The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

The Sweet Cycle 9 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Maribyrnong City Council regularly run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of FREE tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

Combining my passion for cycling and food I led a delicious tour with The Squeaky Wheel to discover some of the Westside’s best pastries, cakes, desserts and sweets. Here are some of our pics!

The Sweet Cycle 8 605x446 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

First stop – Footscay’s iconic Olympic Doughnuts for fresh jam doughnuts. Only 80c each!

The Sweet Cycle 16 605x657 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

The Sweet Cycle 17 605x648 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Second stop – Sourdough Kitchen Seddon, the only bakery in Melbourne that make sourdough pastries. Needless to say we packed doggie bags for takeaway.

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The Sweet Cycle 18 605x602 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Love the street art just around the corner too.

The Sweet Cycle 2 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

The Sweet Cycle 1 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Cycling through the backstreets of Seddon to Yarraville.

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The Sweet Cycle 6 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Third stop – Amazing cakes from Cobb Lane, an artisan bakery and patisserie in Yarraville Village. The tiramisu gets my vote!

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Busy bakers making their famous doughnuts.

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Fourth stop – right next door is Hello Gelo, one of the few ice cream stores in the west that make their product on site. Their most popular flavour? Salted caramel.

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Final stop – T Cavallaro & Sons for best cannoli in Melbourne. Here’s proprietor Tony Cavallaro presenting a cannoli cake! Lucky Joel.

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The Sweet Cycle 14 605x610 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

Also try the amaretti – they grind the almonds themselves and it creates a gorgeous chewy texture without the fake almond essence taste.

The Sweet Cycle 7 605x593 The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

 Keep an eye out on CycleStyle and The Squeaky Wheel‘s website for information about more cycling food tours in Melbourne’s west!

FREE Food Tours of Melbourne’s West – with me!

Maribyrnong City Council regularly run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of FREE tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

New tours are available for booking from today.

Westside Discovery Tours May 2015 1 605x639 FREE Food Tours of Melbourne’s West   with me!

I will be leading a cycling tour with The Squeaky Wheel to discover some of the Westside’s best pastries, cakes, desserts and sweets. Free tastings too!

The Sweet Cycle

When: Sat 9 May, 1.30 -3pm

Where: Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 10 places

The Artisan Bakery Bar Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015 Queensbridge Square Southbank 15 605x396 FREE Food Tours of Melbourne’s West   with me!

If you have kids I will also be leading a Culture Mamas tour of family-friendly Footscray. It’ll be a 1.5 hour walk covering some of my favourite places to take kids to eat, shop and play in my neighbourhood, with tastings en route.

Family Friendly Tour of Footscray

When: Mon 4 May, 10 – 11.30am

Where: Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 8 places

To book email susie.wickes@maribyrnong.vic.gov.au with your full name, street address, contact number and selected tour. Only one tour per person and not available for group bookings of 4+ people. For more information click here.

HOT: Heal.Thy Self Co., 26 Ballarat St, Yarraville

Heal.Thy Self Co. 26 Ballarat St Yarraville 1 HOT: Heal.Thy Self Co., 26 Ballarat St, Yarraville

If one of your New Years resolutions is to ‘eat better’ or ‘be healthier’ then Heal.Thy Self Co. is the place to head.

Despite my aversion to its pun- and punctuation-overdosed name, Heal.Thy Self Co. is worth a visit for its healthy, organic, often raw, mostly vegetarian food. Produce comes from their grocery neighbour Plump Organic.

Their smoothie, tea and juice menu is longer than their food menu but if you want your nutrients in solid form then there are still some interesting options.

I start with the Almond Crusted Chicken Schnitzel wrap ($10) because it sounds like something normal in amongst a dizzying array of superfood ingredients that are very ‘now’ – chia seed, maca powder, quinoa and acai.

Heal.Thy Self Co. 26 Ballarat St Yarraville 5 HOT: Heal.Thy Self Co., 26 Ballarat St, Yarraville

It turns out to be DIY wholemeal wrap with chunks of chicken, organic salad greens, cheese and almond butter dressing. Naturally delicious in its own right with a secondary benefit of being healthy.

For dessert I try the chocolate chia parfait which is gluten free, raw and dairy free ($14). This beautiful concoction contains the gelatinous gooeyness of soaked chia seeds, a rich dose of chocolate chia mousse, fresh berries, crunchy activated bukinis and topped with delicate edible flowers.

