Atria.
Photograph: Atria

The 50 best restaurants in Melbourne

Too many restaurants, not enough time. Cut the fat with our guide to the best restaurants Melbourne has to offer

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June 2024: In a famous food city like ours, how on earth do you decide which restaurants are the best of the best? Of course, depending on your individual tastes, culture, budget, location and other factors, such a feat is impossible. But here at Time Out, we certainly do try – in fact, our critics are out dining and drinking every week of the year to deliver you an ultimate guide to only the finest eating experiences in Melbourne. Keep a note of this list to see which ones are exciting us the most right now.

The continually evolving and expanding dining scene in Melbourne is both a blessing and a curse: how do you choose between so many incredible restaurants? Well, that's where we come in. Stop endlessly scrolling, and commit to making your way through Time Out’s list of the best restaurants in the state right now. Our always-hungry local experts and editors have curated 2024's most delicious and divine, innovative and imaginative, comforting and familiar, memorable and magical dining experiences right here at your fingertips. From old favourites and culinary institutions such as Attica, Stokehouse and Flower Drum, to emerging standouts and instant icons such as Serai, Gimlet, Amaru and Reine and La Rue, we've got it all covered here. And as for the brand new restaurant and bar openings catching our eye? Check out this guide instead.

Get out, and get eating! You've got a lot to get through! 

Prefer a tipple-focused adventure? These are the best bars in Melbourne. Looking for a knock-out dining experience that won't break the bank? Look no further than our list of Melbourne's best cheap eats. And for hot new openings, check out our best newcomers guide.

The 50 best restaurants in Melbourne

  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

To question Gimlet’s beauty is like pondering out loud whether the sky is blue. One foot through the door into the Trader House team’s almighty fine diner and you’re swept into an era of astonishingly impressive 1920s glamour. The handsome, plush curved booths invite you to settle in and share a bottle of Champers with a friend, uniformed staff skate around the floor with ease, and warm light dances off the grand chandeliers overhead.

 

  • Beaconsfield
  • price 3 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out's Restaurant of the Year in 2023 may be almost a decade old, but it still stands out as one of the most energising fine dining experiences in Melbourne. This farm-to-table restaurant kitchen sources all of its ingredients from nearby Cardinia, owned and run by friends of the chefs. Even if you haven’t done your research, it’s immediately clear that there’s a reverence for organic locally sourced ingredients at O.My. Each dish elevates humble produce to new heights, an alchemical feat that looks far outside the box in delivering an experience you'll remember.  

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

Under the stewardship of the Grossi family, this Bourke Street Italiano staple still shines. 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. Through three generations of hard graft and some damned fine cooking they’ve cemented their place in the city’s dining history.

  • Modern Australian
  • St Kilda
  • price 3 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

This seafood institution's luxe beach house charms have had us spellbound for decades – and like a fine wine, it's only getting better with time. The multi-storied luxe beach house slash relaxed diner transports our serious city-fatigued souls to a cool and calming Aussie seaside escape. It’s got all the necessary ingredients: picturesque ocean views, award-winning seafood, a sustainable ethos that nabbed its Legend Award at our 2023 Food and Drink Awards, quality wines and some of the best and brightest well-trained service in the biz. We couldn’t be more infatuated. 

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Armadale
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Amaru offers one of Melbourne's most thrilling contemporary dining experiences right now. Nestled in leafy Armadale, the restaurant is run by chef Clinton McIvey (Auterra) and offers multi-course seasonal degustation tastings with the option to pair alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. Expect fresh local produce with a native edge, cutting-edge fermentation and cooking techniques, and plating aesthetics prettier than a picture.  

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
  • Chinese
  • Melbourne

The only reason this OG Melbourne institution has given up top spot on this list, is because we know it doesn’t need first place on this, or any other list, to continue its reign as a city-wide favourite. Flower Drum is rooted in enough history to step aside and make space for some young guns to forge their path through the upper echelons of the Melbourne food scene.

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
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  • Modern Australian
  • Yarraville
  • price 2 of 4

Navi is a fine dining den of distinction, where 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.  Navi is a chef’s-own temple, down to the a la mode pottery Hills threw himself, the soundtrack of “I'm playing what I goddamn like” and the snackage sent in to soften diners up as they acclimatise to the evening ahead (line honours go to raw wallaby and pickled flowers in its cured egg wrapping).

