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Yarraville, Melbourne
Photograph: Shuang Li / Shutterstock.com

A local's guide to Yarraville

Explore Yarraville's top cafés, bars, restaurants and attractions to be found in this picturesque suburb

By Elizabeth Flux
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Like so many businesses around Victoria, Yarraville’s bars, shops and restaurants aren’t able to trade as normal right now. In the meantime, there are still ways to support and experience them, including delivery or ordering online, to help them keep afloat until everything opens up again.

Yarraville is a place that feels like everything has been carefully thought out by someone who appreciates beauty, convenience and the occasional surprise. For a suburb that is relatively small, the cross section of food, drink and things to do is, frankly, pretty remarkable. Dotted with heritage building and hidden gems, it’s a place with an eye on the past, grounded firmly in the now. And hey, not to brag, but Yarraville was named the fifth coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2020.

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What’s Yarraville known for?

One of Yarraville’s most prominent landmarks is the Sun Theatre – it’s one of the first places you see when you hop off the train. It opened in 1938, and after a storied history of closures, changing hands, and expansions, the Art Deco building was refurbished in the 1990s and now features eight separate cinemas, each named for a now-closed cinema from Melbourne’s history. It acts as a kind of centrepiece in the main part of town, with most of the popular restaurants, cafés and occasional street festivals within walking distance.

Why do the locals love it?

If you wanted to, you would never actually have to leave – it’s the perfect blend of residential and recreational, with its own bookshop and cinema, and restaurants and bars to suit every taste.

We asked the staff at the Sun Bookshop for some of their favourite picks of Yarraville so keep an eye out for their thoughts and suggestions below.

How do I get to Yarraville?

Much of the main food and entertainment hub of Yarraville is conveniently situated right by the train station. If you’re driving, parking is relatively easy – if the carpark near the train station is full, the side streets are usually a good back up option.

What’s nearby?

Seddon is to the north, and just beyond that is Footscray. Scienceworks is located in nearby Spotswood.

Map of Yarraville

If you only do one thing…

Head to the beautifully renovated art deco Sun Theatre for a film, making sure to stop next door and browse the intimate and well-stocked Sun Bookshop for a book to read on the train home. 

Food at Navi
Food at Navi
Photograph: Ed Sloane/Supplied

Eat

With a focus on native ingredients, the Indigenous-owned café and tuckshop, Mabu Mabu (13 Anderson St), is not to be missed. The space is small and bright, but the menu packs a punch, with creative twists on favourites like calamari and tacos, and is open for brunch and dinner a few nights a week. In response to Covid, the Mabu Mabu team have put together a takeaway menu which can be ordered online (plus a DIY damper-making kit).

If you’re in the mood for Mexican, Village Cantina (30 Ballarat St) offers generous servings and (almost) too much choice – so make sure you come with an appetite. While the quesadillas and burritos are not to be ignored, the real hero is the taco menu – though narrowing down your order from the extensive list of options is tough.

Despite its prominent location next to the Sun, Pizza d’Asporto (2-6 Ballarat St) is surprisingly easy to miss if you aren’t seeking it out. “It’s just really good, easy, quick family fare,” the staff at Sun Bookshop tell us. The service is exceptionally friendly, and as the name suggests, they have a big focus on pizza. They’re made with thick, doughy bases and the choice of toppings is extensive. But, if pizza’s not your thing, their pasta menu is almost just as varied and exciting.

Love dumplings? Chi Bao (46 Anderson St) is another Sun Bookshop staff favourite. “Everything you order on that menu is amazing”. It’s true – there is a huge choice of hearty and delicious noodle and rice dishes, but make sure to try some of their dumplings and baos – all of which are made by hand in-house. There are also great vegetarian and vegan options as well. Right now they are open for takeaway and delivery – with free local delivery.

Azabu-Juban (also known as Japan's Kitchen) (34 Ballarat St) also comes highly recommended. The Japanese eatery is part restaurant, part bar, and beautifully appointed. “They’ve got really beautiful finger food and beautiful cocktails and it is low lighting and very, very good date spot,” staff at the Sun Bookshop explain. Right now they are offering delivery and takeaway of bento, udon and a cross-section of individual dishes, with gluten-free and vegetarian options available.

Then there’s Café Terroni (18 Ballarat St). With home-made pasta, recipes drawn from regional Italy, and rustic feels, it’s a local favourite for good reason. Terroni is currently offering pick up and delivery for those in Yarraville, Kingsville and Seddon.

Slightly further away from the main food hub is Navi (83B Gamon St). The 25-seat, contemporary Australian fine-dining restaurant has an ever-changing set menu, with eight and five-course options available. Chef and owner Julian Hills is across every part of the restaurant – right down to the plates, which he made by hand himself. One thing to note on the food though: try not to fall in love with a particular dish because chances are you might not see it again. Under current restrictions, Navi is offering “Navi From Home” which can be arranged online.

Even further away, in deeper suburban Yarraville, is Mishra’s Kitchen (18 Wembley Ave). The venue does delivery and take out, but if you feel like dining in it is well worth the slightly longer journey. Tucked down the end of a quiet street, this cheerful restaurant boasts some of the best, most authentic Indian food in Melbourne. A local tip: even if you are a seasoned chilli eater who thinks they can handle the hottest of the hot – order the mild option. Seriously.

