Bordered by Collingwood, Richmond and Clifton Hill, Abbotsford is an inner-city burb on the up. Home to the iconic Skipping Girl and the artsy hub of Abbotsford Convent, there’s a lot to love about this gem of the north. Here you’ll find some of Melbourne’s best Thai and Vietnamese food, a killer boutique brewery, and the smashed avo of #foodporn fantasies. Read on, for our pick of the precinct.
Three Bags Full
Tucked on a quiet corner, the beloved Three Bags Full is without a doubt one of the best cafes in Abbotsford, boasting a seriously good cup of joe and a delicious breakfast menu dished up within a chic warehouse space. The smashed avo on Woodfrog Bakery toast is a must-order, served with Yarra Valley feta, cherry tomatoes, grilled corn and quinoa salsa. Make sure you grab a sweet treat from the cake cabinet on your way out.
Little Big Sugar Salt (LBSS)
What did we do before LBSS? Hidden among the Vietnamese restaurants and phone repair joints on Vic Street, it’s our go-to for a little bit of sugar or a lotta bit of salt. With a cute homey fitout, our picks of the quirky menu are the Acai Bowl—with gluten-free granola, coyo, pomegranate and fresh fruit—and the Shia Lebouf sanga—rare roast beef with pickled beets, horseradish aioli, rocket and shaved pecorino. Hungover friends, don’t despair, this Abbotsford café has you covered; the infamous Ron Swanson made the cut on the revamped menu. Renamed Governor R Swanson, this Croque Madame is on crack.
Flanked by Victoria Park station, this charming little Italian trattoria is a local fave. Plonk yourself in a booth and watch the crew at work in the open kitchen. Run by the mates behind Lorne’s Bottle of Milk, Rita’s is a casual spot for a hearty, wholesome feed. Housemade pastas are on offer, but the pizzas fly out the door. Pork Sausage for the win— pork and fennel sausage, chilli, tomato and stretchy mozzarella on a base that’s on the thicker and chewier end of the doughometer.
No sticky menus and unflattering lighting here; Jinda might just be the classiest Thai restaurant in Melbourne. The fit-out is gorgeous—all exposed brick and dove grey timber-clad walls with regal portraits and charming lanterns—and the authentic Thai cuisine is fresher than fresh and affordable to boot. Our faves include the rice paper rolls and soft shell crab; whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the layer cake. And get there early as the hungry hordes are all over it. (They do take bookings, but make sure you call a week in advance—you’ve been warned).
Mavis the Grocer
It was a while in the making, but Mavis the Grocer has finally flung open her cafe-cum-grocery doors. With the duo behind Lazerpig and The Grace Darling at the helm, we were expecting good things, and we haven’t been disappointed. It’s a cheery little spot that’s quickly cemented a place on our list of the best cafes in Abbotsford, with lemon weatherboard walls and huge street-facing windows, and a focus on local, sustainable produce. The pikelets are seriously droolworthy—served with honeycomb, strawberries and ricotta. Fall in love with the menu? You can pick up the ingredients to recreate at home. Or if you’re lazy (holla!), they’ll be doing take-home meals in the imminent future. You’d best get in early to soak up the sun in the courtyard once this infernal winter ends.
Admiral Cheng Ho
The northside sibling to the hugely popular Monk Bodhi Dharma, the Admiral Cheng Ho is known for its healthy, veg-based menu. Try the Crazy Jimbo: polenta bread with almond feta, sautéed kale, seasonal vegetables, tangy beetroot relish and basil cashew cream. Add some kombucha for an extra happy tum.
Mmm ramen. Delicious soupy, noodley goodness. Shizuku is one of the few Japanese joints on the Victoria Street strip, serving up a traditional menu (think octopus balls—the equivalent of Japanese street food), alongside a great selection of craft beer.
I’ve only recently discovered the joys of bibimbap. Bib-im-bap. Fun to say, even more fun to eat. With a second outpost in Northcote, Seoul Seoul is a groovy little Korean joint that does a darn tasty version.
Lentil As Anything
A Melbourne institution, Lentil As Anything is a not-for-profit eatery where you simply pay as you see fit. Based on a Utopian vision where everyone should have access to quality food regardless of bank balance, there are four restaurants across Melbourne—one located within the peaceful surrounds of Abbotsford Convent. Pile your plate with vegetarian fare and don’t be stingy! Some people, let’s call them a**hats, have been known to take advantage of the system. Shame. On. You.
Dr Morse ticks all the boxes: killer takeaway coffee joint by day, lazy weekend brunch spot with top notch toasties, quality eatery and heaving bar by night. Boasting one of Melbourne’s best beer gardens, their mussel nights and Sunday sessions are the stuff of legend, and their Aperol Spritz goes down waaaay to easily. The Dr hosts a bunch of great events throughout the year—check out their Facebook page to stay informed.
