A rare pocket of Melbourne’s industrial heritage, Guildford Lane is now a secluded green oasis of 21st century pleasures. From the cafe set to cycling enthusiasts, cat fanciers and art-and-design devotees, you’re welcome.
Seemingly far removed from the nearby bustle of Melbourne Central Station, Guildford Lane runs east-west between Queen Street and laneway-like Sutherland Street. Warehouses and factories, mostly red brick and a few storeys high, were built here during the late 19th and early 20th century. It’s now a rare example of the CBD’s industrial heritage, including remnant vintage signage.
Early this century, Guildford Lane was known for its small contemporary art galleries. In recent years, many of the buildings have been sympathetically converted into residential apartments, alongside some excellent street-level cafes.
In 2017, those characterful but hard industrial surfaces were brightened and softened through the City of Melbourne’s Green Your Laneway pilot program. Dozens of plants now flourish in pots, window boxes and a compact green roof, and soak up diverted rainwater. There’s also Mike Makatron’s big mural of an overgrown factory painted on an old substation door. It adds an illusion of depth and more green to the alley, while also honouring Guildford Lane’s industrial heritage.
Named after renowned furniture-maker Schulim Krimper, this cafe is as much a destination for design devotees as foodies. The space was home to Guildford Lane Gallery, but its longer history as a sawmill, then a cabinetmaking factory, is more obvious. Exposed brick, wooden beams, polished concrete, metal pulley wheels and a lift car are joined by vintage industrial-style lighting and upcycled furniture. Krimper‘s food and drinks are classic Melbourne cafe, from smashed avo to smoked chicken salad, Proud Mary coffee to some choice cocktails.
Cat Cafe Melbourne
Desperate to decompress? Felines can show us humans a thing or two about relaxing, so get some tips at Australia’s first cat cafe. Fifteen rescue kitties are ready for pats, play and snoozing on laps at Cat Cafe Melbourne, but bookings are essential. There are also drinks and treats for their two-legged friends, and a shop full of purrfect gifts for cat lovers.
Established in London in 2004, Rapha is a celebration of road cycling, from sport’s legends to everyday peddlers. Melbourne’s Rapha Australia clubhouse is one of about 20 permanent locations around the world. There’s a sleek cafe serving good coffee, snacks and light meals, Rapha gear and accessories, and regular events, including workshops and exhibitions. A wave of wheels and lycra in Guildford Lane probably means one of the clubhouse’s organised rides is heading out or returning.
Just around the corner in Sutherland Street …
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts raises the bar on that classic combination. Their donuts, including choux pastry-based French crullers, are made fresh throughout the day, using quality, natural ingredients. Yum! If you’re looking for a healthy alternative, head to Raw Trader. They specialise in organic, raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free desserts and treats. They even do donuts!