A Locals Guide to Ascot Vale

5 min read

Ascot Vale is one of Melbourne’s most exciting suburbs. It’s just six kilometres from the city centre, which gives it a buzzing atmosphere and thriving cafe culture. Despite its central location, it’s dotted with parks, including expansive walking and biking tracks along the Maribyrnong River.

Although it may be best known for the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, this quaint neighbourhood has plenty more to offer those who live there. Ascot Vale is a well-connected suburb with public transport links that will get you to the CBD in around 10 minutes. There are also plenty of amenities found in this locale, from family-friendly restaurants to green spaces like Fairbairn Park. So, if you’re thinking about spending some time in this area, this article can be your local guide to Ascot Vale - covering the best spots to eat, shop and more!

Cafes in Ascot Vale

No. 19 Cafe is a stunning cafe that Ascot Vale locals can’t seem to get enough of. This beautiful eatery is the brainchild of Diana Caruso, who also established the popular St Rose cafe in Essendon. The interior of No. 19 is something you’ll have to see to believe, which is heavily inspired by Greek delis that were popular in Melbourne in the 1950s. It’s a trip back in time entering here in the best sense, with striking brass lamps and worn timber furniture offering a delightful aesthetic. The menu is equally enticing at No. 19, offering up healthy, wholesome dishes like a classic breakfast with eggs, mushrooms, broccolini and halloumi. Their dessert menu is also well worth saving space for - we would highly recommend their Lemon Meringue Pancakes if you’re after a sweet treat.

Mister Nice Guy's BakeShop reigns supreme as Ascot Vale's premier bakery, tempting sweet tooths with a vast array of delectable bakes and desserts. Established in 2010, they are not only vegan but also provide gluten-free and allergy-friendly options. Their cupcakes, in particular, have earned a well-deserved reputation for excellence, showcasing both classic flavours and adventurous creations. If you find yourself perusing the menu, we highly recommend indulging in their Neapolitan-inspired cupcakes, a delightful marriage of creamy and sweet, or sinking your teeth into their heavenly cinnamon buns. Beyond the bakery bounty, you can also choose from a selection of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Disciple Roasters' coffee, available with a variety of milk options, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, while their homemade chai latte, boasting a robust blend of spices, is a revelation for chai enthusiasts. Decaf coffee and hot chocolate made from Belgian chocolate round out the beverage menu. To top it off, all the bakes at Mister Nice Guy are kosher, organic, fair-trade, and soy-free, using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. And for those with a savoury craving, they offer a tempting selection of vegan chilli hot dogs and meatless meatball sandwiches.

Old Man Drew is a whimsical labyrinth of vintage charm and modern bites that is bursting with character. Beyond the grand emerald facade, unique spaces showcase family heirlooms and treasures provided by the local community. Unwind in the dog-friendly garden, a leafy oasis serving up favourites such as Salmon Soba Bowls, Veggie Fritters, and decadent French Toast. This urban "wcusonderland" offers a rare escape. Step back in time with Old Man Drew's high tea, a two-hour experience (Saturdays & Sundays, 3-5 pm, bookings essential!) of laughter, conversation, and meticulously crafted delicacies. Or, venture below ground to the iconic bluestone wine cellar, a haven to curl up with a book and a glass of wine, or gather for family lunches and chess games by the fireplace. Old Man Drew is more than a cafe; it's an experience.

Drinking and Dining in Ascot Vale

Ascot Vale offers more than just cafes and bakeries, though. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants and bars that are waiting to be explored here, making Ascot Vale the perfect destination for a night out. Whether you’re looking for a nice sit-down meal or a few drinks with family and friends, Ascot Vale has a little bit of everything on offer.