  • Japanese
  • Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

While our city's filled with a labyrinth of outstanding and historic establishments, few really deserve the coveted title of being a Melbourne culinary institution – an overused and often meaningless phrase. However, after experiencing a meal in the tranquil yet dynamic dining room at Kenzan, the Collins Street restaurant that has been serving traditional Japanese fare since 1981, you leave with the feeling that there aren’t many ways more apt to describe the place. 

 

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
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  • Filipino
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

Time Out’s 2022 Restaurant of the Year (also our Best Casual Dining Venue) impressed us from the outset, a shot in the arm for the city’s food culture. Riffing on chef Ross Magnaye’s Filipino heritage without suggesting anything like straightlaced authenticity, the fire-licked food is irreverent, playful and fun while also introducing the non-Filipino Melbournians to a new world of flavour. Backed by a pithy, natural-leaning wine list and a whole lot of buzz, the menu is a tour-de-force of things we want to eat. Such as the lechon, the roasted free-range pig married to a pineapple-infused, gently spicy-sweet palapa sauce. Or the deliciously inauthentic McScallop, a cheeky riposte to the golden arches starring a single fried scallop doused in deliriously rich crab-fat sauce cut through with papaya pickle and sandwiched in a toasted pandesal bun. The only challenging thing about Serai? Trying to score a table.  

  • Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Anyone with even the slightest interest in Melbourne’s food and hospitality scene has been talking about Reine and La Rue of late. The highly ambitious project from Nomad Group has  transformed Melbourne’s hallowed old Stock Exchange building into a European-inspired restaurant as ritzy as it is regal, with a speakeasy bar (the Rue part) accessible through an adjoining courtyard. The group’s executive chef Jacqui Challinor and head chef Brendan Katich have collaborated closely with Victorian producers to curate a menu that pays homage to the French classics with fresh Aussie flair. The results? Showstopping.  

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Bistros
  • Brunswick East
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Etta has been hot on everyone’s lips since it entered the Brunswick East dining scene – particularly since head chef Rosheen Kaul joined the kitchen in 2020. In a sea of great restaurants, it’s tough to be truly exceptional but Etta straddles the line. A continuous reinvention of their classics seems key to the venue’s success – and if it continues on this trajectory, one can only assume great things are to come. But regardless of Etta’s future, it’s clear its stripes are well-deserved.

 

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
  • Richmond
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Exquisite dishes notwithstanding, Minamishima is a masterclass experience in excellent service and meticulous attention to detail. As we turn from one dish to the next, the table is meticulously constructed around us with different ceramic saucers and implements taking centre stage. Everything is elegant and artful, right down to the zigzagged wet towel for us to dampen our hands with between sushi eating. A convivial quality is present in waitstaff. Minamishima’s genuine warmth and affection for what they do is matched by the sushi, the best we’ve had in Melbourne. 

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Sonia Nair
Time Out Melbourne food and drink contributor
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  • Modern Australian
  • Ripponlea

After a few years away, we have a reinvigorated appreciation for Attica as a pillar of innovation and authenticity. It’s a restaurant doing incredible things with the best produce and ingredients Australia has to offer. Attica is not just a meal. It's an all-consuming sensory experience that deserves a top spot because it continues to demonstrate to us all what it means to be adaptable and ambitious qualities we could all use a little more of.

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
  • Italian
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

What could be so extraordinary about yet another Italian joint in a city brimming with some of the best of them? Do your research though, and you’ll quickly discover that Alta Trattoria is not, in fact, just “another Italian joint”. The restaurant’s specialty is a little different, zeroing in on the northern Italian region of Piedmont, which is located at the foot of the Alps and home to some of the boot nation’s most prized culinary exports. In addition, the team behind Alta Trattoria includes Luke Drum (Carlton Wine Room), chef McKay Wilday (Victoria by Farmers Daughters), Carlo Grossi (Ombra, Grossi Florentino) and vino expert James Tait (King and Godfree). Anticipate rustic yet elegant trattoria-style dishes, sophisticated and rare Italian wines, and keen service who've nailed the brief.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Japanese
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Think of it as an ultra-boutique Japanese banquet running headlong into performance art and theatre. Omakase is a showcase of skill and showmanship, although Warabi deformalises the experience with an emphasis on chef-diner interactions. The cross-counter chat proves a welcome pressure valve to those gathered in the serene, timber-lined cocoon lording it above Collins Street – at least before the sake has its chance to do some mood-loosening of its own. The rules of Warabi engagement are as follows: 12 ringside seats, $245 a head. Like a stage production, it waits for no one: kick-off is 5.30pm and 8pm, with a two-hour sitting time proving long enough to transport you to Tokyo’s glittering Ginza and back. Two hours of omakase power later, the chef show is over. The temptation is to clap, but even this dining spectacle demands some deference. So let’s make up for it now. Applause. 

