This old-timey pub on Bay Street does two things well: classic pub grub and chilled beer. If the cold days have you hankering for the former, snatch a leather booth and get toasty with the lamb shanks: marinated in honey and a simple chermoula of olive oil, lemon and garlic delivering delicate sweetness and tang, they crown silky mash and broccolini with a lick of char. Gravy, made creamy from the bone marrow, rounds off this dish that’s big enough to share.
With sweeping views of Bourke Street and comfy leather seats, Fancy Hank’s pulls in the punters with their epic barbecue. Try the pulled pork sandwich (a bargain at $12). Pork seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika and then smoked for 16 hours is jammed into a mayo-slathered brioche bun – the buttery sweetness balancing the tenderness of the meat, the brininess of the pickled green peppers and crunch of the 'slaw. This one drips, so avoid wearing white.
If the chilly weather has you scanning Webjet for European getaways, head to cheap eat Jimmy Grants for a dose of the Med Diet. The star is the lamb shoulder marinated in mustard, celery salt, rosemary, mint and smoked paprika and roasted for eight hours. Alleviate the richness of the fall-apart meat with a crisp salad (we recommend the Hellenic 'slaw) and tack on some pillowy pita to scoop up the garlicky dip (choose from tzatziki, eggplant or tarama).
If there’s one dish that’s synonymous with winter, it’s osso buco: a classic Milanese recipe in which veal shanks are braised to tenderisation in a tomato, wine and onion sauce. Instead of getting out the casserole dish and steaming up your windows at home, head to Becco, where the stocky, onion-heavy osso buco finds its perfect companion in light, fluffy gnocchi. Mop up the remainder with crusty bread and banish your winter blues for good.
Buzzy Carlton eatery Kaprica may be famed for its pizzas, but its pastas deserve a look-in. Remedy the cold days with a steaming bowl of spaghetti cooked al dente and drowned in a ragù of veal and pork mince cooked slowly in a rich tomato sauce. It’s finished with a generous amount of parmigiano for a cheesy hit and a smattering of parsley to deliver a dish that would make nonna proud.
Tucked away in the backstreets of Collingwood, Le Bon Ton is the king of American barbecue. Their Texas-style brisket is pit-smoked for 12 hours – and, snug between a brioche bun smeared with smokier-than-thou housemade barbecue sauce and a triple whammy of dill pickles, onion and cheddar cheese, it makes for a moreish sandwich. If that doesn’t heat you up, the moody interior is sure to transport you to the sweltering Louisiana summers of True Blood episodes.
This beachside restaurant is Middle Eastern inspired in both its décor and menu. Cosy up to the sound of waves crashing and feast on the neck of lamb cooked for five hours in more spices than you can find at an Istanbul bazaar – from spicy cardamom and woody cinnamon to nutty cumin and sweet fenugreek. Just-firm mograbieh (pearl couscous), amplified with a light tomato sauce and lashings of red onion and parsley, completes a dish that’s comforting and refreshing in equal measure.
Westside’s popular gastro pub does a pimped-up meat-and-three-veg dish we'd happily eat all winter. They soak beef cheeks for 12 hours in a light salt brine tinged with black peppercorns, star anise, juniper and bay leaf and then braise them for ten hours in a red wine veal stock. The melt-in-the-mouth, caramelised meat nestles up with velvety mash, Dutch carrots and peas floating in a fruity, peppery gravy made from the braising liquid.
Fitzroy’s Rice Queen keeps the good times rolling with pan-Asian eats, kitsch décor and boozy cocktails. Get the party started with lamb shanks braised for 24 hours and served in a soupy rendang curry, the creaminess of the coconut milk offset by spices like galangal, turmeric, lemongrass and ginger. Whole chillies add welcome heat, coriander adds citrusy freshness, and there’s buttery crunch from the peanuts. If that doesn’t raise your temperature, head to the karaoke room down the back and
release your inner Beyoncé.
Footscray’s community-minded, sustainable café Small Graces knows that when it’s cold outside, smashed avo or eggs Benedict just won’t do. Their bean dish has haricot and navy beans slowly cooked with aromatic thyme and roasted garlic and elevated with wintery morsels like crispy kale, chestnut chips and lots of pecorino pepato for bite and texture. Add on a poached egg ($3) for a nourishing breakfast that tastes like a warm hug and will keep you full all day.