When was the last time you visited Southbank? The riverside strip is packed with restaurants for nearly every occasion you can think of: from fine-dining to casual, cheap eats to lavish degustations. Located smack bang between Melbourne's biggest landmarks, take a turn down Southbank on your way to the Arts Centre, Crown, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Federation Square or Flinder Street Station for some world-class food.
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The best Southbank restaurants
Neil Perry’s rendition of a traditional American steakhouse focuses on providing the highest quality meat with wine to match. Their signature cuts of beef are sourced directly from humane producers, dry aged on premises, and cooked to meaty perfection. Most diners go to Rockpool for the steaks, but the seafood from the cold bar, rotisserie menu and additional mains offer something for every diner.
There’s no escaping the fact: Rockpool Bar & Grill will cost you. But nearly a decade down the track, it remains one of Melbourne’s best – and most reliable – dining experiences.
If you manage to get past Dinner by Heston’s long waiting list to score a rare table; congratulations, you lucky thing. You will be met with a marathon degustation showcasing Heston Blumenthal’s eccentric gastronomic experience inspired by British history and native Australian ingredients. And don’t be fooled by the name – Dinner is also open for lunch from Friday to Sunday. Opt for the Chef’s Table for an extra special experience or see if you can skip the waiting list by calling up last minute to see if there are any cancellations.
See what the judges of 2014 World Pizza Championships were tasting when they crowned 400 Gradi’s margherita the best in the world. Owner and Naples-trained pizza master Johnny di Francesco has spread his Neapolitan-style pizza gospel all over Melbourne, so don’t expect a Meat Lover’s slice here, but do expect wood-fired dough with beautifully simple topping. The sister venue of the Brunswick Street original have inherited the same recipes, so you can look forward to slices of airy crust, delicious melty cheese and fresh ingredients on your pizzas at 400 Gradi’s Crown location.
Up-scale American diner The Merrywell makes one of the best burgers in Melbourne, but it also caters to those looking for a late-night pick-me-up or a sit down meal at the upstairs dining room. Prepare yourself for dude food galore featuring plenty of fried chicken, pulled pork, pickles, and lots of bacon. Top tip: grab a seat on upstairs outdoor terrace, the perfect spot to watch over Southbank with a cold brew and burger in hand.
Experience a little piece of Texas in Crown’s San Antone by Bludso’s BBQ. Texan Kevin Bludso topped ‘best barbecue’ lists in America before his arrival in Australia for his barbecue briskets and ribs that’s been cooked low and slow for 14 hours on wood and charcoal. Bludso’s messy and sticky smoked spare ribs and rib tips recall generations old barbecue recipes straight out of the South, so prepare yourself for a meal where flavour doesn’t hold back.
Tuck into classic regional Italian dishes at Neil Perry’s Rosetta Ristorante. The menu is inspired by Perry’s extensive travels through The Boot, highlighting the 16 hand-made pastas made daily Rosetta’s chefs. If you want a taste of old-school fine dining, dine among Rosette’s lush marble, chandeliers and theatrical opera music, which will leave you feeling like Italian royalty as you slurp on your delicate spaghetti strands and fine Italian aperitif.
Guillaume Brahimi’s French bistro is all class but won’t break the bank. The large riverside terrace and dining area allows you to fully appreciate Melbourne’s European flair (though the Yarra is no Seine) while you tuck into the restaurant’s legendary souffle or plat du jour. Casual with a little panache, Bistro Guillaume is great for business lunches to an indulgent night out.
Neil Perry is probably the most prolific chef in Southbank and Spice Temple is his claim to Chinese cuisine. Yum cha is served from Thursday to Sunday, while the main menu touches on regional dishes, from Sichuan to Hunan. Perry’s moved away from the usual Cantonese influences Australian Chinese fare is known for, but Spice Temple is classic in its take on Chinese dining, so the food is best shared for maximum sampling opportunity.
Sake Restaurant and Bar’s riverside hold-out is so close to the water you can almost reach across and hop on a tour boat while you sit outdoors just below Hamer Hall. The contemporary Japanese restaurant and bar falls at the fun and flashy end of the spectrum, so pair your sushi with a Japanese shochu and sake martini, or do it izakaya-style and down your beer with grilled meat on sticks.