  • Brunswick

Koreans have a word for food that’s consumed with alcohol – anju – and while a lot of the anju we see here in Melbourne are things like sticky soy garlic-glazed fried chicken wings or thin strips of beef sizzling away on a Korean barbecue, tiny eatery Chae is here to highlight a different side to Korean cuisine. Chae started in a Brunswick apartment and has recently experienced a change of scenery, relocating to Cockatoo, to be surrounded by greenery and nature around 50km southeast of the Melbourne CBD. Chae remains as intimate, as exquisite and as charming as ever.

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  • Melbourne

Farmer’s Daughters is bringing Gippsland to the city at its swish multi-level venue at 80 Collins St. Executive chef Alejandro Saravia spent many years bringing his vision of a deli, restaurant and bar to life, and the venue was welcomed with open arms by Melburnians seeking a taste of their own state. The colour palette is inspired by gumtrees, from olive green through to terracotta, and each level of the three-storey venue represents a different location. Sink into brown leather banquettes and snack on warm Irish soda bread with cultured cream, Koo Wee Rup asparagus with black garlic and Tarago brie mousse before moving onto the likes of rabbit with Pink Fir Apple, black garlic and leek chutney or dry age O’Connor beef with Wattlebank Farm oyster mushrooms and spring brassicas. Dining at Farmer's Daughters is as much of an educational experience, as it is a luxurious, wholesome and memorable meal.

  • Thai
  • Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Not that we needed it with the likes of Soi 38Dodee Paidang and Nana Thai now in our midst, but Thai Tide is further proof that Melbourne’s Thai food scene is more alive and thriving than ever. Standing out in a city where standing out is never easy, Merica Charungvat’s pristine gem of a restaurant is treating our city to what may just be the boldest (and rarest) Thai flavour experience we can get our hands on yet, at least without booking flights to the ‘Land of Smiles’ itself. From ants larvae soup to a hot and cold tofu claypot, every dish at Thai Tide is a mouthwatering adventure.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Carlton

A chef, a sommelier and a maitre d’ walk into a bar. Bada-bing. Carlton Wine Room is no joke but the brilliant result of three of the industry’s accomplished stars banding together to take the leap into restaurant ownership. Snacks stand out as stars here: order the anchovy with fried bread, ricotta and pickled cucumber, and the Stracciatella with pickled mushrooms, chive oil and potato focaccia, always. 

  • Japanese
  • Carlton

On Lygon Street's kingdom of carbs and cheese comes the Japanese-ish, French-ish Kazuki's from Daylesford. There are two ways to tackle Kazuki’s, starting at the five-course option for $130 and heading northwards to the seven-course menu for $160. Our advice: go the five-course menu, if only to commandeer the four snacks as the first course, which could include Goolwa pipis on the shell, a profiterole filled with parfait and Davidson plum jam, grilled duck hearts, or whipped cod roe on a nori crisp.

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  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Because after living through a global pandemic, we make our own rules now. We know we're only supposed to include one restaurant per spot on this list, but when you live in a city with just so much good food, you have to make a couple of exceptions here and there, so coming in hot together are Maha and Maha East. Like an older, responsible sister, Maha continues to show up just the way you want her to, providing comfort in the form of whipped hummus, slow-roasted lamb shoulder, and smoked aged rice, like an upgraded version of a familiar and warming home-cooked meal. But Maha East, her sassy, independent younger sister, who doesn’t like being told what to do, is bringing a taste of the Middle East to Chapel Street, in a carefree, fun and fresh way.

