Toorak is without doubt, one of, if not THE most coveted suburbs in Melbourne. While the suburbs wide leafy streets keep the heat off the pavement during summer, the autumnal leaves create a glow during winter. It’s also home to some of the most valued real estate, with luxurious homes from the past mixed with house-sized contemporary apartments.

The eminent architect Marcus Martin forms an important part of Toorak’s architectural heritage, with many of his elegant and often palatial, homes modified for contemporary living. Timber-shuttered windows, often symmetrically arranged, combine in some cases with circular driveways. You’ll find a number of Marcus Martin homes dotted around Toorak, including 2 Lascelles Avenue and 2 Glenbervie Road. One of Martin’s most impressive piles is at 42 Wallace Avenue and is heritage-listed. As stated on the Victorian Heritage Register, ‘The interior, in particular the hall, library, powder room, dining room, sitting room and master bedroom, remains substantially intact to its original design and is an important exemplar of a refined 1930s interior’. Other renowned architects who made their mark in Toorak include Guilford Bell, Grounds Romberg & Boyd, and Holgar & Holgar.

Today, there’s a new vanguard of architects transforming Toorak. While Grange Road started to see an emergence of new house-sized apartments five years ago, other streets, such as Mathoura Road, is experiencing change. Although this wide street, linking Malvern and Toorak roads, still retains a number of fine period homes, many Edwardian and Victorian, boutique style apartment blocks are coming into the mix. The Carr Design Group is completing a small development, as is Architect Rob Mills. More akin to houses, these dwellings, with large terraces, are appealing to those living in large family homes in Toorak or nearby, and wanting to scale down. The proximity of these apartments to the Hawksburn shopping centre at one end of the street and The Village at the other, together with tramlines, also provides an ease of lifestyle that a large family home doesn’t always offer.

Hawksburn shopping centre, with its boutiques, cafes and specialty food stores, might be one of the many reasons people are keen to live within this vicinity. The centre must be ranked as one of the leaders in gastronomic fare. For those wanting to discover the entire offering along this shopping strip, start with the French-style restaurant Bistro Thierry, complete with its starched linen tablecloths and Thonet chairs. The bistro’s French menu will appeal to those with a discerning palette for both food and wine. Nearby is Donnini, renowned for its handmade Italian pastas. You might also want to look at their cakes to take home. There’s also Cooper and Milla’s for fine food, catering for sumptuous meals. Those with more time on their hands will appreciate Toscano’s for an extensive range of fruit and vegetables, more akin to a market. There’s also the Stocked Food Store that sells everything from hand made roast beef to vegetable cabbage rolls, marinated artichokes, together with a selection of the finest cheeses from France. Pierre Bouchier, recognised for its fine meats, including its grass-fed beef, is also a must. However, those wanting more simple offerings will appreciate the simple fish and chips next door.

Fashion is also well represented at the Hawksburn village by Husk, with its Moorish-style fit-out. The dresses and blouses this summer, a range of caftan styles in carefree linens, evoke the interior fit-out with its raw timber floors and white painted stucco walls. The southern side of Malvern Road is given over to fashion, including boutiques such as Belinda, New Zealand designer Trelise Cooper, known for her artisan hand-made clothing with a slightly whimsical edge.

Those looking for unique homewares and clothing should pop their head inside Manon Bis. This distinctive store, described by owner Hilary Gwillim as ‘niche’, sources homewares, fashion, towels, bed linen, vintage artifacts and unusual accessories from predominantly from Europe. “It’s a ‘curated’ collection,” says Gwillim, who also has a penchant for buying antique vases and glassware.

So rather than just pass through this ‘hood’, take the time to discover some of Toorak’s finest.

Text by Stephen Crafti

Lifestyle & Design

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