive and sought after function venues. It is where old world industrial meets modern elegance, and as a blank canvas venue, it is the ideal space for all kinds of functions. There is an in-house chef, full bar, and above all, it offers the most spectacular uninterrupted views of Melbourne’s magical city skylines, it is the perfect venue for your next function, party, product launch or event.
Well there you have it. Do yourself a favour, take my handy hints and head down to South Wharf this weekend and see what all the fuss is about – I promise it won’t disappoint.
By Bee Marffy