Just when you thought it was safe to establish a suburb or town, I Know Where You Live returns to take a look at that paragon of Melbournity, South Yarra.
South Yarra was founded in 1927 by Dr. Evelyn Crotch as an exclusive free-range bulimia clinic, a function the suburb retains to this day. In the late fifties, Chapel St., South Yarra’s main thoroughfare, was opened to general traffic, allowing the emaciated residents to mingle and inter-breed with the burgeoning inner-suburban professional class, or “wankers”, in the parlance of the day. Over the following decades the clinical aspect of the street gave way to the now-familiar commercial, cosmopolitan style, and if not for the constant impression one has of stumbling upon a suburb populated almost exclusively by haute couture-wearing famine victims, today one would scarcely even notice South Yarra’s important sanative function.
Aside from the cheap thrills of starvation, South Yarra’s main sources of entertainment are its many restaurants and bars, where one may see and be seen, and perhaps even be seen seeing oneself being seen by someone one is seeing seeing oneself. Traffic on Chapel St. generally hovers well below the speed limit (200kmh, instituted in 1998 after a spate of drive-by spankings) providing ample opportunity for residents and out-of-towners alike to parade their sexual insecurities, and often their ridiculous sports cars as well. But it is after dark that South Yarra truly comes alive, with exclusive clubs every few metres – just follow the puddles of vomit – offering everything from slippery nipples to exotic cocktails.
Despite its deserved reputation as a night-spot par repellence, retail is surely South Yarra’s raison d’etre (literally: reason to eat). Chapel St. is one of the great shopping strips of the world, up there with L.A.’s Rodeo Drive and Manila’s Smokey Mountain Rubbish Dump. Whichever designer’s wares you wish to wrap your scrawny bones in, whichever shade of CFM boot best sets off the desperation in your eyes, you will find it on Chapel St., at prices practically anybody who has recently committed multiple bank robberies can afford. But shopping in South Yarra is not all about fashion: it’s also about art (my, those Michael Leunig paintings would look tres chic in the media room!), antiques (my, those walnut Edwardian sideboards would look tres chic in the walnut Edwardian room!), and fine food (my, that foie gras would look tres chic barfed up in the bathroom!). Oh, and while you’re in town, why not stop in at the world-famous Jam Factory? And then quickly go somewhere else.
Finally, special mention must be made of South Yarra’s crowning glory: its men. If South Yarra’s women are mostly arseless, this is more than compensated for by the suburb’s men, who are typically all arsehole. Variously kitted out in turtle-neck sweaters, string vests or “straight outta Athlete's Foot" gangsta gear, depending upon individual pretension, the men nonetheless share a common preening hubris and mutual suspicion. If you happen to spot one of these oafs – it’s easily done, as their gait typically indicates the presence of a carrot shoved somewhere unpleasant (although in fact it’s a bok choy, you philistine!) – why not push him in front of a tram? Be sure to skedaddle immediately, though - not to avoid arrest, but to get clear of the freshly sliced carrion before the perpetually hungry South Yarra ladies begin to swarm.
South Yarra: four post-prandial regurgitations out of five.
Previous destinations: Frankston, Olinda, South Morang, Bacchus Marsh, Camberwell, Nunawading, Caroline Springs, Ouyen.