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.
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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.
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. He's also getting creative with seafood, shaving calamari and barely cooking it to resemble noodles atop a firey leaf of kimchi. Instagrammable and delicious.
Andrew McConnell has given his major Gertrude Street address a thorough going over after eight years and the fruits de mer has emerged as the go-to dish in the early stages of the reinvention. An impressive selection of in-season seafood comes raw and cooked, piled high and served with an array of accompaniments including some stellar sourdough and cultured butter.
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.
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.
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.
The Carlton Wine Room 3.0 is here, and it's redefining the the wine bar as we know it. Chef John-Paul Twomey has perfected his focaccia recipe to contain both a strong, exterior crunch and light, interior airiness and comes served in four fingers with a puddle of the soft, creamy and super lactic cheese stracciatella, plus a mound of shaved zucchini with a dose of bright chive oil. It’s bread and dip, but not as you know it and a must order on every visit.
This degustation restaurant is the stamp of overachievement from the Bertoncello brothers Blayne (head chef) and Chayse (sommelier and front of house manager) who are both under 30. All vegetables in their food come directly from their farm, which keeps the dishes ever-evolving and hyper-seasonal. Snacks come in place of a traditional amuse bouche in this degustation restaurant celebrating the most pristine produce as an overture to the meal.
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.
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 house-made sausage made from pork belly and a common Australian pest, possum, on sweet, steamed milk bread alongside a pony of beer. It's the common sausage sizzle, just a bit more refined.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.