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High Street Northcote

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by Rod Whitfield (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and musician from Melbourne, Australia. Visit me at:
Published October 12th 2011
A forgotten part of town 10 to 15 years ago, High Street Northcote has become a real centre for restaurants, cafes and live music in recent times. You can arguably trace this back to when the Northcote Social Club was established there, and while the precinct may not be as extensive or established as Brunswick Street (about 10 minutes drive away), Chapel Street, or Fitzroy Street in StKilda, it is rapidly gaining ground on these areas and has started to really push itself as a hub for dining out and then rocking out in Melbourne.

Here is just a small selection of the array of eateries available to you in this vibrant part of our great city.

The Aquarium Cafe has only been around for a little over a year, but seemingly overnight, this new bakery café has become an absolute must-visit destination on High Street.

The setup of the place is quite unique. When you enter, fantastic café and bakery aromas greet you, and you find yourself in a very large and invariably busy and bustling room. There is also an adjoining, smaller room for a slightly more intimate experience.

The staff are friendly and attentive to a fault, seemingly always with smiles on their faces, even when the place is very busy. The coffee always arrives within five minutes maximum, which is always a welcome surprise. And speaking of which, the Aquarium's coffee is among the best in the area.

Then there's the food. It's quite sumptuous, and as consistently high quality as can be. The big veggie breakfast certainly lives up to its name, it is large in serve and in flavour, and the Aquarium's BLT fairly melts in the mouth. Try the Moroccan Patties for something very different and exceptionally tasty, and their specialty, the falafel burger is an absolute sensation. But the menu is extremely extensive and caters to all tastes. And it's all extremely manageable, price-wise.

The Wild Yak Tibetan Cafe has become a High Street institution for diners wanting a hearty but extremely affordable meal out. It is familiar and familial, as well as quaint, but not in a cheesy way. And it's thoroughly authentic, in a highly unpretentious manner. The décor is looking a little tired, but you don't come here for that. The staff are always on the ball and the food comes out very efficiently, although not in the 'churn and burn' style of many Asian places.

Speaking of the food, it is unique and quite wondrous. Initial impressions are, once again, of rather unassuming fare, but this just hides the delights available on the extensive menu. Both vegetarians and meat eaters are generously catered for, and the food itself is bountiful in its serves and its flavours.

Geographically, the Nepal/Tibet region lies between the population and culinary colossuses that are China and India, and the food from this area is truly a fusion of both. If you enjoy the cuisines of either or both, you will find much to love here. Possibly the best thing about the Yak lies in its astounding value for money. If you bring your own wine, two people can eat to their heart's content, enjoying an extremely filling entrée, mains and rice each for well under $40.

Speaking of India, there is also the Curry Masala on High. This classic sub-continental restaurant combines authentic and humble ambience and décor, with again very attentive service. One is immediately struck by the extensiveness of the menu, with all tastes catered for, with many meat, chicken, seafood and vegetarian items to choose from. And of course, the many exotic flavours of India abound in the feasts they offer up, served with lashings of rice and naan bread.

Being only very slightly more expensive than the Yak, Curry Masala also offers phenomenal value for the dollar. Two people can walk away with a very full belly for under 40 bucks.
Then of course there is the mighty Northcote Social Club, which hasn't taken long to become a Northern suburbs institution, and which is kind of a 'one stop shop' for your weekend (or indeed weekday) evening's entertainment.

The dining area is an extensive, two level deck, where you can enjoy a magnificent 'pub grub' style feast of grilled T-Bone, chicken or eggplant parma or fish and chips, washed down with a frothy or ten, or a wine from their excellent selection. They also cater well for kids and their dessert range is small but delicious. All this before you rock out with your proverbial to your favourite Aussie or international rock, pop, metal or indie act in the small and intimate but professionally decked out band room. What could possibly be better?

Isn't it time you visited, or re-visited, High Street Northcote?
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Why? It's a growing area.
When: Ongoing
Where: High Street Northcote
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