Union Wine Store is nestled on Ascot Vale's Union Road and transcends the typical bottle shop. Sunlight bathes a curated selection of vinos, while the air hums with conversations and clinking glasses. It's a haven for both grabbing a special bottle for home or lingering with friends over cheese plates and refreshing brews. Devour grazing platters laden with artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and pickled delights. Dive into fresh oysters or a world of flavorful Spanish tapas. Every bottle on the shelves has been hand-picked, ensuring only the finest grace of the space. The passionate team's knowledge that shines through with friendly, unpretentious service is what makes it a local favourite.

The Ascot Vale Hotel This 1875 beauty has been lovingly restored to its former glory, now a relaxed and comfortable corner pub for everyone. Classic pub vibes abound, from the signage to the warm atmosphere, perfectly capturing the local spirit with nods to AFL and racing culture – perfect for a quick pint after work, a romantic date night, or a lively celebration with friends and family (including your furry companions!). Crave-worthy classics meet fresh twists on the Ascot Vale Hotel menu. Dive into legendary Dim Sims, a legacy dish adopted from the past, now handcrafted daily and served with a symphony of flavours: soy sauce, homemade chilli jam, and a sprinkle of chicken salt. For a plant-based twist, try the Eggplant Schnitzel, a crispy delight paired with creamy potato salad and a vibrant chimichurri. And for seafood lovers, there's the mouthwatering Seafood Spaghetti, a feast for the senses overflowing with lobster, prawns, and a touch of chilli heat. Whether you're a local regular or a curious newcomer, the Ascot Vale Hotel promises a warm welcome and an experience that's both familiar and exciting. So, come raise a glass, soak in the atmosphere, and discover why this historical gem is a local favourite.

Happy Eats Gelato offers a unique selection of handcrafted gelatos, crafted with a focus on sustainability and locally sourced ingredients. At Happy Eats, "imperfect" fruits and vegetables, often discarded for purely cosmetic reasons, find their sweet redemption. These vibrant ingredients, sourced directly from The Happy Apple Greengrocers, form the base for a diverse range of fruit gelatos and sorbets, bursting with natural flavours. For a touch of decadence, roasted pistachios and hazelnuts infuse their signature gelatos with rich textures, while homemade brownies and a touch of premium Dutch cocoa add further depth. They also go beyond the classic cup or cone. Indulge in customisable gelato cakes, creamy shakes, decadent choc-tops, and refreshing cold-pressed juices, all meticulously prepared by the passionate local team. Whether you're seeking a refreshing treat after a riverside stroll or a delightful dessert to cap off a family dinner, Happy Eats offers a sweet escape with a conscience.

Shopping in Ascot Vale

Ascot Vale has a host of shopping experiences that are equal parts unique and high-quality. You can spend a good portion of your day strolling along the various strips of Ascot Vale and browsing the eclectic mix of grocery stores, op-shops and stores here. So if you’re thinking of grabbing a keepsake during your time here, you won’t have to look around for long.

Young Willow is more than just a baby boutique; it's a curated haven for those seeking quality, beauty, and conscious gifting. They meticulously select every treasure in their store, prioritising locally-made items and supporting women-run businesses. Celebrate new life in style with our thoughtfully crafted newborn hampers. Each one tells a story of tenderness and joy, brimming with carefully chosen goodies. But if you prefer to personalise the experience, you can curate your own bespoke gift by adding individual items and choosing from their elegant gift boxes. Every Young Willow order is a labour of love – they present each parcel with meticulous care and attention to detail, ensuring a truly delightful unwrapping experience.

Spoilt as the name suggests, you'll be spoilt for choice at this local gift store. Stepping into Spoilt on Union Road isn't just entering a shop, it's like stepping into a family's treasure trove. This gem, lovingly curated by a dedicated family-run team, has become a local haven for gifts and personal treats. Sparkling jewellery & trendy bags, cosy homewares & fragrant bath bombs – they have something to make hearts flutter on every shelf. Whether you're seeking the perfect birthday surprise or a little indulgence for yourself, Spoilt's welcoming aura and friendly service (often praised as the best in town!) ensure every visit feels like a special occasion.

Want to learn more about Ascot Vale? Contact the team at Nelson Alexander today.

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