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13 Food and Drink Experiences You Can Have Only in Melbourne

The city of Melbourne in Australia boasts award-winning restaurants, gorgeous fresh produce and the best flat white you've ever tasted
Written by Time Out for Qantas and Visit Victoria |

Whether you crave coffee, Instagrammable cocktails, fine dining or classic Australian pub fare, Melbourne effortlessly meets your foodie needs. These days, renowned chefs from all over the world flock to Melbourne, which is a culinary hub at the vanguard of Australian cuisine. Cafés, bars and restaurants are abundant, so to make choosing easier, we’ve whittled down the list to 13 essential spots.

Terror Twilight
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Tuck into pikelets at Terror Twilight

At this breakfast hot spot, find three-grain porridge, brussels sprout fritters, and pikelets—a delectable cross between a crumpet and a pancake. Or build your own grain bowl from a list of superfoods. The coffee here is chocolaty and smooth, but if caffeine’s not your thing, Terror Twilight also offers a wide selection of juices, smoothies and kombucha.

Interior at Higher Ground
Photograph: Vince Caligiuri

See a cafe, elevated, at Higher Ground

There’s a reason cafes all over the world are run by Australians. They just do it better. With 130 seats across three levels, Higher Ground takes the café concept to new heights. Dashes of inventiveness characterize the menu: avocado on sourdough dressed with citrus salt, scrambled eggs over house-made flat bread, and a semolina porridge featuring dried plum and sesame. Best is the kale salad with brussels sprouts and avocado that sits atop a creamy almond hummus.

Poached egg on toast at AU79
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Try an Aussie “big breakfast” with a twist at Au79

This ambitious café boasts an on-site bakery, a coffee roaster and a mini retail space selling sweet treats. Here the classics are fancified in surprising ways. Granola is served with acai sorbet, and the classic Australian “big breakfast” of eggs, sausages, bacon, tomato and hash browns comes with a house-made jus. Au79 has a wide appeal, its booths filled with Instagrammers and laptop-toting freelancers alike.

Pouring drinks at Bar Liberty
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Drink like a bartender at Bar Liberty

Whether it’s wine, whiskey or even house-made soda, every menu item is curated at Time Out Melbourne’s Bar of the Year for 2018. On any given night, the wine bar might spin Bob Dylan or Rage Against the Machine while patrons sample high-end local varietals or do shots of hard liquor from a ceramic sports car. The bartenders only offer beverages they want to want to drink, and their confidence and expertise shines through.

Oskar Jarvis-White at Everleigh Bar
Photograph: Carmen Zamit

Get into local spirits at the Everleigh

It’s hard to find polished service, and that’s what you get at the Everleigh. Duck inside and find a historical remnant of old-world drinking: low-lit and high-class. The crew here possesses serious bar chops, so if you care about what goes into your glass, opt for seat near the bar so you can catch the action. They have one of the longest cocktail menus in the city–and plenty use locally distilled and hard to find spirits.

Good Heavens 05
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Rub shoulders with cool kids at Good Heavens

Despite the name, Good Heavens isn’t a clutch-your-pearls kind of place. The vibe at this rooftop bar is a little bit like that of Palm Springs, California, with pink signage and pastel-blue paintwork. From the moment the doors open, local trendsters start staking their claim on the precious rooftop real estate for an evening of lording over Bourke Street.

A jaffle and a cocktail
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Stay classy ‘till 3am at Arlechin

Both the bar and the kitchen stay open until three a.m., so Arlechin is an ideal late-night spot. Cocktails play a strong game here, with a menu that features lesser-known Italian and Italian-inspired tipples. The Jungle Bird balances the bitterness of Campari with rum, pineapple juice and lime, and hand-cut ice.

Exterior of Brae
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Go on a country adventure to Brae

Victoria’s most adventurous fine-dining experience lies on a farm just outside Melbourne, where pistachio trees and smoke from the wood-fired oven greet you as you enter the site. One of only two Australian restaurants in the World’s 50 Best list, Brae offers a scenic and rustic setting with many house-grown ingredients. Try organic extra virgin olive oil created from the restaurant’s very own grove or honey from an on-site colony of bees. Brae’s menu changes with the seasons, so every inventive dish you’ll encounter will be locally grown and right at its best.

Black Egg on grass at Attica
Photograph: Colin Page

Eat native ingredients at Attica

Using Australian-native ingredients is the hottest culinary trend in Australia right now, and no one does it better than Attica. Ranked No. 32 on 2017’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants List (and number 1 in Australia), Attica is headed up by acclaimed Australian chef Ben Shewry. Here, they put a modern spin on traditional Aussie fare, with dishes like mini saltbush lamb pie in a Vegemite crust, or native bread made with fermented local grains and served with macadamia nut cream. It’s food that you can’t get anywhere else.

Queen Victoria Summer Night Market
Photograph: Ewen Bell

Tour the Queen Vic Night Market

Spend Wednesday nights at the Queen Victoria Market, right near the centre of Melbourne, which boasts food, shopping, live music and other entertainment. Search for your dinner among the rows and rows of street vendors, then wind through more than 130 stalls selling art, fashion, housewares and other souvenirs.

Cheese, tomatoes and toast at Rosetta
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Celebrate Melbourne’s Italian roots at Rosetta

Thirty per cent of Melbourne residents have Italian heritage–so the city knows its spaghetti from its strozzapreti. Get a taste at Rosetta, a breathtakingly theatrical creation from Qantas creative director of food and beverage Neil Perry. Here chandeliers sprout from the domed ceiling and marble abounds. The soundtrack is full of opera music, and waiters wear white linen, but surprisingly, the food is approachable. Pasta is the standout here: The house-made spaghetti is strong and springy, reminiscent of soba noodles, with ingredients like sweet prawns and pistachios deliciously tangled in its strands.

Hidden Secrets Walking Tour
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Embark on a ‘progressive degustation’

There’s walking through Melbourne, and then there are walking tours of Melbourne. In a city well designed for pedestrians, it makes sense to forgo the tour bus and strap on your sneakers. We recommend Hidden Secrets’ “Foodie” tours, which allow you to eat your way through Melbourne’s hidden laneways and arcades, while exploring cafe culture, cocktails or even a ‘progressive degustation’ where you’ll sample drinks and bites from nine different Melbourne restaurants.

Drinking wine amongst vineyards at Stones of the Yarra Valley
Photograph: Rob Blackburn

Take a Yarra Valley winery tour

An hour north east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is Victoria’s wine country, filled with rolling green hills, vineyards and old farmhouses. The cellar doors of the region's wineries are open every weekend, and the winery restaurants have quickly become destination dining. We like Giant Steps, a jazz-inspired winery known for its chardonnays, and TarraWarra Estate, which houses an art museum alongside the vineyard. There are dozens of winery bus tours departing from Melbourne, so you won’t have to worry about getting home after trying a few glasses of the region’s famous Chardonnay and pinot noir varietals.

Getting there...

Qantas Dreamliner in the sky over Melbourne
Photograph: Courtesy of Qantas

Your Melbourne journey will begin the moment you step on board your flight when traveling with Qantas. The ‘Spirit of Australia’ airline boasts warm Aussie hospitality and world class service.  Your ticket with Qantas includes inflight dining with and award winning Australian wines. With more than 1500 entertainment options and generous checked baggage allowance, too. It’s just a movie, a meal, a sleep and you’re there. Qantas flies daily to Melbourne.

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