Melbourne's best late-night eats
What is it: Italian
When does the kitchen close: Daily 3am
A nondescript, dumpster-strewn alley no more, Mornane Place has finally borne fruit with the arrival of a very late night bar with some seriously good eats. A city cannot have too many places like Arlechin. Beneath the sexily arched cork-lined ceiling lurks a place that feels like a subterranean clubhouse. It has long marble bar, seating for 40, clever lighting and a good part of the Grossi cellar stored behind glass. Even if you’re planning to be tucked up in bed by 10pm, the midnight spaghetti will play ball with your timetable. This is no booze-sopping gut-buster – it’s a dainty twirl of rigorously al dente spaghetti capturing a flavour burst of sugo, salty giant capers and sweet basil leaves. It’s kind of like an aerodynamic puttanesca.
What is it: A 24-hour diner
When does the kitchen close: Never, it's open 24 hours
24 hours. 24 freaking hours, seven days a week is how long Con Christopolous is keeping his new CBD venture open for. It’s a compelling reason to grab dinner late or have a steak for breakfast. Please welcome Butcher’s Diner to the growing ranks of venues keeping the Melbourne CBD up all night. Simon Poole, who has been a longstanding meat-obsessed member of the European Group, breaking down the animals and churning out all things cured and aged for venues such as the City Wine Shop, the European, Kirk’s and French Saloon, is now heading up Butcher’s Diner. While the menu is meat-centric, it is not as carnivorous as it may first appear – there's even a 24-hour all vegan vending machine.
What is it: Cantonese
When does the kitchen close: Daily 2.30am
There’s something to be said for constancy in the restaurant world. This venerable establishment built its reputation the old-fashioned way with just plain straight-up excellent Cantonese food with a 2.30am closing time that means it’s a magnet for the city’s hospo crowd looking for a post-work feed that won’t break the bank. The menu is long. As in really, really long, but anyone who’s been a couple of times will know which dishes to beeline for. Congee with chicken, flecked with ginger. The Pacific oysters in an aromatic soy-stock lake. A whole steamed flounder, and sizzling chilli quail. The hotpot with pork and oil-soaked, garlicky eggplant with salted fish used like seasoning, and the roasted suckling pig with the sweetest meat and skin like chewy, salty toffee.
What is it: Ramen
When does the kitchen close: Mon-Thu, Sun 3am; Fri-Sat 4am
Customers fill up Musashi’s small confines in ebbs and flows. No one stays for long, but the restaurant is never empty – the bright signage draws you in, especially when your lizard brain is on a one-track mission for post-party fuel. Congenial chants of irrashaimase! greet diners as soon as they step inside. The heady smell of peanut oil and chilli, the paper lanterns strung across the sloping roof and the backing soundtrack of Japanese boy bands could almost trick you into believing you’re in Japan. The ramen menu is demarcated into three sections: signature pork tonkotsu, Tokyo-famous chicken shoyu and speciality broths. But if you’re worried you won't be able to eat ramen with any dignity, there are also four stock standard Japanese rice dishes like teriyaki beef and stir-fried pork belly that are easier going for fumbling fingers. However, nothing matches a bowl of noodle soup when applied at the witching hour, for the power to straighten you out, warm you up and keep you going.
What is it: Mexican
When does the kitchen close: Daily 3am
Venture in and you’ll descend into a basement plastered in posters from the golden age of Mexican cinema – tits, ‘taches and Tecate. The tables and stools are more cantina than bar, and the prime place to be is perched up at the counter. Beware, shots are the drink of choice there, and the fast-paced music will always make you think you’re one behind. Cocktails involve clever applications of tequila and mezcal. We love it because the kitchen is open all the way until the 3am closing time. Naturally, tacos feature heavily on the menu. Corn tortillas act as a foil for battered fish, pork, grilled octopus, fried potato or mushroom. Tacos come at two per serve with house specifications such as a chipotle mayo, crema, pepitas, guacamole or other accoutrements, making it more Cal-Mex than straight-up Mex, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and need not rely on fried potatoes or naked corn.
