Here’s the thing about the late-night diners of Melbourne: they’re not just for drunk people. At 11pm, a sea of (mostly) sober ushers, concierges and waiters are just clocking off. Paramedics aren’t even mid-shift by 1am, and they more than anyone need proper fuel to help your drunk arse when you fall over outside Lamb’s Kebabs. So you won’t starve in Melbourne after midnight. If you know where to look, you can even get a whole grilled crayfish at midnight, a bowl of carbonara at 3.30am and a pre-dawn plate of fried chicken.
Gin Palace is a haven for hospos who come for chicken sandwiches and Martinis, but if we’ve got a hunger, we go through the swamp room out back to neighbouring Bar Ampere. Here they take orders till 3am for everything from a duck egg and green-bean chopped salad and to their double patty beef and Gruyere burger.
This CBD shrine to whisky and craft beer serves charcuterie plates, cheese boards and ploughman's platters until 3am every night of the week. For those with smaller appetites, their trademark boilermakers come saddled with flavour-paired snacks, like maple-glazed banana chips and prosciutto-topped toast.
The team behind the Toff are the kind of night owls who appreciate your burning need for grilled things on sticks and curries in the small hours. The diner portion of the Toff stays open till 3am weeknights and 5am on the weekends. Get the soft shell crab roll, or make yourself a spicy early breakfast of chicken curry.
You can get half a damn crayfish at the Atlantic right up until 1am. No kidding. A reduced menu runs from midnight, but it’s got serious dinner options. There’s also a 250g tenderloin from the grill, Bloody Mary oyster shots and prawn spaghettini if you’re feeling more like face-planting into a bowl of comfort.
This is home base for the hospitality crowd thanks to its super-late hours (local bartenders will call in orders of oysters and fried chicken at 3am so it’s ready for when they knock off). You can get a pecan pie for a late, late dessert if you want, but for us, it’s all about eating a dozen oysters in shallot vinaigrette with an absinthe cocktail. Just a warning – the late-night menu runs only on Friday and Saturdays.
How about a plate of sweet, sweet freedom fries showered with braised beef cheese curds and ladle of gravy? The American sandwich shop that fronts Jungle Boy cocktail bar does their whole menu till 1am, including a whole lot of poutine and a sub stuffed with the makings of a caramel banana split.
The early evening eats are good at this European wine bar but we’re all about supper. Make yourself a meal of snacks – they’re big on charcuterie and the rabbit, pork and black garlic terrine is a winner. They also do a goats cheese, beetroot and faro salad if you don’t like food with faces.
Smack bang in the CBD, this 24-hour ramen shop is a god send to night owls who would prefer to avoid a greasy kebab or mystery burger in the wee hours. The ultra-spicy karakuchi ramen is just the thing to clear those sinuses, while the black ramen is an umami bomb you'll keep coming back for.
Hungry city diners pile into China Bar all night for dumplings and pork noodles, best consumed drunk. Staff bring you the bill before they bring you your food – they know their audience. Generally everyone orders what they can most easily say out loud (so, pork buns and dumplings), but we’re actually all about the surprisingly decent buttery roti with nutty Malaysian curry.
We’ve been falling into and out of Supper Inn Chinese Restaurant for years. It’s a second home for ushers, bartenders and drinkers who need the solace only a bowl of congee, crisp-skinned roast pork and fast and furious service can bring. The walls are peeling, the tables are worn and everyone’s wearing enough of a booze jacket that yelling is fine.
Smack bang in the middle of the city, this 24-hour Greek restaurant moonlights as a takeaway haven when the sun goes down. Who can choose between chicken and lamb at 3am? Go the mixed souvlaki. They combine big hunks of chewy, spit-roasted lamb with the chicken, browned on the hotplate, in a tidy pita with plenty of salad and tzatziki. You can also get chips topped with hummus and garlic sauce.