It was the ultimate Melbourne faux pas*, we were getting chummy with some locals at the Nevermind Bar, when I threw out some line about liking the brown and yellow team because brown and yellow are my favourite colours. Smiles literally froze on faces. In an area that decorates it bins in the brown and gold of its beloved Hawks, I had committed the ultimate sin and it felt like time, in a three kilometre radius at least, had stopped.
"She's not from here," said one of guys at the bar. I wasn't sure if it was an offer of excuse, pity or both. But it was accepted and we soon moved on to safer topics such as religion and our annual incomes.
Up until recently, all I knew of Hawthorn was that it's the spiritual home of a really good AFL team and that a Japanese woman once told me you can get some top Japanese food there. Obviously, I was going for the ramen.
But Hawthorn is more than the Hawks and some noodles.
It was actually an uber driver who decided my stay in Hawthorn. On a previous trip to Melbourne, some mates and I were looking for a night out. But there was a catch. It was a Tuesday. On the uber trip home after a somewhat unsuccessful evening, our driver said we would have had more luck in Hawthorn thanks to the Swinburne kids.
Hawthorn is not your typical college town. Just 10-15 minutes from the CBD (depending how many trams you're stuck behind), Hawthorn is a pretty suburb bordering the uber posh Toorak and super cool Richmond and caters to each crowd accordingly.
Whether it's Birkenstocks or boutique baby clothes, you can find it all along the suburb's main street, Glenferrie Road. And of course, the food found here is a similar blend of hipster healthy and posh nosh.
Getting around is a breeze, too. Given Melbourne's fab high street culture, there's no need to always head to the CBD and Hawthorn is close to the famed Chapel Street, Richmond's Swan Street and Bridge Road. Well serviced by trams, buses and trains, you can get to the tourist hotspots of the city and St Kilda directly as well as the nearby attractions of Toorak, South Yarra, Kew and Camberwell.
But at the heart of Hawthorn are its people: friendly folk who tolerate and even welcome your non-Melbourneness - even if it is tinged with a hint of pity.
We also asked some industry locals for their favourite spots in Hawthorn.
roomsXML's Mark Luckey's:
Choi’s – Riversdale Road
LuLo Tapas and Wine Bar – Glenferrie Road
St Clouds – Camberwell Road
Geebung Wine Room – recently done up, couches, lounges
Wine @ 129
Stir Crazy Lady – Auburn Road
Olio and Pane – Auburn Road
'Secret' Hawthorn attraction
Favourite thing to do in Hawthorn
Anything in Central Gardens – big, beautiful, throw a Frisbee, run kids around ragged.
Quest Hawthorn's Michael Kratzke's:
LuLo Tapas and Wine Bar
Tinto Spanish Restaurant
The Glenferrie Hotel
Gym and swimming pool
Hawthorn Aquatic and leisure centre (gymnasium, Olympic size heated swimming pool and heated indoor swimming pool)
Show and entertainment
Hawthorn Arts Centre (Formerly Hawthorn Town Hall)
*Not all Melbourne people care about AFL. Please stop with the cliches. I have even met people in Melbourne who do not watch sport at all. Really.
Where to stay:
The Quest Hawthorn is ideally located on Hawthorn's Glenferrie Road.