Take a tour around the world right on your doorstep with a visit to Springvale.
Long before Richmond or Box Hill became centres of Melbourne’s Asian communities there was Springvale. Its large Vietnamese community began arriving in the suburb back in the 1970s, and it was one of the first parts of the city where you could visit and feel as though you’d arrived in another part of the world. Today, that legacy lives on.
Some people swear the pho at Pho Hung Vuong 2 is some of the best you’ll find anywhere in Melbourne. The traditional Vietnamese noodle soup — in beef and chicken — is all this bustling cafe does, so it’s no wonder it’s so good. Another incredibly popular Vietnamese dish is banh mi (a baguette stuffed with pork, pate, carrot, cucumber, chilli and coriander) and every day hundreds are served at Bun Bun Bakery.
One of the cooler cafes in Springvale is Cultural Commons, with its mural on the walls, picnic benches and extensive burger menu, including the super popular soft shell crab version and a vegetarian option featuring halloumi and mushrooms.
For something that’s stylish but a little different, head to Cafe Vita et flores in the Springvale Botanical Cemetery. Stop by for a coffee, breakfast or a light meal. On Sundays during summer there’s a jazz band to entertain, and kids will love the playground. Plus, you can buy a beautiful bunch of flowers from the onsite florist while you’re there.
If you’ve got no idea where to start when it comes to places to eat, join a Springvale Food Lovers Tour that explores the amazing flavours of the neighbourhood and restaurants and eateries serving Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. If you’re not as firmly focused on food, the Sensational Springvale Cultural Tour is an excellent introduction to the suburb, where more than 80 per cent of the residents speak a language other than English. Of course, you’ll sample tasty international delicacies along the way, but there’s also the chance to explore specialty shops, find out about the traditions of Eastern medicine, learn about intriguing cultures and receive an introduction to the different waves of migration from South-east Asia to the suburb. If you’re keen to find out about the community, but prefer to do it independently, follow the Spirit of Enterprise Trail. Starting at the Tribute Garden on the old Enterprise Migrant Hostel site (now the Lexington Gardens Retirement Village), markers along the way tell of places that were important to people as they settled into their new country.
Looking for a family-friendly spot for a meal, or somewhere to stop for a cold beer once your exploring is done? The Waltzing Matilda Hotel has a stylish bistro with daily specials, relaxed bar and a play area for the kids. Another popular spot, with bistro and lounges, kids’ play equipment and outdoor areas, is Highways Hotel. Explore the venue and you’ll also find Ahern’s, an Irish pub within a pub.
Both of these spots are excellent venues to retire to after a big day at Sandown Racecourse. It’s one of four horse-racing venues in Melbourne, and hosts meets most Wednesdays, as well as the 1500m Group 3 handicap race, the Sandown Stakes, during Spring Racing Carnival. On site, there’s also a motor racing track, where you can watch annual events, including the Sandown 500 Endurance Race V8 Supercar event, or book in to drive your own hot lap.
If you’re searching out shops in Springvale, head to Buckingham Avenue, marked at its entrance by Asian gateways. Stop for a moment of respite at Milan Tea House, where owner Wendy Wong carefully prepares pots of tea using leaves gathered from across China. Visitors can also take home packets of exotic-sounding brews, like Taiwan High Mountain tea and Goji Ba Bao tea. Head also to the Springvale Shopping Centre, where you’ll discover Asian grocers, fruit shops, butchers and bakeries, alongside a good selection of general retail outlets.