Melbourne's five star restaurants
Inside this fine dining den of distinction, cork tiles line the ceiling, moody hues rule the walls, and a mere 25 seats dot the narrow shopfront floor and the bar overlooking the cooking action that costs $120-a-head for a 10-course tasting menu.
Lesa sure as hell took its time (the reno of the space above Embla took around three years, a record rivalled only by the recently reopened King and Godfree in Carlton) but has already made a calculated claim on Melbourne’s food and booze-loving heart. It’s a place built for people to relax into good times.
We’re in the Italian heartland where spruikers induce passers-by into their red sauce fiefdoms. And into this kingdom of carbs and cheese comes Kazuki’s. Yes, the Japanese-ish, French-ish modern restaurant from Daylesford has swum against the tide of real estate refugees moving to central Victoria and upped stumps to the city.
It’s the roti with Vegemite curry, okay? Sunda has made the year’s most spectacular play for the hearts and minds of Melbourne with a crazy-brave combination of wickedly buttery deconstructed roti and a deeply savoury curry sauce with a Vegemite-umami backbone.
We’re at the end of the line. Literally – the end of the Hurstbridge Line, a 50-minute train-ride out of the CBD, where Melbourne’s suburban identity gets the wobbles as it dissolves into countryside. One hundred metres onwards you’ll find one of the winningest little restaurants to warm the cockles and the sub-cockle region.
Scott Pickett's southside venture, the fit-out is so luxe you can almost smell the expense. There’s a fire and charcoal-driven kitchen, a botanical-filled glass cabinets and a dining room of rough-edged wooden-topped tables and the fattest, softest leather banquettes.
What we have here is not so humble as an osteria. Sure, it has an underlying rustic Italian brief, but the signature dish – thick tubes known as paccheri with prawns – is red carpet ready.
Attica 2.0 gives a cheeky spin on Aussie-isms. There’s a play on smashed avo on toast, and a mini saltbush lamb pie in a Vegemite-addled crust. Even the bread goes native at this regular on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
Ishizuka is worth the time, expense, and trouble of finding it to experience this multi-course journey saturated in technique, peppered with luxe ingredients and served with the kind of ceremony that would satisfy any inhabitant of the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The Carlton Wine Room feels like a breath of fresh air on a dining scene gone stale. Joy, Howe and Twomey are institutionalised hospitality professionals who have turned the cog in large restaurant groups and have come out the other end equipped with the skills of running their own exciting venue.
If the Mornington Peninsula didn’t have it all already – now they can add this audacious, multi-pronged venture encompassing vineyard, cellar door, sculpture park, bistro and restaurant to their ledger.
The grand Mural Room is one of Melbourne’s last bastions of lavish European dining charm where the lighting is set to dim, and the mood set upon arrival by the proffering of a handbag stool.
Andrew McConnell has given his major Gertrude Street address a thorough going-over after eight years. It looks a million bucks. The best bit: the bar,where Champagne rests on ice and a Negroni is only a charming waiter away.
At South Yarra restaurant Atlas you're looking at a smart little fire-focused establishment with a unique, globe-hopping MO, shifting between four cuisines from three continents in the space of 12 months.
Melbourne for a long time practiced Thai food as a kind of cultural desecration, But to have the fourth Long Chim landing in our midst - after Singapore, Sydney and Perth - is the lime juice to the pad Thai; the Sriracha to the fried school prawns. Yes, colour us happy.
Not all five star dining is expensive, and nothing about Miznon is orthodox. It’s a double-storied restaurant, but the action unspools downstairs where diners order at the counter and wait for their names to be called.
It wasn’t long ago that Melbourne was considered the runt of the litter with our limited choices in Thai restaurants. But we’re catching up, with Dodee Paidang joining the authentic ranks of Jinda, Tom Toon Thai Noodle and Soi 38.
Want to stretch your dollar further?
Melbourne's big on cheap eats, but sometimes it's nice to pull up a seat in the city's fine dining establishment. You may not be able to shell out the big bucks all the time though, so we've dug up some of the best value hacks for fine dining restaurants for when you want the experience for less.