Approximately 2km beyond the outer reaches of Melbourne’s Hipsterville (Bell Street being the Mason Dixon Line), and just 12km north of the city, Reservoir spreads itself like Clive Palmer across 19 square kilometres. Yet there’s no North, South, East or West Reservoir. No Reservoir Heights or Reservoir Downs in a none too subtle attempt to inflate house prices and social status (albeit real estate agents take liberties with ‘Regent’, ‘Oakhill’ and ‘West Preston’). Just plain old Reservoir to the 48,000 oft maligned residents who navigate middle incomes, mortgages and supercharged V6’s which in bygone days mistook Gilbert Road for Conrod Straight.
Reservoir is open to anyone and anything. There’s no IQ or EQ tests, no racial or religious segregation, certainly no fashion police, and no qualms about prior dodginess. Like the bric-a-brac cheap stores common to the main drag (Edwardes Street), mostly it’s très ordinaire. However, as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s automotive art installation camouflaged by a biannually mown front lawn.
Melbourne University linguist Professor John Hajek says though the suburb was named for the water reservoir within it, people couldn’t cope with the fancy French word – hence Reser-vorr is the accepted pronunciation. The beau monde, who sneer upon the streets upon streets upon streets of urban decay I’ve called home for many years, tend to say Reserv-war, meanwhile the fembot voice of Metro trains intones Reserv-wah, in her un-sexy, un-French accent, so there we cling to one semblance of raffinement. Easier to just run with Rezza, I reckon.
Anyway, if you ever take a wrong turn at Murray Road, or perhaps contemplating a step back in time to make the relatively affordable 3073 postcode your own, accept and enjoy this daggy megaburb for what it is. And what it is to me can be encapsulated by the following 7 Wonders of Reser-vorr.
Modern shops and laneway culture
1. The Cheddar Road – High Street Impasse
On Victoria and New South Wales’ differing rail gauges, Mark Twain famously wrote of the ‘paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth’.
In a similar vein, Melbourne boasts several intersections that defy urban planning intelligence, let alone working neural pathways. Northcote’s St Georges Road/Merri Street/Charles Street cluster fcuk was once the most hair-brained intersection in the developed world to rival the Arc de Triomphe roundabout. Sanity eventually prevailed when a set of traffic lights (who’d have thunk?) eliminated the white knuckle excitement of a five way roundabout in which trams would menacingly materialise through the middle.
Now the Cheddar Rd/High St/South Morang train line ‘axis of evil’ lays claim to #1 by the length of a Sav/Anthony Rocca (local heroes) drop punt. Described as a ‘complex intersection of a railway line with two main roads and closely spaced side road intersections’, it rated #3 on the RACV’s 2014 list of Melbourne’s worst traffic congestion hot spots.
On the rare occasion I must traverse the tracks to East Berlin and the deceptively named ‘Broadway’ shopping strip to lift a new hoodie, I pack supplies and inform next of kin. Whilst making a right turn takes roughly 10 minutes with a modicum of luck, a couple of trains each way will turn the shambolic traffic light cycle on its head. By the time you’re through you’ll have sung What about me? ten times to yourself and forgotten the very point of your folly.
VicRoads has reviewed the traffic light sequencing but to little avail. The previous government had no interest, meanwhile the current lot nominated 2018 for road/rail separation to begin. I’m still tipping we’ll have flying cars before the job is done. Though the City of Darebin has some ‘Reservoirsome’ ideas…
2. The Day of the Trolleys
As a kid, John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic tale of rampaging plants was the stuff of nightmares. Here in ‘Voir Town, it’s unprotected, rampaging trolleys left to their own devices that cause all manner of strife. Having skulled a chocolate Big M, this baby (below left) was found sidling up to a no good hunk of metal behind the football pavilion at Moore Park.
Elsewhere trolleys enjoy a liberated existence in Reservoir. Local supermarkets have given up the crazy notion a gold coin is more valuable than trolley fun. Or sadly, trolley abuse, as is so often the case (above right).
Wobble free and roam wide you silver beauties!
3. Bottle Shops
Whilst a bottle shop in itself is hardly worthy of ‘wonder’ status, even in Rezza, the sheer number of liquor outlets in the City of Darebin is truly wonderful for the greatest percentile of alcoholics in Melbourne. Each is a mere VB or Woodstock stumble trip to the next. And when they’re all closed, desperadoes are grateful for the aptly named ‘End of the Line’ bar, where the 112 tram terminates at Regent Street and Gilbert Road. Personally, I must admit to never plucking up the courage to enter. Lest it be… Last. Drinks. Ever.
