I’ve researched and consulted more than 10 “Best of” lists from Elite Traveler, Melbourne Restaurants, Herald Sun, Gourmet Traveler, Chef’s Hats (similar to Michelin stars), The Guardian, Meld Magazine, Beanhunter, etc. Cross-referencing the lists, some restaurants and cafes keep popping up in the lists. From this cross-referenced list, I further pared it down by eliminating (1) most restaurants and cafes not in CBD area, (2) restaurants Chiobu has already visited, (3) restaurants that persistently receive negative reviews on Urbanspoon (similar to HungryGoWhere), and (4) exorbitant restaurants, because I’m not Tywin Lannister; I don’t shit gold. We paid for the meals ourselves.
In the end, these are some places I visited but this list is not exhaustive:
Best Cafes in Melbourne
1. The Grain Store (517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000; T: +61 3 9972 6993; M-F 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm). Fantastic service. Decorated like a kitchen in a farm. Interesting menu. Average coffee. The flavors of my eggs benedict on portobello worked beautifully, its sum greater its parts. About A$23 per pax. GRADE: B+
2. Hardware Societe (120 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000; T: +61 3 9078 5992; M-F 7.30am-3pm, Sat & Sun 8.30am-2pm). Went on a wintry Friday morning 7.30am and it was already packed. The coffee was so so but the food was amazing. My baked eggs with chorizo was all types of wonderful, comforting on a cold day. Wonderful service. About A$22 for one person. GRADE: A
3. Wye River General Store and Cafe (35 Great Ocean Road, Wye River VIC 3221; T: +61 3 5289 0247; 8am-4pm). Stopped by en route 12 Apostles. Awesome ambience, the type of cafe that makes use of its surroundings. Full panel glass, gentle sunshine drifting in, sitting in a hill, facing an azure sea. Amazing rustic decor. Average coffee, limited food choices, but the sandwiches were good, lemon tart divine. About A$20 per person. GRADE: A-/B+
Best Food on Budget in Melbourne
1. Casa del Gelato (163 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053; T: +61 3 9347 7500; noon-midnight). Huge chocolate waffle cone (A$7), you are allowed 3 flavors. I only had eggnog flavor as I wasn’t interested in the other quotidian flavors. Could be richer and creamier. GRADE: B-
2. Grill’d. Burgers. Don’t normally talk about chain restaurants but I had a quick lunch at food court below my hotel Langham before rushing to airport. Really good lamb burger (A$13.50). Juicy patty and tasty condiment. Additional A$4.50 for chips. GRADE: B+/B
3. Mama Tran Dumplings (322-326 Coventry St, Stall 35, South Melbourne VIC 3205; T: +61 3 9696 1889) Dim Sum. A stall at South Melbourne Market, the dumplings are freshly made upon ordering. A$9.50 for 8 assorted pieces. GRADE: C+
Best Casual Dining Restaurants in Melbourne
1. Cafe Cavallino (181 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053; T: +61 3 9347 5520) Italian. Along Lygon St, known as Little Italy where my fellow Italian ah bengs hang out, there is a row of Italian restaurants. My friend introduced me to Cafe Cavallino, super authentic down to its Italian servers and checkered tablecloth covered with a layer of plastic. Homemade pasta, buttery pizza crust. Homely and delicious. A$48 for two. GRADE: B+
2. Mamak (366 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000; T: +61 3 9670 3137; 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-10pm or till midnight on F & Sat) Malaysian Cuisine. Late dinner, not many restaurants were opened, and didn’t want to go far from our hotel. Atmosphere was hopping, swift service, not bad food, but obviously couldn’t be compared to Singapore’s nasi lemak. Order the prata instead, buttery and fluffy. About A$20 per pax. GRADE: B
3. Mamasita (11 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000; T: +61 3 9650 3821; M-Th 11.30am-midnight, F 11.30am-2am, Sat 12.30pm-2am, Sun 12.30pm-10pm) Mexican. Much raved but when I was there, it was run-of-the-mill. Hip crowd. A sharp cheese stench hanged in the air. Tortilla skin was dry and limp. Their specialty is a grilled corn, but you can get it at pasar malam for a quarter of the price. Their guajillo braised pork (A$25) was delicious, tangy and sweet, but tough. A$65 for 2 persons. GRADE: B-/C+
