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Food at Di Stasio Citta
Photograph: Graham Denholm

The top rated restaurants in Melbourne right now

Here's where to find all our 5-star restaurant reviews from the last 12 months

By Jess Ho
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All too often, we are focussed on the new, rather than the best. These may not be the newest venues, but we at Time Out Melbourne can't shut up about them. A 5-star venue is damn near flawless, achieves exactly what they set out to do, has outrageously delicious food, fantastic service, is a whole lot of fun and we would do our darndest to go back there immediately.

This is a round-up of all the 5-star venues we've encountered in the last 12 months. Commit these venues to memory, strike them off your list and have no regrets in spending your whole week’s allotment of fun money at these establishments (there are restaurants for every budget too). Go forth and conquer.

Want to eat the best but not burn through all your cash? Never fear, we are known for having some of the best cheap eats in Australia. Love working your way through a list? Wash down that stellar meal at one of our top bars.

The top rated restaurants in Melbourne right now

Soup at Mr Lees Foods
Soup at Mr Lees Foods
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Mr Lee's Foods

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Korean Ringwood East

Order this: Dwaeji guk bap 

When a 20-seater restaurant in the heart of suburbia that only offers three dishes, with no bookings, no website and no advertising is never with an empty seat, you know it has to be good. Mr Lee’s Foods is well worth the trip to Ringwood if you’re a fan of pork; all dishes are derived from this glorious animal, offering a delicious insight into the economical traditions of Korean dining, utilising an unconscious, innately cultural nose-to-tail philosophy. Needless to say, this is a vegetarian no-go zone.

Toasted sandwich at Wildlife Bakery
Toasted sandwich at Wildlife Bakery
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Wild Life Bakery

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Brunswick East

Order this: Toasted sandwich with comté and caramelised onion

Tearing into the crunchy, deep caramel crust of Wild Life Bakery's sourdough feels like holy communion with carbs. The intense, chewy crumb in slices swabbed with miso butter or dipped into harissa-heavy shakshouka is why locals cram this bakery for breakfast. They also leave with grand, hunking baguettes and sandwiches you hope will never end for lunch. Toasties arrive thick as a forehead and big as a face, yet achieve the all-important mission of properly melting the abundance of sweet and nutty Comté inside couched around sticky, worcestershire-rich onion. Meanwhile, old school salad sambos achieve new crush status when folded into chewy sourdough baguettes, lifted with the zip of pickled carrot and tempered with soft avo and roast beetroot.

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Food at Ima Project Cafe
Food at Ima Project Cafe
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Ima Project Café

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Cafés Carlton

Order this: Japanese lunch set

Ima is the brainchild of couple-turned-business partners James Spinks and Asako Miura. The café's considered space and menu is the culmination of Spinks’ experience cheffing at restaurants such as Quay, Sake and Supernormal as well as the half-Thai, half-Japanese Miura’s background in architecture and interior design. The beauty of Ima’s immaculately crafted food is matched by the locally made ceramics on which it’s served, but they're using ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables from fresh produce merchant Scicluna’s to save them from being consigned to landfill. Ima’s commitment to undesirable produce runs so deep that its mascots are lumpy, misshapen fruit patterned across its windows and coffee cups – although, in line with Ima’s philosophy, you get a 50 cent discount if you bring your own cup.

Soup at New Jaffa
Soup at New Jaffa
Photograph: Graham Denholm

New Jaffa

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Middle Eastern Collingwood

Order this: Hummus plate

Hummus is the main attraction at New Jaffa, a Middle Eastern diner in the backstreets of Collingwood. Owner and chef Moshe Ittah makes it fresh daily with traditional ingredients (chickpeas, garlic, lemon, oil and tahini sourced from Israel) using a secret technique. The result is a silky texture, a rich, nutty flavour, and the perfect balance of salt and acid. For lunch, get it capped with mushrooms, or minced lamb and beef fried in a heady spice blend, with pine nuts adding sweetness. Scrape the plate clean with pita, its cloud-soft insides soaking up the remnants of oil stained copper from paprika.

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Daughter In Law

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Melbourne

Order this: Balls of happiness

This rule-breaking Indian restaurant reinvents traditional dishes from the worldly lense of Jessi Singh. Street food snacks, curries and dishes from the tandoor all receive updates while tasting wildly familiar, while the naan pizza plays the biggest fusion card of them all. The help-yourself beer fridge and $15 lunch thali is an excellent way to dip your toe in the water before committing yourself to the full dinner experience. This restaurant is best enjoyed in a large group.

