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People sitting inside at Moon Dog Brewery
Photograph: Parker Blain

A local's guide to Preston

Explore Preston's many restaurants, cafés, bars and shops with our packed guide to this sprawling northern suburb

Written by
Lucy Watson
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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.

What’s nearby?

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.

Eat
Photograph: Jake Roden/Supplied

Eat

You can’t come to Preston without eating Chinese. The hard part will be choosing between Sichuan-style noodles at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen (352 High St) (if you like it hot, definitely try the signature spicy soup), traditional Cantonese BBQ at C-Culture (437 High St) (the duck is obviously delicious but the beef and fried egg noodles are also spectacular) or classic yum cha at the comfortingly traditional and OTT Gold Leaf (419 High St).

For more contemporary fare, Chumanchu (2/4 Gilbert Rd) is spacious, elegant yet relaxed modern Vietnamese. While the pho is fantastic, the team also do a breakfast scrambled egg roti wrap with lap cheong you will fantasise about. Dexter (456 High St) has a no-rules approach to American slow-smoked barbecue and famous hot meat doughnuts. Sonny’s Bottega (647 Plenty Rd) is a stylish prosecco bar and Italian eatery that wouldn’t look out of place in the leafy streets of Carlton North.

Want to grab something to go or have it delivered? This Borderland (208 Tyler St) is an American-style diner where the team are welcoming and the moreish comfort of their poutine will soon have you returning. Maharaja (560 High St) offers a quintessentially Indian technicolour dine-in experience but also quality, reliable home delivery. And although it’s not the most modern pizza offering in town (for that head to Dexter’s adjacent companion, Takeaway Pizza, for American style pizza and craft beer) Enzo’s Pizzeria (201 High St) has just the right balance of gourmet and classic pizzas – because sometimes you just want that nostalgic crunch of shredded ham. 

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Drink
Photograph: Parker Blain

Drink

While Moon Dog World (32 Chifley Dr) is the goliath in the room and worth the trek to the eastern edge of Preston, it’s the little bars that make the suburb worth exploring further. Raccoon Club (145 Plenty Rd) is a family-run and longtime local haunt with a pool table, a cosy courtyard and a great spirit selection. 

A little further afield, is Ragtime Tavern (206 Tyler St) a dimly-lit, maroon-walled bar adorned with gorgeous, gold-framed art and a rotating grand piano built into the bar that will take you back to your trip to New Orleans. Also worth the journey is Hard Rubbish (670 Plenty Rd) a nostalgia-tinged bar filled with reclaimed knick-knacks, a Space Invaders arcade game and obligatory overturned milk crates, but enough original art painted on the walls, personality, and quality beer and cocktails to charm you.

Another local favourite is Audacious Monk (128 Regent St) who converted its bar and bottleshop (selling top quality craft beer and a fantastically curated wine selection) into a mini gourmet deli and corner shop during lockdown, and built a pavilion for the beer garden ready for summer. 

Tallboy & Moose (270 Raglan St) brew a range of beers on-site and makes an excellent spot for catch-ups with friends who have little people in tow (special shout-out to their one-of-a-kind Scottish Wee Man’s Kitchen). 

If it’s a classic pub you’re after though, the Stolberg (197 Plenty Rd) is a surprise. While unassuming from the outside, inside the walls are wood-panelled and wallpapered, with just enough hint of ye olde English pub to make it feel homely. Plus, the pub fare is well priced and excellent.

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Coffee
Photograph: Tyler Nix / Unsplash / Creative Commons

Coffee

As you would imagine from a suburb with a cross-section of Italians and discerning northsiders, it’s hard to get a bad coffee in Preston. The range and quality of the cafés makes it a challenge to highlight just a handful, but the Miller Streer and Gilbert Road village punches above its weight with Pearl Oyster (114 Miller St) and Merri Clan (15 Gilbert Rd), both with delightful courtyards. 

Warehouse conversion Sartoria (115 Plenty Rd) is modern and spacious with specialty coffee, and Moon Rabbit (218 High St) is an environmentally innovative social enterprise with great takeaway options. 

For coffee with a side of Colombian flatbread, eggs and guac, be sure to check out Arepa Days (25 Preston St). Or swing by the famous Cedar Bakery (33/35 High St) for Lebanese baked goods, excellent coffee and a great range of Middle Eastern spices, pickles and other specialty goods.

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Shopping
Photograph: Supplied

Shopping

Whether for clothes, furniture or trinkets, vintage shopping in Preston is a must. On top of the many fantastic op shops, Retropolis (1 Newman St) is a huge converted warehouse featuring a range of retro fashion and bric-a-brac collectors all in one place, Hunter & Co (553 Plenty Rd) is filled to the rafters with unique finds of all kinds, and Preston Vintage & Antiques Warehouse (407 Plenty Rd) has a superb collection of mid-century furniture and more.

Keep your energy up for shopping by grabbing a specialty gelato from Augustus Gelatery (501 Plenty Rd) or Gelato Papa (14A Gilbert Rd). While you’re in the neighbourhood, stop into Twisted Vine (98 Miller St) for a hand-selected range of local and imported wines, weekly tastings, and the kind of service that makes you feel like a local.

For European smallgoods, you can’t go past Slavonija Deli (C234, 235 The Centreway) in Preston Market. Or, if you’re hosting a barbeque, place an order at Metaxas Meats (546 Murray Rd) for an authentic gyro spit roast to cook at home. You bring the spit and order by the kilo!

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Things to do
Photograph: Christian Capurro

Things to do

As expected in an up-and-coming suburb populated by artsy northsiders and empty warehouse spaces, there are a bunch of arts-related enterprises, like the Gertrude Contemporary gallery and artists’ studio (21-31 High St).

Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre (Cnr Bell St & St Georges Rd) hosts a range of community productions and events in its 400 seat proscenium arch theatre and function spaces. 

Or for something a bit different, the School of Historical Fencing (4/84 Oakover Rd) teaches medieval and Renaissance Italian and Spanish sword fighting, with free trial classes, social events and even tournaments. 

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