Waterfront City, Docklands.
Melbourne’s Docklands has copped some pretty strident criticism over the years, but on a nice summer’s day it can seem like a fine place to be – and maybe even a cool place to live.
Certainly, it appeals as somewhere between the CBD living that one of us still misses and the westie wonders that have become such a big part of our lives.
But food? That’s a different curry of fish completely.
Before we depart for the two-wheeled jaunt down Footscray Rd, I check out some of the places likely to provide tasty fare at Docklands. The prices scare me.
Bhoj, Mecca Bah,Yum Cha Dragon, Man Mo and more – we’d love to love you, but you’ll have to wait for a special occasion.
Wending our way towards the non-circulating Big Wheel – what a debacle! – we come face to face with the drab, mediocre side of the area.
Away from the undeniably attractive waterfront and its swish multi-million yots are dozens and dozens of clothing stores of no allure whatsoever.
And so we end up – again – in the food court area surrounding the non-operative wheel.
I’ve read stories about how the traders here have been devastated by the wheel farce, so have some sympathy. But I have sympathy, too, for the many young families seeking something tasty and affordable as the heat increases.
There’s franchises and chains like RFC and a bunch more, an interesting looking burger bar and even a Chilli Paddi outlet. But mediocrity seems as prevalent as it does in the retail therapy sector.
Last time we were here the meal we, ahem, “enjoyed” was so bad I prefer not to reveal its ethnicity.
This time we settle on the Turkish of Kebabbque. I try to rustle up some enthusiasm for the vegetarian platter for a touch over $15, but Bennie’s adamant – donner kebab with chilli sauce it will be. Going with the flow, I order the falafel equivalent, with a 600ml Pepsi putting our meal at $21.30.
Our wraps come in a surprising form – the meat/falafel, their salady buddies and sauce are wrapped in the flat bread, which is then sealed and heated. The result looks and handles something like a burrito. On the downside, the salad quotient can’t help but be a bit wilted; on the plus side, it makes for tidy and unmessy eating. Pretty cool!
Bennie’s lamb meal – fully packed with that traditional, unmistakeable flavour of a million kebab joints – is clearly superior to my forgettable chick pea patties.
Our meal is OK, but I suspect we’d have been better off with the $12 noodles or laksa at Chilli Paddi – if a few dollars lighter.
There may be various reasons for visiting Docklands – Lord knows we feel some kind of weird attraction ourselves – but great cheap eats is definitely not among them. If you’re up for some card-bashing, well fine …
Despite sitting under a transparent awning, we gain little or no protection from the sun while eating our lunch, so we are done well by its completion.
It’s a pleasure to head up the river where the greenery and water lends a coolness to the day. For the first time ever, we take Dynon Rd home. Despite the cars, barbed wire and industrial scenery, it turns out to be a surprisingly shady, leafy bicycle thoroughfare.
We stop at Happy River Cafe at the Footscray Community Arts Centre for an excellent $3.30 latte and a pricey but fine $5 caramel milkshake. We used to visit the various setups on these premises quite a lot – as we used to frequent cafes in general … in the days before places where English, even when spoken very well, is a second or even third language came to dominate our outings.
But scoping out a neighbouring table’s $19 lamb cutlets with cous cous and $13.50 ploughman’s lunch with envy, we figure a return visit is on the cards.
At Happy River Cafe (above); Bennie checks out some tree limbs (below).