Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published October 18th 2012
A haven within a haven
It's no secret that the Abbotsford Convent is a place of great beauty, with its cluster of majestic, historical buildings nestled within lush, rolling gardens. No less familiar to the public are two of the eateries that preside there - the vegetarian mecca Lentil As Anything, and the cake paradise that is the Abbotsford Convent Bakery.
While the heaving masses throng to these foodie icons, just next door is an unassuming little place that is slowly burgeoning into something quite special.
The first thing you notice when you walk in to St Heliers Street Gallery is how open and peaceful it feels. With high ceilings and plenty of windows looking out onto a lawned courtyard, it feels more in keeping with its convent surroundings than its noisy neighbouring eateries - not surprising considering the tranquil Wellness Centre is located upstairs.
St Heliers is a unique yet effortless blend of cafe, gallery and gift shop. On the cafe side, a small range of food options are on offer - baguettes, soup and pies, as well as a few pastries to enjoy with the consistently excellent coffee.
The counter is also stocked with boiled lollies, and on occassions market items such as jams and mueslis. Otherwise you can browse the shelves lined with an idiosyncratic array of books, cards, crafts, skin care and all sorts of curios.
Deeper inside the rustic cafe lies the gallery, which features an eclectic range of exhibitions. At the time of writing a rather gorgeous selection of etchings, linocuts, woodcuts, drypoints, screenprints, lithographs and more, by a host of wonderful artist printmakers, was on display.
St Helliers Street is quite clearly a labour of love, and offers a distinctive point of view. Its an organic blend of art, books, fresh food produce and great coffee. Given the Abbotsford Convent is ostensibly a hub for arts and cultural organisations, St Helliers is a good fit for its community and a place of serenity perfectly matching its surroundings.