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
  • Japanese
  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

Ishizuka's menu specialises in Japanese kaiseki. It’s also a rabbit hole, both quasi-literally (the ordeal of finding it through a nondescript door, along an arcade, down a level via a keypad and elevator and through another nondescript door, can feel a little daunting, which is probably the point) and figuratively, thanks to chef Tomotaka Ishizuka performing the food equivalent of needlepoint.

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23. Tedesca Osteria

Tedesca Osteria on the Mornington Peninsula is a fixed-menu dining experience, that is an utter celebration of locally grown and sourced produce. While the food is undoubtedly excellent, this farmhouse-fantasy is not as easy-going of an experience as it may seem from the outside, for example, it is just so difficult to get a booking. But hey, we know that is part of its allure. In any event, the food is good enough to persist with your quest to book. Join as many of the waitlists as they will let you and keep your fingers crossed that they will call you with a last-minute cancellation spot, so you can see for yourself why we named it the best regional restaurant of 2022

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
  • Melbourne

There’s something brewing in the heart of Little Collins Street. It could be the numerous jars of potato skins or cabbage fermenting away in Sunda’s latest sibling, Aru Restaurant, or perhaps it’s Khanh Nguyen’s playful and determined spirit. Whatever it is, it’s a welcome change in a relatively underserved pocket of the CBD. The venue heroes pre-colonial techniques of cookery across Southeast Asia – “cooking over fire, preserving, fermenting, dry-aging, curing and all those kinds of treatments” says Nguyen. It’s a spirited take on the ‘f’ word that can often miss the mark, but here, Nguyen manages to make light-hearted commentary on colonisation through his fusion food, and he does so in a way that’s both moreish and respectful.

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  • Italian
  • Carlton

Like many of us during the COVID lockdowns, Italian-born chef Andre Vignalli tried to make lemon juice from a suddenly sour situation. He launched his own pasta delivery service, Al Dente, which quickly spread in popularity around Melbourne and has since evolved into the upscale modern restaurant it is today – Al Dente Enoteca. Vignalli and Bonadima’s dishes change with the seasons to focus on local quality produce and regionally inspired Italian flavours. Think house-baked pane with cultured butter and an impressively rare aged balsamic vinegar reduction, panzerotti pomodoro with mozzarella and basil (the most epic take on a pizza pocket you’ll ever try) and juicy golden-fried olives stuffed with meat for starters. 

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Did ‘fusion’ really ever leave? Was it merely masquerading as ‘new-style’ all along? And when it’s this delicious, does it even matter? These are the hard-hitting questions you must ponder at Victor Liong’s time-honoured, pan-Asian institution Lee Ho Fook. At this Melbourne favourite Australian producers and grocers, and seasonal ingredients, are championed through a platform of modern Chinese food. Perhaps it'll be Tasmanian ocean trout sashimi with black bean and orange dressing to start, followed by the lacquered duck with quince hoisin, spring onion, and bing bread, all capped off with a rose tea and red fruit trifle with vanilla and osmanthus cream. Whatever you eat, it's sure to be excellent. 

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  • Fitzroy
  • price 3 of 4

Cutler and Co has been a mainstay on the fickle Melbourne hospitality circuit for many years, and for good reason. Andrew McConnell opened the restaurant way back when in 2009 in a former metal works factory, and it has undergone a transformative evolution over all those years, emerging as his flagship restaurant. However Cutler and Co has stayed true to its values of refined, simple and hospitable dining throughout the years, as the industry continued to grow and evolve around it. Seasonable menus champion modern Australian food showcasing local producers and growers, expertly crafted by the skilful team in the kitchen. 

Sanam Goodman
Contributor
  • Australian
  • Melbourne

Atria, the Ritz-Carlton Melbourne’s fine dining offering, certainly doesn’t need to rely on its astounding panoramic views to impress. However, as you ascend 80 floors up revealing uninterrupted vistas of Port Phillip Bay and the surrounding ranges, the views sure don’t hurt. Since opening in March 2023, Atria has specialised in its own distinctive take on seasonal menus. The dishes and ingredients follow the local Melbourne climate, rather than the quarterly European calendar. Executive chef Michael Greenlaw (ex-Vue De Monde) is a keen diver and spearfisher, an interest that shines through in a menu that places unconventional seafood at the forefront.

