Melbourne pubs aren't what they used to be. Sure, we've still got the classics where you'd go to get a pint of Melbourne Bitter or Carlton Draught and a standard parma. But at the other end of the spectrum, gastropubs are shaking things up with gourmet versions of pub grub. You can still get a steak and chips, but the steak will likely be Wagyu and may come with oysters as a starter.
If you'd rather Bordeaux than an ale, take a gander at Melbourne's best wine bars. Alternatively, a great swap to the pub hang is a weekend yum cha session, and we've got the low-down on five of the best yum cha spots in town.
Best gastropubs in Melbourne
Andrew McConnell's gastrofied pub hasn't missed a beat since taking out the Best Pub Food award in 2014. Pub classics like the fish pie are as good as ever, while the minute steak is cheap, tender, full of beefy flavour and comes, like all the steaks, with excellent house-made mustard and steak sauce ("gentleman's relish").
With a pedigree that includes the Michelin-starred Commons in Dublin, head chef and co-owner Tim Sweeney is not here to mess around. There's a whole list of pub classics and carefully sourced steaks, plus interesting sandwiches for lunch and a full Irish breakfast. No wonder The Last Jar won Best Pub Food at the Time Out Pub Awards.
The Lincoln's menu (from ex-Supernormal and MoVida Aqui chef Lachlan Cameron) offers snacks like crisp corn crackers with creamy spanner crab and top-notch takes on the traditional pub meal, like pork and apple sausages, mash, pickled red cabbage and spicy mustard. Everything is made in house and the ingredients are treated lovingly.
The food at the reborn Marquis of Lorne is beautifully presented by chef Jacob Swain (ex Epocha and Builders Arms). Counter meals include a chicken schnitzel with crunchy 'slaw; enough on its own, but cheap enough to add battery potato cakes for a proper pub-meal experience. You can also get 800g of tender hanger steak for only $55.
The pub most known for its 24-hour bottle-o is now home to serious fine dining restaurant Highline, lead by ex-Quay chef Simon Tarlington. Pig nuggets with coffee mayo? Yup. Anchovy toasties? You betcha. Heaps of specials through the week sweeten the deal; any place where a Quay chef will roast you a half chook for $16 is a winner in our book.