I’m going to call it – Melbourne is one of the best cities in the world to eat in. It’s home to the best restaurant in Australia, and has a thriving food scene built on myriad food cultures conversing and colliding in one city. There are fantastic restaurants in every corner of the entire city, but there are so many fantastic restaurants in the Melbourne CBD (aka downtown Melbourne), that I thought it deserved a post of it’s own.
I broke my iPhone earlier this year, so I’ve lost my photos for some of these – I’ve embedded Instagram pics from the restaurant’s page where this has happened.
I’ve written this post for my readers, but I also use it as the basis for recommendations for my friends, so I only have included restaurants in the Melbourne CBD that I love and trust. Let me know which restaurants in Melbourne are your favourite, in the comments!
Ôter is French dining for the 21st century. Meaning “to remove”, Ôter is a contemporary French restaurant that pares back the unnecessary, resulting in a simple and elegant concept. The restaurant feels modern, yet is still the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.
At the 2013 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival laneway event, the team at Red Spice Road created a pop up, “Burmese Lane.” The pop up took Melbourne by storm, and soon after Burma Lane was born. Today, the menu is an exploration of Australian and South East Asian cuisine.
Burma Lane was the first restaurant I visited in Melbourne, on a trip to visit my boyfriend before I’d even moved here. We celebrated our one year anniversary of living in Melbourne at Burma Lane and have returned several times since.
The restaurant has recently had a little renovation, and has revealed a new two-story, floor-to-ceiling mural by Melbourne street artist, Mike Eleven.
Inspired by Manhattan’s lounge bars and restaurants, Dutchess is a sophisticated restaurant tucked away on the third floor of The Duke, Melbourne’s oldest pub. Dutchess is renowned for steaks, desserts (which have gone viral on Instagram) and cocktails, and it does all three to perfection.
The restaurant has views out to the Forum, and is filled with sleek and stylish booth seating, making it perfect for group dining.
San Telmo is a surprisingly romantic for an Argentinian steakhouse, with a larger than life personality that oozes through every charming detail of restaurant. There’s plenty on the menu for herbivores too – I don’t eat steak anymore, but still had to practically be rolled out of the restaurant after lunch.
The menu is designed to share. The empanadas are a must for the start of any meal at San Telmo, and all of the (many) steaks come sliced, so they can easily be shared amongst a group.
Magic Mountain Saloon
Magic Mountain Saloon is one of my go-to spots when friends are in town or friends ask me for a recommendation to take their visitors in town. The concept is a lively spin on Thai and Australian cuisine. My favourite dish is the betel leaf salad with tea smoked ocean trout, but if you can take the heat try one of their fiery chilli dishes that they’re renowned for.
Take the scenic route
Mamasita is a modern classic on the Melbourne restaurant scene, and led the charge in bringing an alternative to Tex Mex to Melbourne by delivering authentic Mexican dining. Eight years later, there’s still a queue every night.
There’s a lengthy drinks list, but you can’t go past their signature tamarind margaritas or their array of smokey mezcals, a cousin of tequila. Confused? No worries – there’s a mezcalier (the mezcal equivalent of a sommelier) on site at all times.
My favourite dishes are the street style corn on the cob, the crawb and prawn tostaditas and the market fish tacos.
Gazi has SO much energy, which is not surprising considering it’s named translates in Greek to “gas.” While I love a classic Greek taverna, it’s refreshing to see a modern Greek eatery that isn’t playing to traditional stereotypes. At one point, Melbourne was home to more Greeks than any other city outside of Athens, and so Greek food is such an important part of the Melbourne restaurant scene. It’s fun to see it brought into the 21st century!
Gazi celebrates “messy Greek street food.” The menu is very simple, with their famous souvlakakias as the hero. On my last visit, my boyfriend and I sat at the bar and started with pita and smoked hummus, followed by the soft shell crab souvlakakia with mint, coriander, honey and mayo (for me) and the duck souvlakika (for him). We splurged on the flaming Bombe Metaxa for dessert – tsoureki filled with vanilla and dark chocolate ice cream, with a salted caramel centre, all covered in Italian meringue and set alight. It’s described as serving three, but I think six could happily share it!
I also love the Greek wine list, full of hard to find (and harder to pronounce) Greek wines rarely found elsewhere. The Bosinakis Moschofilero is my idea of a perfect white.
Gazi is one of several prominent Greek restaurants owned by celebrity chef and Melburnian, George Calombaris. He also owns The Press Club, Hellenic Republic & Jimmy Grants.
Bomba is a tapas restaurant, inspired by the Catalan region of Spain. The ground floor restaurant is always buzzing, the service is friendly and efficient and the menu is surprisingly easy on your wallet, considering the quality of the food. The $15 workers lunch, which includes a choice of one tapas dish, a raciones and a serving of vegetables, is insanely good value in a city where you can accidentally pay $15 for a take away sandwich.
While you wait for a table, head upstairs to the rooftop bar and take in views over the Melbourne CBD over a glass of cava.
Chin Chin is the most popular restaurant in Melbourne, and is arguably one of the city’s most successful. It opened to lots of hype in 2011, and the hype hasn’t died down despite copycats popping up all over town. It’s strict no bookings policy means that there’s a queue snaking out the door without fail every night of the week, so put your name down 1-2 hours before you expect to get hangry and go hang out in Eau De Vie while you wait for your table. I prefer visiting for lunch because the queue is quicker and the wait staff don’t rush you out the door quite so much.
Chin Chin feels more like a party with incredibly good food than a restaurant, and it was one of the first restaurants in Melbourne to nail the lively roar and the casual, chatty ambience that modern diners have gone ga ga for.
The concept is an Australian take on Thai food, although it frequently borrows from other South East Asian cuisines. It’s fresh, fast and a lot of fun.
Still on my list: Movida, Osteria Ilaria, Tipo 00, Pastuso, Coda, Trattoria Emilia, Grossi Florentino, Flower Drum
Have you been to any of these? What is your favourite restaurant in Melbourne?
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