The best patisseries in Melbourne
It's amazing that pastry, at its simplest, is just flour, lots of butter, sugar, and maybe an egg or two. Yet Melbourne's best bakeries and patisseries have crafted a diverse range of treats from these raw ingredients, from what could be the best croissants in the world to old-school cakes you want to take home to your grandmother. Still got a sweet tooth? Treat yourself and some friends at Melbourne's best doughnut shops and grab some doughy treats.
The best charcoal chicken in Melbourne
The best charcoal chicken almost certainly has to be cooked over hot coals. The unmistakable smokiness and charry, rendered skin are the best things about charcoal chicken, and they are what sets charcoal chook apart from its roasted relatives. It has to be moist and tender with concentrated flavour. But it’s not all about the chicken – no one goes to the chicken shop without ordering a few sides, whether it’s chips, salads or a potato cake. And we are here to judge it all. Like your meals cheap? Here are our favourite meals on a budget.
The best teppanyaki in Melbourne
Open kitchens are all the rage these days, but the Japanese have long been ahead of the game when it comes to the theatrics of interactive dining. Whether you want to watch blades move at dizzying speed across a grill or watch flames climb high into the air while you test your hand-eye coordination, teppanyaki is where it’s at. From the refined to the raucous, we’ve put together a list of Melbourne's best. Try more of Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants, while you're here. Or how about a sushi train?
The best banh mi in Melbourne
The best bánh mì has bread with crunch, but not so much it scrapes the roof of your mouth. It’s fluffy and light, but not so flaky it completely disintegrates into your lap. It’s the perfect vessel for liberal amounts of pâté and a Vietnamese condiment called egg mayo butter – either egg mayo is spread on one piece of bread and butter is spread on the other, or the two are spread on top of each other – fresh cucumber, pickled carrot (and daikon if you’re lucky), generous sprigs of coriander and chilli massaged into its crevices, a dash of Maggi seasoning and the protein of your choice. The traditional bánh mì thịt nguội (bánh mì filled with cold cuts) was eaten as a control wherever we could alongside one other roll for variety, which has produced our rankings for some of Melbourne's top bánh mìs. Love things between bread? Here are our favourite sandwiches in Melbourne. Prefer those sandwiches toasted? Look no further. Note: Things are changing rapidly in Melbourne, so make sure you ring the venue before heading out to make sure it's open and you can get a spot.
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Rosella Dining Room and Bar
Occupying the space formerly home to upmarket wine bar Gertrude Street Enoteca, Rosella is bringing old-school Italian dining to the much-frequented thoroughfare – a marked change from the quiet backstreets of Collingwood where it used to sit. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it’d been there for years. Greeting you from the outset are raucous sounds of merriment bouncing off its stucco concrete walls – so very different from the hushed atmosphere of its predecessor – and an impressive glass cabinet deli papered over with a black-and-white splashback of an Italian family in a restaurant from the 1950s. The photographs ground Rosella in the nostalgic feel of unhurried meals enjoyed with loved ones on sun-kissed alfresco decks. Rosella takes its responsibility of feeding patrons in a lavish and unrushed manner seriously. You won’t find multiple sittings here – no dessert orders taken with only five minutes of your reservation to spare, the next group waiting impatiently in the wings. If you dine at Rosella, prepare to settle in for the night. Service – particularly if you get co-owner Rocco Esposito – is cheeky and irreverent, and your requests for parmesan will only be tolerated once you sample the pastas without it. Taking a leaf from the restaurant’s interiors, the wine list is a traditional, carefully curated selection of regional Victorian and Italian producers, owing to Esposito’s previous gig as Vue de Monde’s wine director – you won’t find any of your funky
Rocco's Bologna Discoteca
