Manchester Press cafe, Melbourne, Victoria © Visit Victoria
Melbourne's best laneway secrets
From rooftop bars to basement boutiques, Melbourne's laneways are filled with one-of-a-kind experiences.
By Ute Junker
There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to Melbourne's lively laneways: you never know what lies around the next corner. You might come across a cobbler creating made-to-measure shoes, or a talented chef reinventing Indian favourites. There's really only one thing that's certain – you'll find something new every time. To make the most of your laneways experience, add these under-the-radar finds to your to-do list.
Discover ever-changing art
Some of Melbourne's laneways are so busy they feel more like main streets. Not Union Lane. Walk down this quiet thoroughfare and you find yourself in a different world, dominated by the ever-changing street art that covers every wall. You might even bump into an artist creating a new work as you watch. While the colourful creations are more vibrant during the day, a night-time stroll is an interesting experience, with the occasional lit window acting as a spotlight to highlight particular artworks.
Taste Melbourne's famous coffee
Step into this converted warehouse in Rankins Lane and you will immediately understand why Manchester Press café is always full. The high ceilings and oversized wooden tables create a welcoming feel, but what really keeps its devoted followers coming back is the fabulous coffee and the tasty selection of bagels.
Browse a hidden boutique
Nestled in a tiny shopfront in Crossley Street is Lucy Folk. Paint-chipped brick walls encase Folk's eclectic jewellery range, crafted for shoppers seeking one-of-a-kind designs. Look for a pale blue doorway and neon pretzel sign to find something completely unique to bring home.
Climb to a garden in the sky
This offshoot of the much-loved Loop art space has become almost more popular than its big sister. Climb the long staircase in Meyers Place and you will emerge into Loop Roof, a verdant oasis framed against a striking view of the city skyline. The cocktail list continues the garden theme. The specialty of the house is juleps, which come in unusual variations such as herbaceous (dill, cucumber and capsicum), and earthy (beetroot and walnut).
Seek out fusion flavours
You might expect a laneway restaurant to be a cosy, intimate affair, but that's not the way Tonka restaurant operates. Tucked away in the little-visited Duckboard Place, Tonka is an airy room with a sleek fit-out and a sophisticated menu that draws on chef Adam D'Sylva’s Indian heritage, mixed with influences from around the world. Try the feather-light soft-shell crab pakoras and the smoky cardamom-scented lamb neck curry.
Shop for modern men's fashion
Captains of Industry, located in a loft perched high above Somerset Place, is a one-stop shop for modern men of style. Come here for a classic barber shop shave or a haircut and you might end up ordering a bespoke pair of shoes, or picking up some hip men's jewellery or Japanese denim. The stripped-back space also hosts a small café.
Wander a leafy laneway
Many of Melbourne's laneways give off an artsy alternative vibe, but one laneway is brightening its alley with green. Part of the 'Green Your Laneways' campaign, Guilford Lane has become home to potted plants, window boxes and creeping vines. Within the urban oasis you'll find equally pleasant cafés. Krimper features tables made from recycled lift doors and a menu of hearty yet fresh breakfast and lunch options, while Cat Café Melbourne – as the name suggests – houses rescue cats that wander freely throughout the two-storey premises.