Those of us who live ‘north of Bell Street’, variously called ‘the hipster-proof fence’ and ‘the tofu curtain’, are accustomed to having to head south for a drink in an inviting venue. For the past few years this has been changing. Little by little, bars and eateries have been claiming space in disused shop fronts, and converted light industrial buildings, with Plenty Road being the surprising choice for many new businesses. Here are a few worth checking out:

Stray Neighbour — 463 – 467 Plenty Rd, Preston, 3072

The polished concrete floor, foliage-painted murals, and cosy booths of this place are inviting, while keeping some of the post-industrial edge of the building’s history as a small LPG conversion factory. Since the installation of an open fire place, the area with a billiard table and booths makes a good venue for a small party on a cold night. I went to a fortieth there and had a great time munching down on cured meats washed down with a fine, dry house white sparkling. The beers on tap are the definite highlight of this joint, with a changing menu of local and international brews, many of them venturing into the hardier sour mash and red ales. Our resident brew specialist likes the Boatrocker Miss Pinky – –  an unfiltered wheat beer with raspberries, giving a cidery taste to a European style ale.

Stray Neighbour is now open for breakfast on weekends.

Hard Rubbish — 670 Plenty Rd, Preston, 3072

Hard rubbish bar street shot

My visit to Hard Rubbish was a little while ago, but impressions were that it is a warm, unpretentious place, with some good brews and bar snacks, such as jaffles. I like walking past and seeing how the cacti and succulents are going in the quirky, re-purposed crockery where they grow. Hard Rubbish is carving out a niche as a good local place to meet up for a drink and a board game or read in the sunny front window. It’s near a tram stop on route 86 and my observations suggest that it is functioning as a bit of a rendezvous for friends who can just hop off a tram or trundle down on a pushy for low-key meet-up.

See Broadsheet’s review.

Sonny’s Bottega — 647 Plenty Rd, Preston, 3072

I have been watching the slow evolution of the shop front of Sonny’s Bottega from nondescript defunct dusty non-business, to the sparkly and 1920s Jazz Age styling that we see now. My beloved and I finally made it, about six weeks after it opened, and we were not disappointed. At the end of a date evening we dropped in for a night cap. The prosecco was dry and the perfect finish to a great night out. The staff were welcoming and clearly proud of their new digs. The decor somehow combines the staginess of white weddings with homely touches, such as family photos and heirloom knick-knacks. The vibe was friendly. We will be returning to try out the food.