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Dustin Martin mural Richmond
Photograph: Nicole Reed

A local's guide to Richmond

Explore Richmond's top cafés, bars, restaurants and attractions to be found in this inner-city, footy obsessed suburb

By Meg Watson
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Richmond is a suburb on a cultural crossroad. It’s not quite north and not quite south, and it’s been home to both the rich and the poor. Its quiet back streets are lined with renovated workers’ cottages and old factories converted into exclusive apartments. 

But no matter how much has changed in recent years, its character has remained: Richmond is a suburb that takes pride in its working-class roots, its football team, and its vibrant community nurtured by Greek and Vietnamese migrants.

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What’s Richmond known for?

Richmond sits just east of the city, separated from the CBD by Melbourne’s sporting precinct. Though stadiums are closed for the moment, visitors usually pour in all year ‘round to see sporting events and concerts at AAMI Park, Margaret Court Arena, Rod Laver Arena and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). This area along the Birrarung (Yarra River) has been a gathering place for members of the Kulin Nation long before these stadiums were erected. 

The suburb’s three main strips each have a distinctive feel to them. Victoria Street is Melbourne’s go-to destination for Vietnamese food: it’s a one-stop shop for pho, banh mi and Asian groceries. Bridge Road is known for its factory outlets, both fashion and furniture. And Swan Street is home to some of the suburb’s best restaurants and cafés (as well as a few thousand footy fans depending on the day).

Why do the locals love it?

Richmond has a bit of something for everyone. Lara Whalley, manager of the beloved Corner Hotel (57 Swan St), tells us she loves the diversity of things going on in the area (under normal non-Covid circumstances). "There’s amazing live music, the different sporting codes and a whole range of people out and about," she says. 

Lara also gave us her top picks of Richmond shops and activities, so look out for them below. 

How do I get to Richmond?

Richmond has four train stations: North Richmond, West Richmond, East Richmond, and Richmond. The latter is the suburb’s major hub located on the easternmost point of Swan Street. The suburb is serviced by five trams from the CBD (12, 109, 48, 70 and 75). The 78 tram runs from north to south via Church Street. 

What’s nearby?

East Melbourne and Fitzroy Gardens sit to the suburb’s east, and Collingwood and Abbotsford are to the north. If you hop west over the Yarra River, you’ll be in Hawthorn. If you go south across the river, you’ll find South Yarra and the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

Map of Richmond

If you only do one thing

Watch the Richmond Tigers play at the MCG. Deck yourself out in yellow and black, grab a drink on Swan Street before the game, then find your place with the Tiger Army at the Punt Road end of the ground. Cap it all off with a hot jam doughnut from the Gate 5 food truck after the game.

Table of food at Bahari Melbourne
Table of food at Bahari Melbourne
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Eat

There are few more iconically Melbourne experiences than jumping off the 109 tram in the dead of winter, and warming yourself up with a steaming bowl of pho. It’s like getting a big hug from the inside out. If that sounds like your kind of plan, head along to the experts at I Love Pho (264 Victoria St) and Pho Hung Vuong 2 (108 Victoria St).

Elsewhere on Victoria Street, Pacific Seafood BBQ House (240 Victoria St) serves up a huge variety of Cantonese classics. It’s hard to look past the Peking ducks hanging in the window, but this is a restaurant known for its seafood so don’t leave without trying the Szechuan calamari.

Lara from the Corner Hotel also recommends Bahari (179 Swan St). This Swan Street gem from MasterChef alum Philip Vakos is all about Greek sharing food: think grilled octopus, stuffed eggplant and lamb skewers. “The amazing halloumi chips have been a treat through lockdown,” Lara says.

Feast of Merit (117 Swan St) serves great Middle Eastern-inspired food with a mission: all profits from the café/restaurant go to Y-Generation Against Poverty. This international development organisation supports locally run ventures that “create jobs, build better homes or improve access to education or healthcare services for people living in poverty”. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Need some Vietnamese south of Victoria Street? Head to Hanoi Hannah New Quarter (79 Swan St). This is an extension of the hugely popular (though significantly smaller) original Hanoi Hannah restaurant in Windsor, but the food is no less impressive.

