The Best Restaurants In Melbourne guide image

MELGuide

The Best Restaurants In Melbourne

All of the best restaurants in Melbourne, according to us.

As a food city, Melbourne is up there with New York, Tokyo, and London. The dining scene is varied and innovative, bringing together different cultural influences from here and around the world.

Our wine bars take inspiration from those in France and Spain, our coffee culture kicked off thanks to Greek and Italian immigration, and the sheer number of excellent ramen, bánh mì, and noodle joints hint at our close proximity to Asia. And while native ingredients were once a hard-to-find novelty, you’ll now find them celebrated not just at adventurous fine-dining spots but at cafes and cocktail bars, too. You might also hear Melbourne referred to by its traditional name, Naarm, a gesture of recognition that reflects a growing desire by non-Indigenous Australians to better respect and understand First Nations and Torres Strait Islander culture.

There are a few other things you should know about eating here. Melburnians take brunch as seriously as dinner (many cafes are full table-service affairs), and we have a penchant for rooftop bars, late-night dining, and signature dishes (look out for The Anchovy Toast, The Lobster Roll, and The Vegemite Curry). You’ll hear locals refer to “the city” or “the CBD,” by which they mean the Central Business District and City of Melbourne, and while this guide focuses on the city and surrounding neighborhoods like Brunswick, Fitzroy, Carlton, and Richmond, you could also spend days further afield exploring Vietnamese and Ethiopian food in Footscray, or Cantonese and Korean in Box Hill.

Wherever you end up, Melbourne is a great place to be hungry right now.


HOTSPOTS WORTH THE HYPE


photo credit: Melanie Desa

Parcs review image

Parcs

$$$$

198 Little Collins St, Melbourne
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It’s all about the Umami e Pepe at this low-waste city eatery. The satisfyingly savory take on cacio e pepe subs out pasta for Hokkien noodles, and cheese for red miso that's made from leftover bread trimmings instead of the usual soybeans. It’s an excellent example of the flavor-filled, low-waste cooking Parcs does so well, and the low-environmental-impact philosophy that drives it all. In line with this, the drinks list is dominated by minimal-intervention Aussie drops at very decent prices. Parcs (“scrap” backwards) is popular, with just 20 seats and no bookings, so it always feels like a win to score a table.


If you haven’t been brought up on the stuff, you’ve probably been scared off Vegemite. But for an excellent entry point try the Vegemite curry at Sunda, a Southeast Asian spot that kind of looks like a construction site, all exposed brick and steel beams. That Vegemite curry started out as a special, but now you can add it to the $130 four-course prix-fixe menu any night. And you absolutely should (technically, you can’t really say you’ve been to Melbourne if you haven't eaten this dish). See also: Aru, a similar concept but more fire-fuelled, by the same chef.


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A night out at 1800 Lasagne is a guaranteed good time. The joyful Italian restaurant started out as a delivery service only for those in the know, run out of an old Holden hatchback. The candle-lit, brick-and-mortar version adds romance and nostalgia to the mix with brick archways, checkered tablecloths, and some of Melbourne’s best DJs on record duty. The pork-and-beef lasagne is big on silky bechamel, and there’s an eggplant option for vegetarians. There’s no shortage of amaro, chianti, or prosecco either. If it’s drinkable, delicious, and Italian, you’ll likely find it here.


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Lagoon Dining

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It’s hard to go past the togarashi fried chicken at Lagoon Dining, a modern Asian island in the sea of Italian restaurants that is Lygon Street, Carlton. But everything else on the menu (which reflects the Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian heritage of the owners) is just as loaded with umami and spice. Think kang kong (water spinach) stir-fried in chicken fat, or egg custard with mushroom mapo and pork floss. Cinema Nova is right across the street, so it’s a great spot for a dinner-and-a-movie date night.


If you find yourself wandering around the city late at night with a hankering for indulgent French food, get to Lonsdale Street and look for the door marked “MGX.” Beyond it, you’ll find a raucous, dimly-lit basement bar where you can easily lose the rest of your night. The same crew is behind dive bar Heartbreaker and speakeasy The Everleigh, and are known for their top-notch cocktails. Order the Manhattan and the cheeseburger with bordelaise and pomme frites, all served until 2:30am on Friday and Saturday nights.


WINE BARS


For an introduction to what eating in this city is all about, head to Napier Quarter, a cafe-slash-wine-bar in a Fitzroy backstreet. Produce is prepared with a light but thoughtful touch, which by day might mean a plate of yellow peaches dressed with honey, or heirloom tomatoes with wild sorrel (by night there are natural wines and more substantial dishes). The Anchovy Toast is a cult favorite: Olasagasti anchovies, thick house mayo, salsa verde, and a sliced boiled egg served on rye. Lingering is encouraged—there’s no coffee to go, and there’s even an on-site guesthouse.


