The original main street of the scenic Victorian town of Kyneton – a wide granite thoroughfare lined by impressive bluestone structures – took shape during the boom years of the gold rush in the mid 19th century.
But as recently as a decade ago, Piper Street was looking decidedly tired, with half of those buildings lying vacant. Not anymore.
The remarkable modern-day regeneration is a tale of talented and visionary people – chefs, designers, artisan traders and others – who saw unlimited potential in a place which always ticked plenty of boxes.
First among those is location.
Only an hour by car or train from Melbourne – and even closer to Tullamarine Airport – the Victorian Central Goldfields town is perfectly situated for a day trip or weekend getaway.
The train journey, passing through picturesque Macedon and Woodend, sets the scene.
Nearby is the evocative and mysterious Hanging Rock – setting for the famous book and film.
It’s like stepping back in time – an apt metaphor for a visit to a place which has recaptured its former glory with some modern-day twists.
Lindy Priest, the owner of Macedon Ranges Interiors and an enthusiastic supporter of the Piper Street scene, has watched the area boom in the last 10 years.
Lindy loves talking linen and boasts a shop teeming with fine European fabrics and homewares used in her successful interior design business.
Situated above her stylish shop is Apartment 61A, the perfect base to explore all that Piper Street has to offer.
The arrival of the Annie Smithers Bistrot gets much of the credit for attracting the attention of foodies to Kyneton.
Smithers became the first in a procession of celebrated chefs to make the move from Melbourne.
Among those is Matt Fegan, whose most recent project is Mr Carsisi’s restaurant, run in conjunction with wife Clare.
The name cheekily pays tribute to Istanbul’s spice bazaar, the Misir Carsisi.
And that cleverness is reflected in a menu where many of the gems are to be found in the mezze section.
The Circassian roasted chicken, served cold with with green chillies, spices, coriander and yoghurt is sublime.
The haloumi and mint fritters, with Dawson’s orange blossom honey, are the very definition of more-ish.
And the pistachio halva ice cream sundae, with chocolate mahmoul, Turkish coffee, chocolate syrup and Persian fairy floss might just be the best dessert I have eaten.
All this in a beautifully restored former ice works.
More traditional fare is to be found at Mrs Smith’s Hotel Restaurant, set in a lovely, low-ceilinged room complete with welcoming fire.
The classical menu with Mediterranean leanings and wine list both make much of local produce – a feature of many Piper Street eateries.
Think lamb or trout from the nearby Tuki farm at Smeaton.
One of the newest additions to the foodie scene is the Midnight Starling, run by Steve Rogers, who cut his teeth working under celebrated Melbourne chef Jacques Reymond.
The Midnight Starling works just as well as a bar complete with an excellent selection of wines, craft beers and cocktails as it does as a restaurant.
It’s also a great example of Piper Streets’s seamless ability to combine a quintessential Australian setting with influences from Europe and beyond.
One of the most famed venues is the Persian Room.
Owner Margaret Jasper has bought and sold Persian rugs for 40 years and her showroom includes a vast amount of stock covering three centuries. It’s a veritable Aladdin’s Cave.
What makes the Persian Room such a special place is Margaret’s passion for rugs and her eagerness to pass on some of that knowledge.
She loves nothing better than to sit visitors down and guide them through the history of an artform that dates back to ancient Persia.
If you can’t tell the difference between an antique rug lovingly made in the traditional way in a tent, one created in a house or a factory-created rug, rest assured that Margaret Jasper can.
Glen Rundell of Rundell and Rundell is typical of the artisan craftsmen who ply their trade on Piper St.
His speciality is Windsor chairs, on display in a shop which also includes leatherwork by his wife Lisa.
Clarissa and Rachel Herbert run Evangeline Millinery and welcome clients into their salon and workroom, allowing them to better appreciate the hat-making process.
Just as creative in their own way are the locally-made pastries on offer at St Beans Provedore, best consumed with a coffee from one of the outside tables.
Watch the world go by or close your eyes and imagine you’ve been whisked back to the mid 1800s.
In a town and a street that was just waiting to be rediscovered.
If you go to Kyneton:
Getting there: Piper Street, Kyneton, is located an hour from Melbourne CBD in the Macedon Ranges.
Staying there: Apartment 61A offers accommodation in an 1860’s fully renovated building. The two bedroom apartment is located in the heart of Kyneton’s much acclaimed Piper Street and its noted restaurants, Annie Smithers, the Royal George, Mr Carsisi, Pizza Verde, its bustling cafes and unique retail experiences.
The apartment offers a self-contained kitchen, and bathroom downstairs, while upstairs a sitting room and two bedrooms, one bedroom contains a Queen Size bed, the second bedroom has two single beds. From $190 a night.
The writer was a guest of Apartment 61A and Piper Street.