Melbourne’s Yarraville and Sydney’s Marrickville have been named among the 10 coolest neighbourhoods in the world but sorry Sydneysiders, Melbourne came out on top.
The Time Out rankings this year declared Yarraville fifth coolest and Marrickville 10th, although Sydney placed better than last year when it was snubbed entirely.
Footscray, nearby Yarraville, was named as the 13th coolest spot in the world last September.
The neighbourhoods stand among giants like Esquerra de l’Eixample in Barcelona, Downtown LA and Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong.
The list is devised by a survey of 38,000 city dwellers, and this year being stuck at home for the pandemic played a part in the rankings.
Much like Esquerra de l’Eixample, Yarraville has been a haven for its residents during the city’s two lockdowns.
Yarraville resident Lee Smith-Moir, who helped put the suburb on the map, said its natural beauty, parks and community feel had made it a pleasant place to wait out the pandemic.
“It’s like Byron Bay used to be,” she said. “People ran away from the city to Byron, but now people are running to Yarraville. It’s near the city but there’s a lot of not-city people here.”
Ms Smith-Moir’s “Smile Mile” was mentioned in the Time Out list, an ironically half-mile stretch of walking trail around Cruickshank Park she decorated with signs to make people smile.
The signs feature quotes and quips, and are hidden to give kids and parents something to do.
For example: “Did you know everyone has a type of pasta they hate?” Ms Smith-Moir said. “Then you hear people talking to other people on the trail too and if they’re near the sign about the pasta they’ll start connecting with each other. It’s an interesting phenomena.”
Ms Smith-Moir was also regularly leaving surprises and activities for kids to do while at the park.
Mabu Mabu restaurant also contributed to Yarraville’s cred, and owner Nornie Bero said it was a given that the little village’s atmosphere was worth the accolades.
“I didn’t know we were going to be on the world stage. But I’ve always thought we were really cool anyway,” she said. “I’ve always loved the village and that’s why we chose to be here.”
Ms Bero and her team were pushing boundaries in Australian cuisine by being one of few Indigenous-owned restaurants using native ingredients.
“I suppose Melbourne has been waiting for a long time for someone like us to come to the fore,” she said. “There’s not that many. Only 1 to 2 per cent of businesses in the natives industry are owned by Indigenous people.
“I wanted to make sure the natives industry is taken out of fancy restaurants.”
The acclaimed Navi Restaurant received a nod and owner Julian Hill agreed with Ms Smith-Moir’s assessment of the area.
“It’s got the parks, the river, a cool little village and the surrounding suburbs are awesome,” he said. “It’s a nice little place to be locked down.”
Mr Hill had felt supported through the lockdown but said the neighbourhood shone when it was open.
“The community has rallied behind us which is nice. We have a tasting menu for two and we also have a bakery. There’s been full-on support from everyone around here,” he said. “All I want is to open up again.
“It’s great to have the support in the community. But being able to be around the community and to go to the cinema again … the area thrives when the village is pumping.”
Sydney scraped into the top 10 list courtesy of the inner-west suburb of Marrickville, seven kilometres from the CBD.
The postcode has been long known for its multiculturalism which helped it crack the list out of hundreds of other suburbs in the harbour city.
Time Out said its diversity was “surely the X-factor behind its ascent as Sydney’s trending suburb”.
The suburb is home to Vietnamese, Greek and Portuguese Australians, according to the 2016 census, and locals and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat and drink.
Cuong Nguyen, long-term resident and co-founder and executive chef of Vietnamese restaurant Hello Auntie, said parts of the migrant community had remained the same while the suburb had gentrified.
“I’ve been living in Marrickville since 1995 and it’s always been a diverse melting pot of cultures, even back then,” he said. “All the cultures that were initially there in the ’90s, there are still remnants of them now.”
Sydney hospitality billionaire Justin Hemmes has taken an interest in the area, buying local pub Vic On The Park in 2017 for more than $22 million.
It has also faced development pressures since 2018 with thousands of proposed new homes to be built on a tract of once-industrial land.
Mr Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, will be celebrating the restaurant’s fifth anniversary this October.
Marrickville was not considered a “cool” place to live even in the 2000s like it was now, Mr Nguyen said.
“Before there was a lot of crime in the early, mid-1990s. It was a really rough area.”
The suburb is also home to music and arts venues, which has seen arts and culture thrive in the area.
Lazy Bones Lounge Restaurant and Bar owner and resident Craig Peterson, who opened the space in 2012, said the community had always existed but was never recognised for its value.
“It has always been there. It’s never been respected as a cultural space … now it has,” Mr Peterson said. “You can cut the atmosphere with a knife.
“It’s very communal. It’s what Australia represents – multiculturalism, interaction of the arts and culture.”
Lazy Bones, which employs dozens of musicians throughout the week, took a big hit during the lockdown, Mr Peterson said, but was back operating at a third of normal capacity.
“We are essential to people’s mental health. That is so important,” he said. “The amount of support we give to people who need to listen to music and the arts is amazing.”
The suburb has also seen the number of breweries explode in recent years, according to Andrew Fineran, co-founder and director of Batch Brewing Co, the first in Marrickville.
“There’s an endless amount of experiences you can have here in an urban environment at the doorstep of the city. It’s fantastic,” he said. “The food scene was already pretty strong. Ten breweries have opened up in the past seven years and a distillery.
“It’s definitely changed.”
Image: Melbourne’s Yarraville.