Rocco’s emerged in the thick of Melbourne’s 2020 lockdowns when everything else was shuttering – first as a pop-up sandwich bar out of the space now occupied by sister restaurant Poodle and then flitting from venue to venue around Melbourne over the course of the next two years. Its cult following is such the Rocco’s crew decided to set up permanent digs on the quieter end of Gertrude Street. Cosy is the first word that comes to mind when you step into Rocco’s two-storey, 60s-inspired interiors – brown woods are accentuated by mustard orange accents and diners can choose to perch by the bustling open kitchen, crowd around self-contained booths or sit in a fairy-light decked courtyard tucked away to the side. The drinks menu has housemade limoncello, amaro and grappa infused with native ingredients like finger lime, green almond and wild fennel. I’m upsold Silvio Carta Bomba Carta – a liqueur with a rare, herbaceous honey nectar – in place of vermouth in my negroni, but apart from a deep floral aroma that accompanies each sip, I’m unsure it’s worth the extra $8. We move on from cocktails to wine, which you can conveniently order either in a one-litre carafe or a 500ml one. Rocco’s excels in specials of the day – the crudo, salumi and fish differ from day to day, so there’s a certain level of anticipation when our jovial waitstaff pops by to reel off what they are. When we visit the house salumi plate is coppa di testa, the Italian equivalent of head cheese where the head and n
Ascot Food & Wine
Ascot Food Store was already a popular brunch destination, but now the neighbourhood favourite has undergone a late-night makeover with a new 10.30pm closing time. “Ascot Food + Wine stands today as the bistro we’d always envisioned. I have a love affair with the 80s and 90s bistro food I grew up with, so I really enjoy cooking some of these dishes,” says chef David Stewart. Stewart and his co-owner Shawn Hampton are no strangers to reinvention. Ascot Food Store was once an old Spanish delicatessen, which they spent nine months converting into an contemporary space – and eight years later, the latest iteration has a new fit-out with plush booths, custom lighting and an all-day menu. Stewart says the transition was a steep learning curve, compounded by the challenges of lockdowns. “Opening during the evening involves a whole different sequence of service, flow and creates an entirely different energy throughout the venue.” The menu is seasonally changing, with a focus on fresh local produce. But some of Stewart’s current favourite dishes are the kingfish carpaccio with tonnato dressing, Adelaide tomatoes with garlic vinegar, heirloom burnt carrots with smoked eggplant, and iceberg lettuce with green goddess dressing, a soft egg and Ortiz anchovies. Stewart loves seeing the reaction customers have to his food. “We are hoping to connect with the locals and become their go-to bistro – a place that can deliver great atmosphere, food, wine, cocktails and a place where everyone is w
Move over the Toff in Town – there’s a new multiple-floor hospitality venue in Melbourne and Her Rooftop is its crowning glory, boasting city skyline views rivalling the likes of Rooftop Bar, Goldilocks and Loop. Brought to you by the same people behind Arbory, the venue has a one-in-one-out policy so expect to wait in a line that snakes around Drewery Lane on to Lonsdale Street on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s fast moving due to the many frequented parts of the building, though the rooftop is evidently the most popular destination on a balmy summer’s night. Cocktails ranging from your classic Negroni and Manhattan to the more unusual Strawberry and Rhubarb Mezcal Sour are mostly dispensed from pre-made bottles or available on tap – though the speed of their preparation alone will have you relieved to skimp on the typical ten-minute wait in a bustling bar where people jostle shoulder-to-shoulder for bartenders’ attention. If you’re not in the mood for a fruity tipple, there’s a decent selection of tap beer, canned beer and natural wines as well as three mocktails for the non-drinkers. Curly frilled mustard yellow retractable awning, Parisian pleated skirt stools and colourful tile mosaics set the scene for the festive open-air bar. Food is available from Thai-inspired restaurant BKK on level three, where the perfect drinking snacks of tom yum fried peanuts, fried chicken wings and barbecue pork skewers mean you’ll never have any reason to leave the building.