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  • Middle Eastern
  • Carlton
  • price 2 of 4

When young Abla Amad came to Melbourne in 1954 she brought the love of cooking developed while watching her mother in their north Lebanese village. Later, she sharpened her culinary skills with the Lebanese women who would meet in each other’s kitchens to exchange recipes. Abla loved feeding people so much that meal-making for her family turned into hosting Sunday feasts for the community – and then came the restaurant. It’s easy to see why this has been a Carlton institution for 40 years. There’s no pomp or pretence here – it's so authentic it should come with a certificate. Places like Abla’s are not just about a good feed. They are part of the fabric of our city, and in these days of hyped new openings, it's important to celebrate this rare breed of restaurant.

  • Melbourne
  • price 3 of 4

Both the dining room and kitchen at Vue have recently been refurbished, while the menu has evolved to become a 14-serving series of culinary enchantments – not too far of a stray from the globally recognised fine diner’s usual brand of refinement, but with just enough changes to thrill returning and new visitors. (Don’t fret – that mind-blowing chocolate soufflé hasn't gone anywhere.) Executive chef Hugh Allen and the senior culinary team have collaborated closely with exceptional Aussie producers to highlight local seasonal ingredients. Highlights from the opening menu include grilled lamb sweetbreads with asparagus sourced from Koo Wee Rup and fermented macadamia sauce; padrón peppers stuffed with heirloom eggplant cooked in wild nasturtium oil; and grilled marron tail with a fried native herb paste followed by a warm marron roe custard.   

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Melbourne

A dark staircase entranceway leads down to a warm, energetic space with a slightly subterranean vibe, that buffers from the hubbub outside, while at the same time suggesting you are in one of the most happening pockets of the city. Soft lighting, combined with the polished wooden floors, cool blue tones and generously spaced tables creates a cosy, cave-like dining area which builds a sense of anticipation for what is to come and the knowledge that you are in for an inspired dining experience. The smell of toasty spices emanates from the metaphorical and physical heart of the restaurant, the wood-fired oven. Its creations are born here. Fish, meat and bread all receive its smokey embrace, peppering a charred and fat-rendered profile throughout your dining experience, while the service is effortless yet attentive. A must-visit.

  • African
  • Kensington

While Footscray is known for its African food, if you head a little closer towards the city to the Abyssinian for your dose of injera bread, you won't be disappointed. This Racecourse Road eatery serves up a combo of traditional and spiced-up Ethiopian dishes including kifto beef, goat with kemmam sauce and the lamb hot pot shiro bozena. Order the mixed platter feast to get a chef's choice of curries and a small salad served on a giant serve of delightfully spongy injera flatbread. Cutlery is barred here, so get your hands in there and sop up all the flavours.

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Jade Solomon
Contributor
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  • Polish
  • Brunswick
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Good, honest food. Sometimes, it’s the only thing you crave. Like the type of meal your grandmother prepared for you when you were a child. Or freshly rolled pierogi. The couple at the helm of this new Brunswick East restaurant, Guy Daley and Dominika Sikorska, are widely respected for bringing some of the most authentic Polish cuisine to Melbourne and they're absolutely smashing it.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Kanh Nguyen’s departure from Sunda last July left many, myself included, wondering what would become of the once-lauded contemporary Southeast Asian-Australian restaurant. But former sous Nabil Ansari’s appointment as the new head chef (after a brief stint at Firebird) has ensured the venue remains in good hands. Sunda is not the same restaurant that opened on Punch Lane in 2018, but its next wave is a promising one.

Quincy Malesovas
Contributor
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  • Thai
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Having trouble finding Soi 38? Just follow your nose. While the address is equal parts intriguing and perplexing, the heady scent of Thailand – its star anise, galangal, chilli, lime and herbs – will lure you inside the multi-level poured concrete carpark down a laneway off Bourke Street. Don’t go thinking this cheap-eat champion is big on the novelty and low on the substance. The brightly coloured haunt in the middle of the urban jungle can claim to have introduced Melbourne to authentic Bangkok-style boat noodles.