Heal.Thy Self Co. 26 Ballarat St Yarraville 3 HOT: Heal.Thy Self Co., 26 Ballarat St, Yarraville

I hope it’s good for me as it certainly doesn’t look like it will do my waistline any good. The fleshy chia seeds make the dish extremely filling and it could easily be shared between two. Unfortunately the chocolate chia parfait is not available any more, replaced with a more summery version minus the chocolate.

I enjoyed my lunch at Heal.Thy Self Co. as it makes enjoying healthy food easy and delicious. If you want to continue your well-being journey, at Heal.Thy Self Co. you’ll also find a naturopath, personal trainers, yoga teacher and shiatsu massage on site.

Heal.Thy Self Co. 26 Ballarat Street, Yarraville

Mon to Fri 6:30am – 4:00pm

Sat & Sun 7:30am – 4:00pm

minilink HOT: Heal.Thy Self Co., 26 Ballarat St, Yarraville

HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

Woven 175B Stephen St Yarraville 5 HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

Woven is a small cafe at the bottom of a newish warehouse conversion in Yarraville.

Woven 175B Stephen St Yarraville 6 HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

It feels like Collingwood without the high prices and cooler-than-thou attitude. They have fitted out the compact space with wood, brick, polished concrete and exposed beams, in keeping with its formerly industrial heritage. There are a few outdoor seats with umbrellas too.

Woven 175B Stephen St Yarraville 2 HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

The menu is small but interesting. I choose the tofu and kale gratin with a lemon, herb and toasted nut crust ($14) which sounded smugly healthy and an apt pitstop for those visiting Art of Cycling next door. I enjoyed the umami flavours of the gratin but found the texture a bit dry overall. I think a gooey poached egg on top would balance out all that crunchiness better.

Woven 175B Stephen St Yarraville 3 HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

RM decided on the Dr Marty’s Crumpets with honeyed mascarpone, pear and toasted walnuts ($13). I didn’t have a chance to try the crumpets as RM ate them too fast – so I suppose they were good! He informed me that the crumpets were toasted just right such that the wet ingredients didn’t make them soggy and the flavour combination wasn’t too sweet despite first appearances.

Woven 175B Stephen St Yarraville 1 HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

From 10am you can start digging into the lunch menu – salads ($14-$16), a ‘bang up burger’ with chips ($18.50) and sandwiches ($10). The kids menu was one of the cheapest I’ve seen in a while at $5.50 per item.

Woven is a small, neat space on a quiet residential street which will cater to the locals well. The menu is about $3-4 less than I’d expect for the quality of the food and coffee comes from specialty roaster Code Black Coffee in Brunswick.

Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville 

Every day 7am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Woven, 175B Stephen St, Yarraville

HOT: Westside Discovery Tours

Tours cover front 483x1024 HOT: Westside Discovery Tours

A few times a year Maribyrnong City Council run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of free tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

New tours and now available for booking now and covers topics as diverse as art, history and food.

IMG 5333 375x540 HOT: Westside Discovery Tours

I will be leading a tour which combines my passion for food and cycling! With my friends at The Squeaky Wheel I will be taking a small group on an 1.5 hour eating and cycling tour of Footscray, my home and one of the most diverse and delicious suburbs in Melbourne.

PEDALLING FOOTSCRAY’S FOOD ICONS is a fun way to explore Footscray’s food culture – from doughnuts to goi cuon to cannoli. Bring your appetite and your bike and get ready to eat, shop and ride!

Sat 25 Oct, 12.30pm – 2pm

Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 10 places

To book your place on a tour email susie.wickes@maribyrnong.vic.gov.au

For more information about the tours visit www.festivalcity.com.au, www.cyclestyle.com.au and www.thesqueakywheel.com.au

Tours Oct2014 inside 965x1024 HOT: Westside Discovery Tours

HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

 Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 2 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

Suburban Yarraville has sprouted a inner-north-like hipster haven called Butcher 128. The cafe has been converted from an old butcher’s shop and some of the signage is still intact. It’s located at number 128 Roberts Street. Simple equation = Butcher 128.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 7 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 9 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

The front room is all aqua and black subway tiles and naked bulb lights with a steel butcher’s rack hanging over the coffee counter.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 12 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

The back dining area lets the butchery aesthetic go for some wooden built-ins, an awesome combination of wooden banquettes and alcoves.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 3 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

I particularly liked the high communal table with an inbuilt herb garden hiding little dinosaur visitors.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 5 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 1 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

As a former Fitzroy resident, I felt right at home in the uber-cool decor. Better still, so did my kids, as it was a very child-friendly cafe, with high chairs, change facilities, kids menu and even a sandpit out the back.