Food at Greasy Zoes
Food at Greasy Zoes
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Greasy Zoe's

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Yarra Valley

Order this: The six-course set menu

We’re at the end of the Hurstbridge Line, a 50-minute train-ride out of the CBD. Greasy Zoe’s is a cool rustic bolthole big enough for an open kitchen, vinyl spinning turntable and just 15 seats. It feels less like a conventional restaurant, more like you’ve accidentally wandered into the bijou farmhouse of someone with really good taste in music. Zoe Birch (ex-Courthouse Hotel and Healesville Hotel) is working the wood grill in the open kitchen. Lachlan Gardner works the floor. The cunning pair have confected the answer to the rent/staff/squillion dollar fitout crisis with their self-sufficient, two-person operation that rolls in sync with its locality.Birch and Gardner stick to the locavore brief by championing small local producers, from artisans to friends with an excess of backyard pumpkins and sticking as much as they can to their green wedge municipal ’hood. 

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Food at Navi
Food at Navi
Photograph: Ed Sloane/Supplied

Navi

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Modern Australian Yarraville

Order this: The set menu

Julian Hills has bet his family’s future happiness that Yarraville can sustain a proper restaurant where tweezers are part of the kitchen arsenal and a $120-a-head, 10-course tasting menu is the price of admission. Considering the current wait for a couple of seats at the bar is two months, he’d appear to be onto a winner. As befitting a chef who helmed Mornington Peninsula winery restaurant Paringa Estate for the past six years and left its mantle groaning with trophies, Hills wasn’t about to open a place with half-priced pizza on Tuesdays. Navi is a chef’s-own temple, down to the à 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.

Matilda
Matilda
Photograph: Supplied

Matilda 159 Domain

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants South Yarra

Order this: Dressed spanner crab, prawn butter, flatbread

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. Chef and owner, Scott Pickett has built his reputation on a jazz-riff approach to Michelin classicism but here he’s notably stepping away from any hint of tweezer action in favour of the visceral attractions of smoke, flame and char. The elemental approach to cooking goes hand in hand with the strictly à la carte menu and a pragmatic wine list that will please both the haves and the have-yachts.

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Food at Lesa
Food at Lesa
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Lesa

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Modern Australian Melbourne

Order this: Fermented potato flatbread with macadamia cream and shiitake oil

Lesa sure as hell took its time (the reno of the space above Embla took around three years, a record rivalled only by King and Godfree in Carlton) but has already made a calculated claim on Melbourne’s food and booze-loving heart. Find the separate Lesa entrance on Russell Street and ascend to a restaurant dressed with a patina of age. Red brick walls, low-flying lights, and vintage bits and pieces bring it into line with the non-showy aesthetic that’s become the trademark of owners Christian McCabe and Dave Verheul. It’s a place built for people to relax into good times.

Food at Kazuki
Food at Kazuki
Photograph: Vince Caligiuri

Kazuki's

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Japanese Carlton

Order this: The seven-course chef’s menu

Dateline: Lygon Street. Toto’s Pizza House is just to the south; Universal Café just to the north. We’re in the Italian heartland where spruikers induce passers-by into their red sauce fiefdoms. And into this kingdom of carbs and cheese comes Kazuki’s. Yes, the Japanese-ish, French-ish modern restaurant from Daylesford has swum against the tide of real estate refugees moving to central Victoria and upped stumps to the city. The design of the restaurant is spectacularly zen, which encourages you to leave the menu in the hands of the chef, which you should do if you like your meals perfectly considered, balanced and presented.

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Di Stasio Citta

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Melbourne

Order this: Capellini with crab meat

Di Stasio Città (literally, “city”) has yet to bed in its tales of ribald mischief. They will come. Città sees Ronnie Di Stasio return to the neighbourhood where he pioneered Rosati in the heady days shortly before the fringe benefits tax and the stock market crash cruelled the excesses of the 1980s. And the augurs are good. It’s a place of arrestingly clean-lined brutalism – concrete walls and pillars, a remarkable terrazzo floor, video installations by artists Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell playing on loop with the same mesmeric qualities as the TV in the corner of the RSL. White-jacketed bartenders shake things behind a slab of white marble. Red leather chairs make like a mid-century Thornbury espresso bar, a younger Di Stasio’s stomping ground. It’s a gallery and salon, as well as a bar and restaurant where the undiscriminating menu runs through from 11.30am until late o’clock.

Brae

5 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Birregurra

Order this: The tasting menu

Much like your drive to Brae, your meal here is another epic  journey with easy stretches, hairpin turns and sharp inclines. For every elaborate piece of creative wizardry there is an answering salve of traditions respected, like a perfect fillet of rock flathead at sea in a creamy, buttery sauce with butter poached turnips and Warrigal greens. And then the tide turns and you are served a king hit of nostalgia with Dutch cream potato cakes, scalding hot from the fryer so as to melt the cultured cream you spread on top and cap with trout roe from the Yarra Valley.

Like eating the best for less?

Grossi Florentino pasta
Photograph: Supplied

Cheap hacks for fine dining restaurants in Melbourne

Restaurants

Melbourne's big on cheap eats, but sometimes it's nice to pull up a seat in the city's fine dining establishment. You may not be able to shell out the big bucks all the time though, so we've dug up some of the best value hacks for fine dining restaurants for when you want the experience for less. 

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