If you love food and live in Melbourne, your 'must-try' list of new restaurants, cafés and bars probably takes up your phone's entire storage capacity by now. For a tightly curated guide to dining in Melbourne, we suggest you visit our guide to the 50 best restaurants, but for the newest of the new, check out the latest reviews, hot off the press.
New restaurants in Melbourne
The best thing about Hazel is the toast. It isn’t an afterthought to accompany a star entrée; it is the star. The bread, made in the kitchen’s wood-fired oven, is topped with the likes of steak tartare, lightly pickled mussels or duck liver pâté, in a genius move that takes these time-honoured starters and the bread they’re often served with and turns them into a unified whole. And who doesn’t love a snack on toast? Hazel is about giving the people what they want. This is the first restaurant by the crew who elevated Melbourne’s breakfast game with cafés Higher Ground, Top Paddock and the Kettle Black, but the cooking here is unpretentious.
To be born a Reymond is to be a member of the closest thing Melbourne has to restaurant royalty. A trio of Jacques Reymond’s progeny – Antoine, Edouard and Nathalie – have come up with a double-banger that works nicely across the bar with eats/restaurant with cocktails divide. Fred’s is the more casual one to the left, once you’ve figured out some impressively heavy doors; Frederic the only slightly less boisterous sibling to the right sits pretty in the upmarket bistro bracket.
Bring us the snacks, all the snacks and nothing but the snacks. Snacks are the stars of our dining age, the George and Amal of gastronomy, the mark of any chef trying to raise their flag over a crowded restaurant landscape. At Shane Delia’s Maha East, the racier little sibling to his city den, the snacks are so fine the mains might seem like less of a headline event. Or maybe you simply forget to leave stomach space amid the happy hoovering.
Burnley café Lokall is industrial. We don’t mean industrial chic in its aesthetic, as all Melbourne cafés seem to be required to be, but actually industrial – it’s a stone’s throw away from multimillion-dollar office development Botanicca Corporate Park, perched in a rather sterile corner lot. But don’t let that put you off – ex-Supernormal and Cumulus chefs Steve Lim and Dean Little (also co-owners of Lokall) are pumping out some of the best cheese toasties and chicken katsu sandos we’ve found in Melbourne.
In Marios, as in Mario times two, not Mario’s – Marios’, if anything – we have a lot to be grateful for. In 1986, when Fitzroy was but a dusty café nullius ruled by barbarous feudal lords and hangry megafauna (presumably), Marios’ opening as the first cafe on Brunswick Street would usher in not only the dawn of the suburb’s vibrant café culture but as goes the fable, the dawn of ‘all-day breakfast’ in a city now defined by it. The humble trat whose legacy alone guarantees a packed house every night is now a bona fide beacon of the inner north. People love Marios. We know the story: two Marios bet it all on affordable-but-tableclothed Italian fare and won big. The lasagne’s reputation precedes it. The waitstaff wear waistcoats. Our Kylie visited once. Some other guy’s worked the pass since day dot and is getting on a bit. Bedrock, institution, just like mama used to make.
It’s not hard in knock-off-loving Melbourne for a wine bar to shine on a Friday evening, as the work week eases into the rearview, or on a Saturday night, when limitless folly beckons ahead. But how many bars, much less ones tucked away on quiet residential streets, are also brimming at 3pm on a blustery Sunday afternoon, or on steamy Tuesday evenings with no rooftop or courtyard to speak of? Fitzroy North’s Neighbourhood Wine is. Matt Denman, Simon Denman and chef Almay Jordaan’s genre-bending wine bar has solidified itself as a local drinking and dining institution.
Melbourne hospitality royalty the Mulberry Group knows that a successful café doesn’t just mean good food and coffee – it’s all about location, location, location. Nathan Toleman has opened a café-cum-wine shop in the foyer of the T&G building at the Paris end of Collins Street. The insides match the elegant outsides. The theme is Art Deco – think curvy chartreuse banquettes, white marble-top tables, slate-coloured concrete, minimalist Scandi furniture – and the vibe is moneyed powerbrokers.
