Consult our local expert’s picks for the top places to sate your palate in around the city.
The long list of top Melbourne restaurants are defined by quality and originality, not price.
There was a time when dining out in Melbourne was restricted to special events. Back then, the height of sophistication was an over-priced, under-sized French meal or decidedly unauthentic Chinese cuisine. Happily, Melbourne is now a mecca for foodies, making the most of the skills and imagination of its multicultural population and supplies of the freshest produce.
The following Melbourne dining suggestions recognize quality regardless of price in a variety of Central Business District (CBD) and inner-suburban locations. The Age newspaper’s Epicure section on Tuesdays is a good source to find the best restaurants in Melbourne and the latest hot spots, too. Bon appetit!
Without a doubt, Melbourne’s CBD is one of the more competitive restaurant environments in the world—good news for diners, as only the strong survive. Reservations are highly recommended at all locations where available.
Eye-poppingly good fine dining can be enjoyed at the award-winning Ezard. Super chef Teague Ezard describes his food as “Australian freestyle,” which I always thought was a swimming stroke. However you describe it, the experience is incredible. 187 Flinders Lane, tel. +61-3-9639-6811. www.ezard.com.au.
Vue du Monde is classic French fine dining at its very best, inspiring legions of devotees to follow the restaurant despite a move from Carlton to the city. For a special experience, reserve the Chef’s Table for four to six people at one end of the kitchen to get right amongst the action. 430 Little Collins St., tel. +61-3-9691-3888. www.vuedumonde.com.au
For lovers of traditional Cantonese cuisine, look no further than Flower Drum. There’s no fancy fusion or gastro-molecular experimentation going on here, just the best traditional dishes and immaculate service. Reservations are essential, and the Peking Duck is highly recommended. 17 Market Lane, tel. +61-3-9662-3655.
If you prefer a more modern Chinese flavor, the experience at Seamstress is hard to beat. Built in a classic four-story brick building that was once a clothing factory, this contemporary and daring restaurant is sandwiched between two excellent bars, turning dinner into a night out without leaving the building. Always try the dumpling of the day. 113 Lonsdale St., tel. +61-3-9663-6363. www.seamstress.com.au
For modern Thai, head to Longrain. At long communal tables, family-style dishes to share and sublime cocktails will have you swooning. The restaurant doesn’t take dinner reservations, so enjoy a Bloody Longrain at the bar while you wait. 44 Little Bourke St., tel. +61-3-9671-3151. www.longrain.com.au
Celebrating Melbourne’s Greek population, one of the largest outside of Athens, The Press Club marries traditional dishes with a modern twist. This relative newcomer does a lot more than perfect lamb. 72 Flinders St., tel. +61-3-9677-9677. www.thepressclub.com.au
Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine declares tapas bar Movida “The best Spanish restaurant in Australia.” It’s so popular, the owners recently opened Movida Next Door, so check both venues for a seat when you go, as no reservations are accepted. An excellent place for a glass of sherry and delectable snacks, or a bottle of Rioja and a full-blown dinner. Let the friendly and knowledgeable waiters guide your eating and drinking choices. 1 Hosier Lane, tel. +61-3-9663-3038. www.movide.com.au
Exploring Melbourne’s fringes for excellent dining turns up pleasant surprises of every kind.
Libertine is an easy stroll from the Queen Victoria Market, but a gastronomic journey to the heart of France. The unpretentious airs and graceful classic French dining are a winning combination. Check out the specials, like bouillabaisse nights, or occasional crayfish and degustation menus. 500 Victoria St., North Melbourne. Tel. +61-3-9329-5228. www.libertinedining.com.au
We all have fond memories of our grandmother in the kitchen, and at Abla’s you can borrow a Lebanese grandmother for a night. Abla is a revered name in Melbourne’s restaurant landscape, and is famous for her simple and traditional Lebanese food and boundless hospitality. When you hear the laughter and gossip coming from the kitchen, it all makes sense. 109 Elgin St., Carlton. Tel. +61-3-9347-0006. www.ablas.com.au
A deliciously modern take on Lebanese food can be found at Rumi. Here the classics are re-written and the results are one of Melbourne’s best dining experiences in a relaxed suburban setting. Reservations are essential as Rumi is always full. 132 Lygon St., Brunswick East. Tel: +61-3-9388-8255. www.rumi.com.au
The mere mention of eating at Circa (The Prince) in St Kilda makes the initiated go all misty-eyed. For the uninitiated, this is a special place and a wonderful memory-in-the-making. Using the best of everything, including ingredients from the restaurant’s private kitchen garden, is the difference here. 2 Acland St., St Kilda. Tel. +61-3-9536-1122. www.circa.com.au
Some of Australia’s best seafood can be found at Claypots in St Kilda (and another in Fitzroy). There are no printed menus, but large blackboards list that day’s fresh, seasonal finds. Every dish is cooked in a different style, so a Thai-style fish dish sits next to a Moroccan-style crab claypot. 213 Barkly St., St Kilda. Tel. +61-3-9534-1282.
Tipping in Australia is an expression of thanks for good food and service, not an obligation. If your meal or service let you down, not tipping is the best way to send a message. If you are well fed and served, 10 to 15 percent and above is normal.
BYO, or Bring Your Own, is a treasured Melbourne system of bringing your own wine to dinner. Not only does this mean you can drink that special bottle you picked up at a winery, but you cut out the retail mark-up. Not every restaurant offers BYO (but many do) and some allow only wine, while others allow beer too. Always ask about BYO when you make reservations. A small corkage charge will be added for the privilege.