Saturday, August 05, 2006

10:30am: Sydney Road shopping

Our breakfast venue is just a short stroll (and even shorter cycle) to Sydney Road. This is the longest shopping strip in Melbourne but you won't find Gap, Gucci or Tiffany & Co here. Rather, it's a hodge-podge of Brunswick's immigrant history and contemporary gentrification.

If you declined the chocolate at East Elevation, perhaps I could tempt you with a small pastry from  Al Nada sweets? It's one of many family businesses offering Middle Eastern treats along the street, but it has the distinction of making dairy-free, vegan Middle Eastern pastries.

A little further south is Sydney Road institution A1 Lebanese Bakery. It'll be crowded with hungry locals digging into pides and platters, but we need to hold off for now. Head to the back and check out the selection of Middle Eastern groceries - canned and dried legumes, spices and flours, pickles, fruit-based syrups and frozen pastries. One day I swear I'm going to buy and use the kataifi pastry for something delicious.

Right across the road from A1 is Brunswick's Supa IGA. This grocer knows the local gentry, stocking specialist items from all over the world, superfoods and wholefoods, lots of tofu, plenty of mock meat and mock dairy, and an extensive selection of fair trade chocolates.

If you haven't already, you'll probably soon notice the high density of bridal shops. It's hard to believe that there's a big enough market for them all, but I'd venture that their turnover rate is lower that the cafes and trendy clothing shops on the strip.

We're more inclined to frequent Dejour Jeans, where they tailor their pants to you for as little as $50, and local bookshop Brunswick Bound.

It's also worth ducking into Mediterranean Wholesalers. It houses a staggering range of fresh and dried pasta, olive oil, canned goods, cheese, liquor and sweets. Though it's tempting to fill an entire trolley, you can also make a meal sing with just one or two purchases - try the porcini stock cubes, a bottle of black cherry syrup or, if you're feeling flush, some limoncello.

Don't let me stay too long at Savers. I am a chronic op-shopper and I've found some brilliant clothes (and party costumes) here. It's difficult not to, given the volume of stuff on offer. If you like retro kitchenware, you're sure to find some funky dinner plates, cut-glass tumblers or twee tea sets too.

There are a couple more op shops and $2 stores to browse through as we walk south. I like looking above the shopfronts to the second floors of these buildings...

... most are just used as storage, but some are residential with balcony gardens or oddball decorations. I reckon the Cornish Arms is a bit of an eyesore but they do great vegan junk food.

As we approach the southern end of Sydney Road, we'll pass the recently reno-ed Barkly Square and Aunt Maggie's. This franchise is full of fancy wholefoods with a pinch of new age philosophy, a good source of vegan cheeses and icecreams, nooch, and organic corn chips.

Tucked behind Aunt Maggie's on Barkly St is the unassuming Mix Oriental Supermarket, our local source of frozen edamame and paratha, vegetarian oyster sauce, chilli-based condiments and noodles.

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