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20 must-eat Melbourne dishes

From pigeon to paccheri these are the dishes you must try

Photograph: Graham Denholm

It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a visitor: Melbourne is at its absolute best when you go in face first and let your tastebuds lead the way. Make sure you put these 20 Melbourne dishes on your hit list.

While you're in town you shoudl check out these 25 tourist attractions that don't suck and in between grab a drink at Melbourne's 50 best bars.

Reccomended: The 50 best restaurants in Melbourne

1

Cauliflower at Miznon, $13

Cauliflower is the star of Eyal Shani’s menu. Baby brassicas adorn the walls of the restaurant before they’re brined and whisked into ovens, roasted whole with olive oil and salt until they’re crisp and deep brown. They’re served atop a thin sheet of paper for two or more diners to share.

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Melbourne
2

Fried chicken at Ramblr, $22

Chef and co-owner Nick Stanton, who’s been doing stuff worth taking notice of all the way from the Woods of Windsor to Nieuw Amsterdam, is taking risks to produce Ivy League dude food. That’s what we’re calling the fried chicken – pickles on top; gravy on the side, glory for all.

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South Yarra
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3

Pigeon at Cutler and Co, $34

Andrew McConnell has given his major Gertrude Street address a thorough going over after eight years and the pigeon has emerged as the go-to dish in the early stages of the reinvention. The gamey meat is matched by the iron depths of chicken liver, the torched sweetness of fig and salty swatches of jamon.

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Fitzroy
4

Tinned cockles at Neptune, $15

Listen up, folks: there are few things better in life than a glass of Rieslingfreak No. 3 married to an extended family of meaty little cockles tinned in their prime. Load up on a potato chip, add a dash of the herby caper sauce, a squeeze of lemon, and consume. Repeat.

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Windsor
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5

Paccheri at Osteria Ilaria, $25

Ilaria's de facto signature is pasta. It's the only one on the list: thick tubes known as paccheri, Italy's answer to the Cantonese chee cheong fun, strewn with nubs of Crystal Bay prawn meat, grounded in tomato and sorrel purees and anointed with the heady cologne of prawn oil. An Insta-classic, and a big part of what won them Restaurant of the Year for 2017.

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Melbourne
6

Mimosa at Grossi Florentino, $25

Desserts spin the Italian oeuvre through a modern prism at this long-standing gentleman of Melbourne’s Italian scene. A conga line taking its inspiration from the Italian mimosa cake shape-shifts through honey pannacotta, bee pollen and frozen Grand Marnier mousse. It’s classic-moderne – a bit like the Grossi clan, really.

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Melbourne
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7

Pork chop at Chin Chin, $28.50

Of the 14-odd new dishes on the refreshed Chin Chin menu, a clear winner comes from the chargrill: a pork chop, properly cooked to just-pink, and properly rested before being sliced and delivered to the table under an avalanche of meaty oyster mushrooms and fragrant holy basil. It’s a hands-across-the-ocean display of East-meets-West diplomacy.

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Melbourne
8

Goat at Camus, $38

Pierre Khodja has always been about a trademark combination of dusky North African spice/fruit sweetness with a kind of elegant flair that raises it to a space well above rustic. The goat is cooked for 12 hours with orange zest and cardamom, cinnamon and juniper berries, until it is lolling in a silken, unctuous sauce with fat dried apricots.

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Northcote
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9

Kingfish at Atlas, part of degustation, $65

This smart little fire-focused establishment is in the midst of its three-month Mexican stint. On the tasting menu there’s kingfish, rubbed in a spice mix of garlic, cumin, black and white pepper and cinnamon (the red stain is from annatto seeds) and propped on a charry-edged blue-corn tortilla with a support cast including a crunchy wedge of raw choko and a hibiscus syrup-pickled quail egg that altogether makes a dish that’s nuanced and unique.

