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Food at Congress
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Best restaurants in Collingwood

Collingwood gets a bad rap for being gentrified, but with gentrification, comes excellent food

Written by
Jess Ho
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We get it, Collingwood is now overrun by hipsters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When all the cool, young kids came in, so did the cool, affordable eateries and wine bars. You can beautifully designed Japanese within a stone's throw of old-school Greek, fine dining, amazing hummus and vegan pizza. You can even have a great bar crawl on a single street. So, strap in and enjoy the best restaurants Collingwood has to offer. 

Headed south? These are the best restaurants in St Kilda and South Melbourne. Or for the cream of the crop, try one of Melbourne's 50 best dining destinations.

Collingwood's best restaurants

Ides
  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? An ever-changing six-course degustation worth strapping in and forking out for.

Why go there? Chef Peter Gunn worked as Attica’s long-running sous chef, breaking out to bring his experimental pop-up series to a now closed Persillade. These pop-ups grabbed the attention of restaurateurs and long-time business partners Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh and Ides was born. Make no mistake, Ides is no poor-man’s Attica, Gunn has developed his own voice and style of cooking to make Ides shine on its own. Opt into the beverage pairings if you’re feeling adventurous, they’re just as wild as the dishes themselves.

  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A wine bar with some very clever food.

Why go there? You could look at Congress as a wine bar, but it is much more than that. The snacks menu featuring the cult-status pig's head sandwich already says that. Sure, you’ll receive a wine list littered with skin-contact wines next to traditionally processed local syrahs and nebbiolos which screams wine bar, but you’ll also be eating kangaroo pastrami or a house made spelt pappardelle that shows they pay as much attention to their food as they do their booze.

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  • Restaurants
  • Middle Eastern
  • Collingwood
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Middle Eastern diner.

Why go there? A good Middle Eastern restaurant is probably the only thing that Collingwood was missing up until a few months ago. A silky hummus is the centrepiece of New Jaffa and you can get it topped with mushrooms, minced lamb or fried beef to turn your dip into a meal. Pita provided. Bring your vegetarian, vegan and celiac friends because their menu also features whole baked cauliflower, grilled cos and falafel meaning there is something to cater for everyone.

  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A BYO, high-energy Greek restaurant catering for large groups

Why go there? There is always a crowd gathering out the front of Jim’s Greek Tavern having a laugh and a smoke for good reason. It might be the free BYO they’ve had since day dot. It might be their boisterous service-style; shouting the menu items at you until you pick a few dishes that interest you. It might be their generous and unpretentious servings that leave you stuffed even when you think you’ve ordered safely. Or maybe, it’s because it feels like you’re part of their family when you dine there. Just make sure you’re not wearing your tightest jeans when you dine here and be sure to roll home safely.

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  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A modern Japanese café with a strong vegetable focus

Why go there? Wabi Sabi Salon has been a long-standing favourite to Collingwood locals and after 14 years of being open, decided to renovate and refresh their menu. Their once meaty dishes are now replaced with vegan offerings like their Japanese curry with activated charcoal edamame croquettes and pescetarian dishes like grilled black cod or swordfish nuggets.

Red Sparrow Pizza
  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Fitzroy

What is it? A vegan pizzeria

Why go there? We know what you're thinking, don't think that. Not only is the pizza woodfired, but this dairy-free cheese is actually good enough to fool a meat eater. Pizzas may not all be traditional Neapolitan flavours, but when you can order anything off the menu without the fear of cross-contamination, why wouldn't you throw caution to the wind and pick up a HSPizza (yes, this time, it is exactly what you are thinking).

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A Japanese café and home wares store.

Why go there? This sun-drenched warehouse space is great for a casual coffee, a matcha friand or a lazy lunch surrounded by newspapers before you spend your weekly paycheck on Japanese claypots, glassware or ceramics. The traditional Japanese breakfast (only available on weekends) is what Cibi is best known for; a plate of grilled salmon, tamagoyaki, brown rice, seasonal greens and a bowl of steaming, hot miso.

Aka Siro
  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood

What is it? A home-style Japanese diner.

Why go there? Japanese food is more than just ramen, sushi and gyoza. Aka Siro serves teishoku, which is a meal comprised of a main dish accompanied by (unlimited) rice and miso soup. There are 11 on offer, meaning there is more than one for every day of the week. Meat eaters and vegetarians are catered for with dishes like agedashi tofu sitting comfortably next to soy, sake and ginger simmered fish and katsu curries.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Collingwood
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A healthy-eating café that doesn’t taste like health food.

Why go there? There are only so many fried eggs and slabs of bacon you can enjoy before you start craving vitamins and minerals. Enter, Terror Twilight. Aside from the fact that they serve up excellent coffee with minimal wait, they offer up slow-roasted sweet potato loaded with kimchi, cavolo nero, cashew cream and eggs as a hearty breakfast alternative, have build-your-own broth bowls and even give you the option to add MTC oil and a scoop of protein powder to your daily smoothie. It doesn’t mean that they don’t serve bacon, they have that too, it’s just that it is a thick slab of coffee-glazed, smoked pork belly.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream and gelato
  • Collingwood

What is it? A gelateria using only 100% natural ingredients

Why should I go there? Aside from giving Gelato Messina some healthy competition, this gelato store prides itself on using super seasonal ingredients and shunning pre-made mixes and pastes. Sure, it might mean that two batches of the same flavour are never the same, but that's what makes the gelato at Piccolina all the more exciting. If you want to share the love, order traditional flavoured gelato cakes for the family (tiramisu, tartufo), or share some of their more modern flavours with friends (Wagon Wheel, bombe Alaska). 

 

Piccolina Gelateria is a cute little gelato shop sitting pretty on Smith Street, Collingwood. They’re just up from Gelato Messina, but a little competition never hurt anyone. They don’t have the cultish following of Messina, but their gelato is just as tasty. Plus it’s made in the traditional Italian way and with natural ingredients. All flavours are made from scratch – everything from jam to nut butters to chocolate sauce. They’ve also got four vegan gelato flavours to try: passion fruit, strawberry, lemon and chocolate brownie. If you find yourself in Hawthorn you can also pick up some gelato from their Glenferrie Road store.

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  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A pizza parlour with party vibes and a banging wine list.

Why go there? Pizza is sometimes seen as a solitary activity where you sit at home in front of the television and mindlessly shove chewy, cardboard-like slices into your food hole. Not at Lazerpig. This former pub dishes up not-so traditional woodfire pizzas- dabbling with controversial inclusions of pineapple and slow cooked lamb- accompanied by a thoughtful and reasonably priced wine list championing small, local producers. Cocktails feature as many local distillers where possible. Towards the end of the week, this diner morphs into a full-blown party with DJs spinning late into the night.

The Gem
  • Bars
  • Collingwood

What is it? A honkytonk pub with an old-school American bar aesthetic and live music.

Why go there? Aside from the strong rock ’n’ roll vibes and being home to best-dressed patrons to ever grace a back-street corner pub, The Gem knows how to serve a mean drink with a big smile. Barbecue has been the focus of The Gem’s menu in the past years and the pitmasters from Limp Brisket have taken over the kitchen and are smoking up merguez sausages, different cuts of pork, chicken and brisket. Vegetarians don’t miss out on any of the action with maple-roasted pumpkin, beer battered pickles, mac and cheese and an eggplant parma burger gracing the menu. Rock on.

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