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We uncover one of Melbourne's best food stops -- Barkly Street

Recently, I was asked by my friend, “What is Melbourne’s sweetest charm?” 

The question could’ve been answered in many ways, but one stood out from the rest: Our expansive restaurant and bar scene. Fine dining pubs? We’ve got it. Family-run authentic eats? Aplenty. Somewhere to cosy down with great cocktails and music? Well, that’s what we do best. This week I’m sharing one of Melbourne’s best faces -- Barkly Street.

Drop by Bar Josephine on your way home, a cherished child of Barkly Street in Footscray. The bar is intriguing with its almost cage-like aesthetic, and the deep lighting, calming blue walls, and red leather seats are enchanting. No doubt you’ll hear some woozy rock to cradle you through their huge selection of unique beers on tap. It’s easy to end up staying for hours.

Barkly Street shows all sides of our authentic and contemporary food-scene – with most stores being family-operated restaurants, butchers and seafood markets. One of note is Pho Hung Vuong Saigon, where I head for the best in Vietnamese cuisine. Don’t be startled upon walking in with their staff yelling in bursts, moving around quickly – the restaurant’s energy aims for nothing less. Once seated by their quick service enjoy complimentary hot green tea while flipping through their menu. Usually, I’ll order combination spring rolls (the fresh lettuce, crunching against deep-fried delicacies) before moving onto the classic dishes – what this restaurant sticks to, and does best – like pho or vermicelli salad (pork is best). Their rice dishes, particularly the pork chops with fried egg and then more shredded pork, is notable.

You may also notice down Barkly Street that, although authentic, around one in ten stores pops with a more modern feel; perhaps somewhere slower, to spend time in. The Plough – contrary to its name – is splendid. The pub, which wraps the corners of Barkly Street and Princes Hwy, boasts heritage since 1868, but also reinvigoration, having reopened in April 2013 after six months of renovation – charming and well-respected among the community. The Plough is known for serving great seafood bites, like seared scallops (with morcilla, celeriac, wild rice and nashi), and fried calamari (with flatbread, baba ghanoush, pickled red onion and dill yoghurt). For mains, go with their grill offerings; 300g porterhouse (with hand cut chips, salad and choice of red wine, mushroom or pepper sauce); 280g hanger steak (with white bean puree, brussel sprouts, bacon and nettle butter); 220g eye fillet (with confit kipflers, charred broccolini and bordelaise sauce); or 12-hour beef short rib (with smoked potato, parsley crust, horseradish and onion rings).