Don’t let the polished concrete and bentwood chairs fool you into thinking this is just another neighborhood wine bar. Etta is one of the most exciting places to eat in Melbourne right now, largely thanks to a bold, punchy menu that draws on the chef’s Kashmiri, Chinese, Singaporean, and Filipino heritage. Read: scallops cooked in sambal-spiked butter, abalone-lardo skewers swept with soy and kampot pepper, and crayfish with curry-leaf butter. All primed for pairing with interesting wines from small-batch producers.


There’ll always be a place in this world for quiet bars, but if drinking in a library isn’t your bag, get yourself to Embla, where the music is loud and the room is almost always ​​chockablock. The crew here want you to have a good time—they certainly are—and make traversing the broad-ranging wine list effortless and fun. Within it you’ll find a mix of progressive and old-school producers from Australia and around the world, as well as a few hard-to-find drops not normally available to the public. The food, most of which gets fire-adjacent at some point, is ridiculously good, too.


In all honesty, we’re kind of underselling Bar Liberty by calling it a wine bar. Sure, there’s a list loaded with interesting and exciting natural wines, but there’s also sake, pastis, and vermouth. And lurid blue cocktails. And a delightfully rascally vibe in the dining room, where you’ll eat salty, snackable things like miso king prawns or grilled mortadella with pickles. This is a perfect date night spot, even more so in summer when the astroturfed courtyard opens up. Just look for the graffiti-covered sign out front.


Carlton Wine Room is, in fact, many rooms spread across five levels of a 19th-century terrace house. We reckon the place to be though is the marble bar on the ground floor. Staff act as masterful guides for a 100-strong wine list covering both classic and contemporary terrain, while the kitchen puts up pretty dishes that drive you to delve deeper into that drinks selection. The potato focaccia has a pleasing squish-to-crunch ratio, begging to be torn apart and dipped into an accompanying bowl of stracciatella in chive oil. Don’t miss the rum-soaked baba either, though if you’re a few wines in be warned: it’s big on booze.


BAKERIES, CAFES, & DELIS


If you think New Yorkers take brunch seriously, you should meet a Melburnian. The city’s devotion to brunch is all-consuming, and Florian is one of the best in the game. Sit at the breakfast bar or a sunny outdoor table and order the popular gravlax with tarragon and ricotta on rye, or steel-cut oats with ruby-red poached quince and brown-butter crumb. The coffee is excellent, too, but you’re in Melbourne so that goes without saying. Go on a weekday to avoid a long wait.


According to The New York Times, the Lune croissant “may be the finest you will find anywhere in the world.” But Melburnians already knew that, which is why we’ve been lining up for the perennially popular pastry shop’s peanut-pretzel pain au chocolat, coconut pandan croissants, and creme brûlée cruffins for years. The flagship is a futuristic bunker-like space in Fitzroy, and there are outposts in the city and Armadale. Book ahead if you want a spot at Lune Lab, an eight-stool bar at the Fitzroy location doing experimental three-course pastry meals and bottomless coffee.


Melbourne’s long lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 led to the opening of this sandwich shop from the team behind Anchovy (a Vietnamese fine diner that’s since closed). Billed as a “bánh mì bar,” Cà Com’s specialty is actually khao jee pate, a Laotian breakfast sandwich that isn’t technically a bánh mì but gets pretty damn close. The OG is jungle-spiced pork sausage big on lemongrass, galangal, and garlic, served on a crunchy long roll with mayo, jeow bong, pickles, and herbs. Five-spice pork belly and turmeric-coconut chicken also make regular appearances. The venue only seats six, so we like to grab a sandwich and Vietnamese iced coffee and head to Citizen’s Park nearby.


The signature breakfast at Cibi is as understated and wholesome as the rest of this Japanese cafe and concept store: a piece of grilled fish, tamagoyaki, potato salad, greens, veggies, rice and a bowl of miso. It’ll give you the energy you need to shop the rest of the warehouse space, full of Japanese ceramics, kitchen tools, coffee accessories, plants, hand-dyed fabrics, and more.


Australians aren’t exactly known for being subtle, so when Northcote’s All Are Welcome was tagged with the line “Posh c*nts, good bread,” they spun it to their advantage and turned it into merch. And that anonymous artist was kinda right: you’ll pay more than average for the bread and pastries here, but they’re all well worth the price. There are just a handful of seats (same goes for the second location in Thornbury up the road), and while it’s open till 2pm, the excellent fennel-spiced pork sausage rolls and inventive fruit danishes can be sold out well before then, so you’ll want to arrive early.


