Melbourne Food Recs

Australia’s Good Food Guide’s Awards just came out for 2020, sparking off the usual round of amusement and drama. Arguing about food is a nice reprieve among the global political shitshow. If you’ve been keeping up with food news around the world, you might have seen the lawsuit filed against Michelin by French celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, who is partly famous for his distinctive hat. Yes, his hat. To add to the ridiculousness of this spat, Marc complained because he had 1. lost a star over 2. judging which he felt wronged in, including thinking that Michelin had deducted a star partly because they’d thought he’d used cheddar in a cheese souffle when he hadn’t (??) and that 3. Michelin apparently thought his scallops were mealy when they couldn’t be because they were cooked in passionfruit shells.

I love food, and I love food drama almost as much. Not so much the restaurant pay drama, which isn’t funny and which I hope everyone involved in the mass wage theft in the industry gets what’s coming to them. Slap fights in the media over cheese souffles though? Bring it on. According to the Washington Post:

Veyrat’s restaurant, roughly 100 miles east of Lyon, was first awarded the coveted three-star Michelin ranking in 2018. Much of the food in the $330-to-$430 tasting menu comes from the restaurant’s own botanic gardens and orchards.

The famed chef learned in January that his restaurant was losing a star just one year after it had achieved the three-star ranking — widely considered among the most prestigious distinctions in the fine-dining business.

“I’ve been in a depression for six months. How dare you take hostage the health of cooks?” Veyrat lamented during his July interview with Le Point, during which he blamed the “amateur” nature of the Michelin reviewers.

“It scares me for the new generations to come. In fact, the only reason given was confusion over the Reblochon and Beaufort emulsion with cheddar,” he said. He went on to call the Michelin reviewers “impostors” who deliberately stir up fights for “commercial reasons.”

Australia doesn’t yet get the Michelin guide, so there isn’t any Michelin drama here — but maybe it’s only a matter of time. In any case, before the stars get handed out, here’s our non-definitive list of what we love in Melbourne. We’ll do a Fave Five for each section, or we’ll be here forever.

Melbourne Food Recs — Starship Edition

Despite being a massive continent, African food isn’t as well-represented in Melbourne as some other cuisines. We’re hoping for more.

  • Kamel (19 Victoria Ave, Albert Park VIC 3206): Serving North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, Kamel has a delicious selection of mezze share plates.
  • Mesob (213 High St, Northcote VIC 3070): A traditional Ethiopian restaurant, large platters of lentils and meat stews are served with injera, fermented pancakes that you use in place of spoons. Delicious.
  • New Somali Kitchen (284 Racecourse Rd, Flemington VIC 3031): Never tried Somalian food? You’re in luck. Its original restaurant was targeted at homesick Somalians, but the Flemington one is for the bigger community. Try the braised lamb.
  • Polēpolē (1/267 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Located in the city, this is the place to try African game meat if you’re curious.
  • The Abyssinian (277 Racecourse Rd, Kensington VIC 3031): Described as “slow food from the horn of Africa”, this Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant has been popular for years. It also has vegan options.

Honourable Mentions: Konjo, Little Africa, Saba’s, Savanna.

American food – particularly American-style BBQ – has been popular in Melbourne for a while. There are lots of options.

  • Belles Hot Chicken (Various): “Hot chicken, natural wines” is now Belles’ selling point. Visit for a big, delicious serve of Southern-style fried chicken. We mourn its original diner iteration, which had an amazing Key Lime Pie though.
  • Bluebonnet (124-126 Lygon St, Brunswick East VIC 3057): Texan-styled BBQ, worth the trip up to where it’s now at – a permanent home after years of pop-ups and a fire that destroyed an earlier restaurant.
  • Le Bon Ton (51 Gipps St, Collingwood VIC 3066): A New Orleans-inspired BBQ joint, come for the brisket and stay for the fried chicken and burgers.
  • Parlour (64 Chapel St, Windsor VIC 3181): Speaking of diners, Parlour does a fantastic key lime pie, along with burgers and hotdogs and milkshakes. Very retro.
  • Sparrow’s Philly Cheesesteaks (Various): What it says on the tin – serving the only authentic philly cheesesteak in Victoria.

Honourable Mentions: Girl with the Gris Gris, Kodiak Club, Pizza Pizza Pizza, The Collection Bar.

What is Australian cuisine anyway? It’s hard to pin down. We think of it as Miscellaneous European-ish Stuff Served in Australia, I guess.