The Italian-American genie has escaped the Melbourne bottle. Its latest shake of the wand has turned Trunk Bar and Restaurant, the 12-year-old Mediterranean joint housed in a former synagogue, into a Rat Pack-worthy haunt going hard on the trend-chasing. You’ll find meatballs with spaghetti (heresy!), a veal parmigiana the size of a MacBook Pro (gotta be hungry!) and it’s all so Trendy McTrendface you might feel light-headed before the carbs start arriving.
Provenance has been operating from the gold rush-era Bank of Australasia since 2009 and has inspired many a Melburnian to make the three-and-a-half hour journey to Beechworth, in the High Country. Although you might eat one of the animals from our coat of arms on your visit, the flavours will remind you a little bit of Europe and a lot of Japan – and will be distinctly the signature of chef and co-owner Michael Ryan and the Australia he has built for himself. And trust us, it is bloody brilliant.
In 1990, on the eve of the Gulf War, Italian porn star-turned-parliamentarian Cicciolina offered to sleep with Saddam Hussein in exchange for world peace. A foolproof plan it seemed, but sadly she was unsuccessful and off to war we went. Three years later, on a bustling seaside street in faraway St Kilda, a sultry Italian restaurant named for her colourful legacy was born. Like her namesake, the restaurant’s good-time reputation and penchant for decadence quickly began to precede her. Then it hatted her. Then it hatted her again. Before long, Cicciolina would become an indispensable bastion of south-side dining: an ace of Acland Street.
It’s a globalised world where food media wields the power of Cambridge Analytica, so there’s a good chance anyone who’s been to Hong Kong since 2011 has been to Yardbird, the super-hyped yakitori joint in Sheung Wan. That the restaurant still holds its clout in a city where six months is considered old speaks loads for the appeal of chicken on a stick and a fun-loving drinks program to match. So the news that a former Yardbird chef is busting some moves at a Swan Street joint is enough to make anyone head to Tiger Town. Eazy Peazy goes the chic and modern route with what is essentially an addition to Melbourne’s league of izakayas.
Slice Shop Pizza’s storefront, with a rudimentary red, white and blue signage recalling its home team, the Footscray Bulldogs, is nothing to look at, but the bold font spelling out ‘Slice Shop’ and ‘Pizza’ make it clear what people flock here for: 18-inch pizzas by the slice, with slices a steal at $5. Burn City Smokers co-owners Steve Kimonides and Raphael Guthrie have swapped wood-smoked meat for enormous hand-tossed pizzas in their latest venture, inspired by the famous New York slices, which are eaten on the go while folded in half.
If you ever want to feel like you haven’t achieved enough in life, eat at O.My and dine under the outrageously capable team headed by brothers Blayne Bertoncello and Chayse Bertoncello, who are both under 30 (as are most of their team), owners of this (excuse us for using the cliché) no-bullshit farm-to-table restaurant, and are head chef and sommelier, respectively. Oh, and that farm we just mentioned – it’s theirs, too. It’s been in the family for generations, so it is no wonder that they know how to grow a thing or two. After several years of working with gardeners who would plant according to the weather, Blayne took charge of the planting schedule so he knows exactly what he is cooking six months to a year in advance. That’s major mise en place. O.My offers only a seasonal menu, which Chayse describes humbly as ‘just 25 snacks’.
Lagotto has brought the sunshine of Positano and the ossified elegance of Rome to an odd corner of Fitzroy North opposite the spiritual home of the Year 12 formal, the San Remo Ballroom. The design by Flack Studios, which also played midwife to the 26 shiny apartments upstairs, wins our award for floor of the year with its striking marriage of rich burgundy terrazzo with irregular marble inlays. Lagotto is designed for the hard-working residents above in need of a comforting day-to-night place – a café, restaurant, wine bar and food store – that can massage away the stresses of the corporate world.
It’s probably one of the worst-kept secrets in the Melbourne dining scene, but chef and (former) owner Tomotaka Ishizuka left Ishizuka right after it was awarded two hats for the 2019 Good Food Guide. Ishizuka walked away from his 16-seater, hidden kaiseki (degustation) restaurant commanding $235 a head, moved up the street to a narrow, neon-filled shop front and opened an izakaya with food revolving around the bincho tan- a grill fuelled by premium, dense Japanese charcoal. As with most izakayas, the aim at Bincho Boss is to drink and soak up all the drinks with outrageously delicious booze-friendly snacks.