There’s so much variety at this vegan dining hall that the staff regularly has to assure customers that yes, it’s all plant-based. That includes the meatball sub, the black forest cannoli, the full English breakfast, and the seafood laksa. The setup is cafeteria-style, so you can load up your own tray and get the necessary fuel you’ll need to go vintage shopping on nearby Smith and Brunswick streets. Or get your vegan cold-cuts, cheeses, and almond croissants to go, and snack along the way.


Terror Twilight is an all-day cafe that’s wholesome in more ways in one. Light streams in through huge Venetian-clad windows, and there’s cozy booth seating and plenty of greenery, both hanging from the ceiling and on the menu. Build-your-own bowls include options like brussels sprouts with honey mustard, edamame with chili oil, and sumac-spiced smashed avo. Yes, there are kale smoothies, but there’s also coconut cold-brew coffee—splash of rum optional.


There’s no skimping at Hector’s. Not on sandwich size. Not on butter. Not on cheese or any really any other filling, whether you’ve ordered the tuna melt on rye or the fried-eggplant-and-stracciatella number. The corner shop is located in a residential street in Richmond and there’s a South Melbourne offshoot, too, and while Hector’s isn’t technically a deli, the “sangas” are always made fresh. Doughnuts are a new addition and come filled with interesting combos like whipped chèvre and hot honey, or sweet-sour plum jam.


CLASSIC ESTABLISHMENTS


You won’t find chicken chow mein or General Tso’s anything at most Chinese restaurants in Australia. Instead you get regional offerings like Sichuan-style hotpot, Yunnan noodle soups, and ShanDong-style dumplings. Always-buzzing Cantonese institution Ling Nan is a reliable go-to for its generous plates of pippies in XO and duck pancakes served until 2:30am. Service can be brusque (you definitely won’t be allowed to hang around after eating) but that’s balanced out by affordable prices and the ability to BYO.


The food at France-Soir is as classic French as the white-clothed tables and charming, suited-up waiters. You’ll eat escargot, cassoulet, steak frites, and crepes suzette while drinking champagne (or something else suitably French) from the 3000-strong wine list, one of the best and most reasonably priced in the country. The bistro is a Melbourne institution, open since 1986, and while you’ll still find business-types in the corner and staff who’ve worked here for more than 30 years, a younger generation has discovered the place and keeps things lively.


Maha is an institution—a well-oiled machine in a swish CBD space serving Middle Eastern dishes that recall the chef/owner’s childhood. You’ll find wines from as far afield as Morocco and Turkey to pair with spice-laden dishes like slow-roasted lamb shoulder with smoked eggplant, and miniature doughnuts stuffed with Turkish delight jelly. Offshoots Maha Bar in Collingwood and Maha East in Prahran are smaller, livelier, and often easier to get into.


There’s no avoiding it: if you plan on going to the “Double Chin,” plan on waiting. The no-reservations Southeast Asian spot has been pretty much slammed since opening in 2011. We recommend arriving before 7pm, putting your name down, then grabbing a drink at GoGo Bar downstairs. When you do get a table, crowd-pleasing dishes might include barramundi and caramelized pork salad, or diamond clams in jungle curry. For more by the same restaurant group, check out lively Japanese joint Yakimono, stylish Italian diner Grill Americano, glamorous fine diner Society, or sleek omakase restaurant Kisumé, all within walking distance.


If you’re not already familiar with Melbourne’s many laneways, the trip to Tonka will take you to one of the city’s most iconic: a u-shaped deviation from Flinders Lane that includes ACDC Lane and Duckboard Place. Arrive early to check out the street art, and to find the entrance to this modern Indian eatery drawing on the chef’s family recipes. Expect dishes like pani puri, tandoori ocean trout, and butter chicken, all with a contemporary twist.


CASUAL & LOWKEY


Melbourne’s fixation on hidden bars and restaurants has tapered off over recent years, but one mainstay is this colorful Thai spot concealed in a city car park. To order, check off items on a paper menu and hand it to staff as they dash about the tiny, rowdy space, which is decked out with blue and red tables and framed pictures of Thai royalty. Most dishes are $10, including the signature boat noodles, which come with braised beef or pork in an anise-rich pork broth. Don’t let the line put you off, it moves fast.


There are more first-rate ramen shops in Melbourne than you can chuck a wheat noodle at, but for something left-of-center look for the glowing neon-red sign promising “ramen, bun & pie” in Fitzroy. Once inside, dig into generous bowls of shoyu broth topped with pork belly and oyster mushrooms, or miso with barbecue chicken and sweet corn. The promised pies are frozen desserts in flavors like raspberry-yuzu, banana cream, or chocolate, marshmallow, and jam. Like most ramen joints, this is a goodie for solo diners.


