Of all the things to do in Melbourne, probably the most rewarding is savouring its fantastic food scene. Melbourne is frequently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, and its restaurants, cafés and cocktail bars undoubtedly play a large part in that. From cheap and cheerful cafés to high-end world-class dining, the city has it all.
Some of the best Melbourne restaurants are hidden in laneways, behind inconspicuous doors, down in basements or up rickety old stairs. Teage Ezard was one of the first chefs to see the potential of Flinders Lane as a dining precinct and 20 years later, his restaurant, Ezard, is still going strong.
Now in Flinders Lane you’ll find other popular restaurants such as the effortlessly cool Coda, Andrew McConnell’s long-running and always innovative Cumulus Inc, and McConnell’s pan-Asian canteen, Supernormal. Its younger sibling, Supernormal Canteen, in St Kilda, has a smoking yakitori grill and takes inspiration from Japan, China and Korea. It offers a chargeback arrangement for guests staying at the Adina Apartment Hotel St Kilda.
Choosing between Melbourne’s modern Asian restaurants is daunting, from the cool industrial-looking Sunda to the ever-popular Chin Chin, Longrain and Red Spice Road. Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar packs a flavour punch with its shared plates, while Uncle is a hit with those who love modern Vietnamese.
Melbourne’s Chinatown has a history dating back to the 1850s gold rush and is packed with eateries offering dumplings, Peking duck, yum cha and regional Chinese cuisines. For quality Cantonese, it’s hard to go past the much-lauded Flower Drum, which has been operating since 1975 and which makes some of the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings).
Another restaurant taking this cuisine to the next level is Lee Ho Fook, in a charming, historic CBD building. For quality Japanese, Ishizuka offers traditional kaiseki dining in a Bourke Street basement.
For Mediterranean food, Spanish-inspired Movida has spawned a string of bars and restaurants but the original one in Hosier Lane is hard to beat – if you can secure a table. The elegant, long-standing Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda has a new sibling in the city, Di Stasio Citta, which has become a talking point not just for its carefully crafted Italian food but also for its striking artworks and eye-catching design, including terrazzo floors and Murano chandeliers.
The grand dining room in Grossi Florentino is the scene of many a business deal and continues to woo diners with an Italian menu and ambience steeped in tradition. Its walk-in cellar houses Arlechin, the place to go for a late-night (or very early morning) snack.
For quiet yet chic surrounds, The Savoy Hotel On Little Collins offers share boards of meats and cheeses in its Alexander Bar all day. With its Victorian façade and Art Deco interior, the hotel harks to the elegance of times past while keeping a foot squarely in the present.
If you’re out to impress or simply want to spoil yourself, Attica consistently wins awards as Melbourne’s top restaurant, noted for its inspired degustation menu emphasising indigenous Australian ingredients. Also reaching great heights, figuratively and literally, is Vue de Monde where the pricey food and wine comes with a sensational view of the city skyline from 55 storeys high.
For a more down to earth experience, Queen Street Rescue, in the Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne, is the place to enjoy a pub-style meal with table service. Its char-grilled Black Angus steaks, burgers, market fish, salads, pasta and pizza come in generous “rescue” portions.
In the Docklands entertainment precinct, Platform 28 offers contemporary fare in the relaxed setting of a former railway goods shed restored with rustic charm and is just a stone's throw from The Travelodge Docklands. History is also evident in the heritage-listed Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne where Straits Cafe and The Travellers Bar showcase local and organic produce in their international menu. The Rendezvous also offers High Tea, one of many Melbourne venues that uphold this delightful tradition.
One to watch: The Vibe Hotel brand is returning to Melbourne in March 2020 with the CBD's most fashionable address on the corner of Queen and Flinders Street. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Yarra and incredible architecture that blends a contemporary accomodation tower with the beautiful Fletcher Jones facade, it's the place you want to eat (check out St Marks Road Co), play and stay at!