All of Melbourne is indelibly imbued with history but the Flemington/Newmarket area has a particularly interesting past. After thousands of years of custodianship by the Doutta Galla tribe of the Wurundjeri people (who now give their name to the local health service and pub), white settlement began in earnest in the 1850s. A number of beautiful heritage buildings still stand in the local area. Stroll up Wellington Street and check out the corner post office and this courthouse and lockup complex, complete with Byzantine-style cupolas.
Photo from Flemington Heritage, a project of the Flemington Association. Permission for use sought and granted
Newmarket Saleyards (see the city in the background!)
Image held by Melbourne Library Service (original here). Permission for use sought and granted
Flemington's train station is called Newmarket. My parents still remember when the housing estates that now sit on either side of Epsom Road were literally the "new market" - an enormous livestock market that was relocated from its original site at the Vic Market in the 1850s. At one stage it was apparently the world's biggest livestock market. Look down next time you drive along Epsom Road and you'll see part of the cobbled walk where hundreds of thousands of animals made their way to slaughter. The market was only closed in 1987 with declining profits and complaints about the smell. Read more with this great interview from ABC Landline, as well as Museum Victoria.
Pin Oak Crescent, hugging the curve of the railway line, is lovely to wander up. Soon you'll come across another slice of Flemington history - Girdwood's Hygienic Library, where citizens could borrow books with the comfort of knowing they had been wiped with formaldehyde between borrowers. This was part of a phenomenon of the 30's and 40's of private libraries in Melbourne where you could pay to join and then borrow books as normal - here with the added benefit of knowing all traces of others' grubby mitts has been obliterated. Read more here at the State Library's La Trobe Journal.
The Girdwood's Hygienic Library sign still remains on this gorgeous Art Deco building, but now it's home to Pepper. Despite it being a rainy Tuesday, it was filled with a happy hubbub of locals, stopping in for a leisurely brunch or swinging past for takeaway coffees.
Pepper has an older-style Melbourne cafe feel, with big brekky plates, focaccias stuffed fit to bursting and great wheels of cake in the glass cabinet.
There are a number of cosy corners to hole up in, including a sunlit back room, still with its original Art Deco details. Pepper is great for kids, with cheerful orange plastic cups for water and freshly sharpened pencils.
Mushroom salad, $12
The brunch receptors in my brain were crying out for bacon, maple syrup and oodles of cheese (preferably all on the same plate). Instead I was virtuous and picked a salad, which turned out to be delicious. The perfectly-cooked, slippery little sliced button mushies, still warm from the pan, married perfectly with really fresh walnuts (old nuts have a bad rancid taste - not here), curled baby spinach and rich shaved Parmesan, all in a sweet balsamic dressing. Loved this combo - you could put it through risotto or pasta for a great dinner. It got hoovered up in record time.
Poached eggs with mushrooms, $11
My kids are seriously bipolar when it comes to vegetables. One minute they cannot get enough of, say, red capsicum, and then the next week they will scream as if I have put severed fingers on their plate. Thankfully 'tis the season of the mushroom at the moment and they were happy to share some poached eggs and simply sautéed buttons.
Pepper is a genuine, local cafe in a gorgeous pocket of Melbourne. I've stopped by before in the warmer months, where you can loll on the outside tables of an afternoon, order a glass of wine and bask in summer evening sunlight. They're open on Thursday and Friday evenings for pizzas and baked spuds.
Often people challenge (always good naturedly, I must say!) the fact that I consider North Melbourne, Flemington and Kensington part of the west. My reasoning is if I traverse somewhere on the way home from the city to the west, it's west (can someone please design me a really circuitous route that takes in Abbout Felafel House?!). As further evidence, I give you this gorgeous heritage sign. Spot the W.1 which stands for "West 1", as in London's postcode system which divides the city up into four main quadrants. Apparently Melbourne had the same system before the standardisation of postcodes in the 1960s. So if it's good enough for Flemington's town planners, it's good enough for me. :-P
44 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Phone: 9372 2726
Hours: Mon-Wed 7am-4pm, Thurs-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat & Sun 8am-4pm
Disclosure: This post is the second in a series of three for Australian Mushroom Growers' "Mushroom Mania" campaign. I had free choice of any three participating Victorian restaurants and was required to choose at least one dish in which mushrooms were the "hero" ingredient. I am being paid a flat sum for my writing which does not include meal expenses. The restaurants were not aware of exactly who was visiting and when but may have been aware that they would be reviewed at some stage over the course of the campaign period. Australian Mushroom Growers and Pepper have not sought nor been given any editorial control of this post.
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