  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Whatever iteration Marion’s menu is in, one can never go past the flatbread with fromage blanc, a staple so universally adored it’s never left. Salt-speckled, garlicky wedges of dough give way to the most pillowy interiors, which go a treat when dipped in fresh cheese so smooth and spreadable it’s akin to a yoghurt. Marion is plush and elegant, but it’s never too cool for school. 

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Sonia Nair
Time Out Melbourne food and drink contributor
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  • Carlton
  • price 2 of 4

Lagoon Dining takes foods from across the world and transforms them into contemporary, Chinese-inspired dishes, all the while drawing upon Japanese and Korean influences too. The venue is clad in black and white tones, with whitewashed brick walls, a black wrap-around bar and a grid pattern that dominates the sides of the walls and greaseproof paper sheets. The food, however, is far from the angular, monochrome interior. Try Lagoon’s welcomed take on the steak tartare, which sees Sichuan influences owing to the peppercorns. In this version, strands of fresh coriander, pickled shallots and the residual spice from the numbing peppercorns dance on your tongue. A showstopping highlight.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
  • Fitzroy
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

The heady smell of incense is apparent as soon as you walk into Flint’s dark confines. Charcoal walls surround a centrepiece open kitchen where sous chef Yukio Endo works his magic on the night we visit. Through an alcove is a private mezzanine dining area that overlooks the restaurant while perched aloft. Flint combines the no-waste fermentation ethos of the since-closed Parcs with a healthy respect for flames and a penchant for wood-fired grilling. There are no ovens at Flint – only ‘fire, smoke and charcoal’. There's a sense of theatre here and the kitchen surprises with every turn and trick. 

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Sonia Nair
Time Out Melbourne food and drink contributor
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  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4

Possibly you’re here for a quick bowl of pasta and a glass of wine at the handsome marble bar. Good for you, you’re not alone. If you can afford the time, though, take it easy and consult the starters - Stracciatella, salumi, chargrilled octopus or grilled asparagus. But don't fill up before the main event: the pasta, of course. The braised duck gnocchi is a menu mainstay, for good reason, but if that's too heavy for lunch, go for something a little lighter such as the spaghettini with scallops, anchovies and gremolata. That Tipo 00 is one of the country’s best carb bars is not new news. That it continues to excite after this many years is cause for celebration. Tipo 00 is the kind of restaurant you want to show off to visitors, the kind of place that makes you proud to call Melbourne home.

  • Turkish
  • Balaclava

This is a kitchen bringing the kind of modern Turkish food you’d find in Istanbul’s vigorous restaurant scene to Balaclava with a program of pickling, preserving, fermenting and hanging (yoghurt, that is). It’s fresh, pretty, textured and refined. 

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  • Italian
  • Melbourne

What we have here is not so humble as an osteria. Sure, it has an underlying rustic Italian brief, exemplified by the chargrilled whole octopus brutishly splayed over a sauce made of the fiery Calabrian spreadable salami, `nduja. Despite its aims to be everything but a pasta bar, Ilaria's signature has become a plate of paccheri (thick tubes of pasta) strewn with nubs of Crystal Bay prawn meat, grounded in tomato and sorrel purees and anointed with the heady cologne of prawn oil.

  • European
  • Melbourne

Tucked inside Collins Street’s heritage-listed Olderfleet building, the street visible through a trio of ecclesiastical windows, Freyja is a restaurant immune from any accusations of culinary copying. Under the leadership of Jae Bang, formerly head chef at Norway’s two-Michelin-gonged Re- Naa, Freyja swings from daytime smørrebrød, the traditional Danish open sandwiches we prefer to think of as a full meal on rye, to a dinner menu packing cool Scandi sophistication. Ironically for a restaurant named after an over-worked Norse goddess, Freyja is trailblazing a work/life balance for its staff by opening only on Tuesday to Saturday. It’s another Scandinavian approach to life we’re happy to embrace. This goddess has earned her break, and our devotion.

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  • Richmond
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Restaurant and wine bar Lene, pronounced Lenny, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a veritable gallery with wall-to-wall expanses of bold and colourful paintings, but there’s no stiff tablecloths or opaque dining codes to abide by here. Thin, crisp slivers of crostini fashioned out of unused sourdough nibs are the perfect vessel to scoop out one of the most ingenious creations we’ve come across – a runny poached egg mixed in with fried strands of Brussel sprouts, almost like floss, lifted by the citrus of salted lemons. Chef Williams changes the menu every week, but you can expect the same ethos across the rotating cavalcade of dishes – housemade everything, varying cultural influences, new and exciting combinations of ingredients, and novel interpretations of age-old classics. 