The menu was split into breakfast from the deli, breakfast from the kitchen, lunch from the deli and lunch from the kitchen – basically a choice between hot meals and cold meals/baked goods.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 10 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

I ordered the hot smoked salmon with a tangy pickled beetroot relish, Persian feta, avocado and two perfect sous vide poached eggs ($16.50). The waiter told me that cooking the eggs sous vide means that they can be done in advance and just gently reheated while the yolk remains gorgeously runny and the whites just set (Correction: the owner told me “the reason they sous vide our eggs is not so that we can prepare in advance, but water bathing the eggs to our specific recipe before we poached them to order gives us better yolk consistency and texture every time (in our opinion)”). These were some of the best poached eggs I’ve had in a while.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 4 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

T opted for a simple croissant with ham and brie ($8) which was nothing remarkable though the croissant (from Noisette I believe?) was flaky and buttery.

Butcher 128 128 Roberts St Yarraville 11 HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

The coffee comes from boutique roaster of Maling Room.

Butcher 128 is a great addition to Yarraville and is just off the bike path too. In that sense it fits my criteria for the perfect cafe – child-friendly, bike-friendly plus of course with good food and service.

Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville (03) 9318 0975

Tuesday-Friday 7am-3pm

Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Butcher 128, 128 Roberts St, Yarraville

HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 1 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

Kingsville is a sleepy little triangle sandwiched between Yarraville, Seddon and West Footscray. Within that sandwich is a tiny strip of shops on Somerville Road and within that tiny strip of shops is a fantastic Greek bakery and cafe called Olive Oil and Butter.

You can’t miss it because when it opens in the mornings (7am weekdays, 8am weekends) the flashing Hollywood lights get switched on along the front awning. It’s Vegas meets Kingsville!

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 8 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

Inside the decor has a few touches of Hellenic culture on the walls and wooden tables tightly tucked in together. The focus is all about appreciating the long cabinet of savoury items like pies and rolls and array of Greek pastries and sweets. Their Facebook page is droolworthy!

Last weekend they launched their all-day breakfast menu and we were really impressed by our meal. The sort of dishes that you don’t see everywhere (no smashed avo to be seen), beautifully presented and very reasonably priced – in a trendier area you’d easily be paying $3-$5 more for the same food. The kitchen is run by the young owner’s Greek mum.

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 5 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

We tried the Kalamboki, roasted corn polenta with grilled avocado, gigantes, romesco salsa ($15) with an option for adding a poached egg for $2.50. It was a hearty dish of slow baked butter beans in a tomato and oregano sauce with a mound of creamy polenta, kernels of grilled corn scattered about and then my favourite touch – a sprinkling of fried shallots and shredded spring onion – which gave it an almost Asian twist.

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 9 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

For sweet tooths I highly recommend the Tiganites, fluffy Greek pancakes drizzled with pomegranate seeds steeped in honey, a dash of marscapone and candied walnuts ($14.50). Those pancakes were much fought over at our table that I even considered ordering a second serving!

Even the museli isn’t run of the mill – its made of boiled wheat with toasted almonds, berry compote, sultanas, honey and poached pear ($13.50). A dish worth trying if you’re a bit of a muesli snob like me.

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 2 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

We tried a round of their spanakopita ($9) with a light spinach and feta filling twisted around home made filo pastry. It’s large so an item to be shared.

Of course while you’re there you should try some of their Greek sweets which are made from scratch in the kitchen on site.

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 3 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

Their koulourakia came in several forms – little twists of crumbly cinnamon-spiked shortbread or vanilla and orange scented rounds. Perfect for dunking in your coffee or tea. If you don’t like sweet biscuits then try the kritsinia – sesame covered bread sticks.

Olive Oil and Butter 196 Somerville Rd Kingsville 7 HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

Unfortunately my appetite didn’t allow me to try their baklava or kataifi but I couldn’t leave without having a slice of galatoboureko. The slab of custard filo pastry was huge but I think the pastry had been sitting in the fridge for too long and had gone soggy. The semolina custard filling was just right, not too sweet and creamy but sturdy.

