East Maitland, a suburb steeped in heritage, is experiencing a renaissance. There is a real village atmosphere here with a great local café culture and passionate support of small business that seems as if in direct contrast to the scale at nearby Green Hills Shopping Centre. Or maybe its people’s sense of belonging and pride, but East Maitland has energy. With its mix of heritage buildings, new developments, boutiques and fine eateries, East Maitland is a vibrant suburb.
Antiques roadshow and a cool café culture
Out to prove Victoria isn’t home to the only Melbourne with cool cafés, I head to Melbourne Street (not to be confused with its southern namesake) to spend an afternoon on the antiques trail.
But first, coffee. East Maitland is developing a sub culture of its own when it comes to cafés and hole in the wall coffee distributors. Bellarossini Coffee Cart (aka The Alley Cat Espresso) is a little bit of Melbourne on Melbourne Street and they are doing great things both locally and globally.
About a two minute walk down the road is Vintage on Melbourne. Another great find with one half of the store retro furniture and the other half a funky café. The latter has some of the most out of this world baked goods you have ever tasted, including a Persian love cake.
As you wander between coffee and antique shops the mixed smell of musk and Arabica fills the senses. For a good mix of restored and relic furniture with decor to match head to Restored Rubies at 108 Melbourne, while Rustic Antiques, found at 110 Melbourne, boasts something for everyone. These are all but a few of the options, so it’s best to explore for yourself.
Cure your hunger with a Blakeney’s pie
When only something hearty will do, Blakeney’s Pie’s is an institution round these parts. Some swear by the handmade sausage roll using only local pork mince, for the traditionalists among us it’s the steak and kidney, and others are sweating on a curry chicken pie. Whatever the question, it seems Blakeney’s is the locals answer.
A bit of retail therapy
At the intersection of Lawes and High Street in East Maitland you may find yourself pleasantly surprised, particularly if you’re in the mood for a bit of retail therapy. Here you will find East Maitland’s centre, it’s a mix of cafés, business services and home to a handful of cute homewares and gift stores.
As you wander along Lawes Street make sure you pop your head into
Vintage Iris to peruse their selection of gifts, jewellery, candles, fashion and more. Conveniently, just around the corner, you will also stumble upon Princess Scallywag. If the little girl in your life loves floral and frills, then this should be a definite stop.
Looking for something a little bit different? Junkyard Gypsies have you covered with one offs and retro pieces. Found upstairs from a home brew store, (in the loft of Country Brewer at 128 Melbourne St) it is upcycling with style and dignity.
Sharing is caring when it comes to dinner
Whether it’s sharing a meal with loved ones or sharing plates for a more casual dining experience, East Maitland offers the perfect menu.
Top of the locals list is New Capri. It’s a touch of Italian in the backyard of East Maitland. You can expect to find the full list of Canneloni, Napolitana, Marinara, Carbonara and Bolognaise on their menu. Mama mia, it is bellissimo.
For a counter meal, which nowadays can match it with the best restaurant quality meals, there are a few options. For the ‘World’s Best Steak’ (seriously, it’s an official thing), The Valley Restaurant inside East’s Leisure & Golf Club has the chargrilling covered. But if you’re feeling like you could eat a horse, rather than a steak, then the all you can eat option at Billabongs in East Maitland Bowling Club will fill any hunger.
Quench your thirst at the local(s)
East Maitland is not short on local watering holes, so if you’re looking to whet your whistle and maybe grab a bite to eat as well, a convenient stop is the Windsor Castle Hotel on the corner of Lawes and George Streets in East Maitland.
Whether you find a comfy spot inside or take advantage of their well appointed beer garden, I can assure you that the beer taps run cold and that the gourmet wood fire pizzas are a perfect match for any occasion.
There is also The Old Victoria for selection of craft beers and just across the road is the Hunter River Hotel, a popular spot with the young folk especially after Bitter & Twisted Boutique Beer Festival. Then around the corner and up Melbourne Street you’ll find the Bank Hotel. All are worthy stops to quench your thirst with the locals.
Maitland is entwined with village centres that are scattered across the landscape, broken up by the alluvial plains and countryside. A drive from east to west through the city will see you uncover these.
Story by Tess Campbell.