Hector’s Deli (1/94 Buckingham St) is a cult sandwich shop that popped up in Richmond’s backstreets in 2017. The owners, who previously worked as chefs at Stokehouse, wanted to create simple sangas done well. And they’ve definitely succeeded. Make sure you grab an early lunch (or order delivery for the next day). They sell out quickly.

Jinda Thai (1-7 Ferguson St) might technically be in Abbotsford, but this casual and cool Thai restaurant across the road from North Richmond station is too good to miss. Jinda Thai usually packs out every Friday and Saturday night (put your name on the list and grab a drink at The Aviary Hotel while you wait). But the wait is always worth it – especially if you order the crispy deep-fried fish in tamarind sauce.

For a special occasion, there’s nowhere better than Minamishima (4 Lord St). Time Out has already made the call: it’s “Melbourne’s best sushi”. This is an accolade that chef Koichi Minamishima has earned after more than 30 years in the game. A night out at his prestigious Japanese fine dining restaurant doesn’t come cheap, but it’s certainly memorable.

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Mountain Goat Brewery
Mountain Goat Brewery
Photograph: David Hyde

Drink

The Royston (12 River St) is Richmond’s best winter hidey-hole: a cosy retro pub in Richmond’s backstreets that’s known for its great food (seriously, leave room for the sticky toffee pudding) and a huge selection of craft beer. The beer list changes regularly to champion local brewers, so you’re always likely to discover something new. 

If you fancy going straight to the source, Mountain Goat Brewery and Bar (80 North St) is located directly across the road from the Royston. The local legends behind the popular Organic Steam Ale have been brewing in Richmond since 1999, and at this location since 2004. 

If you want to recreate some of that pub magic at home, All Nation’s Hotel (64 Lennox St) is offering two-litre refillable growlers right now. You can wander in and fill up from the tap or even get it delivered with a parma. 

Is gin more your thing? Bowerbird (274 Bridge Rd) boasts a selection of more than 70 Victorian gins (as well as local beers and wines). 

Saint Urban (213 Swan St) is usually the perfect place to hang out on a summer evening and have a few wines. 

Meanwhile, we all await the reopening of the Bridge Hotel (642 Bridge Rd) and the Prince Alfred Hotel (619 Church St). The trick with these ones is picking your time. If you’re after a low-key catch-up with mates, try a weeknight or early arvo. Friday and Saturday nights get pretty rowdy.

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Eggs and avocado at Fifty Acres Cafe
Eggs and avocado at Fifty Acres Cafe
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Coffee

Nowhere will make you feel more like a local than Rowena Corner Store (44 Rowena Pde). This milk bar turned café and grocer has been a Richmond favourite since 1956. It’s been run by a number of families over the years but has kept a stellar reputation for its wholesome Mediterranean dishes, great milkshakes and good vibes. It’s a great place for a photo opp too, and not just because of its retro fittings: check out the Dustin Martin mural on the side of the building.

Hella’s Cakes (322 Lennox St) is another Richmond classic. This is Lara’s top pick thanks to the “great coffee and amazing baklava”. The café and bakery was founded in 1962 by Greek pastry chef Iraklis Kenos. In the 1970s, George Laliotis and George Kantaras took over the business, and their sons are still running the café today. In that time, they’ve really perfected their craft. (Try the galaktoboureko).

Top Paddock (658 Church St) is a newer phenomenon, but a phenomenon nonetheless. This brunch spot has been described as “a former car park reborn as a dapper Jetsons-era cantina”. It’s been drawing huge queues for close to a decade, but the meal/coffee/Bloody Mary always makes the wait worth it. 

Or if you’re after a more low-key experience, try Friends of Mine (506 Swan St) or Fifty Acres (65 Bridge Rd). Both cafés are still known to draw a small crowd, but they’re less intimidating. Friends of Mine has been described as “a big hug from your best mate”, and Fifty Acres sells more than one breakfast dish with a scotch egg. Sold!