Being a family business the service at Olive Oil and Butter was friendly and welcoming and they were great with our traipsing, messy kids too. It’s a suburban gem and full of homemade Greek goodness. We’ll be back!

Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville 03 9315 1060

Mon – Fri: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sat – Sun: 8:00 am – 3:30 pm

minilink HOT: Olive Oil and Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville

HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 2 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

The Eagle Has Landed. Matt Forbes, British baker and pastry chef extraordinaire and whose wares have been popping up all over Melbourne’s best cafes, has opened up his own bakery café in Yarraville and called it Cobb Lane.

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 5 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

The name evokes a cosy, slightly hidden establishment wafting aromas of freshly baked cob loaves and that’s exactly what you get. The 16 seater café looks warm and inviting and is a soothing mix white brick and blonde wood. I particularly liked the cartoonish pale blue pendant lamps twisted into comical asymmetry – for some reason they brought to mind Dr Seuss!

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 1 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

Most importantly, the space was filled to the brim with delicious baked goods from doughnuts to pastries to cakes to bread. Oh my!

If you’re dining in then the tightly written menu is also excellent. The fare sounds simple – toast (of course), house made granola, salmon on rye – but is well done.

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 4 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

I ordered the creamed corn with kipflers ($17) and it was simply perfect – a creamy melange of house made creamed corn, gently poached pullet egg, softened leeks finished off with a liberal dusting of parmesan and sourdough croutons. You can opt for bacon lardons for an extra $2.50 but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Not content to pick a favourite when I inspect the glass cabinet I decide to take almost one of everything (we had visitors after all).

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 3 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

Highlights included the yuzu and white chocolate tart was decadent with a touch of tartness ($7.50) – an interesting twist from the ubiquitious lemon tart, the earl grey and hazelnut sponge with a passionfruit cream and bedecked with a milk chocolate hat ($8), the chocolate tart spiced with cardamom and hiding a slick of salted caramel between the pastry – so rich it really deserves to be shared ($7.50) and the springy carrot cake with a frilly top of cream cheese, walnuts and candied orange peel ($5).

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 7 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

Being April they are currently selling hot cross buns ($3.50) – a soft, lightly spiced and fruit studded rendition of the Easter treat. I rate them highly.

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 8 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

The sandwiches are made to order and both the smoked mushroom with tomato, hommus and cos ($10) and rare beef with horseradish, shallots and sorrel ($11) were delicious, with thickly sliced crusty bread holding the well-balanced fillings in place. We accompanied our sandwiches with a small side of salad made of toothsome barley and buckwheat tossed with strips of zucchini and diced tomato ($5).

Cobb Lane 13 Anderson St Yarraville 6 HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

And finally those famed doughnuts ($4.50)? Crispy and chewy fluff balls deliciously filled and leaving a tell-tale trail of sugar, they alone are worth the trip across town.

I hope that they will start selling the desserts in a jar that they showcased at Taste of Melbourne and the waitress assured me that they’re always looking to expand their range. In the meantime, there’s lots to love at Cobb Lane, whether you have a sweet tooth or not.

Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville (03) 9689 0664

Tuesday to Friday 7.30am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday 8.30am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Cobb Lane, 13 Anderson St, Yarraville

HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06681v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

Read Part 1 of the tour here.

Another quick train ride to Spotswood then St John’s Op Shop (612-614 Melbourne Rd, Spotswood). ‘Great variety of household goods’ is an accurate description, with ‘variety’ being the operative word. This is an OCD sufferer’s nightmare.

DSC06657v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06660v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

The rabbit warren of a shop was full of surprises – an extensive collection of white shoes (apparently a local shoe store closed down and donated all of their stock), a veritable forest of clothing (another vintage scarf to add to my collection $5), a jumble of furniture out the back and boxes of haberdashery hidden away under shelves groaning with discarded VHS tapes – including this gem ‘A New Tax System – “How To Series””. Any buyers? Anyone?

DSC06652v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06661v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06669v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06676v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06674v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

1pm and a well-earned lunch stop at Cafe Miers (85 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood). This light and airy cafe serves Fairtrade coffee and simple cafe fare – toasted sandwiches/foccacias, pastries and muffins. I’m not sure it’s worth a special trip but it served our purposes well as we replenished our dimishing energy reserves and compared purchases.