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Sonia Nair
Time Out Melbourne food and drink contributor
  • Vietnamese
  • Fitzroy
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Rue De Thanh is situated on the quiet end of Brunswick Street, a celebration of Vietnamese food spearheaded by owner Than Tran. With more than twenty years of restaurant experience, he's paired with Head Chef Thi Hong Nguyen to create a menu that covers the gamut of familiar Vietnamese favourites with a contemporary flair and dash of French technique. Take, for example, the Bò tái Chanh, which is a rare beef salad but instead comes in the form of Melbourne-y beef carpaccio – sumptuous pink beef fillet topped with shallots, herbs and crispy garlic. It's vibrant, fresh and has the well-rounded, sweet-salty-sour-profile that's the signature of Vietnamese cuisine. Oysters come grilled or fresh, the latter topped with zesty nuoc mam and popping citrus finger lime pearls, an invigorating one-biter that leaves me cursing myself for only ordering one. Bánh khọt, coconut and turmeric pancakes are crispy-outside-gooey-inside perfection.

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  • Yarra Valley

We’re at the end of the line. Literally – the end of the Hurstbridge Line, a 50-minute train ride out of the CBD, is where you’ll find a cool rustic bolthole big enough for an open kitchen, vinyl spinning turntable and just 15 seats. It feels less like a conventional restaurant, and more like you’ve accidentally wandered into the bijou farmhouse of someone with really good taste.

  • Richmond

The bad news is the closing of Anchovy, otherwise known as chef Thi Le’s personal exploration of Vietnamese cuisine. The good news is its replacement by the Laos-leaning Jeow. There has been no observable change to the single Bridge Road shopfront, which remains as intimate to the point of squeezy as ever. You don’t come here for the design brilliance, but there’s also no cause for leaving before dessert thanks to the durian Swiss roll.

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  • South Yarra
  • price 2 of 4

Scott Pickett has built his reputation on a jazz-riff approach to Michelin classicism, but here he’s favouring the visceral attractions of smoke, flame and char. The elemental approach to cooking goes hand-in-hand with the strictly a la carte menu and a pragmatic wine list that will please both the haves and the have-yachts.

  • Italian
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Everything at this moody laneway pasta bar is made in-house, including the pasta, the bread, vinegars and more. The menu’s also interesting, not your standard showcase of traditional Italian ingredients. Mossy green ribbons of pappardelle come topped with shavings of abalone, and you’ll spot diverse ingredients like kumquat, romesco, dashi jelly and edamame also making unexpected appearances in several dishes. There’s clearly a flirtation with Japan going on here. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Korean-born chef eschews added salt in his cooking, instead building his dishes from a savoury base of house-made chicken stock. But when you're hungry for a satisfying lunch, you don't really care about any of that. You just want to know that what you're about to eat will be damn delicious. Spoiler alert: Alt knocks every dish out of the park.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
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  • Indian
  • Princes Hill
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Spoiler alert: you don’t enter via laundry anymore. The success of Helly Raichura’s tiny at-home Box Hill restaurant has precipitated her move to more “serious” Carlton North digs,
although the laneway entrance retains the enticing air of mystery (as does finding out the actual address only after booking).But while the location has changed, the brief of one of Melbourne’s most singular degustations remains the same: to explain and explore the food of her Indian heritage. 

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer
  • Abbotsford

Named ‘Julie’ after chef Julieanne Blum, who’s earned her stripes as the head chef at Cam’s Kiosk over the past six years, a new restaurant situated in one of Melbourne's most idyllic locations aims to offer thoughtful produce-driven dishes in a warm, dinner party-like atmosphere. Julie's menu is designed to rotate frequently according to the seasons and the creative whims of the kitchen talent, with ingredients sourced largely from the Convent’s dedicated veggie garden. Think grilled ox heart with borlotti beans, artichokes and salsa verde; herb-crusted whole flounder with roasted chilli butter; free-range chook; octopus ragu anelletti (small rings of pasta); and more.

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Lauren Dinse
Food & Drink Writer

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