There's always a new hip neighbourhood, new places to eat and new things to do - no wonder everybody's moving to Melbourne.
Melbourne is Australia's fastest-growing city with the population set to pass 5 million by 2021 when it will overtake Sydney as the country's biggest city. The boost is fast-tracking gentrification and every month a new suburb is hailed as the city's newest hip hood. Local breweries, burger joints, cafes and design-heavy shops are fanning out from their traditional home in Melbourne's CBD, creating great places to live, work and play on all four points of the compass. Come on a tour of the city's best emerging 'burbs.
A shabby-chic 'hood with layers of multicultural history, Brunswick is home to the largest collection of singer-songwriters in the country, making it Australia's capital of live music. This unique status is on display in the venues that share Sydney Road with the bridal shops and kebab houses – whether it is the late-night pub rock of the Retreat Hotel with an intimate, ephemera-filled front-bar performance space and sprawling fairy-lit beer garden, the louche upstairs lounge of the Spotted Mallard or the converted warehouse space of Howler, with its bicycle racks, sliders and fridges full of craft beer. Up the road, neighbourhood joint Miss Moses loves its craft beer, too, and father-and-son team Greg and James Knox also offer up killer sangas from the pulled pork El Jefe to the doorstop-sized Reuben.
Taste the area's Middle Eastern roots with traditional Lebanese dips and grilled meats from Tiba's or enjoy a contemporary take on it at Very Good Falafel with house-ground chickpea dips, freshly baked pita and an intimate counter where you can eat and watch the action in the kitchen. For date night you can't go past the modern bistro of Host Dining's share-plates in a former fishmonger's.
In the east of the 'burb is urban winery Noisy Ritual, a "people powered" winery that offers grape-stomping parties and tastings in the chic, minimalist cellar door. And the hood is also home to two boutique brewers, Temple Brewing Co and Thunder Road Brewing Co, a fact that will be music to the ears of beer lovers.
Retreat Hotel, 280 Sydney Road, retreathotelbrunswick.squarespace.com
Spotted Mallard, 314 Sydney Road, spottedmallard.com
Howler, 7-11 Dawson Street, h-w-l-r.com
Miss Moses, 581 Sydney Road, missmoses.com.au
Tiba's, 504 Sydney Road, tibas.com.au
Very Good Falafel, 629 Sydney Road
Host Dining, 4 Saxon Street, hostdining.com.au
Noisy Ritual, 249 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, noisyritual.com.au
Temple Brewing Co, 122 Weston Street, Brunswick East, templebrewing.com.au
Thunder Road Brewing Co, 130 Barkly Street, thunderroadbrewing.com
When your neighbours are the verdant, mansion-filled streets of Prahran and Toorak, emerging is a relative term but the main shopping strip of Armadale – full of bridal stores, high-end local designers and cafes – is attracting some serious attention. There is no peeling paint and the only clatter is of high heels on concrete as ladies who lunch visits flagship stores such as Lisa Barron or Megan Park. Afterwards, there might be a treatment at Willow Urban Retreat, a contemporary, thoughtfully designed relaxation space, right down to the crystal grid that has been installed in the foundations for a permanent healing vibe.
The main strip is a set of historic shopfronts bordered by Armadale station and the gleaming white Malvern Town Hall, and it also contains some great food in the form of Moby, a cafe run by Yotam Ottolenghi alum Christine Higgins – head to the rooftop for the ultimate long lunch or kick it old school with Bruno & Co's daily pasta. Think simple flavours such as truffle oil topped with pecorino.
Come evening, craft beer bar The Otters Promise, which started life as a humble takeaway shop, now serves more than 400 bottles of boutique brews. And if you are staying for dinner, head to Amaru run by ex Vue de Monde chef Clinton McIver with a stunning, contemporary degustation-only menu in a simply-dressed shopfront diner.
Lisa Barron, 1/1031 High Street, lisabarron.com.au
Megan Park, 1039 High Street, meganpark.com.au
Urban Retreat, 1203 High Street, willowurbanretreat.com.au
Moby, 1150 High Street, moby3143.com.au
Bruno & Co, 1007 High Street, brunoandco.com
The Otters Promise, 1219 High Street, facebook.com/TheOttersPromise
Amaru, 1121 High Street, amarumelbourne.com.au
This sliver of a suburb, next to bigger brother Richmond, was once a mix of rag trade and blue-collar housing. Its symbol was the huge neon Nylex clock erected in 1927 that is now on the Victorian Heritage Register as a symbol of the state's industrial heritage – and (I like to think) its starring role in Paul Kelly's Leaps and Bounds video.