Heave ho to Yarraville for Bargain Browser (9 Anderson St, Yarraville +61 3 9687 6307). This was a queer beast, stocking a mix between dollar shop junk and genuine op shop items. I wasn’t much inspired by the racks of Bridget Jones style grandma underpants and boxes of scented candles, but I did spot an unworn pair of Aldo canary yellow stilettos in my size. How could I resist, they were only $15!

DSC06689v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06687v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

Last stop, Footscray Salvos (199 Barkly St, Footscray +61 3 9689 7811) and then the Savers (The Recycle Superstore!) for those with more energy (33 Albert St, Footscray +61 3 9689 6811). Footsore and laden with purchases, I decided to forego the Savers and only go went to the Salvos, where I picked up a copy of Alan Hollinghurst’s 2004 Booker prize winner ‘The Line of Beauty’ for $4.

DSC06697v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

I can definitely see the appeal of  Melbourne Op Shop Tours for those of us who are not dedicated op shoppers. The tour combined a large variety of op shops, from well known superstores to undiscovered nooks, and with Jenny as our organised tour guide the whole trip ran very smoothly.   I think everyone went home with a bargain and ended the day on a happy note. Best of all, we helped a lot of charities on the way!

PS Here’s a pic of my $15 yellow shoes, matched with a Cylk dress from Eco Fashionista. Unexpected colour combination, but I think it works!

DSC07492v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours (Part 2), Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06551v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

Fashionistas know that the surest way to score a one-of-a-kind outfit is to scour old shops and vintage stores. Melbourne Op Shop Tours helps you take up the op shop challenge by running small group (max 10 people) tours through various areas of Melbourne. What makes it different from other op shop tours is that instead of being herded around on a big coach, the service is more personal and the tour is conducted with the careful coordination of public transport timetables – which means that your recycled shopping experience is super eco-friendly.

Melbourne Op Shop Tours invited me to one of their tours to experience it for myself, and I decided to follow tour guide Jenny along to the Inner West – a completely unknown part of Melbourne as far as I was concerned.

Starting at 10am at North Williamstown station, we headed to the Williamstown Uniting Church Op Shop (75 Stevedore St, Williamstown +61 3 9397 8066). The first thing I spotted inside this tiny op shop were some Number 14 bentwood chairs. The hooped back chair was designed by Michael Thonet in the 19th century and is now a design classic, to be found in many cafes. The two chairs remaining from the original set of eight cost $5 each! I was so excited that I could have gone home right there and then, mission accomplished.

DSC06560v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

A quick train ride to Newport then a stroll through suburban streets to the Newport Neighbourhood House and Opportunity Shop (40 Challis Avenue, Newport +61 417 032 617). Jenny’s favourite op shop is easy to miss because it just looks like your standard low-set weatherboard house. But now I’m sharing the secret with you – enter through the garden gate and you’ll find yourself in the biggest jumble sale of your life. It would take hours to sift through the rooms of men’s clothes, kid’s clothes, shoes, glassware, kitchenware, toys and women’s clothes – we’re talking mountains, tables, shelves and boxes of stuff everywhere you look.

DSC06639v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

A little overwhelmed, I decided to focus on women’s scarves and came away with three to my liking ($1 each) while also picking up a silver cake stand ($5) and small cut glass ice bucket ($5).

DSC06628v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

DSC06638v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

In a feat of op-shopping strength, one of our tour members Nathan (an intrepid and experienced op shopper) decided to tip out the whole box of ties in order to do a thorough sorting on the floor. In the end, he came away with 47 ties ($1 each) which included designer ties from YSL and Versace. What does a man do with that many ties? Nathan’s strategy is to wear them all once, clean them up and sell them on eBay for around $10-$15 each. So even if you’re not necessarily into the charity aspect of op shopping, it seems that with a bit of effort it can be a lucrative hobby.

DSC06647v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

Also, check out these fabulous, unworn shoes found on top of the mountain of shoes spilling out from under the verandah. These beautiful heels cost $2. I’m so jealous!

DSC06684v1 HOT: Melbourne Op Shop Tours, Inner West, Williamstown to Footscray

This was easily the winning shop for me – it’s so good that if you’re a keen op shopper, it’s worth making a trip especially to carefully work your way through the house.

Read more about the rest of the tour tomorrow in Part 2.