4. As Seen on TV
Living on a semi main road isn’t ideal for several obvious reasons, though one might anticipate bad crap is less liable to occur where the likelihood of witnesses is apparent. Not so in this fair suburb. If you feel your Reservoir digs shaking at 2.30am it could be an earthquake. Or it could be the neighbour’s hotted up ute mysteriously exploding in front of your house.
Other excitement viewable from my doorstep entailed an audacious ram raid of the chemist opposite at 7am one morning. What the pharmaceutical curious thieves failed to account for was their getaway vehicle being rendered as driveable as a typical Reservoir trolley. Even more astounding was that having tripped over face first onto the nature strip in front of several residents, one of the criminal masterminds was allowed to slooowly bumble their way into their jalopy before teetering down the road. Well, I guess that kind of determination deserves a pack of morphine or three.
There’s many a dull moment in comfortable suburbia, but Rezza likes to go a bit Universal Studios every now and then.
Downtown Reservoir; No more crash and dash
5. Almost Tourist Attractions
It’s not exactly the Hoover Dam but there is a bloody big reservoir atop High Street’s highest point. Of course, Reservoir Reservoir would sound damn silly, so in the interests of averting silliness and bad puns, we have ‘Preston Reservoir’.
Meanwhile, Edwardes Lake has been afforded some overdue TLC of late; no longer the stagnant waterway filled with toxic algae and children’s tears caused by the bone breaking c1954 play equipment. The amenities are actually pretty decent now, notwithstanding the old A2 class engine is as kid friendly as a rusty bear trap for multiple reasons.
‘Enter at own risk’ said the friendly tank engine, Edwardes Lake, 1947
Speaking of trains, Reservoir is home to the worst rated station in Melbourne – quite some feat given there is 218 of them. Ruthven, one station north of Reservoir, boasts ‘cars jammed at odd angles onto a strip of dirt on the western side of the rails and a dilapidated walkway that leads under the track and then up a ramp to the platform and utilitarian station building that looks like it hasn’t changed much since its grand opening on August 5, 1963.’
Nevermind, if you alight at Reservoir Station there is pumping nightlife to be had at Reservoir RSL. Where else could you see a tribute to His Meatiness and enjoy a two course dinner for under a pineapple? If that sounds too good to be true, there’s always the salubrious Broadway Bingo Centre. This is living.
Oh Reservoir, so much to answer for…
Don’t let this nameless Broadway bakery’s unassuming facade fool you. If the spectre of Broadway Bingo (next door) doesn’t set your heart racing, the thrice fried cinnamon doughnuts here will stop your heart in its tracks. But they’re worth it, and astonishingly Reservoir’s best kept secrets are a piddly 40 cents each. Locals in the know will even risk the aforementioned intersection to get their paws on these.
If Nutella is more your vice, Il Forno Ciabattaria (a 30-year-old bakery hidden away at 96 McFadzean Avenue) is going gangbusters via social media with their ‘Donutella’. “When you bite into Nutella you don’t want to be able to speak, it should clog up your mouth”, according to co-owner Carlo Cappello. Just the thing for mouthy kids.
In terms of culinary delights, other simple ‘Voir pleasures include Empire Pizza, Marn Bo (Chinese) and Volcano Bakery (for the spring rolls) on Gilbert Road and Sargents Cakes and Folino’s Quality Meats on Edwardes Street. It’s not for nothing this is the world’s most liveable city’s 176th most liveable suburb!
7. Reservoir Coles
At the best of times supermarkets can leave one questioning their will to live. A visit to Preston Market Aldi once had me in a depressed funk for three days. But they serve a purpose if you eat, and unlike the beautiful people south of the Yarra, Reservoirians certainly eat.
Whilst the corner store at the optimistically named ‘Gertz Street Shopping Centre’ is worthy of an honourable mention, Reservoir Coles is the last resort supermarket that will truly leave you feeling down, down. Though if one struggles with making the big decisions in life, such as what brand of yoghurt to buy, this is your kind of supermarket. You just need to think laterally to locate the yoghurt (singular), nestled strategically amid the pet food, the junkie and the bleach.
Speaking of lateral thinking, kudos to the enthusiastic man who found a parked taxi outside, and utilising the side window as a mirror and with scissors he just happened to be carrying, proceeded to give himself a haircut at 8.30am on a Monday morning. I was going to ask for an appointment when I exited the supermarket however old mate and the taxi had disappeared in a puff of hair tufts which littered the footpath.
The steel fortified Reservoir Coles – for a medieval shopping experience
(note loitering trolleys)
So there you have it, my 7 Wonders of Reservoir. A couple, indeed several worthy entrants were mercilessly culled, so please feel free to suggest your own Reservoir wonders.