4. Taxi Kitchen (Federation Square, corner of Swanston St & Flinders St; T: +61 3 9654 8808; Tu-Sun 12pm-11.30pm) Modern Australian cuisine with Asian influences. A hip bar-restaurant, expect a boisterous atmosphere. The Asian-fusion dishes were superb, a smoked salmon mantou (A$11.50) and candied pork belly with sweet Thai chilli dressing (A$15.50). But their western food, a porterhouse wagyu steak (A$34.50), was tough. Their piece de resistance, espresso souffle (A$15.50), was sublime. A$77 for 2 persons. GRADE: B+/A-
Best Fine-Dining Restaurants in Melbourne
1. Bistro Guillaume (Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank Melbourne; +61 3 9292 4751; noon till late) French. Along the South Bank riverside, there are 3 restaurants side by side that receive Chefs Hat. Spice Temple (Sichuan food) was the most crowded, followed by a tie between Rockpool (steakhouse) and Bistro Guillaume. The French food lacked flavors and was so dismal I cut my losses and skipped dessert. I, a person who never skips desserts. How did it get its Chef’s Hats? A$100 for two. GRADE: C
2. Cumulus Inc (45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000; +61 3 9650 1445; M-F 7am-11pm, Sat & Sun 8am-11pm) Modern Australian. Canvernous place, open kitchen with great ventilation so you don’t smell afterwards. Wonderful service despite the bustling crowd. Food reminded me of Burnt Ends, delicious and had a primeval feel. Even though the red snapper (A$39) was undercooked the first time and we had to send it back to the kitchen, the second time was perfect; fresh, lemony and salty like kiam cai. If you come in a group of 4, order the lamb shoulder (A$78); every table seemed to have one. Kudos to the desserts that had a lightness of touch, a umami feel. A$120 for two. GRADE: A/A-
3. Cutler & Co (55-57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy 3065; T: +61 3 9419 4888; F & Sun: 12pm, T-Sun: from 6pm) Modern Australian. 10 out of 10 Australian bloggers I asked recommended Cutler. The dinner prices were intimidating; luckily we came for lunch. A hip place. There was effort to reinvent the wheel and the food was pleasant in general, but we won’t come for an expensive dinner. Great service by a waitress with auburn hair. A$110 for two. GRADE: B
4. The Point at Albert Park (Aquatic Dr, Albert Park Lake; T: +61 3 9682 5566) Australian Cuisine. 20 min from town by train, The Point is near to Prahan Market and South Melbourne Market. It is also en route to St Kilda Beach, so if you plan properly, you can save much time. Beautiful view of lake, classy decor, wonderful service, a perfect meal, really reasonable lunch prices (2-course A$40, 3-course A$50). There was quality in its ingredients: though famed for steaks, it had really fresh baramundi, juicy, moist, with very crispy skin. A finesse in cooking. Worthy of its Chef’s Hats accolades. GRADE: A+
Oysters at The Point
To end on a happy note, these are my top 3 picks for Melbourne:
1. The Point at Albert Park
2. Cumulus Inc
3. Hardware Societe
Note on grading: a B grade means the restaurant is solid. Any restaurant with B and above is worth going.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
my friend actually works at the grain store. cool stuff!
There are many other places in Melbourne worth checking out though…for Gelato…i would recommend Pidapipo (now closed)…Messina…
Cafes…Proud Mary, Seven Seeds, Three Bags Full, Seddon Deadly Sins…
These cafes are under my radar but i was travelling in city area, so hard to feature them. Thanks for the recommendation! :) will visit if I return.
Let me know if you happen to be in Melbourne. I’m been there for a few months. I will be stuck there for another 2 years or more. Be glad to host.
That’s very kind of you. Thanks!
Hey, Nice Post! Thanks For Sharing …Have you tried the Indian food? if not then try it, sure you will gonna love it. And I love Indian cuisine. I have tried so many Indian restaurants in Melbourne. But I highly recommend Jai Ho Indian Restaurant is one of the best dining Indian restaurants in Melbourne. They serve good quality of food, where you can get finest traditional Indian cuisine. You can visit from here: http://www.jaiho-indian-restaurant.com/
thanks for the rec! Will try the next time I’m there.