There is no question, despite my burning desire to see the world – I love my home city, Melbourne. Melbourne is a hot bed of fine dining and upscale diners, laneways with cafes and restaurants tucked into unassuming places, in fact some places you will fail to find unless you’re shown the way.
We love our sport and events and there is never a shortage of either going on. In January we said goodbye to the Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam for another year and now eagerly (well some of us) await the Formula One Grand Prix in March. Last week I was off to see Sarah McLachlan in concert and the activity never ends. Of course none of this is any fun without great food and I love to eat!
Given this passion let me take you on a journey through my culinary favourites for this year, hotels of choice and the odd place for a sneaky bevy, shopping and a caffeine hit.
Rather than a top 10, which is something overdone let’s go with a loose list – I’m not one to be restricted by numbers – and personally there are probably dozens for each category so I will keep it to a workable number at least. Let’s aim for achievable targets for you all to reach this year.
As a resident who lives “south” of the river (the local Melbournians know what I’m talking about) my recommendations are indeed bias. But I will mention my favourite “North” of the river spots – so don’t stress.
This is street Greek food at its best in Melbourne. Owned by one of the first Australian Celebrity Chef’s George Calombaris he has reinvented the souvlaki and taken it to a whole new level of deliciousness.
One of the hottest restaurants in Melbourne. It subscribes to the no reservations policy, which means you rock up, pop your name on the list and then find a cozy bar to wait the 1-2 hours it will take for your table to be ready. Don’t let that put you off, we have great bars to drink at as you wait and the food is definitely worth waiting for. This is Vietnamese fusion food and is great. The place is loud and bustling.
From the same guys that gave us Chin Chin, this is Korean BBQ with a twist. Located just outside the CBD this eatery continues the gentrification of the already uber cool Richmond. Like it’s sister restaurant Chin Chin, there is a no reservations policy – so get in early and be in for a treat of Korean BBQ delights.
This is my favourite hands down. It’s upscale class and the steak is to die for. The wine list is plentiful and the waiters wear those cute white coats. Celebrity chef Neil Perry delivers up a number of powerhouse restaurants in the Crown Casino entertainment complex and together with Spice Temple and Rosetta it’s Rockpool that has me lovingly returning. Perhaps it’s the sentimentality of it all having gotten engaged here many years ago – or maybe it’s just because the steak is simply amazing.
Want to know where all the great CBD chefs can be found after a long night of service in their own kitchens – it’s here! This is a Melbourne institution hidden down a lane in the heart of China Town. It’s no frills – don’t go expecting any kind of decent service or atmosphere – except that all that in itself leads to the joy of this place. Take a group, order up big and take a few of your favourite bottles of wine to accompany it all (it’s BYO).
Frank Camorra’s Movida is as iconic as the Melbourne laneway it’s located in. Melbourne is famous for it’s laneway restaurants and cafes and Movida is one of the originals and the best. Everything is good here, but remember to make a reservation as this place gets busy. If you’re wanting something a little more casual then head to Movida Next Door (which is quite literally next door). The food is equally as good and if you perch yourself up at the bar you will be guaranteed a chat with the bar staff and your glass will be full of Spanish wine all night long.
Other eateries well worth a mention and visit
CBD Maha, Cumulus Inc., The European, Supernormal, No. 35 (more so for the stellar view – be sure to visit the restrooms it’s best view in Melbourne), Gill’s Diner, Il Bacaro, Prix Fixe, Stokehouse City, The Meatball and Wine Bar, Lucy Liu, Coda and Tonka.
Out of the CBD
Eating on the run
Jimmy Grants – The fast food answer to Gazi, from George Calombaris comes the take away souvlaki joint to rival any kebab hut. Scattered around Melbourne and slowly spreading, grab one of these awesome souvva’s.
Royale Brothers – still in my mind the best burger around at the moment. Head to the hole in the wall behind The Pantry for a Royale with Cheese.
Supercharger – Superfood supreme. This Emporium food court eatery is wholesome whole food for all the vegan, gluten free and healthy eaters amongst us.
Huxtaburger – delicious burgers (North of the river) on Smith Street, Collingwood from the guys who have given us Huxtable just down the road.
