A walk along Melbourne Street, South Bank and up the left-hand side of adjoining Boundary Street uncovers a lively, urban landscape. West End plays host to a vibrant, cosmopolitan community. An interesting, eclectic selection of shops, tea rooms and multi-ethnic eateries nestle among the usual banks, real estate display windows, fast food franchises and travel agencies.
Many were severely flood affected with some only recently re-opened. Here are a few I have explored...
A jagged flag stoned path flanked by potted palms leads to the Five Sisters Art house cafe. Set in a heritage listed building and made up of inner display rooms and an outdoor area, they specialise in authentic Greek bakes, fresh salads and sambos. Their gallery displays the work of local artists.
Off to the right just up Merrivale Road, the distinctive red walls and intricately worked wrought iron window coverings of the unique Paladar Fumior Salonhint at a slice of Cuban culture. Speciality coffee, Cuban cigars, inimitable decor, cigar appreciation nights and a rooftop terrace invite discovery.
Further on, just off Melbourne up Mollison Street is The Three Monkeys, a popular, atmospheric eastern/tribal-themed coffee and tea house which stocks the daily papers. The dark, wooden furnishings and parlour lighting of the interior are complemented by a large adjoining, leafy courtyard. It has a signature collection of 'see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil' monkeys, Betty Boop figurines and posters and memorabilia adorning the walls and a large dessert bar.
Designer boutiques are complemented by two well-stocked charity shops, Vinnies and the Lifeline shop; the recently refurbished Vinnies has a retro section where you can delve into the past with finds of arm-length satin gloves, lovingly embroidered linen doilies, sequined jackets, delicately-beaded evening bags and costume jewellery. They have a small selection of second hand books, records and sheet music. Items in the Lifeline shop are artfully displayed and tops are grouped by colour; they often have an interesting selection of bags, shoes, frames and knick-knacks.
Across the road from the charity shops is Avid reader bookshop, a real West End institution. A small, creative and informative independent bookseller, the shop stocks the latest books and other diverse and interesting reads. Staffed by passionate bibliophiles, many of whom are young and newly published authors, it is a book lover's delight. The store hosts regular book club events, popular book launches and intimate author/reader activities where lively public discussion is encouraged. The small cafe at the back has a courtyard catering for kids; they serve delectable cupcakes and leaf tea in delightful, traditional cosy-clad pots. A used collection of tea pots and jugs sprout with growing greenery on a weathered bookshelf and inquisitive pigeons visit. The pavement flanking the shop doorway is a great source of flyers advertising Brisbane events and free magazines.
Near Avid is the Art in Glass shop, the studio of friendly glass artist Lexine who offers creative glass art classes. Among her wares are beautiful, multicoloured pendants.
If you are looking for love-themed inspiration, dandelyon gifts is the place to go with a host of crafted wall plaques, thought-provoking sayings and gifts with appeal for moms and romantics. You can also access psychics, clairvoyants and things spiritual.
On Friday mornings, you might see the mobile outreach unit of the drugarm programme, Moshpit, offering coffee, biscuits and caring succour to those in need. It is a tacit acknowledgement of those community members less fortunate; indigent and perhaps homeless people gather around the vehicle, some beanie clad and unshaven, carrying their possessions in the ubiquitous, striped plastic bags.
Eateries abound, with almost every ethnic palate catered for. Restaurants and cafes spill onto pavements and include representations of Indian, Thai, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Lebanese and Chinese cuisines. Be you Vegan, carnivore, vegetarian or anything in between, West End has a food outlet for you.
There is "Punjabi Palace", its entrance guarded by weathered elephant carvings on wheels and serving traditional Indian food.
The informal Orexi cafe and grill serves Mediterranean styled Greek food; I enjoy their affordable trio of dips with fresh bread.
Further on, The Little Greek Taverna on the corner is always bursting at the seams with diners and at night you may need to dodge the diners at the pavement tables.
Tukka, further up on Boundary road, serves "advanced Australian fare." Authentically Australian, this award-winning restaurant offers enticing, unusual dishes using local produce. Menu items include seared emu fillet, smoked Cairns crocodile fillet, confit Tas possum and a native platter of native game meats,fruits, nuts, berries and spices with damper and dips. Their food is complemented by their own kitchen garden and specially selected wines from their cellar are offered as accompaniment to chosen dishes. (Some well-travelled Aussies we introduced to Tukka were really impressed).
Near the large, mosaic encrusted terracotta lizard on the corner of Russell street is Ouzeri Eurostyle eatery with their trademark blue and white check table cloths. Busy and energetic, they have a large menu and serve traditional Greek food; we loved the lamb cutlets.
Fashionable courses offered in the area include yoga at Spirit Rising Yoga and authentic South American Dance at Rio Rhythmics. Follow a narrow wooden stairway to the Latin dance school and you will find people of all ages learning sexy, fitness enhancing dance routines.
Along the way you might spot some of the characters who make up the unique mix of the West End; bohemians, cyclists, businessmen and women, mothers and students, young and old, foreigners and native Aussies.
West End has a vibrant, upbeat nightlife and many pubs and bars offer live music and provide a performance venue for home-grown musos.
The Music Kafe has a full programme of live music every night. With a laid back atmosphere and cocktail bar, daily food specials, pool tables and a couple of couches in front of the mic arena, they support local performers.
Located opposite, Lock'n'LoadBistro opens onto Boundary street and has a popular cocktail bar and restaurant with live music on select nights. Tuesday is jazz night and they serve breakfasts too; on the dessert front, I love the chocolate brownies. Walk through the restaurant area into a peaceful garden courtyard. Recently revamped, the building has a chequered history; once a home to a chemist, ornate glass bottles recalling another era were unearthed with the refurbishment and are displayed on the wall. Inner walls have been papered and dressed, including an amazing 3D 'scape of cranes on the wall of the ladies right hand loo.
Styled as an exotic oriental bar, Lychee Lounge has several interesting sets of light fittings, including elaborate candelabra made up of Barbie heads. Looking slightly 'voodoo-ish', the familiar tops of our childhood dolls sport red-lips and various bouffant hairstyles. The restaurant boasts Japanese style tatami dining and impressive cocktails.
And then there are the West End markets on Saturdays, the iconic Gun Shop cafe, Bang Doll Vintage, Bent Books, Olivers deli, the affordable fish and chips from George's fresh seafood, the Uber cocktail lounge, hand tailoring offered by Argyris Bros...you'll just have to take a walk.