Joining the raft of businesses like Mali Bakes, Jaen Jumah and Al Dente Enoteca that popped up during Melbourne’s series of lockdowns, Tarts Anon was conceived when Gareth Whitton, former head pastry chef of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, found himself without a job after the restaurant shuttered at the start of 2020. Drawing on his 15 years’ experience and newfound free time, he established Tarts Anon with the encouragement of his life and business partner Catherine Way. With a customer base initially built off a flyer drop in the couple’s apartment building, Tarts Anon now has a kitchen and pick-up only storefront in Cremorne, where tarts that sell out within a matter of minutes are collected by adoring fans every week. Way says Tarts Anon’s focus has always been on simple and familiar flavours executed with technique and precision. “The majority of the tarts have come about because it’s what we’d like to eat ourselves. We love the classic ones like the signature pear tart but have fallen in love with some of the newer tarts on the menu like the tiramisu tart and the carrot cake tart. “People always gravitate towards the chocolate and caramel tart, which is easily our most popular tart, but we also receive amazing feedback about the smoked pecan and maple tart and pumpkin and spiced caramel tart.” The two-person operation, with Whitton baking and Way responsible for everything else, is steadily expanding with more staff coming onboard as Tarts Anon expands its Cremorne site
Building on the success of Chef Masahiko Yomoda’s lockdown takeaway offerings, Ishizuka’s fan favourites are now available on its newly launched online bakeshop. Venue manager Louise Naimo says reopening for service late last year didn’t stop the restaurant from receiving regular requests for their bento boxes and baked goods to be made available for takeaway again. At this stage, there are four items on the online bakeshop’s menu, but the plan is to “gauge how the current menu is received and move from there”. Think an upmarket $90 picnic bento box, suitable for two to four people, with daily rotating dishes ranging from miso chicken to beef katsu and the perennial mainstay of fresh bread accompanied by a nori garlic butter. Suitable for the same number of people, the $55 matcha tarte tatin departs from its French apple namesake with matcha crème and pastry flaked with Japanese gold leaf. The $85 A5 Kagoshima wagyu, foie gras and black truffle pie is as indulgent as it sounds, so it’s lucky it serves two people. Naimo’s favourite offering, however, is the $25 Ishizuka kasutera, otherwise known as a castella, a special type of wagashi (Japanese traditional confectionery). “It has this incredible cloud-like fluffiness and is sweet without being cake-sweet. It’s sort of like a moist, silky, fluffy, light cheesecake…but it doesn’t taste cheesy or cakey. It’s really difficult to describe without trying it!” To enjoy the four offerings of Ishizuka Bakeshop, make your delivery o
Hotels haven’t traditionally been synonymous with dining hotspots in Melbourne, but this may be changing. The Windsor Hotel Group’s restaurants Sunda and Aru have revolutionised what contemporary Southeast Asian fine dining can look like, and upmarket dessert house Om Nom has taken residence in Adelphi. Joining Om Nom in the lower ground floor space formerly occupied by Ezard is Sydney Mediterranean restaurant Nomad’s first Melbourne outpost, with a kitchen headed up by former Ezard chef Brendan Katich. An open kitchen is de rigueur these days, and so it is in Nomad that you can witness the handiwork of the bustling chefs. Brown leather banquette seating and booths are lit by wall sconces rendering it just dark and moody enough to feel you’re dining somewhere exclusive, but bright enough that you don’t need a headlamp to read your menu. Industrial ceiling vents complete the warehouse aesthetic. Nomad’s sparsely annotated cocktail list – the vodka drink, the gin drink, the rum drink, the whiskey drink – reads like something out of English rock band Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping, which is not to say they shouldn’t be taken seriously. A mainstay on the Sydney menu, the gimlet martini drink is garnished with a flourish of chive oil in place of an olive, and while the word ‘refreshing’ is overused when it comes to cocktails, the gin drink with its native mint, basil and pineapple exemplifies a cool summer’s drink. Opt for the $95 set menu or go a la carte if you’d like to choose wh
Jolly Good Sandwiches
