Posts Tagged ‘williamstown’


Quite how one goes about raising two children aged three and under while renovating an old pub then turning it into the hottest property in the area within weeks of opening is beyond Bruce. And indeed Fran.

Bruce struggles to maintain any semblance of order on his desk, let alone in the rest of his life (hence the phone call this morning asking if he was close to arriving for his 9am meeting – no, he was still wearing his dressing gown on the phone to the UK) while Fran, were she to be a character in a computer game a la Tekken or Soul Blade, would reward gamers who unlock her special move by pressing X-A-A-UP-L2-B-B-DOWN-LEFT-CIRCLE CLOCKWISE-A-B-hold L1-X by taking both sets of house keys with her to work and leaving said gamer locked in their house for the day.

Still, Jessie and Ash Bettenay have managed it with some style, turning a manky old man’s pub into the glorious bar / restaurant it always deserved to be and they’re lovely people to boot.

They deserve their spot in Epicure today. Anyone heading to Willy for the day (and why wouldn’t you) should pop in. And, while you’re there, don’t forget to pop in to Blunt’s Boatbuilers on Nelson Place to say hi to Greg – another lovely person doing wonders with a rare piece of Williamstown history.

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Northcote's entertainment hub

Northcote's entertainment hub

“So you’ve come from shit weather to more shit weather,” said the man from Brisbane as a young girl on a skateboard hurtled past him before being brought suddenly and painfully to a halt by a bench on which were scrawled a selection of childish rude words – balls, wees, poo.

Now, while Bruce would be foolish to deny that Melbourne’s flirtation with above 20C temperatures has only been tantalisingly fleeting, he is reminded of the words of Bill Hicks whenever people question why he and Fran chose Melbourne over the warmer climes of Queensland. Then, speaking of Los Angeles, the great man said:

“Hot and sunny, every single day, hot and sunny. And they love it. ‘Isn’t it great, every day, hot and sunny?’ What are you, a fucking lizard? Only reptiles feel that way about this kind of weather. I’m a mammal, I can afford coats, scarves, cappuccino and rosy cheeked women.”

Moments later, the young girl by now carried to the relative safety of a nearby shrubbery patch by her friends, a skinhead in a red hoodie approached the same bench at speed, leapt over it while performing a somersault, mistimed his landing and careered into a row of parked bicycles. Half an hour later he was back pretending to be a dog and giving someone’s black labrador the time of his life. Welcome to Northcote’s High Vibes festival.

Despite being located in a section of Northcote High Street, it did a remarkable job of capturing so much of what festival-going is about:

  • You don’t actually see any of the bands (in this case, because the venues were so packed by the time we arrive there mid-evening rather than any lack of willing to traipse through fields knee deep in mud)
  • No matter how drunk you are, there is someone far drunker only yards away. Always reassuring
  • The police are there in body only
  • Grown men who would otherwise guard against it think nothing of displaying deep affection for each other in public
  • You realise just how little it would take for Western society to descend (rise?) into anarchy
Boatyard blues

Boatyard blues

That Bruce and Fran had spent the preceding few hours watching a bunch of good ol’ boys (and some not so ol’ boys) playing soulful rockabilly and blues in a wooden boatyard in Williamstown (featuring a man playing an armoured breastplate with metal thimbles), which itself came less than 24 hours after they’d watched some pretty nimble breakers and talented graffiti artists at the Don’t Ban The Can protest event in Brunswick, made for a colourful weekend.

Then there was the Spanish food in the couldn’t-sound-more-Scottish Robert Burns Hotel, in Collingwood, a great and very popular little place that combines the decor of the mercifully defunct Berni Inns of 70s and 80s Britain with tasty food and generous bar staff. And The Detonators rockin’ and rollin’ at The Gem around the corner, complete with a singer whose quiff was only outdone in its audacity by the leather holster belt in which he carried his eight harmonicas. Quite what was so special about the ninth – kept in its own separate padded container – is perhaps best left secret…

Reflecting on this as a crowd gathered to form an impromptu choral line for some buskers in Northcote High Street as the festival came to a close, Bruce wondered why anyone would choose not to live in Melbourne. Even the visitor from Brisbane admitted: “Only in Melbourne.”

Then he remembered – it’s not hot and sunny every day.

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Lovely Willy

You’re not going to stumble on Willy by mistake. Even falling asleep on a late night train isn’t going to do it as you’ll get turfed out at Newport, but it’s worth making the effort to get to this mini-peninsula in Hobson’s Bay. Apparently nobody really bothered making that effort until a few years’ ago, boat people and those interested in Port Phillip Bay’s history apart, but they’ve started coming in droves these days.

It’s easy to see why. Located just 15 minutes drive from the CBD over the West Gate bridge or a little longer by train, it’s a little village escape a world away from the bustle of the city and generally far more pleasant than many of its surrounding boroughs. The main shopping road and the forefront lined by Nelson Place have been suitably tarted up and, combined with the mix of yachts, fishing boats and the odd military boat floating in the harbour, retain an Old World charm reminiscent of the waterfront at Hobart.

Step back in time

It seems to be the sort of place where people visit then fail to leave, hence Fran’s comment on arrival: “I could see myself raising kids here.” (‘Old your ‘orses, love…) So, although the aforementioned tarting up has seen the colourful buildings along Nelson Place filled with little other than restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours and bars, there is a real opportunity to taste something of Victoria’s maritime past, from the Timeball (formerly a lighthouse) at the end of the peninsula to C Blunt’s Boatbuilders, where a fifth generation of the Blunt family is still making and repairing wooden boats 150 years after the original Clement started up fresh off the boat from England. Even if it looks closed, try the door and if Greg’s in, he’ll make you more than welcome; stepping inside is like being transported back 100 years.

And, if you’re enthused with the spirit of the port’s seafaring ancestors (Williamstown was originally going to be the colony’s capital until a lack of fresh water swung the decision Melbourne’s way), Williamstown is reachable by ferry from Southgate on the Yarra or at weekends from St Kilda Pier. Who knows, if you talk nicely enough to the locals, they might even take you out in a boat of their own.

Despite the copious restaurants on offer some residents prefer to eat off bins

You can eat at the many restaurants, cafes and bars. Or, if that’s a bit posh, there are always the bins…

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