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
Winery dining is a bit of a ‘thing’ right now. Oakridge is surrounded by sloping hills of vines and an impressive kitchen garden, it’s the home of some spectacular wines (hello, 864 Funder chardonnay) and a buzzing cellar door. Make sure you step inside to the broad-boned dining room to experience the non-hierarchical cheffing talents of Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, who have spent the past four years honing their location-sensitive craft into something approaching peak deliciousness, making Oakridge our Restaurant of the Year in the 2019 Time Out Food Awards.
Since opening sometime back in the Qing dynasty in 2011, Pinotta has calmly plied its trade as the platonic ideal of the neighbourhood haunt. The troika of good, unfussy Italian food, a punchy and intelligent wine list and service sprinkled with X-factor fairy dust. That might mean something as simple as a snack-happy dish of fried chickpeas and saltbush leaves dusted in paprika and cayenne and a surfeit of salt, a cacio e pepe croquette, or a golden-crusted ball of peppered ooze buried under a Parmigiana-Reggiano snowdrift.
With Shannon Bennett now splitting his time between Melbourne, Byron Bay and the MasterChef set, how much of that shift can be attributed to the overlord himself and how much is due to various executive chef lieutenants anointed along the way, such as Mark Briggs, Cory Campbell and most recent incumbent Justin James, remains a matter of conjecture. All diners need to know is that this slick black-on-black dining room is in good hands with the new kid on the block. Hugh Allen is 24, a graduate of various Noma incarnations, and a brilliant fit for the Vue of now.
Anyone who has been burned (literally and/or figuratively) by cook-it-yourself barbecue joints may wince at the thought of saddling up for another ride on the DIY pony. But worry not. The only thing you have to fear at Rising Embers is fear itself – that and the three-chilli logo dotting the menu.
Melbourne is home to some excellent neighbourhood bars, yet the west was strangely lacking one until 2019. Footscray local Leigh McKenny filled the gap in July of that year by transforming the former Michael’s Deli, an Eastern European delicatessen, into an attractive eatery and watering hole that’s retained all of its retro charm. By day, it’s a café that provides a welcome relief from the usual trifecta of brunch suspects (eggs, avocado, muesli), and here, sandwiches rule supreme.
Melbourne loves a good sanga, and we’re not starved for delicious and diverse options. Dari Korean Café brings Korean-inspired sandwiches into the spotlight. Yoon-Ji Park came to Melbourne from South Korea as a teenager and is slinging Korean-inspired street food, including an array of interesting sandwiches, including the Idol Sandwich- four slices of white bread barely containing thick layers of Mexican salad (cabbage, ham, crabstick and egg dressed with sriracha mayo and ketchup), an egg and potato salad and – wait for it – plenty of strawberry jam.
It’s a funny old place, Akaiito. One minute you’re sitting there getting a head of steam on about the drink that takes half an hour to materialise; the next, all is forgiven thanks to a piece of tuna belly sushi with a dab of truffle that could make the angels weep. There’s a fair amount of ambition writ over this moody-hued multi-level place with a la carte menu in the dining room, and an omakase menu (chef’s menu) served ringside around the open kitchen.
Rat the Café isn’t the hangout for your pet rat. Nor is it decorated in pictures of rats, à la Fleabag’s guinea pig café. Instead on a quiet backstreet in Thornbury opposite a primary school is a neighbourhood spot focusing on coffee, thoughtful dishes, and doing its bit for our fragile planet. ‘Rat’ is an acronym for ‘root and tip’, and owner/chef Callum MacBain adopts a waste-free approach to building his menu by looking to parts of an ingredient that would usually be thrown away for inspiration.
Victoria Street is better known for its countless, old-school Vietnamese restaurants, but on the Hoddle Street corner is Oneyada Thai Cafe, the laid-back breakfast counterpart to the juggernaut that is Jinda. The café is cute in the way where the charming, 20-seater transports you to the open-air, brick-and-mortar eateries in Bangkok with its green accents, wicker chairs, wooden cabinetry and artworks, but maintains Melburnian creature comforts by keeping the elements out with glass frontage, a door, padded seating and very friendly table service. They also serve, most possibly, the best bowl of noodles you can get for brunch.
Lagotto has brought the sunshine of Positano and the ossified elegance of Rome to an odd corner of Fitzroy North. Lagotto sticks to the subliminal promise: hard-working residents need a comforting day-to-night place – a café, restaurant, wine bar and food store – that can massage away the stresses of the corporate world.
The aptly named Sibling is the younger sister to social enterprise stalwart Kinfolk, which has been in residence opposite Southern Cross Station for the better part of a decade. Sibling chef Zane Heemi collaborates with local food producers to construct a menu that’s “as moreish and as sustainable as possible”, but if you’re expecting açai bowls and green smoothies, look elsewhere. Sibling borrows influences from every which way of the world, incorporating the Asian rice porridge congee, the grilled white corn arepa of Venezuela and Colombia, and the thick Creole stew gumbo.
This narrow, neon-filled shop front is Melbourne's newest 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 merrily and soak up all the drinks with outrageously delicious booze-friendly snacks. Head in, order up, get rowdy and prepare yourselves for the inevitable hangover in the morning.
Etta is a buzzy, neighbourhood restaurant with big-city aspirations that redefines casual dining on the Lygon Street strip of East Brunswick. Young-gun chef Charley Snadden-Wilson (Time Out Melbourne’s 2017 Hot Talent winner) has stepped up to fill the role of head chef. The menu has been given a revamp and is worth crossing town for the bread service alone- house-made and served alongside a cacio e pepe butter.