Now, the clothing warehouses are cafes such as the hole-in-the-graffiti-covered-wall that is Coe and Coe, with exterior by street artist Lush, or Denis the Menace, an eco-friendly diner in a Kandinsky-esque box. Our pick is the chilli scrambled eggs with housemade chipotle chilli sauce at Sloane Ranger Cafe, one of the newer offerings in Cremorne Street, whose satiny curtains and club-feel reference the area's previous life as a garment district.
Design fans will love Criteria, a carefully curated design collection in a warehouse space that features seating, light and storage options. Next door, chockie fans will fall for Hunted + Gathered, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker dedicated to creating the best chocolate you will ever taste. Keen for a gig? Head to the Corner Hotel, which presents live music every night. It's technically a few hundred metres over the border into Richmond, but we won't tell.
Coe and Coe, 25 Stephenson Street, coeandcoe.com.au
Denis the Menace, 106-108 Chestnut Street, denisthemenace.com.au
Sloane Ranger Cafe,13 Cremorne Street, facebook.com/sloanerangercafe
Criteria, 66 Gwynne Street, criteriacollection.com.au
Hunted + Gathered, 68 Gwynne Street, huntedandgathered.com.au
Corner Hotel, 57 Swan Street, Richmond, cornerhotel.com
This western suburb has been the inner-city-hood-that-could for years, its hip status constantly overstated. Now, however, Footscray is a fully formed magnet for cool that celebrates its multicultural roots. Its once-empty shopfronts are now filled with Afghan kebab shops and Ethiopian eateries such as Konjo Cafe, and there's the famous Footscray Markets where you can shop for top-quality Asian and African produce from Tuesday to Saturday.
The streets of Footscray are alive and buzzing, whether you are catching a faux KISS concert by tribute band KISSTROYER in the car park of Castello's Powell Hotel for the launch of burger joint Burger Love or catching a spontaneous hip-hop performance on the lawns of the Footscray Community Arts Centre with food and drinks from its Happy River Cafe. The arts centre grounds are also home to the annual summer Laneway Festival.
Around the corner is Back Alley Sally's, a bar by Laneway founder Jerome Borazio. Sally's is an eclectic warehouse space with metal-trimmed booths, lamps made from stools and tins, and a Slice Girls West pizza joint underneath it for when you get hungry. Still peckish? You should also try the original 8Bit, video-inspired burger bar for an After Burner with chilli sauce, jalapenos and mustard. Or mix booze with sugar at the popular dessert bar, Bad Love Club.
Konjo Cafe, 89 Irving Street, konjo.com.au
Footscray Markets, 18 Irving Street, facebook.com/footscraymarket
Castello's Powell Hotel, 202 Ballarat Road, castellos.com.au
Burger Love, 202 Ballarat Road, burgerlove.com.au
Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland Street, footscrayarts.com
Happy River Cafe
Back Alley Sally's, Yewers Street, backalleysallys.com.au
8Bit, 8 Droop Street, eat8bit.com.au
Bad Love Club, shop 5/68-82 Hopkins Street, badloveclub.com.au
FIVE ESTABLISHED HOODS STILL WORTH A LOOK
One of Melbourne's best-known addresses still has plenty to offer from the sky-high drinking of Naked for Satan or the boutique cocktails in The Attic @ Black Pearl. You can bust up some crustaceans at Miss Katie's Crab Shack or check out a gig in the round at legendary late-night dive bar Nightcat.
2. South Melbourne
Based around the hub of the South Melbourne Market, this bustling burb is packed during daylight hours with diners hitting up legendary South Melbourne Dim Sum or having a boozy lunch at Claypots Evening Star. Come night they are lining up at Smalls Bar or having great smoked and pulled meats at MeatworksCo.
It's arty in Prahran with small galleries such as MARS and Market Gallery as well as art on a plate at Paul Wilson's amazing Wilson & Market, whose soft poached farm egg with Australian truffles, Reggiano and soft polenta is enough to make you move postcodes.
The original laneway bar hub never slows down with new additions such as Union Electric's recently-opened rooftop Gin Garden and Guy Grossi's new laneway late-nighter Arlechin. You can stroll Chinatown for a great meal any time of the day or head to the fabulously trippy Alice in Wonderland exhibition at ACMi (until October 7).
The city's original Italian hub, Carlton offers old-school Italian as well as International pizza champ Johnny di Francesco's 400 Gradi. You can head to the retro indie Cinema Nova, stroll the thousands of books at Readings flagship store or stop in for a wine at Jimmy Watson's family-run wine bar.