In the eastern outskirts of St Kilda, bordering Balaclava and Windsor, is the home area of Angela Zheng. She’s a westernised Chinese girl/woman/lady/crazy dancer who is most definitely a true ‘Melburnian’. After finishing four years at art school she’s now doing her post-graduate studies in counseling. She loves to do everything (we’re not kidding here), although if she has to pick she has to say eating, drinking, dancing, hiking and taking photos are her top 5 past times.
So, where do you live?
I’ve lived in the leafy south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne on and off for about 16 years. In between I have also lived in the States, Canada, China and Germany, though those experiences were during my adolescence, so if you were to ask me how it was all I could probably recall would be the small (but very dramatically exciting) world of a spoiled but lonely teenager.
When I first moved back to Melbourne after living in a small, quaint German village for three years, I was so incredibly overwhelmed by its fast pace, dense population and laneway bars, clubs and cafes that I immediately found the city to be intimidating and uninviting, like it was constantly having a party and I wasn’t invited. After a few years of sulking, however, I stopped waiting for an invite and started to venture into these places on my own. It was then that realised that this city is really what you make of it. Of course this is easiest when you’ve got money – if you can afford it Melbourne is like a massive playground – but Melbourne’s also got such a culture of festivals, food, music, art and creation that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.
Plus when you get sick of it (read: the hipsters) all you have to do is drive a few hours away and you’re in some truly spectacular parts of country Victoria (the Otways and the Grampians being my personal favourites).
Street in East St Kilda | Photo: Angela Jia Zheng
How did you end up in St Kilda East?
After having lived in St Kilda proper (off of the notoriously sexy Grey and Fitzroy streets) I chose to move to East St Kilda for its domesticity, proximity to other “hip” inner-city areas, and price. It’s also in my opinion a wonderfully ‘non-suburb’ suburb, in that its inhabitants are an unclassifiable mix of people – orthodox Jews, immigrant families, young professional couples, international visitors, uni students, down-and-out junkies, and hipsters. I guess I fit in there somewhere.
What places in St Kilda would you bring friends to?
I would suggest riding our bikes down to St Kilda beach and having a surprisingly reasonably priced and non-pretentious coffee at Little Blue at the end of St Kilda pier. That café has my favourite view of Melbourne, and if you hang around till dusk you can stand amongst dozens of European tourists and see the fairy penguins up close!
I would also take them to watch a popular, cult, or art house movie at the Astor, which is Melbourne’s last single-screen cinema. Were Marzipan the cinema-cat still live (bless her soul) I would have also invited them to pat said cat. I’m also sure there is much more to my suburb than penguins and cats, but those are the only things that come to mind right now.
And when you get hungry?
Señor BBQ serves traditional Argentinian BBQ food (read: meat) and whilst the guys used to live in and cater from a party-house down the street from me, they then appeared in a pop-up restaurant on Carlisle St in Balaclava for a while and are now in Ripponlea, where the lovely live music venue Lyrebird Lounge used to be. You go to Señor BBQ to gorge yourself on delicious BBQ’ed meats, decadent Argentinian desserts and ludicrously sweet South American soda pop, all eaten with your hands, a side of chimichurri, and hilarious novelty-esque South American accents in the background. Other places that I like to eat at on Carlisle street would be Ziggy’s for great fast grub, Tom Yum Thai Cuisine for cheap take-away, or Glicks for bagels and Dana Patisserie for other deliciously bready treats.
Where would you go for drinks and dancing?
I usually head into the CBD to frequent one of its wonderful bars off of a laneway, staircase, or alley, but if my guests are in town for that special Tuesday night that happens once a month (on the imaginary full moon), I would take them with me to Werewolf night at The Local Taphouse in Balaclava. The Local is great for its massive collection of craft beers and its live music, but on Werewolf nights I think it’s even more awesome. For those of you who don’t know, Werewolf is a role-playing game full of debauchery and manipulation, and whilst I’d like to say it’s not as geeky as it sounds, it kind of still is. But it’s also an excuse to get wasted off of some awesome beer, shout personal insults to a room full of strangers, and to donate some money to Oxfam. It’s definitely a heap of fun for a Tuesday night.
The bar at The Local Taphouse
If you’re after some tasty breakfast, where then?
Little Captain on Inkerman St. It’s a titchy-tiny cafe with great food, great coffee, great decor, and a confusing ordering/paying/table-service system, so I’d say it’s pretty ‘Melbourne’ in my books. Please go straight through and sit in the outdoor area out back – it overlooks a local park and you can watch kids falling over on the playground or people doing weird things with their pets. Plus, if you haven’t reached the hangover part yet and are still drunk, you can always get your egg‘n’bacon roll and flat-white take-away and lie down under a tree in the park gazing lovingly at the amazingly awesome isn’t-it-incredible blue sky. Obviously that’s very much speaking from a fond personal experience (or two).
Photo: Kieran O’Hearn
Any other favourites in your hood?
I like Alma Park for day-time activities, but stay away after dark unless you’re a gay man looking to get lucky, as it’s been known to be a local beat.
Carlisle street is great for grocery shopping and people watching, and it also has an awesome video shop with arguably every good movie ever made (they also have categories such as “Stoner”, “Chick-flicks/Dick-flicks” and sort their films by some directors too).
The St Kilda Sea Baths are also a great place to stand around in mid-30˚ Celsius saltwater and perv on the local footy players who come by to soak their muscles. Jussayin’.