The Null Device

A requiem for the Tin Pot

Half a decade ago, I lived in North Fitzroy. On weekends, I would spend my afternoons sitting in a local café, the Tin Pot, with my laptop. The Tin Pot was a groovy sort of place, taking up two Victorian shop units; its walls were plastered with gig flyers, the staff were young and hip, and the music (which, more often than not, the staff brought in) was an edgy and eclectic mix of what was cool, ranging from PJ Harvey to Prince to local indie and hip-hop. The Tin Pot soon became my Moon Under Water of cafés, the ur-café to define the experience of the café as an agreeable place to spend time, an ideal for one part of living.

This afternoon, being in Melbourne, I made my way back to North Fitzroy, laptop in my backpack, with a view of spending an hour or so in the old haunt. I had heard various rumours of it having been gentrified somewhat, but was still shocked at what I found.

It's still there, and still named the Tin Pot, but is a different place. Gone are the flyers, the 1950s laminate tables, the funky décor and cool music. The walls are now whitewashed, unsullied by the evidence of urban life, the rooms filled with wooden dining tables that underscore that this is a place for respectable grownups with busy lives to eat, not a place to hang out. The stereo plays, at a respectably sedate volume, a music which could be best described as "contemporary easy listening"; a combination of the most unthreateningly obvious end of 1960s soul, of the sort one might find on a K-Tel compilation, and imitations thereof (I counted two Bee Gees songs); it had a mildly anaesthetic quality to it, chosen to soothe and reassure, never stimulate. The staff are attired in uniform black, and what clientele there was was north of the mid-30s, with nobody anyone could accuse of being a "hipster" or "coolsie". It looked like a genteel tea room near Hampstead Heath, or perhaps in one of the faux-English parts of the Dandenongs.

In retrospect, the signs were there in February, when I last visited; while the tables and flyers were still there, the fruit-shaped lights were gone from the window, the music was a bit more generic, and the clientele were a bit older, often with babies in tow. I wasn't expecting such a complete metamorphosis, though.

Farewell, Tin Pot; it was nice knowing you.

There are 5 comments on "A requiem for the Tin Pot":

Posted by: Tony Mon Dec 21 07:55:08 2009

Ahh. I moved to Brisbane from the Westgarth area 4 years ago and struck the same thing last July when visiting my old neighbourhood. My wife and I are utterly fed up with Brisbane's obsession with white walls, aluminium window frames, stainless steel benchtops and perfect floorboards in cafes/bars/pubs. But in some of our favourite haunts back in Melbourne town we stuck the same minimalist, clinical, sterile and uninspiring interior decoration of semi-public space. Brunswick and Coburg are still maintaining a bit of reality though. So is Richmond. Enjoy your Christmas/New year in Melb!

Posted by: cos Mon Dec 21 09:05:58 2009

last time i went past on a tram (a weekend or two ago) it was still under renovation.

to be honest, I think the only time i had a "good" experience at the Tin Pot was the times I went with you. When I went there alone, I was criminally ignored to the point that I figured "well, I'll give it another ten minutes, surely it can't be this bad."

I think its glory days were long gone.

Posted by: Mon Dec 21 14:10:10 2009

I always thought you had to order at the counter. Though sitting with a laptop for a few hours did often get staff to ask whether there was anything else I'd like.

Posted by: hot soup girl Mon Dec 21 21:34:58 2009

Yeah, I've experienced so much desultory, cooler-than-thou, borderline rude service at the Tin Pot that I finally gave up on it about five years ago after eight years of disappointing visits. I learn slowly.

Posted by: Mister E. Tue Dec 22 08:52:06 2009

There is some good news - if you happen to wander down High Street in Westgarth (just past Traffic) you will no doubt be delighted to hear that Westgarth Books is reopening soon!