Update [July 21, 2021]: During Victoria's fifth lockdown, hospitality venues can only open for takeaway and delivery. You can still support many of these local venues by purchasing food, drinks or products online or over the phone – click each individual venue for more details on what they're currently offering or contact them directly to find out their opening hours. Entertainment venues and non essential retail cannot open during this time, but some venues may offer click and collect services or delivery. Victorian residents cannot travel further than 5km to access essential supplies or exercise during lockdown.
From Merri Creek to Northland Shopping Centre, Thornbury to ‘Rezzie’, Preston is a broad expanse littered with eclectic pockets of bars, cafés, barbers, vintage shops and a diversity of restaurants that will make you wonder if you ever need to leave.
Divided somewhat inauspiciously by Bell Street, there is not one part of Preston. There are the converted warehouses and forgotten-then-rejuvenated shop fronts south of Bell, the multicultural epicentre around Preston Market, the suburban idyll of the Miller Street and Gilbert Road village, the surprisingly hip island of bars and restaurants where Tyler Street meets Plenty Road – and all the side streets and surprises in between.
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What’s Preston known for?
Most famously called 'Depreston' by Courtney Barnett, Preston is, in fact, vibrant and well known for having incredible diversity. There are strong ties to the Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, African, Indian and Middle Eastern communities, and its fantastic market which draws on this rich multicultural history.
With strong working-class roots, Aaron Au from Japanese izakaya-style restaurant and sake bar DenDeke on Plenty Road (where the karaage is a favourite) describes Preston as "a bit of an underdog with a former reputation for being a rough part of town, but on the cusp of transformation into a suburb with a very diverse and energetic population."
A wander down High Street or Plenty Road will have you stumbling over hidden warehouse bars, vintage shops tucked into Victorian shop fronts, and modern restaurants catering to the neverending northside hipster migration, nestled comfortably amongst the authentic multicultural fare that delights both the traditional communities and newer locals alike.
Why do the locals love it?
It is the love of both old and new that locals embrace. While you can eat cheap and delicious Chinese, Vietnamese, gozleme and old school fish and chips, you can also raid well-stocked record stores, op shops and bric-a-brac emporiums, and sip on locally crafted beer at a handful of breweries, and wine at Jamsheed Urban Winery. Ingenuity is the order of the day. Take the old, dusty and deserted, and make it new - without losing the original charm.
Locals love the Preston Market so much that proposed changes are fiercely opposed. Ellie Marin, owner of Fried Hustle on High Street (the place to go when only southern fried chicken will do) and taco van Cornutopia (open seven days at Preston Market) explains the “atmosphere, bustle, noise and smells [of the market] are unrivalled”. Sue Sheehan from Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics at Preston Market agrees, “locals prefer to support small businesses and love the variety at the market”.
Aaron from DenDeke sums the push-and-pull of old and new up nicely. “Preston has the feel of a battler suburb taking art lessons and I for one am excited to see what it learns to paint in the next decade or so”
How do I get to Preston?
Just head north. The Mernda train line stops at Bell, Preston and Regent stations, the 11 tram takes you to Miller Street and Gilbert Road, and the 86 cruises on up to the junction of Plenty Road and Tyler Street.
Thornbury is Preston’s more famous neighbour, and they’re so intertwined in places that it’s hard to know where one stops and the other begins. Preston is also fringed by Reservoir (known as ‘Rezzie’ to locals) to the north, Merri and Edgars Creek to the west, and Darebin Creek to the east. The creeks are surrounded by lush parkland and threaded with long walking and cycling tracks beloved by local residents.
Map of Preston
If you only do one thing…
Stroll up Plenty Road for an afternoon of bric-a-brac, vintage and op-shopping, then finish with drinks at the embrace of excellent bars on the Tyler Street and Plenty Road junction. It’s northside Melbourne at its finest.