  • Attica (74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea VIC 3185): Surely Attica doesn’t need much introduction. It’s the first restaurant featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, one of the top restaurants in the world. It’s as pretentious as it looks, but the food is inventive and great.
  • Dexter (456 High St, Preston VIC 3072): Dexter is technically maybe American-adjacent BBQ, but its wildly inventive menu can’t really be described as American. It’s famous for meat donuts. Yes, you read that right. It’s not as weird as it seems.
  • Lûmé (226 Coventry St, South Melbourne VIC 3205): Once one of our favourite restaurants in the world for its innovative menu serving unusual elements (cow udder? squid entrails?), Lûmé is no longer as weird and crazy as it used to be, and it suffers for it. Still, it’s a great restaurant.
  • Mathilda 159 Domain (159 Domain Rd, South Yarra VIC 3141): We’re not sure why this restaurant put the street address in its name, but this latest venture by Scott Pickett serves well-considered, smoke-adjacent, modern Aussie food.
  • Royal Mail (519 Spencer St, West Melbourne VIC 3003): This place warrants a mention on this list because it’s the only place where you can eat not just the Australian flag (emu and kangaroo) but a whole host of other Australian game on Wednesdays’ “Roadkill night” (Now renamed Australian Game night). Including possum.

Honourable Mentions: Amaru, Carlton Wine Room, Charcoal Lane, Congress, IDES, Viva Kebabs (Halal Snack Pack).

A food group that Melbourne takes very, very seriously. Waiting for 10-20 minutes is common for a good brunch place in Melbourne, as is paying upwards of $20pp for a dish. You might have seen Americans laugh at how much our avo toast costs. Spoiler: there’s a good reason for that.

  • Auction Rooms (103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne VIC 3051): There’s often a long queue outside the Auction Rooms, and for good reason: the food’s great. Head on over to Mork afterward across the street for some unusual hot chocolate to round off your North Melbourne visit.
  • Crux and Co (GO1/35 Albert Rd, Melbourne VIC 3004): Beautiful, hipster breakkie opposite the more crowded Kettle Black. Great selection of cakes.
  • Hash (113 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Hash is pretty good, but what pushes it onto this list is the delicious, made-for-Instagram fairy floss hot chocolate.
  • Sonido! (69 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065): Looking for something a little different? Try this South American cafe that specialises in arepas.
  • Top Paddock (658 Church St, Richmond): Love, love the big breakfast at this amazing cafe, which includes Kettle Black and Higher Ground in the group. Was recently sold, though, so we’re not sure how good it is now, but if you do get around to any of the cafes, try their famous ricotta hotcakes.

Honourable mentions: Journeyman, Kuu Cafe, Magic Mountain Saloon, Operator 21, Pillar of Salt, Proper & Son, Touchwood, Twenty and Six Espresso.

What’s a food rec list without burgers, especially in Melbourne, the home of the brioche bun hipster overload?

  • 1090 Burger (181A Swan St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Served in an unpretentious shop, these Angus beef burgers are slathered with a delicious, top-secret sauce.
  • 8bit (Various): To be fair, I’m more into the hot dogs in 8bit than the burgers, but it does both well, with a retro gaming theme to boot. The sides are great too. Get potato gems, or loaded chips, or onion rings.
  • Betty’s (Various): A franchise originally out of Queensland, Betty’s is the undisputed favourite in the office, with its delicious patties and buns. Bust out for a concrete (dense ice cream) if youre feeling it.
  • Rockpool’s Burger Bar (Crown, Melbourne): Looking to splurge on a Wagyu patty made out of actual David Blackmore wagyu? Rockpool has you covered. It’s a very good burger, but will burn your wallet.
  • Royal Stacks (470 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000): One of us is mildly obsessed with the Big Mac sauce, and Royal Stacks does something close – except with a great burger to boot.

Honourable Mentions: Andrew’s, Danny’s, Grand Trailer Park Taverna, Leonard’s House of Love, Smoke and Pickles, Tuck Shop Takeaway.

China is massive, and that doesn’t even count the diaspora. It’s hard to list every good Chinese place we like in Melbourne.

