10 Best Melbourne Restaurants You’ll Be Craving In No Time
It’s no surprise you’ll find some of the best food in Australia at these 10 best Melbourne restaurants you need to know about!
Luckily for you, British expat Heather Little has searched high and low to find the best places to eat in Melbourne, since moving to the city from Merseyside, UK in 2018. She’s a professional fundraiser, board director and volunteer. Plus, she’s a professional vocalist, so make sure you follow her expat adventures around Melbourne at @heathermarielittle on Instagram.
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The foodie capital of Australia
Melbourne is without question the foodie capital of Australia (sorry Sydney). From the humble breakfast, through to a 10 course degustation menu, Melbourne is a melting pot of cultural delicacies from countries all around the world. It can be overwhelming to choose where to go so luckily I have been keeping track of the best restaurants in Melbourne to share with you.
When I first moved to Melbourne, people would tell me about the best places to find any cuisine in the city. I was told:
If a Melbourne restaurant isn’t good, it won’t last long.
The competitive nature of the food scene keeps it vibrant and exciting, there is always something new popping up, some place that you’ll need to queue around the block for or wait three months for a reservation and still get waitlisted.
Despite the impacts of the pandemic on some of Melbourne’s most iconic restaurants, the food scene is back and is thriving. I’m delighted to share with you some of my favourite restaurants (there are so many I couldn’t include!) that I think are worth visiting on your next trip to the culinary capital.
10 Best Melbourne restaurants
1. Dine in Great Gatsby Style at Society ($$$$)
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience in Melbourne’s CBD for a special occasion, then Society is your go to. Quintessentially Melbourne, the entrance to Society is down a small lane way in the new 80 Collins St building and it feels special right from the start.
The sophisticated Dining Room is a dark and intense yet opulent space where the Great Gatsby himself would not be out of place.
The champagne and wine list are extensive and includes some rare and vintage drops, but the cocktail list is playful and imaginative making for a great aperitif before the main event.
Food in the Dining Room is modern Australian with some Japanese influences, and is a treat for the seafood lover. Make sure you leave room as the desserts here are hard to pass up on and include a meticulously crafted chocolate block that mimics the restaurant’s building façade to end off the magical dining experiences.
2. Visit a Melbourne Institution; Chin Chin ($$$)
A vibrant and modern South East Asian restaurant, Chin Chin in Melbourne lives up to the hype and deserves its title as one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Gone are the days when you had to arrive early and queue around the block to experience Chin Chin (one positive of the pandemic!), you can now book a table online, although walk ins are still available.
Once inside, expect a lively ambience with lots of old school hits and tables close enough together you can chat to your foodie neighbour or at least get food envy!
The menu includes classic Asian flavours such as stir-fried prawns, yellow curry and crispy duck, but in order to experience the best of Chin Chin they also offer a set menu called ‘Feed Me’ that showcase the classic dishes and also some special ‘off-menu’ items too.
3. Taste a star chef’s menu at Gimlet ($$$)
It’s no surprise to see one of Andrew Mcconell’s wildly popular restaurants make it onto this list! Walking into Gimlet is like stepping back in time to 1930s/40s London or New York; it’s romantic, elegant, and grand.
Service here is impeccable and the people looking after you are highly knowledgeable and attentive. Predominantly a cocktail bar with food, expect classic European flavours with a contemporary Australian edge with the a la carte menu offering items including oysters, a caviar service, and risotto.
With a wood fired oven at the heart of the kitchen producing delectable dishes such as lobster and even a 1.2kg tomahawk steak, there’s no doubt this is one of the best restaurants in Melbourne.
4. Try seasonal dishes at Arbory ($$)
Positioned in an enviable spot on the Yarra River and right next to Flinders Street Station, Arbory Bar and Eatery is one of Melbourne’s best restaurants.
The menu here is casual and seasonal offering something for everyone, think hot sandwiches, burgers, steak and mussels using local produce. Come rain or shine, it’s a great place to hang out, people watch, and experience the sights and sounds of the river and Melbourne’s Southbank.
If you love Arbory then you must visit their themed sister restaurant, Arbory Afloat. The theme of Arbory Afloat changes each year and in previous years has brought Miami, Palm Springs and French Riviera vibes and a colourful European beach club in the style of Turkey’s turquoise coast.
5. Immersve yourself in Indigenous flavours at Big Esso, Mabu Mabu ($$)
Nornie Bero is from the Meriam People of Mer Island in the Torres Strait and is the Chef and Owner of Mabu Mabu, an expression that means ‘help yourself’ which underpins the ethos of Big Esso, ‘the biggest thank you’. I can’t recommend this place enough, go ‘help yourself’ to one of the best restaurants in Melbourne.
A bright and vibrant space with an incredible modern Indigenous art mural on one wall, you are warmly welcomed by women who invite you to share in this experience together. Most of the food on the menu is environmentally, sustainably and seasonally sourced from First Nations people and queer or women led local produce where possible.