Native Australian produce isn’t hard to find in this city if you know where to look. But Big Esso is one of the few places championing it that’s also Torres Strait Islander owned-and-run. Try the deep-fried crocodile dusted in saltbush and pepperberry, wild boar with native lemongrass, and the charred peach, rivermint, and candided quandong salad. Booze (like the Green Ant-Tini) is mostly Aussie, too.


The typical Australian burger is not like its American counterpart. Order one with "the lot" at a fish-and-chip shop and you'll get less cheese, more bacon, a fried eff, and a slice of beetroot. But at this Brunswick diner the burger leans more In-N-Out or Shake Shack than beachside takeaway joint. Juanita’s is actually a fried chicken joint, so there’s just one burger on the menu: a brisket patty stacked with american cheese, dill pickles, and honey-mustard mayo on a house bun. Of course, the free-range fried chook (we’ll let you use context clues to figure that nickname out) is exceptional, as are the pink Simpsons-esque donuts. Stop here before catching a live music show or bar-hopping around Brunswick.


Open since the 1950s, Pellegrini’s is a Melbourne institution. The tiny time capsule serves espresso and classic Italian dishes all day long, with waiters in all-white plonking down bowls of spaghetti bolognese and glasses of watermelon granita like they’ve done a thousand times before. It sometimes feels like they’re doing you a favor just by serving you, and they kind of are: seating is limited, and you’re competing with some seriously dedicated regulars. Nabbing a seat though will set you up perfectly for a fuel-up between tourist sites in the city.


The Melbourne dumpling-scape is broad, with no shortage of options in Chinatown and beyond. But Hutong has been fueling our xiaolongbao obsession since 2008. Each little parcel of the housemade specialty comes filled with gingery minced pork and treacherously hot pork broth. Dip yours in black vinegar and wash it down with a local beer (it’s BYO). The original Hutong is in the city, and while the Prahran offshoot is slightly fancier, it’s best to book ahead at both. You might still have to wait at peak times, but these dumplings are worth it.


SPECIAL OCCASIONS & FINE DINING


Few places celebrate Australian ingredients like Attica. It’s one of the country’s best restaurants (you might remember it from season one of Chef’s Table), so you’ll be booking and paying for the $360 degustation at least three months in advance. But that hefty price tag doesn't mean a typical fine dining experience—you won’t see any lobster or caviar on what can sometimes be a 20-course menu. More likely, you’ll find emu liver parfait, kelp-wrapped marron, or crocodile ribs on your plate (or the big flat rock or pile of grass that's subbing in as dishware).The vibe is more casual than you’d expect, with Patti Smith and The Brian Jonestown Massacre playing in the dining room, and street-art inspired works by local artists (including the chef) on the walls.


Of the handful of places to eat with a view in Melbourne, Vue de Monde is the most impressive. Take the elevator to the 55th floor of the Rialto building where the dark and dramatic dining room is offset by show-stopping city views. Next, pull up a kangaroo-skin chair for a theatrical degustation that might have you churning your own butter or cooking your own seafood snag (that’s Australian for sausage). Indigenous flavors abound, from marron in native curry, to kangaroo tenderloin, to an Iced Vovo—an old-school Aussie biscuit—made with Davidson plum for dessert.


Prolific chef-restaurateur Andrew McConnell’s latest show-stopper is Gimlet, a refined bar and eatery in a grand 1920s building with comfy burgundy-leather booths and a house martini that’s quite possibly the best in the city. Expect perfectly executed Euro-centric dishes like tartare served table-side, oysters with seaweed butter, and dry-aged t-bone steaks. Other McConnell spots include Supernormal, a neon-lit Asian diner known for its lobster roll; the more formal Cutler & Co; wine bars Cumulus Inc. and Marion; and The Builder’s Arms, a fancy pub. Don’t leave town without eating at one of these.


Lee Ho Fook is one of many Melbourne restaurants hidden in a graffiti-scrawled laneway. Inside though this swish Chinese eatery is all polish. The menu combines modern techniques with traditional recipes, and it’s big on seafood. Think faux shark fin soup (made with mud crab) and “sea treasure” spring rolls. Upstairs it’s a tasting-menu-only scenario with optional matched Aussie wines, but downstairs is more casual and a la carte (and no less tasty).


This brutalist restaurant feels a bit like an art gallery. Towering concrete interior walls host video installations by Aussie artists such as Reko Rennie, while waiters move gracefully between tables, topping up a Barolo here, delivering a Campari and soda there. Pretty plates of upscale Italian dishes will impress—maybe crab capellini, or the signature foil-wrapped veal schnitzel sandwich, crusts off—but just know that a meal here can get pricey, fast. If you’re looking for a celebration spot though, Di Stasio Citta always delivers.


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