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Avenue Bookstore Richmond
Avenue Bookstore Richmond
Photograph: Supplied

Shopping

There’s nothing better on a sunny morning than a stroll through Gleadell Street Market (Gleadell St). From 7am to 1pm every Saturday, the street is closed to traffic and filled with local producers selling their wares: fruit, veg, pastries, jams, cheese, meat and seafood. The market has been a Richmond tradition since 1873. 

If you’re on the hunt for Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or Japanese groceries, you need to head north to Minh Phat (2-8 Nicholson St – technically Abbotsford). What started as a small shop at Victoria Market in 1977 and is now one of Melbourne’s biggest Asian grocers. You’ll discover all sorts of goodies in these packed aisles, and you can even pick up some quality cookware, too. 

Royal Order of Nothing (165 Swan St) is an oasis for every indecisive shopper. This friendly boutique has a perfectly curated collection of men’s and women’s clothing, jewellery and gifts from brands including Elk and Assembly Label. You can then wander down the street to Avenue Bookstore (91 Swan St) to browse the latest releases. Lara says the store “has a great range and lovely helpful staff – anytime I can't think of a present for someone I go in there and come out with a winner”. 

If you’re in the market for a reusable face mask, there’s nowhere better than SisterWorks (296 Bridge Rd). This non-profit social enterprise helps migrant and refugee women become financially independent in Australia. Founded by Luz Restrepo – who arrived in Australia as a political refugee in 2010 – SisterWorks sells masks, homewares and jewellery all designed and produced by recent migrants. 

Passionfruit (404 Bridge Rd) is another great women-run business. Owner Michelle Temminghoff founded this store in 1998 with one question in mind: “If sex was so good, why were sex shops so bad?” Passionfruit is a welcoming and tasteful “sensuality shop” stocked with sex toys, lingerie and books. The staff are knowledgeable and non-judgemental, and yes they’re doing delivery during lockdown (in discreet packaging, too).

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Gig at the Corner Hotel
Gig at the Corner Hotel
Photograph: Visit Victoria

Things to do

If you’re standing on a busy platform at Richmond station on a Friday or Saturday night, odds are that people are heading one of two places: The Corner or the MCG. 

The Corner Hotel (57 Swan St) is one of Melbourne’s most popular music venues. It’s a lifeline for the local live music scene; it caters to many tastes; and, over the past two decades, it’s earned a reputation for securing huge international acts just before they hit it big. Who doesn’t want to boast about seeing Blink 182, the White Stripes or Lorde in an 800-person band room? Lara, the venue manager, recommends having a parma and a drink at the great rooftop bar before securing your spot downstairs. Just watch out for the notorious (though kind of beloved) pole in the middle of the bandroom.

The MCG (Brunton Ave) needs no introduction. This legendary sporting ground is one of the largest stadiums in the world. Whether you’re heading to the Boxing Day Test or the AFL Grand Final, there’s something magical about being one amongst a sea of 100,000 cheering fans. 

Wanna get creative with your team colours? Stop in at Trophy Wife (2B Bridge Rd). Trophy Wife in a nail art and beauty space known for its unique and impressive nail art designs. Bookings are by appointment only. If you’re looking for a quick walk-in, you can always head down to Bon Bon (192 Swan St). Fun fact: this is where Brian May ducked in for a manicure before his show when Queen were touring in early 2020.

Just across the road, Picture Search (139 Swan St) is one of Melbourne’s last remaining video stores. Owner Derek de Vreugt boasts an enormous collection of VHS and DVDs, all stacked up towards the ceiling across two densely packed storeys. In recent years he’s also expanded to vinyl records to help boost sales. 

If you’re looking for activities outdoors, Lara recommends cycling along the Yarra Trail by the river. After just five minutes down there, you’ll totally forget you’re right next to the CBD.

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Mark your calendars

Check out the Victoria Street Lunar Festival (Victoria St). This street festival happens every January. Locals will celebrate the Year of the Ox with firecrackers, rides, performances and more than 100 Chinese and Vietnamese market stalls. Start practicing now for the annual pho eating competition!

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