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The best southside lunches

Everyone's gotta eat, right? We've got you covered for whatever situation may arise.

Photograph: Carmen Zammit

The soutside gets a bad rap, but this list is guaranteed to change your mind. Dare to cross the river and be rewarded by an impressive number of options from some hospitality powerhouses. Plan your next lunch in the CBD and cap it off with a visit to one of our favourite wine bars.

The best southside lunches

1

Dainty Sichuan Food: South Yarra

Best for: The long lunch

Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing dainty about the food here. Dainty Sichuan serves up cuisine out of Chengdu, proper, with no adulteration to traditional recipes and tastes. Gather a group together, order a range of foods from the cold and hot dishes and break up the spice with plates that have a zero chilli rating. Don’t forget the rice.

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South Yarra
2

Bellota Wine Bar

Best for: The boozy lunch

Since Nicky Reimer has taken over the kitchen, the neighbourhood lamented over the loss of the cheesy croquettes. Never fear, they’ve been replaced with equally cheesy arancini with her new, Italian-inspired menu. Wander next door to the Price Wine Store and pick a bottle off the shelf to drink in house if the by-the-glass list doesn’t inspire you. Who knows, you may end up staying for dinner, too.

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South Melbourne
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3

Lau's Family Kitchen

Best for: The long lunch

After selling up Flower Drum to his head chef, Gilbert Lau and his sons opened up this neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. Start on the sui mai and move on to a whitebait omelette, a gelatinous piece of perfectly steamed barramundi with spring onions and ginger accompanied by a hot pot of braised beef brisket with radish next to a bowl of fluffy white rice. Take on the specials of the day and let the staff do the rest of the work. This is not your average Chinese restaurant.

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St Kilda
4

Café Di Stasio

Best for: The power lunch

The formal service, dark room and tinted windows means business. You can have lunch and a meeting here in 60 minutes flat, leaving your companion adequately schmoozed. The eggplant parmigiana, handmade pastas and chicken cotoletta always stun, but it is hard to go wrong with a menu that has been going 30 years strong.

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St Kilda
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5

Komeyui Japanese Restaurant

Best for: The power lunch

Komeyui is the most underrated Japanese restaurant in Melbourne. They’re comfortable flying under the radar because that maintains the standard of their impressive sushi, outstanding bento boxes and hot pots of rice porridge and seafood. Pots of genmaicha are served upon being seated, so there is no pressure to dive into a bottle of sake if you’re doing business.

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Port Melbourne
6

Mrs. Hopper

Best for: The casual catch up

Low prices and big flavours is the game at Mrs. Hopper, where crunchy discs of fermented rice pancakes are filled with toppings like eggs, yellow curry, coconut sambals and pork belly for $12 a piece or less. Team it with an expertly made cocktail if you’re having that kind of a lunch. They spice up the drinks as well as the food so they match without you even having to think about it.

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St Kilda
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7

David's

Best for: The casual catch up

One of Prahran’s gems is David’s, a 15 year old Shanghainese restaurant which delivers traditional comfort foods in an approachable, modern environment. You can get a serve of the familiar spring rolls alongside a bowl of sticky pork belly simmered with floury potatoes and rice, or a sweet and sour scallop, octopus, fish and egg stir fry. Treat yourself to their surprisingly smart wine list while you’re there. They encourage you to linger.

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Prahran
8

Ramblr

Best for: The casual catch up

South Yarra’s hottest restaurant is now open for lunch. Don’t expect the calamari noodles on kimchi, pork scotch fillet over charcoal or the Moreton Bay bug sandwich, though. Ramblr’s lunch menu gives you buttoned-down, ramen-shop vibes with bowls of ramen (der), karaage and crispy eggplant next to cups of tea and filtered coffee. Oishi!

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South Yarra
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9

Tempura Hajime

Best for: The power lunch

This 12-seater tempura restaurant is guaranteed to leave a very strong impression. From the hidden location, to the exclusivity of the restaurant and impeccable quality of every piece of tempura and sashimi, Tempura Hajime is the definition of perfection through minimalism. Another bonus is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. This is definitely the place to schmooze your food-loving client.

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South Melbourne
10

Railway Club Hotel

Best for: The power lunch

Steak. Steak is the ultimate power food. It’s unapologetic, it satisfies blood-lust and is not condusive to sharing. To see the who’s who of the Port Melbourne business community, make your way to the Railway Club Hotel where they specialise in different cuts and sizes of perfectly cooked beef, served alongside an extensive list of big, powerful reds in a classical, gastro-pub setting.

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Port Melbourne
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11

St Ali

Best for: The casual catch up

Pop into this converted warehouse famous for its specialty coffee and extensive menu featuring an all-day breakfast. It’s not unusual to see freelancers plugged up next to a powerpoint working on their stack of pancakes, bumping elbows with businessmen chowing down on a quick burger between deals. If you enter without prejudice, you’ll be guaranteed a good time.

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South Melbourne
12

Stokehouse

Best for: The power lunch

The community feared for the new Stokehouse after V1 burnt down in a kitchen fire a couple of years ago, but the new iteration stays true to its original spirit while managing to take an even bigger advantage of the expansive, ocean-side view. The wine list is littered with stellar drops and is affordable, but expect to pay a premium for a view with your steak tartare and fish and chips. Don’t forget your corporate card.

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St Kilda
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