With all its neighbours going the way of the hipster, it was sure to happen in Preston. Don’t blink or you’ll miss all that’s going on.
In 2015, local music sensation Courtney Barnett released a song called ‘Depreston’, inspired by a house-hunting mission to the suburb just north of Thornbury. A lot changes in a couple of years. Attracted by the Californian bungalows, complete with spacious backyards, that dot the area, young couples have been buying up big in Preston and with them has come a rush of cool openings.
High Street has long been a great spot for seeking out a cheap and cheerful Asian meal, but now you can also head here for American barbecue. Dexter serves up slow-cooked brisket, pulled pork and caramel short ribs, either with sides or on a bun. Don’t miss the hot meat donuts — think a jam donut but replace the raspberry centre with a big spoonful of burnt ends. For anyone wanting to sit and chat with friends over a glass of wine or a frosty beer, head to The Raccoon Club, where the crowd is mellow and the mood is relaxed.
The other major thoroughfare, and the one the number 86 tram runs along, is Plenty Road. Here, you’ll find Stray Neighbour. Inside it’s a hip eatery, with finely produced food from a short menu, a pool table tucked into the corner and diner-style booths. Outside there’s a beer garden where you can kick back and relax.
Proving popular with the locals is Hard Rubbish Bar, situated in a former massage parlour and furnished by the current owners from Gumtree, op shops and, yes, the hard rubbish. It’s not flash, but it is cool and casual. There’s local beer and cider, a few wines and a couple of jaffle options for anyone who’s hungry.
Another treasure loved by locals is Pearl Oyster Expresso, considered to have the best brunch in the suburb. It’s tucked down Miller Street, but is worth seeking out for thyme-roasted mushrooms or its lean green poached eggs served with hummus, labne, spinach, dukka and pomegranate molasses.
It’s not all about eating and drinking here. Preston is also home to the Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre that hosts a huge range of performances throughout the year, including those pulled together by community groups. You’ll also have fun exploring Preston Market (open Monday to Sunday from November 2017), where there’s a huge number of stallholders selling deli goods, groceries, fruit and vegetables. There’s also a section called PAM Lane, where you can see the work of local artists and craftspeople and find pop-ups selling everything from wine to terrariums.
You never know who you might run into at High Street Music, which sells a huge range of instruments and offers lessons for everyone from beginners to advanced players wanting to fine tune their skills. If your retail needs are less specific, Northland is the biggest shopping centre in the northern suburbs, with department stores, 300 specialty shops and a Hoyts cinema.
When the day is done, head to Tallboy & Moose, a bar with an onsite brewery. You can sip on a range of house beers, the guest taps or a short list of wines.