When I mentioned recently at work that I visit the Canberra suburb of Fyshwick quite regularly, a number of suspicious eyebrows instantly darted upwards among those fearing for my moral fortitude. But relax, there is far more to this industrial hub than car repairers and adult entertainment. Particularly if you like good food and beautiful things.
Here are ten of my favourite reasons to visit.
Flute Bakery and Patisserie 8 Barrier Street
A little bit of France appears in downtown Barrier Street in this deliciously authentic establishment. Beautifully presented mousse cakes, perfect pastries and macarons (note: not macarooooooons), all done up in neat little rows just like any good Parisienne bakery. Then there are those amazing large cakes for special occasions, or you can get a little box of mini-treats to put some magic in a loved one’s day. They also do great homemade gourmet pies for a quick drop-in or takeaway lunch.
Only pity is that’s it’s closed on weekends. And bring your cash – they don’t do plastic.
Fox Antiques 51 Collie Street, Fyshwick
A little bit more of France, this time without the calories. The ever-charming Charlie will be pleased to show you his classic collection of French furniture from 18th to 20th century – from all sorts of Louis-something styles through to Napoleonic and Art Deco. Looking for a rustic country table and rush-seated chairs, bedroom pieces or perhaps a French commode or bookcase? This is the place to start your search. Signature garden pieces abound as well – iron tables or fountains – and some great little paintings and always an interesting collection of unusual decorator pieces. Who doesn’t need a large leather hippo for their bed?
They’ve been selling antiques since 1978, and now Fox Antiques is importing new things as well to add some more modern design pieces, all served with a sense of humour.
Elaine’s Gourmet Pies 1/57 Wollongong Street
Finding a decent pie is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack, and then when you finally find one that passes muster, the downhill slide in quality can begin almost immediately. But Elaine’s has been around for eons and their pies stay the same. Best thing about them is that they are actually chunky steak inside the pie, not just on the label.
The small premises themselves on the rise in Wollongong Street looks a bit dodgy on the outside, and the white plastic tables edging a car park is far from grand, but you’re not going for the décor. Lots of different types – curry, bacon, vego and such – but I stick to the plain chunky steak or with mushrooms.
Canty’s Bookshop 59-61 Wollongong Street
Somehow this treasure trove of bookish delights manages to avoid the claustrophobic mustiness of many others of its type despite its wild abandon of books. Overflowing shelves are piled perilously high, while haphazard stacks of books grow from the floor and in corners, all vying for space, so watch your step as you meander around. But there is order within this profusion of reading matter, and clearly marked sections enable targeting fossicking, and some wonderful finds. Lovers of cook books, military, kids’ books, and of course, oodles of fiction. While mostly second-hand books, there’s also an increasing number of new books at good prices, though not as good as they once were.
Established by Canty seniors and now owned by Luke Canty and his wife Laura, this cosy family-fun establishment also buy books for cash or credit. If you like books, you must come here.
Material Pleasures 3 Barrier Street
Beginning life way back yonder at the Saturday Gorman House markets in Canberra, Material Pleasures has now expanded and found a permanent home in Fyshwick (actually, they’ve been there since 2009). They also appear regularly at various markets around town. The roomy store, with a workroom out the back, buys and sells quality second-hand clothing and accessories, with an emphasis on higher end second hand and designer labels. The prices aren’t bargain-basement, but it’s orderly and clean with good pieces and it’s cheaper than buying new. There’s even a section for the men. Good option if you need some statement pieces without expending a fortune. Not much for kiddies athough the play corner and tent will keep them amused while you shop.
Material Pleasures also buys clothes outright if you need a wardrobe purge and some dollars, or you could give them to the Salvo’s, also in Fyshwick if you need a feel-good kick more than money.
The Salvo’s 5/15 Mildura Street, Fyshwick
If you’re looking for some fashion items at lesser prices and are prepared to weed through an awful lot of stuff and look a bit harder, head to the large Salvo’s store. I freely admit I can spend a lot of time in this place looking for treasures at bargain prices, always a bit of sport. And I’ve found some fab pieces in the past, like these gorgeous Gabor shoes for $5. Brand new! I didn’t even care they were a wee bit big.
This really large store is well-organised and fully stocked with an ever-changing supply of clothes, with manchester, crockery and all those other bits on the side, and furniture out the back. Great for items for fancy dress events, or even some really good jackets if you need a cheap work outfit and something warm for winter.
Thrift stores have come a long in recent years and now have team members who well understand the importance of stock control, store layout and merchandising. And all that shopping you do? It supports a good community cause and helps in the war on waste, so Craig Reucassel will be proud of you.
Ona Coffee House 68 Wollongong Street
If you’re serious about your coffee, a visit to Ona Coffee House is in order, because they’re certainly serious about it. As Canberra’s largest specialty coffee roaster and supplier, Ona Coffee is making quite a name for itself around Canberra, and also around the world. Or at least its founder Sasa Sestic is, who happened to win the World Barista Championship in 2015. They use their own certification processes to source quality green bean coffee – they even made a sign about it.
Modern, efficient and popular. Good selection of sweet things to go with your coffee (the lemon meringue was good), or try their breakfast or lunch choices. There are three cafes now in Canberra, including the one in Fyshwick. They even do barista courses from their Fyshwick premises.
Décor Living 134 Gladstone Street
Fyshwick is a bit of a furniture hub, with a contingent of major retailers abounding – like Freedom, Domayne, and now even our very own Ikea if you like to add a 10 kilometre round hike to your furniture shopping outing. But if you’re after something a bit more individual, take a look at Décor Living.
Décor Living is an owner-operated business and it’s been in Canberra for 30 years. There’s an emphasis on Aussie made and they’re happy to do special orders. There’s also lots of great accessories and artworks. And there’s usually a big, friendly dog or two wandering around or more likely snoozing if you need a dog-fix in your furniture-shopping day.
Canberra Outlet Centre 337 Canberra Avenue
Food, shopping … a definite pattern here emerging here in my list. For the bargain shoppers, a visit to the capital’s only outlet centre is worth a mention. The usual suspects are here with fashion, homewares and manchester retailers featuring, gathering and passing on the last of their season’s wares and discounted prices – along with lots of brand new items as well, because they can. A few stores here that don’t appear elsewhere in Canberra, like Provincial Living and Freedom, as well as an outlet for Pottery Barn, Sheridan and Colombia (for the more outdoorsy-types).
For those with active little ones, a visit to Monkey Mania may save your soul on a rainy day where you can watch kids clamber and climb and slide to their hearts’ content – or you can.
It wasn’t until an overseas visitor was blown away by our markets in Australia that I really started to appreciate it what we have on our doorstep: access to such a fabulous array of fresh fruit & veg, delis, seafood, meat, and lots of other scrumptious things all in one place. Too much to describe individually but lots to see and try. Open Thursday to Sunday.
So, ten perfectly good reasons to visit Fyshwick. So much more than just adult shops and entertainment. And who needs fireworks anymore?