What is it: Southern barbecue
When does the kitchen close: Mon-Thu 10pm; Fri-Sat 5am
A popular choice for weary and worse-for-wear Melburnians, this ‘N’awlins’ themed den of barbecue and boozing has the late-night brief just about nailed. From midnight, the food options are whittled down to 50c wings, $1 oysters and the late night menu. It’s short and to the point – a handful of snacks and sides, two sandwich options and four types of pie for dessert. Fried chicken tenders arrives as a generous basket of spicy bites with a side of creamy, peppery, white gravy and just the right grease-to-crunch ratio for sticklers. You can’t go wrong with either sandwich, but the chopped beef brisket with onion, dill pickles and yellow cheddar is our pick, especially with a few splashes of hot sauce under the seeded brioche hood. Strictly for the soon-to-be-comatose, the chilli cheese fries is a great big mess of a thing, and if you’ve ruined your diet anyway you might as well stick around for pie (Oreo and peanut butter is our tip). Fair warning: the kitchen weirdly closes from 11pm to midnight Friday and Saturday, so make sure to time your arrival.
What is it: Euro bar snacks
When does the kitchen close: Sun-Thu 4am; Fri, Sat 6am
Melbourne Supper Club is a terrific hidey-hole from the madness of the CBD in the wee hours of the morning. Enter the unassuming door on Spring Street and climb up the stairs into a moodily-lit sanctuary of leather couches, fine wines and fancy midnight meals. If you feel like a hit of rawness, there are freshly shucked oysters and a venison tartare, which is strangely refreshing with a touch of ginger and gin, served with housemade crisps. If you’re a few Negronis down and prefer something to fortify the stomach, order the crisp Jenga stack of polenta chips and karaage Japanese-style fried chicken, a neat pile of crisp golden battered chicken with hints of a soy, garlic and ginger in the marinade. The wine list features bottles that run into the thousands, but there are plenty of affordable drops to enjoy by the glass if you’re winding down for the night. If you can, try to sit by the floor-to-ceiling picture window with a view of Parliament House.
What is it: Thai
When does the kitchen close: Mon-Thu, Sun midnight; Fri, Sat 1am
Fact: everything looks better drenched in deep red lighting. There’s a slightly otherworldly quality to this CBD favourite: couples huddle over cocktails beneath crimson lighting, friends chatter over thumping house music (courtesy of a DJ on the second-floor mezzanine), and waiters in suspenders bob and weave through three levels packed with high seating. Given that Magic Mountain is the latest addition to the restaurant family that includes Cookie, Boney and the Toff in Town, it’s no surprise that these hospo pros had the savvy to create a venue that works equally well as a restaurant to start a big night, a party bar to kick on to, or a perfect late-night eatery. Depending on how many standard drinks have passed your lips, you may want to forego the gamey ox tongue, lemongrass and red pepper salad and the fiery vegetable jungle curry in favour of a generous serve of crunchy fried chicken ribs with sweet chilli sauce, rich, comforting pad Thai, and flaky roti.
What is it: Ramen
When does the kitchen close: Never, it's open 24-hours
How Melbourne ever made it for so long without a an all-night ramen joint, we will never know, but Shujinko's presence smack bang in the CBD and a stone's throw away from some of the city's most popular late-night venues is a god send. Night city dwellers will no longer have to resort to a greasy kebab or mysteriously long-lasting burger from the golden arches. Perhaps not so surprisingly, a soothing bowl of soup and perfectly slurpy noodles is great fuel after a late night jaunt. The ultra-spicy karakuchi ramen is just the thing to clear those sinuses, while the black ramen is an umami bomb that can cut through to your numbed tastebuds.
What is it: Euro snacks
When does the kitchen close: Daily 3am
Getting a seat near the view is like an Olympic event here, so we suggest making a pitstop post midnight when the after-work crowd have long gone, theatregoers have heeded the final call and it's just you and the night owls looking out over Spring Street’s canopy. Changes to the Tobacco Act in 2017 have meant Siglo is now classified as a drinking-only venue. You’ll still be able to enjoy refined bar snacks at your table, but you’ll need to venture to the indoor bar to devour Siglo’s signature party pies. It’s no big deal. Start with snacks at your table – both the marinated grilled eggplant and Crust Armour salmon rillettes feel like tiny care packages from gay Paree – and then when you're ready for the main event, perch on a stool inside for a chevap sausage roll or a flaky spanakopita at the bar.