  • HuTong (14-16 Market Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000): A xiao long bao (soup dumpling) specialist that makes the best xiao long bao in the city. The rest of its menu isn’t exactly inspiring, but it’s worth a visit just for the dumplings.
  • Shandong Mama (Mid City, 7/200 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Great authentic recipes from the Shandong province, this bustling dumpling place does amazing panfried dumplings with tons of variety.
  • Hi Chong Qing (UniLodge D2, 26 Orr St, Carlton VIC 3053): Specialising in beef noodles from Chong Qing, this is a great, cheap noodle option.
  • Tim Ho Wan (206 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): The original restaurant has a Michelin star in Hong Kong, and is massively popular. The queues in Melbourne have died down, making it a good time to check out this place if you haven’t. Try the pork buns, the dish that gave it the Michelin star.
  • Sharks Fin House (131 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): An institution in Chinatown and a firm favourite for many dim sum aficionados, we’d recommend trying to get in during dim sum hour on a weekend. Want to order dim sum like a local? Get the century egg congee, the roast pork cheong fun (flat noodles), har kow and siew mai, and round it off with sweet beancurd tau hway and egg tarts. There’s also Gold Leaf (Various) now in the Docklands.

Honourable Mentions: Dainty Sichuan, Dragon Hot Pot, Kitchen Republik, Pancake Village, Roast Duck Inn, Secret Kitchen, Supper Inn, Wonderbao.

Any list of Melbourne food recs has to have a coffee list, which although is not precisely food, is what hipster Melbourne is famous for. Some of our faves are:

  • Industry Beans (3/62 Rose St, Fitzroy): Also doubles as an extremely hipster brunch spot in a pinch. Also has a branch open on Collins St in the city.
  • Brother Baba Budan (359 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne): One of the most well-known coffee places in Melbourne. Not sure what’s with the chairs hanging from the ceiling, though.
  • Market Lane (Various locations): Used to serve coffee just “Black” or “White” or “Filter. Menu has expanded slightly.
  • Patricia (Cnr Lt Bourke and Lt William St, Melbourne): Another one of those limited menu coffee places. Standing room only.
  • St Ali (12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne): Has a delicious brunch as well. Sells merch, which amuses me. Does anyone really buy St Ali merch? Bonus: St Ali’s wholesaler runs Sensory Lab, a bunch of coffee joints in the city, which you might know as the viral battleground for two of its superfans.

Honourable Mentions: Assembly, Axil, Duke’s, Everyday, Padre.

For anyone who has a sweet tooth, Melbourne has lots to offer.

  • Bibelot (285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne VIC 3205): This beautiful French cafe will greet you with a jewelry case of delicious cakes and inventive chocolates. Try the tasting plate, or kick back with its great hot chocolate.
  • Burch & Purchese (647 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC 3141): Probably the best cake shop in Melbourne, we love its shooters and mourn the fact that it no longer delivers to Burnley. The chocolate is great too.
  • Lune (Various): You’d have heard of this one – considered the best croissant in the world by the New York Times, Lune is a cult croissant that often sells out by the afternoon. Check out its original shop in Fitzroy for the Starship Enterprise-esque lighting.
  • Om Nom (Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne): A sweets specialist, Om Nom makes beautiful, restaurant-level desserts. Looking for several flavours of chocolate on chocolate soil served in a glass dome? A tower of mango profiteroles? Head to Om Nom.
  • Wonderpop & Deli (18 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000): This contemporary pie shop serves anything from lasagne pie to giant marshmallows, but we’re really here for the delicious apple pie.

Honourable Mentions: Agathe, Hopetoun Tea Room, Penny for Pound, Koko Black, Miss Marple’s Tea Room, Mork Chocolate, Windsor (High tea), T by Luxbite.

We’d apologise for stuffing Europe into one category, but then again, we did that for China and Africa, which are way bigger.

  • L’Hotel Gitan (32 Commercial Rd, Prahran VIC 3181): By far my favourite French place in Melbourne, this restaurant is more of a gastropub, with great rotisseries, and more importantly, a really great dessert.
  • Tipo00 (361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): A must-try if you’re in Melbourne, this incredible pasta bar makes pasta that’s comparable to what we’ve had in Italy. Portions are on the small side, and dessert is terrible, but go for the pasta and starters.
  • Añada (197 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065): Delicious, refined Spanish food and tapas, this restaurant is a Fitzroy institution.
  • Dinner by Heston (Crown, Melbourne): Surely Heston Blumenthal doesn’t need an introduction as the UK’s most famous food export next to maybe Jamie Oliver and fish and chips. Try in particular his Pineapple Tipsy Cake.
  • Mjølner (106 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Modern Scandinavian food from a Marvel fan, a meal here starts with you being presented with a variety of knives and can end with fire, if you pick the delicious Bombe Alaska.

