Years ago, when I was sold off as a child bride*, my parents also footed a $2000 budget for we newly weds to buy a two bedroom flat in St Kilda to commence our days of marital bliss.
Luckily the flat was two minutes from Acland St so that the reality of sharing an enclosed space with a practising musician was readily blotted out by tea and cake. Lots of cake. In those days I worked all hours, waitressing on the weekends at Deveroli’s on Acland St and driving off over the West Gate every day to finish Vet School at Werribee, so the cake had little impact on my (then) skinny whip of a waist.
Fortunately for us many Jewish refugees from all over Europe resettled and created businesses in St Kilda after WWII, such as the Scheherezade Café, and I remember the whole street being a meeting place after the Sabbath when families came to eat lunch and catch up.
Acland St today is a ‘destination’ for stray tourists and under-employed wanderers, so over time all the little shops and the distinctly Jewish culture that gave Acland St its unique community feel, have been lost. There is now only a little plaque to the famous Scheherezade café which finally closed its doors in 2008.
Fortunately the franchise frenzy has not been too excessive here and a few of the older style cake shops still remain amongst the brashy and more hipster type newcomers.
The Monarch cake shop has been running since the 1930s and is truly worth visiting for its fine Eastern European baking. The Kooglhopf cake and/or their plum cake are on my list of things to eat on my death bed (I’m not going skydiving or any of that nonsense).
The Monarch is quite progressive with its trained barista and credit card facilities, while some of the older business owners look at you quite aghast if you wave a plastic card anywhere near them and might put you out of the shop if you asked for a decaff latte.
But the most wonderful shop on Acland St for me is still Clamms the fishmonger which sells cooked fish and chips which are an incomparable pleasure – eating a box of this deliciously cooked fare on the beach while the sun sets is a memory that can stay with you for a long time.
The other great part of Acland St is the Number 96 Tram which runs right to the end of the street and which can then take you snaking back through the city and into Brunswick so you can enjoy a day of end-to-end café crawling and exploring.
St Kilda is still a place of great beauty, especially when the weather is fair and the sun is warm – the sound of the squeals from the roller coaster at Luna Park, the call of seagulls and the smell of the sea just a block away.
Of all the foolish things the musician and I have done, the thing our children remind us was the most foolish of all was when we sold the little two bedroom flat two minutes from Acland St to go off to wider fields. We were already in one of the best parts of the world.
* my dad told the musician recently that some of my writing can be a bit exaggerated – so as you might guess it is not true that I was an actual child bride but I have to have some way of explaining my lack of judgement at the time.