Gelato Messina – get your gelato on with this upscale dessert perfection. Be ready to wait, the queue is famous.
Uber cool street shopping and eating
Brunswick Street, Fitzroy – the centre of Hipster ville this is a great street to eat, drink, shop and generally have a good time.
Church Street, Brighton – This is where the Brighton set luncheon. It’s the Melbourne version of Noosa’s Hastings Street.
Fitzroy and Acland Streets, St Kilda – You can’t go wrong anywhere in St Kilda, if anything because you are right on the beach. This is what Melbourne is all about, bayside eating and drinking.
Smith St. Collingwood – This previously derelict street some 10 years ago is now a bustling hive of activity with upscale eateries and watering holes (it’s also North of the river!).
Chapel St, South Yarra – well known for it’s highbrow shopping and it spans the suburbs South Yarra, Prahran and Windsor with each block reflecting the personality of its host suburb. Well known as a go-to for upscale shopping, eating and to simply “be seen”!
Siglo Bar – fabulous location at the top end of town overlooking Parliament House. It’s highbrow here and that’s the way we like. It’s a rooftop bar that is frequented all year round, with blankets and gas heaters at the ready for the chilly Melbourne evenings.
Eau De Vie – chances are unless someone takes you to this place you will struggle to find this speak easy bar all on your own. Having said that, make sure a friend takes you – it’s well worth the visit.
The Waiting Room – little gem nestled in the Crown Towers hotel lobby of all places. Perfect for a glass of french bubbles and entertaining people watch. Head here for a pre-dinner cocktail before eating at Rockpool, Spice Temple or Rosetta.
Berlin Bar – Who doesn’t like a watering hole where it literally separates it’s patrons into East and West. Forget the wall coming down, this place still has a clear division and you are entirely at the whim of the door greeters as to where you will end up.
Riverland – great for a warm day and a cold beer by the river.
Naked for Satan – Awesome rooftop bar on trendy Brunswick St. Fitzroy.
5 Star hotel luxury. This hotel is located at the “Paris” end of Collins Street Melbourne and has some of the best views from it’s 35+ level hotel rooms. Service is always impeccable and the rooms are upscale and comfortable. I usually opt for a Club Room to gain access to Club Sofitel, which is always the perfect way to start an evening with a drink and some canapés.
Sophisticated 5 star hotel located in the Crown Entertainment Complex on Southbank, this is a hip hotel with all the right trimmings. Easy walking distance to the CBD and attractions such as The National Gallery and Arts Centre you are never too far from the action.
This is top of the line luxury. The original and some say the best of the Crown hotels, this is for high rollers and people with discerning tastes and deep pockets.
This is a great hotel located just a short stroll away from the CBD – just down the road from the Crown Entertainment Complex on the redeveloped South Wharf. The hotel has spacious rooms (opt for the corner suites) and amazing views.
This is classic hotel luxury. Located in a prime position on the Yarra at Southbank it’s just old school beautiful. Stay here and walk to all the attractions and fine restaurants (but don’t eat on Southbank head into the CBD).
Classy establishment in the heart of the CBD. It’s located near the “Paris” end of Collins Street and offers up luxury to discerning travellers of business and pleasure.
These are about as Boutique as Melbourne gets with The Cullen, The Blackman and The Olsen. Stay here for a bit of style beyond the major chains.
There isn’t a city in the world as mad for coffee as Melbourne. There is literally a cafe on every corner and then a few in between. Some of my favourites are below, but this is merely scratching the surface – nothing is worse in Melbourne than a bad latte or espresso and quite frankly it’s unforgivable. The list could go on for days, here are some of my favourites cups of coffee goodness:
Tom Thumb; Famish’d; Trunk; St Ali Coffee Roasters; Sebastians Food and Wine; Brown Cow; The Pantry; Espresso Elements; Dead Man Espresso.
If anyone has any to add please feel free to comment.
Breakfast is a favourite meal for me especially on the weekend when it’s a long one with a great coffee in hand. Many people have compiled lists of winner breakfast places in Melbourne, in fact if you search you will find complete blogs devoted just to that – below are just a taste of my favourites from all over town and I want to know what your’s are in the comments section below.