Melbourne's southside gets a bad rap, but this list is guaranteed to change the minds of even the snobbiest northsiders. Or plan your next lunch in the CBD and cap it off with a visit to one of our favourite wine bars.
The fit-out is so luxe you can almost smell the expense. There’s a fire and charcoal-driven kitchen, a botanical-filled glass cabinet and a dining room of rough-edged wooden-topped tables and the fattest, softest leather banquettes that elicit a gasp of surprise from more than one diner (it’s the endlessly entertaining Matilda spectator sport). 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.
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.
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 Prince 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.
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.
Bar Carolina is a slim, corner spot making Toorak Road great again. Bar Carolina shows every sign of following Melbourne’s Ivy League of Italians with a menu that serves two masters – old faithfuls and technique-driven modern twists, two sides that mostly manage to happily coexist with just a little whiplash for the unwary, making it a gathering place for the beautiful and leisurely, alike.
Komeyui is the most underrated Japanese restaurant in Melbourne. It's comfortable flying under the radar because that maintains the standard of its 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.
Head to South Yarra’s Bacash restaurant for the ultimate fine dining experience. Specialising in high-quality fresh seafood, restaurant owner Michael Bacash pores over ever single piece of fish the enters and exits the kitchen. Pair that with an excellent and well-priced wine list and you'll be having your client eat out of the palm of your hand.
The thing about institutions is that you know they're reliable. Cicciolina is certainly one that fits the bill. Large portions, friendly service, laid-back atmosphere and a wine list worth drinking through is the answer to killing time when work is not on the menu.
One of Prahran’s gems is David’s, a 15-year-old Shanghainese restaurant that 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 the surprisingly smart wine list while you’re there. It's a place that encourages you to linger.
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.
Steak. Steak is the ultimate power food. It’s unapologetic, it satisfies blood-lust, and it's not conducive to sharing. To see the who’s who of the Port Melbourne business community, make your way to the Railway Club Hotel, which specialises in different cuts and sizes of perfectly cooked beef, served alongside an extensive list of big, powerful reds in a classical, gastro-pub setting.
Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old, and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Melbourne's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, that is. So behold, our eat-and-destroy list – a guide to Melbourne's 50 best restaurants.