neighbourhood watch / spotswood

1 March 2015

I’m always surprised, and a little flattered, when I meet someone who knows where Spotswood is. Spotswood, or Spotty to the locals, is wedged between better known suburbs in Melbourne’s west, and I almost always have to reference them when locating Spotswood for those who haven’t been before. Describing the suburb requires similar comparisons with the surrounding areas. “It’s not as cool as Yarraville, not as large as Newport, not as edgy as Footscray, but still worth checking out”, I say, hoping the person I’m speaking to will still want to visit. It’s a small and pretty sleepy town, but sleepy things generally don’t sleep forever, and nor is Spotswood. Spotswood is waking up.

The wave of gentrification and respectability moving westward across Melbourne has decidedly started lapping at Spotswood, and with it have come changes. The Spotty pub as it once was is now gone, and with it, the hordes of Hells Angels members who made it their de-facto clubhouse. So too the ‘Exotic Foxy Lady’ dancers that once entertained them. The Spottiswoode (sic.) Hotel now boasts a welcoming, family friendly atmosphere, impressive menu, and annoyingly well enforced policy against outside drinks. The hormone riddled charcoal chicken shop is also no longer; instead visitors and locals can now enjoy the four cafes that line the main strip, all within 50 metres of each other. VB Long Necks were once the most common beverage on the streets of Spotswood, now it’s a skinny latte. For those who prefer hops and barely over espresso and steamed milk, the recently opened Two Birds brewery has got you covered. Gaze on the huge steel tanks and imagine the beer fermenting inside as you knock back a fruity Golden Ale, or sip on a darker Sunset ale.

As much as Spotswood has changed, some of its less-polished past thankfully still remains. Foremost is the Al Nada Lebanese pizza shop, practically a Spotswood institution. Decorated inside with newspaper cuttings of favourable reviews and signed band merchandise from The Living End, Al Nada is the tastiest, probably cheapest, and certainly funniest place to eat at on your visit here. Come for the delicious cheese and spinach Sujuk pizza, stay for owner Michael’s outrageous jokes about his mother-in-law. Stay also because he’ll probably prank you by giving your change in useless 2 cent coins, or not at all, insisting that the price of your single pizza has suddenly risen to $20. Eventually you’ll be free to leave with your change and generously sized lunch, but you might just find yourself staying in to eat, won over by this rascal and his salient advice on marriage (I’ll let you find that out for yourself), but above all his friendliness.  It’s the shop with the huge toy dog out the front, the one inexplicably wearing a Vietnamese rice farmer’s hat. You can’t miss it.

Once, the only reason to come to Spotswood was Scienceworks (a fun and interactive science museum still well worth a visit), and the only people that would venture into town would be tourists who had taken a wrong turn from the train station looking for it. Now, Spotswood is notable on its own merits, and you should definitely come on down and see why. Of course, if you’re just here for Scienceworks, and do end up getting lost, I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction, but not before I shout you a coffee (I work at one of the cafes and get free stuff). A mere 25 minute train ride from the city is all it takes to experience this little western suburbs gem.

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