Honourable Mentions: 48h Pizza e Gnocci, Agostino, Bar Carolina, Bar Margaux, Noir, Capitano, Connie’s Pizza, Hereford Beefstouw, Stalactites, Swiss Club, Movida.

Ice Cream
Why does this get its own category? Well, why not.

  • Gelato Messina (Various): Inventive modern ice-cream, Messina also does weekly themed ice creams. It’s too late now, but their Game of Thrones range whenever the show was running used to be hilarious.
  • Glacé (Various): Mainly an ice cream cake shop that pushes the boundaries of what ice cream cakes can be, Glacé also does do ice cream – but why eat that when you can try their cakes? They have little tasting platters too.
  • Il Melograno (76 High St, Northcote VIC 3070): Sicilian gelato shop with a really great ricotta ice cream, a must-try if you’re ever in the area.
  • Lavezzi (334 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053): A fourth-generation gelato shop right in Lygon. Check it out if you’re close by.
  • Pidapipo (Various): Another great gelato shop known for its watermelon and pistachio flavours.

Honourable Mentions: Billy van Creamery, Dex2Rose, Miinot, Nitro Lab, Piccolina, Weirdoughs.

Indian food is awesome. From the breadth of the food available – vegan? No problem – to the complexity of their make-up, here’s our faves.

  • Delhi Streets (22 Katherine Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000): Always packed, this modern Indian diner serves incredible butter chicken, eggplant masala, and chaat. Try the mixed thalis and get some starters.
  • Ish (199 Gertrude Street Fitzroy 3065): Amazingly good modern Indian food. Loved the tandoori and the butter chicken. Check out the cocktails.
  • Tonka (20 Duckboard Place Melbourne 3000): Upmarket Indian food from the team behind Tonka, with delicious naans, snacks, and dishes. Getting a booking is usually at trial and a half particularly for popular times.
  • 3 Idiots (378 Bridge Rd, Richmond VIC 3121): This hilariously named Bridge Road cafe does an Indian-inspired brunch menu too, but you should visit for the buttery breads and the curries. Specialising in Mumbai cuisine.
  • Aangan (Various): One of the most well-known Indian restaurants in town, the original store in Footscray has been trucking along for over a decade.

Honourable Mentions: Daughter-in-law, Babu Ji, Two Fat Indians, Kake Di Hatti.

There’s a huge breadth of Japanese food available in Melbourne at all price levels.

  • Minamishima (4 Lord St, Richmond VIC 3121): No “Best of” Japan list in Melbourne can exclude Minamishima, a highly exclusive sushi restaurant with an equally exclusive pricetag.
  • Tempura Hajime (60 Park St, South Melbourne VIC 3205): A tiny restaurant run by a chef from Osaka and his family, tempura is fried right before you and served fresh onto your plate. You can also get nigiri sushi made right before your eyes.
  • Yamato (28 Corrs Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000): Stepping into this restaurant is like squeezing sideways through time and space into Tokyo. Reasonably priced and with a menu that hasn’t changed for years.
  • Ishizuka (Basement level b01/139 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Kaiseki by Tomotaka Ishizuka, a subtle, highly nuanced, beautifully presented degustation. Its refusal to cater for dietary requirements reminded me of dining in Japan, but if you’re not picky and don’t have dietary needs, it’s well worth a trip – if you can find the restaurant.
  • Ippudo (QV Shopping Centre, 18/300 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000): You’ve probably seen the queues outside this alley restaurant in QV. Delicious ramen with rich broth. Try the gyoza as well.

Honourable Mentions: Aka Siro, Kazuki, Kenzan, Izakaya Chuji, Kisume, Monou, Shimbashi, Shira Nui, Torissong, Wabi Sabi.

Korean food isn’t all fried chicken or BBQ. That being said, it’s a great pity that the modern, contemporary restaurant SHIK closed earlier this year.