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The Railway Hotel Yarraville rooftop
The Railway Hotel Yarraville rooftop
Photograph: Supplied

Drink

We’ve already mentioned Azabu-Juban (34 Ballarat St) as the perfect date location, but Yarraville has plenty of options to suit all different moods.

Barkley Johnson (11 Anderson St) is a cosy and friendly deli and wine bar located right in the heart of things. The former barbershop is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and a board of bar snacks – though sometimes it can be hard to get a seat because it gets busy. During lockdown, they are doing wine deliveries in the local area.

The Railway Hotel (35 Anderson Street) is everything you want from your local pub. With a packed menu of classic pub meals, it’s a great place to spend a weekend afternoon, or to grab a bite after seeing a film at the nearby cinema.

If you’re looking to wind down in a relaxed setting, Yarra Lounge (7 Ballarat Street) has friendly service, tapas, a delicious cocktail menu, and is located in a great spot by the street park. During lockdown, the Yarra Lounge team have put together some cocktail and dessert combos for pick up or delivery.

This one can be very easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Johnny’s Emporium (Level 1, 18A Anderson St) despite the address, is actually accessible via stairs on Ballarat Street. Opened in 2018, the bar and function room is spacious and airy, and from its first-floor location, offers a great view over Yarraville. The menu is eclectic with a mix of Asian inspired snacks, bar classics like fries and calamari, and churros for dessert. They also have a big cross-section of drinks, and have committed to “exclusively serve 100 per cent Australian independent craft beers, searching the country far and wide for beers that are fresh and exciting”.

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Generic barista coffee
Generic barista coffee
Photograph: Chevanon Photography/Pexels

Coffee

Feedback Café (31 Ballarat St) is a lowkey and inviting local favourite that doesn’t just offer delicious food and drinks but is a huge part of the Yarraville community. “The people who own [Feedback] organise all these wonderful suburb-wide events such as the huge Halloween event,” staff from the Sun Bookshop tell us. “And they’ve got great food and great coffee.” During restrictions, they’ve been offering muffin deliveries a few times a week.

Not too far away from that is The Cornershop (11 Ballarat St). Operating since 2007, it’s a much-loved spot in the main park strip right by the cinema – and the staff at the Sun Bookshop tell us they order food from them a LOT. They have a decadent brunch menu, with most of their ingredients sourced from Victorian producers, and make some of the best coffee in Yarraville. It can get a little busy, but if there are no tables available, they’ll take your name, and you can explore the nearby shops until they give you a ring.

Dad and Dave’s Café (29 Birmingham St) is a kitsch and cosy former milk bar, right next to the train station. It has all your brunch favourites, plus a whole lot of bakery goods, with one of the best vegan menus in the neighbourhood.

Another one near the train station is the light and airy Coracle (63 Anderson St). The Sun Bookshop staff tell us “it’s a personal staff favourite for their incredible Asian fusion café food – it’s just second to none”.

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Sun Bookshop Yarraville
Sun Bookshop Yarraville
Photograph: Supplied

Shopping

We’ve mentioned them a lot through this guide, but it’s because the Sun Bookshop (10 Ballarat St) is simply an absolute gem. Located off the foyer of Sun Theatre, right in the hub of Yarraville village, it’s a small but well-stocked book store that has all the latest and best titles as well as a knowledgeable staff who can help steer you in the right direction if you’re feeling a bit indecisive. Nearby there is also the Younger Sun, which specialises in children’s books. During lockdown the Sun Bookshop has been taking orders by phone or online and has been delivering to locals via bike and car, as well as running book clubs over Zoom.

Need to stock up on groceries and essentials? Plump Organic Grocery (24 Ballarat St) has been running since 2002 and is a one-stop-shop for fresh food and fair trade groceries.

If you’re looking up to brighten a space with some greenery, check out Mosey (97 Anderson St). Whether you are a nervous first-time plant parent looking for something simple or an experienced green thumb, the team there can sort you out. It’s also just a really relaxing place for a browse, though it is hard to walk out without a new ceramic pot, or a hanging plant you promise not to kill.

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Yarraville pop up park
Yarraville pop up park
Photograph: Supplied

Things to do

On the first and third Saturday of every month, there’s the Yarraville Village Farmers Market. The list of stallholders is constantly changing, but you can be guaranteed good coffee, good food and a choice of fresh produce from local farmers.

Then, and this sounds like a bit of a weird one, but if it’s a nice day and you’re someone who enjoys heritage buildings – or the odd bit off eccentric architecture – the streets of Yarraville Village are great for an exploratory walk.

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Mark your calendars

Every year, Feedback Café coordinates Halloween in Yarraville Village, an event where stores in the main strip come together to celebrate the spooky day by wearing costumes, running trick or treating in the local area, and putting on a party in the centre of town. It’s a great way to see some of the different businesses around Yarraville in action while also just getting into the fun and silly spirit of Halloween.

While it likely won’t be running in 2020, it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for – and a costume at the ready – in later years.

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