Sandwiches are by no means a new invention, but Melbourne’s obsession with them has intensified in the last few years. Hector’s Deli in Richmond has developed into a cult favourite since opening in 2017, so much so it’s expanded with a second shop in South Melbourne, while Fitzroy pop-up Nico’s Sandwich Deli stands in addition to its permanent storefront in the city. Numerous others, from Kelso’s Sandwich Shoppe and Wild Like Bakery to Smith & Deli, have paved the way for this sandwich explosion. Enter Jolly Good Sandwiches, a former pandemic pop-up sandwich bar now with permanent premises nestled within cornerside craft beer bar Near & Far. If you’re struggling to find it, look out for Fitzroy’s divisive giant banana sculpture on the corner of Rose and Brunswick streets – an unofficial mascot for Jolly Good Sandwiches, which overlooks it. For those sick of resting their toosh on the ground after the year we’ve just had, Jolly Good Sandwiches helpfully has a row of tables that snake around the corner. Manned by former Gimlet chef Raphael Exton Perry who’s exchanged fine dining with more unassuming fare, the setup is modest and no-frills. When we visit, a hunk of roast beef is warming up on a sandwich press, with baguettes toasted in a separate toaster grill. Plates are eschewed in favour of serving the baguettes in branded paper with an optional jar of corn chips and house pickles. The benefit of ordering a sandwich in a craft beer bar is the wide range of alcoholic or non-al
Zsa's Bar Bistro & Deli
High Street is no stranger to well-heeled neighbourhood restaurants. Wine bars Vex, Gray and Gray, and Oh Loretta! are the latest to set up shop on both sides of the hill demarcating Northcote, joining stalwarts like Estelle and Pizza Meine Liebe. Among them, European-inspired polymath Zsa’s – an all-in-one breakfast destination, bar, bistro and deli – has been a quiet achiever, inspiring lunchtime queues after opening in late July 2020. Exemplifying the playfulness and style of Hungarian-American actress and socialise Zsa Zsa Gábor – after whom it’s named – Zsa’s prides itself on being, in our waitstaff’s words, a place where you can ‘order a martini and oyster at 10am’. And that’s indeed one of Zsa’s main drawcards. It’s open from 10am to 11pm most days of the week with an all-day snack menu drawing on the best of Zsa’s deli – think fresh bread, cheese, terrine, all manner of cured meats, and tinned seafood boasting the likes of Cantabrian smoked anchovies, Galician pickled mussels and Catalonian sardines. A wine glass-lined bar and open-shelved pantry packed to within an inch of its life with local and imported produce greet you as you enter Zsa’s. Fresh housemade pasta hangs in racks and the forest green walls are adorned with a mishmash of classical European paintings, while the black panelled walls are fitted out with moss green leather banquette seating. The effect is warm, cosy and slightly zany. The lunch menu of salads, pastas and panini – including Zsa’s crowd-plea
Churning out boat noodles by day and firing up the gas burner for Thai barbecue by night, Soi 38 specialises in regional variations of Thai food – if you’re expecting Australian favourites like pad thai or Massaman curry, head elsewhere. Despite being tucked away in an unobtrusive corner of Melbourne – a concrete car park just a few levels down from the latest iteration of architectural space MPavillion – Soi 38 doesn’t suffer from anonymity. Thanks to the bowls of five spice powder- and star anise-heavy boat noodles, it’s been delighting office workers since 2015. When it started opening up for dinner earlier this year, diners started spilling out into the carpark. We, like them, jump at the opportunity to sample Soi 38’s expanded offerings without having to rush back within the hour, but we’d recommend making a booking if you don’t want to spend precious minutes resisting the heady smells from your place in the queue. We don’t go down the Thai barbecue route on this occasion, but share several dishes from the grilled, deep fried, soup and salad sections alongside either rice or sticky rice. You order via a paper checklist menu that you bring up to the counter once you’re ready. The spice levels in Soi 38’s dishes has us reaching for our chilled bottles of Singha, but you can alternatively wash down the heat with bottles of Chang or Leo, a curated selection of organic wine, or Thai milk tea if you’re going alcohol-free. Start with the kung chae nahm pla, a common Thai dr
Centre Charcoal Chicken
Centre Charcoal Chicken is one of the best charcoal chicken shops in Melbourne. The chicken here has the most pronounced smokiness from being rotated over coal for an hour and 20 minutes, culminating in crisp skin and moist flesh. The Lilydale free-range chicken is marinated in a housemade chicken salt, the very same that generously seasons the chips that come straight out of the deep fryer, which are fluffy with a good crunch. Centre Charcoal Chicken does a roaring takeaway business, but there are a few tables inside and outside for those who would rather eat their chicken fresh. If you don’t feel like chicken, this place is equally known for lamb gyros meat – also cooked over charcoal.
Variety is the spice of life, or at least it is at Kensington favourite Hatch’d, which does regular free-range charcoal chicken, Spanish butterflied chicken and Portuguese butterflied chicken. The man behind the counter sells the honey barbecued Spanish chicken as the sweet variety, the Portuguese chicken as spicy. Hatch’d is a touch fancier than your average chicken shop, which means its wide selection of fresh salads are a touch more novel as well. Try the pesto fusilli pasta salad speckled with tart bursts of sun-dried tomatoes or the deceptively filling celery, chickpea and feta salad.