Just seven kilometres south-east of Melbourne's CBD lies a quaint, pocket-sized, leafy little wedge of a suburb called Ripponlea. Its main strip is a tiny truncated block of heritage buildings (check out the florist, a one-time pharmacy with the prettiest leadlight canopies) in the Jewish heartland on Glen Eira Road, a quiet patch of kosher delis, fruit shops and laundromats.
For a long time, the area was known more for the magnificent Rippon Lea Estate and, oddly, a three-hatted restaurant, than anything else. There was an Indian restaurant. There was a kooky, tiki-style little joint called the Beat Cafe. But, by and large, people were not coming to Ripponlea to brunch.
Then, about 18 months ago, the thaw began and cafes started to gently blossom. Here's what you can expect in this evolving enclave.
Spout is a cheery spot that will kick your tastebuds into overdrive with a fresh, invigorating breakfast menu with seasonal remixes. Bircher is bejewelled with blackberry, buckwheat pancakes are topped with maple-roasted strawberries, and spicy citrus black beans are served on quinoa corn bread. All this in a relaxed, bare brick fitout, with outdoor benches, cute service and a great soundtrack.
Spout, 48 Glen Eira Rd, 9523 8155
Across the road you'll find Follow the Leader, a super cute cafe kitted out in charcoal and citrus tones which extend into the breezy getaway courtyard out the back. Follow the Leader brews up a couple of excellent St Ali blends, perfect with something from the cake counter. It also serves sweet and easy lunches like caprese salad and zucchini tarts.
Just around the corner from the main drag, Hawk and Hunter is an expansive, airy, licensed café looking out onto Ripponlea's palm-lined, weatherboard train station. It's from the same people who brought Little Ox to Brighton and Lt Collins to Clayton and features an easy cafe menu of breakfast waffles with poached berries and lunch dishes like cauliflower fritters and braised lamb salad, as well as a fridge full of take home meals and some jaunty Acapulco chairs outside to hang out on if the weather's bright.
Follow the Leader, 65 Glen Eira Road, 9530 0415
Hawk and Hunter, 8-10 Glen Eira Avenue, 9528 2719
An afternoon's shopping for local treats
Considering the demographic, there's no shortage of fabulous kosher delis from which to stock up. Yumi's, the famous dip company, does a cracking trade, not only in its lush gluten and dairy-free dips, but also in its seafood – hunks of crumbed and fried fillets, marinated herring, gefilte fish. There's also Eshel, where you can pick up groceries as well as chicken soup and chopped liver, Klein's for take-home meals, and Kosher Delight for dessert slices and cake.
For classic sourdough bread, nab a loaf from Firebrand Sourdough Bakery, which has been baking since 1987 out of an original wood-fired 1930s oven using a 1970s sourdough starter! It's earthy and textural and regularly sells out so don't dally on the purchase. Swing into Bukuria Smallgoods to get some cold cuts to wedge into a chunk of warm Firebrand bread for an impromptu picnic.
For those with even the most remote interest in organic food, The Staple Store is a source of grainy delight run by a passionate, food-loving naturopath. BYO containers and bags and load up on nuts, pulses, fermented veg, almond butter, quinoa cookie mix and meal kits-in-a-jar.
Yumi's, 29 Glen Eira Road, 9523 6444
Eshel, 57-59 Glen Eira Road, 9532 9000
Klein's Gourmet Foods, 47 Glen Eira Road, 9528 1200
Kosher Delight, 75 Glen Eira Road, 9532 9994
Firebrand bakery, 69 Glen Eira Road, 9523 0061
Bukuria Smallgoods, 35 Glen Eira Road, 9532 9493
The Staple Store, 19 Glen Eira Road, 9523 0190
If you've had the foresight to plan your Ripponlea visit three months in advance, you may find yourself dining on the wondrous degustation menu at Attica, a restaurant with so many hats it could operate a backyard milliners. This unassuming location is the perfect spot for the restaurant that marches to the indie beat of a different drum. But if you're up for a more spur of the moment dinner, check out cosy, colourful Bala Da Dhaba – it's been bringing its tandoori dishes to the locals for years now. Going even more casual and old school, Ripponlea Fish Supply is a lovely chipper (check out the gorgeous black and white photo of the couple who run it, taken at Luna Park back in the day) and fresh fish supplier that also stocks sustainably fished and organic products.
Now that the nights are getting lighter and warmer, Follow the Leader's summer dinner menu is set to skew towards tapas – perfect for a sunset snack in the backyard – while meat lovers might want to hang out in the backyard of the Lyrebird Lounge where Senor BBQ fires up the Argentinian grill between 6pm and 9pm and cranks out spicy ribs, wings and chorizo sandwiches with chimichurri.
Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road, 9530 0111
Bala Da Dhaba, 63 Glen Eira Road, 9523 8683
Ripponlea Fish Supply, 49 Glen Eira Road, 9528 5625
While the coffee scene may have ramped up in Ripponlea, the late-night boozing certainly hasn't, which may go some way to preserving the charm of this tiny enclave. Your only option is ducking into the lovably ragged and kitschy Lyrebird Lounge, a bar with bamboo accents and a miniature stage playing host to some great local bands in a "feels like they're playing in your loungeroom" setting.
Lyrebird Lounge, 61 Glen Eira Road, 9532 7574