The menu is full of native Australian ingredients, and you’re guaranteed to try something new here. Think beyond Emu, Kangaroo and Crocodile and look at the incredibly flavourful dishes like the kingfish wings, cassava and Warrigal greens croquettes and rock baked yam – there’s actually a lot of choice for veggies and vegans.
The wine list is an impressive showcase of Australian sustainable wines and beers, and there is a cocktail list that includes flavours such as lemon myrtle, wattleseed and strawberry gum leaf.
6. Taste produce from rural Australian locations at Farmers Daughters ($$$)
Locally and ethically sourced, three-storey restaurant, Farmers Daughters is inspired by Gippsland, an area of outstanding beauty with the finest and freshest local produce.
On the ground floor is the relaxed yet refined deli, first floor the fine dining restaurant and second floor is the lush rooftop bar (we love a rooftop bar in Melbourne!). The deli is great for casual walk ins, and comfort food. If you end up sat around the bar area then you’re in for a treat as you are centre stage for the foodie action.
Head upstairs for an amazing degustation menu of modern Australian cuisine with paired wines for the full Gippsland experience. You could sample delicious food such as Dory from Lakes Entrance, or Alpine Trout from the foothills of Mt Baw Baw paired with a delectable wine from Leongatha, Loch or the Gippsland Lakes.
This is an ideal place to venture to when you want the taste of rural/regional Australia and to explore wine regions without even leaving Melbourne’s CBD!
7. Visit one of the oldest restaurants, Grossi Florentino ($$$$)
Another Melbourne icon and one of the city’s oldest restaurants is the fine dining Italian, Grossi Florentino.
In the heart of the CBD at the top end of Bourke Street, this place is reminiscent of an upscale restaurant in Rome complete with huge mural depicting scenes in Florence.
This place personifies grace and elegance, and is certainly a good place for a special occasion or celebration.
The staff are attentive and knowledgeable, and they pace the food beautifully. Being in the theatre district, Grossi Florentino would be good place for a pre-theatre dinner of classic Italian dishes.
Dinner here is not to be rushed, especially if you choose the ‘Gran Tour’ which is a six-course tasting menu offering a choice of handmade pasta, risotto, fish and meat dishes. If you’re a fine diner, you can’t miss this dining institution.
8. Visit a 24 hour Greek restaurant, Stalactites ($$)
Stalactites on Lonsdale Street has been in the same family for generations and offers a traditional and extensive Greek food menu in the heart of Melbourne’s Greek precinct.
A fun and lively atmosphere, Stalactites has a highly Instagrammable interior of faux Stalactites (hence the name) you are given the feeling that you are in a cave which is interesting and makes for a fun talking point.
One of the main features of Stalactites is that it is open 24 hours! Meaning you can always get Greek food as and when you need it the most (hello Souva after a big night out).
The menu choice here offers something for everyone from the kids, to veggies, to gluten free, Stalactites has you covered. You can even do a banquet tasting menu which offers some of their more popular dishes such as the Kalamari and Meat Platters for a minimum of five people.
9. Indulge in an authentic Indian curry at Daughter In Law ($$)
If you’re a Brit in Australia, then you’re often wondering, where can I get a really decent and authentic curry from? Look no further than Daughter In Law on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Chinatown.
The brainchild of Indian born chef Jesse Singh, Daughter in Law actually calls itself an ‘unauthentic Australian Indian bar and restaurant’ but when you’ve been craving good Indian food for a while, this is as bona fide as it gets.
The interior is a potent mix of ‘millennial pink’ with neon signs and peacock blue velvet armchairs, 80s and 90s tunes fill the room and across the back wall there is a large screen showing old Bollywood movies on mute.
Indian street food is the star of the show and it is all presented so beautifully and they cater for a large range of dietary requirements.
If it is your first time at Daughter in Law then go for the ‘feed me’ tasting menu which is a great mix of the chef’s favourite street food, curries, naans and desserts.
10. Taste a world famous pita at Miznon ($)
Tucked away on Hardware Lane is an Israeli street food restaurant called Miznon meaning ‘kiosk’ in Hebrew. Split over three levels with an outside dining area, it is super casual yet inviting and offers an array of tasty dishes all based around the humble pita.
Everything here is served in a pita or paper wrapping meaning it’s a quick service restaurant but without having to sacrifice taste or fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Miznon has restaurants around the world, and idea is to take the flavours of each city Miznon is located (Tel Aviv, Vienna, Paris, NYC) and translate it into pita.
The absolute hero of the menu is the world famous whole roasted cauliflower which is seasoned in salt water and olive oil and roasted with the leaves on until golden and crispy – yum.
There is also a variety of dishes to suit tastes and dietary requirements with ‘wild vegetable animals’ leading the way on the menu. Definitely a great place to pop in for a laid-back lunch after a morning shopping in the city.
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