  • Gami (Various): The fried chicken is plentiful and ubiquitous at this Korean fried chicken staple in Melbourne, but we also recommend the side dishes, like the cheese potato.
  • Hansang (347-349 King St, West Melbourne VIC 3003): Affordable and previously a student favourite, the secret’s out on this low-key restaurant with delicious banchan. 
  • CJ Lunch Bar (391 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000): This immensely popular shop on the corner of Hardware Lane and Little Lonsdale Street is another favourite of students. We love the bulgolgi.
  • ChangGo (70 Little La Trobe St, Melbourne): This Korean BBQ restaurant is all about pork, in particular, the Eight Flavour Pork set. Eight flavours of pork belly? You’re on. Get there very early or very late, or you’d be queuing for sure.
  • Oriental Spoon (Various): Another Melbourne staple that’s been here for years, Oriental Spoon is all about satisfying, expansive food. Check out their hot stews in particular.

Honourable Mentions: Pelicana, Samsam, Bornga, Guhng.

Middle Eastern
Increasingly popular in Melbourne, we love the sweets in particular.

  • Babajan (713 Nicholson St, Carlton North VIC 3054): A modern Turkish/Middle Eastern eatery in Carlton, everything is made from scratch and in-house.
  • Knafeh Nabulseyeh (74 Poath Rd, Hughesdale VIC 3166): Stocks shawarmas and such, but if you trekked all the way out to Hughesdale for this place, it’s probably for its authentic, Palestinian knafeh, an incredibly yummy dessert that has to be eaten to be believed.
  • Maha (21 Bond St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Shane Deliah’s Middle Eastern fine dining restaurant has huge portions. Its four course menu is really 12 items. Delicious all the way through to even the dessert.
  • New Jaffa (32 Stanley St, Collingwood VIC 3066): Hummus is the star of this Collingwood eatery, made fresh daily.
  • Rumi (East Brunswick, 116 Lygon St, Melbourne VIC 3057): One of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne, Rumi has a considered, subtle range of food that sets the bar.

Honourable Mentions: Bar Saracen, Mama Rumaan, Miznon, Souk, Tulum, Yagiz.

South America
Another region of the world with so many options in Melbourne that it’s hard to pick.

  • B’Cos Brazil (353 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Portuguese is the main language spoken in this tiny, unassuming eatery, the only place in Melbourne CBD where you can get your hands on Brazilian staples like brigadeiros and pao de queijo.
  • Bodega Underground (55 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Amazing late night mezcal and taqueira in Chinatown. Delicious tacos, incredible lamb. Loved the desserts. They do a bottomless brunch on weekends that is often booked out.
  • CHE (296 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, VIC): Stands for Chicken, Helado, Empanada, CHE is perhaps still unfortunately named because you can’t find it on a quick google search. Delicious roast chicken and empanada.
  • Mamasita (Level 1/11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000): One of Melbourne’s most well-loved restaurants, Mamasita is contemporary Mexican, with an ever-changing menu that was one of the first few gluten-free ones in the city. Everything we’ve tried there was delicious.
  • Pastuso (19 AC/DC La, Melbourne VIC 3000): A Peruvian bar and grill, this is probably one of the few places in Melbourne where you can eat alpaca. Spoiler: It’s very much like beef, and when we were there, it was served braised.

Honourable Mentions: Asado, B’Churrasco, Club Colombia, El Sabor, Harley House, Hello Jose, Neruda’s, San Telmo.

Southeast Asia
To be honest, we struggled to pick 5. Southeast Asia is huge.

  • Jinda Thai (1-7 Ferguson St, Abbotsford VIC 3067): Widely considered one of the best Thai restaurants in Melbourne, you’d either have to book to get a spot or go at a weird hour. The green curry was delicious.
  • Blok M (380 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000): An old Melbourne restaurant specialising in authentic Indonesian food. Love the grilled chicken.
  • Laksa King (6-16 Pin Oak Cres, Flemington VIC 3031): This famous Flemington staple specialises in various types of laksa and other Malaysian staples. Try in particular the ngoh hiang, a fried beancurd dish stuffed with minced pork. And the laksa is awesome.
  • Uncle (Level 1/15 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Modern Vietnamese at the so-called Paris end of Collins Street, Uncle serves a delicious mix of both modern takes on Vietnamese food and classics like pho.
  • Jojo Little Kitchen (7/120 A’Beckett St, Melbourne VIC 3000): Jojo is a pan mee specialist, but everything we’ve tried there has been awesome. You can pick from a mix of noodles, toppings, and dry or soup bases. Personally, we prefer dry.

Honourable mentions: Soi 38, Roti Road, Go Noodle, Makan, GJ’s Grill, Aunty Franklee, Sunda, Lee Ho Fook.

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