Moon Dog Brewery
The craft beer scene is alive and well in Melbourne, and Abbotsford’s home to one of our faves. In a bit of a dodgy spot, Moon Dog’s a creative little crafter that has garnered a following since launching five years ago. Tinkering with ingredients like watermelon and truffle to great effect, the bar is a lively affair and a bona fide Friday favourite for locals. All that froth got you feeling light headed? There’s free popcorn at the bar and an on-site pizza caravan to soak it all up.
The Retreat Hotel
A hidden gem of Abbotsford, The Retreat Hotel is an old-school, wood-panelled pub, perfect for enjoying a pint with a side of nostalgia. A true blue old man’s pub, in a good way, and a tightly-held local secret.
Doomed for residential development, Abbotsford pub icon The Terminus was saved by Sandhill Road and given a new lease of life by way of a stunning Techne Architects’ makeover. Step inside the pea-green façade and you’ll discover great pub grub (hot tip: pie floater) and a variety of different zones to tickle your fancy. The internal beer garden is a gorgeous leafy spot on a sunny day, while the joint heaves of a weekend. Drop by at 5pm on a Friday for Karma Keg time, when the Termi taps a keg of Carlton Draught and lets you decide how much you'll pay for a pot, with the moolah going towards community projects and charities. Feel good froths.
The Aviary Hotel is another Victoria Street sipper, boasting a bar, restaurant, beer garden and cocktail lounge. A Sunday session fave, pop it on your radar for tasty burgers and share plates. Wash it all down with the croissant and butter pudding with butterscotch sauce, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel peanuts for the win.
Lulie St Tavern
A low-key little local, Lulie Street Tavern is here for a good time not a long time, housed in a building set to be demolished in 2017. The basic brick walls, sparse greenery and concrete floors don’t diminish the good time vibes —in fact it’s a welcome respite from the cookie cutter Richmond pubs. Hungry? Feast on the free peanuts, or grab a pizza from the aforementioned Rita’s.
The Vic Bar
A super-chilled option on Victoria Street, the Vic’s the perfect spot for a pre-pho froth with mates. Mr Burger’s a regular (on Wednesdays and Fridays), and there’s live music and a bunch of deals on throughout the week. Fuss-free fun, Abbotsford style.
Collingwood Children’s Farm / The Farm Cafe
Cute animals. I repeat, cute animals. Any cafe located within an inner-city farm is a-ok in my books. After wandering the grounds along with all the frazzled urban parents trying to educate little Ollie on where food actually comes from—‘Yes son, that’s a cucumber’—stocking up on top notch free-range produce and handmade cheeses on market day (every second Saturday), it’s time to pram-jostle for a seat in the cafe. Technically in Abbotsford, it’s called the Collingwood Children’s Farm, probably for its superior alliterative value.
Nevertheless, the cafe is a gorgeous little spot worth waiting for a table. My personal pick is the Goat’s Toast—Goat’s curd, roasted beetroot relish, avocado smash, a poached egg and green herbs on seeded toast. If you’re not put off by Porky Pig around the corner, I’d suggest a side of bacon.
Abbotsford’s not really renowned for being a shopping destination, but Weylandts should be number one on any Melbourne interiors trail. The South African homewares emporium is housed in a former match factory on Gipps Street, with the space itself vast and incredibly impressive. There’s a great little cafe on site, and it’s probably a good idea to fuel up before poring over the beautifully curated range. There’s a real earthy element to the pieces, many of which would struggle to fit within a typical Fitzroy townie. Far more affordable than say, a Coco Republic, we might just move out to the burbs to accommodate that re-purposed tree trunk trestle table that seats 30.
The Abbotsford Convent & Shadow Electric
The artistic and cultural hub of Abbotsford, home to galleries, studios, eateries and more, the Convent is a spectacular sanctum, just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle. With gorgeous grounds that are a popular picnic spot, a handful of cafes and bars including Lentil As Anything and The Convent Bakery, Bursaria’s High Tea with a Twist held every third Sunday, a Supper Market with live entertainment and food stalls held Friday evenings throughout summer, and of course the ever-popular Shadow Electric Cinema and Bar, its many different faces appeal to all walks of Melbourne life.
If you want to drop some shrapnel, the Shirt & Skirt Market, held the third Sunday of every month, showcases the work of local emerging artisans, while the fourth Sunday sees the Slow Food Farmers Market roll around.
It’s just been announced that the glorious building itself, dating back to 1861, is under consideration for national heritage listing. About jolly time.
So, you think you can Melbourne? Check out these 47 Things You Should Have Done Beofre You Can Call Yourself A Melburnian.