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South Yarra
10

Cilbir at Tulum, $19

Cilbir is an after-school snack Mama Uysal would whip up for her son, and now he’s serving it at his restaurant – a poached egg, smoked yoghurt and sumac-spiked soft brown butter crumble with crisp shards of chicken skin swiped through the sweet, viscous bowl.

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Balaclava
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11

Billy tea and hot jam doughnuts at Attica, part of degustation, $275

Yes, you might be eating at one of the city’s finest establishments, but one of their most memorable touches is the trip out the garden you take before dessert is served. They serve you hot jam donuts (a very Melbourne snack) and bush tucker tea made from gumbi gumbi (also known as native apricot), used by Indigenous people for its medicinal qualities.

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Ripponlea
12

Hanger steak at San Telmo, $40

The hanger steak is nigh on perfect, although let’s pause to acknowledge that at $40 for a dainty serve, it’s a budget cut no more. The caramel crust is a tribute to the Maillard reaction, the blush pink flesh full of beefy flavour, the salt crystals on top all the garnish its needs.

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Melbourne
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13

Lobster roll at Supernormal Canteen, $16

This dish has carried over from Golden Fields, and they’ve kept it on the menu now that it’s Supernormal Canteen. The New England lobster roll is a magical balance of warm brioche and cool Kewpie mayo-slathered crustacean that makes eating in St Kilda feel like Maine.

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St Kilda
14

Fish dumplings at ShanDong Mama, $16.80

This Chinatown hidey-hole makes one of the CBD’s best fish dumplings. Shandong Mama’s mackerel dumplings are best boiled (though the fried ones are nice too), as the soft mousse-textured filling with ginger and coriander turns pillowy and super light after a flash in boiling water, all the better to soak up some soy sauce with

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Melbourne
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15

Tortilla at Smith and Daughters, $9

Behold: bar snacks that aren’t just legumes or chips! A thick wedge of tortilla made on silken tofu capped off with lemon aioli is a perfect, golden eggless feint on Spain’s deep-dish potato omelette.

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Fitzroy
16

Souvlaki at Jimmy Grants, $12.90

The kebab game has changed. The Bonegilla souvlaki – the double meat combo king of the six-souva menu – involves charred, pillowy flatbread stuffed with hot chips, juicy hunks of lamb shoulder and rotisserie chicken with an enlivening jab of mustard, parsley and tangy caramelised onions.

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Fitzroy
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17

Barbecue meats at Bluebonnet Barbecue, from $10

Peppery beef brisket is smoked just right, fork tender but holding its form in thick slices. The half chicken is crisp-skinned but still juicy, and house-smoked sausage comes in big, snappy-skinned links. Digging into the baby back pork ribs is an act of pure carnivorous joy. Nothing is too fatty, nothing too dry, and in every bite a deep, natural smokiness.

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Fitzroy North
18

Margherita at 400 Gradi, $22

Having once won the World Pizza Championships, you’d expect 400 Gradi to know what they’re doing. And they do. With the pizza oven cranked up to 400 degrees, the bases are chewy and puffed up around the edges. It’s a beautiful canvas for the simple pleasures of a tomato base, fresh mozzarella and basil.

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Southbank
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19

Croissant at Lune, $5.50

Run by brother-sister team Kate and Cameron Reid, Lune Croissanterie sees lines snaking out of the store nearly every day that they open and their pastries fly out of the shop by noon most days. Created in a climate-controlled lab, Lune croissants are almost mathematically perfect: crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry.

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Fitzroy
20

Burger at Butcher's Diner, $9.50

Where in Melbourne can you get a premium burger made with a mix of full and half blood Robbin’s Island wagyu, 24 hours a day? Butcher’s Diner, that’s where. This is the newest offering from the Con Christopolous empire where there is a focus on all things meaty. This particular burger comes with a thick, juicy and cooked-to-medium 160g patty, expertly made house made pickles, tomato, iceberg lettuce, onion and just enough sauce and mayo

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Melbourne
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