We’re in Melbourne for the World Barista Championship, our first visit to this splendid city. How do you write a guide for a city if you’ve never been? Easy. We polled a dozen Melbourne residents and frequent visitors with excellent taste on their very favorite places to eat, drink, and have a coffee in the city. Read more features like this one in our Melbourne Sprudge Guides hub!
With a total population of over 4 million, and a reputation as Australia’s cultural hub, you might expect that Melbourne would be home to some pretty awesome restaurants. And you would be right: this was an enormously tough list to whittle down into a top 10, based on the responses of the dozen or so Melbourne locals and frequent visitors we polled. From an incredibly diverse and exciting field of restaurants to choose from, here’s 10 restaurants with very little in common, save for promising you a nice time during your visit. For more choices, spend time with Broadsheet Melbourne, the city’s premiere dining and urban exploring guide.
Cumulus Inc (45 Flinders Ln) – A top pick for the vast majority of people we polled, this destination restaurant on Melbourne’s trendy Flinders Lane has been well-regarded since opening in 2008. Their menu is chockablock Cupidian arrows aimed directly at our Pacific Northwestern hearts: think regional Aussie oysters, epic charcuterie, whole roasted lamb shoulders to share, grilled octopus…we’ll meet you there.
Chin Chin (125 Flinders Ln) – Very busy and not too fancy, with a menu “modeled on the hawker dining halls of Asia”, according to their menu-less website. Broadsheet’s listing for them mentions items like suckling pig pancake rolls, a plethora of Thai-style soups, and a focused wine program. They’re open til late, so consider this a post-party “let’s take a cab, I’m starving” option.
Izakaya Den (114 Russell St) – Located mere blocks from Sensory Lab on the corner of Russel & Little Collins, this is a big city modern Izakaya befitting the bustle and hustle of the CBD. Modeled on the chic urban drink-and-eateries of Tokyo, our responders highlighted the service and sake list here as being especially noteworthy. Be aware: Izakaya Den is located in a basement, and their door is pretty much unmarked, so look closely at the ol’ iPhone. It’s there, promise.
The Town Mouse (312 Drummond St, Carlton) – We’re tempted to call this place “New American”, but that would be blindingly empiricist of us. The Town Mouse has smart wine and food options – “Blackened pork jowl, smoked carrot kimchi, cos, green apple & peanut” FTW – with a focus on local, seasonal goodies. Lots of vegetarian options and delicious sounding meaty entrees, plus its in a hip and fun part of Carlton.
Cookie (First Floor/252 Swanston St) – Contemporary Thai food plus lots and lots of beer. Deep fried shrimp cocktail! Soft shell crab! Seriously, they have like 200 beers. This place sounds awesome and we’re going, that’s final.
Anada (197 Gertrude St, Fitzroy) – Spanish tapas and raciones, with a super-affordable tasting menu that sounds like a lot of fun. There’s a really deep cheese list here too, if you’re into that, and a well-curated not-too-intimidating list of Spanish sherries, ciders, and wines. Sounds like a fun spot for that big group dinner you’re tagging along with. Lucky you.
Dainty Sichuan (176 Toorak Rd, South Yarra) – No foolies, this place is home for real-deal Sichuan spice euphoria. Everything you order here will be hot and spicy and of plentiful portion, cooked directly in front of you on table-top burners. Careful though, because this stuff will get you spice-stoned.
Estelle Bar & Kitchen (243 High St, Northcote) – “A modest local eatery” as per the front page of its website, and there’s something rather classy about the whole scene here at Estelle. There’s a courtyard and quaint dining room, multiple prix fixe options on the menu, and individual selections that don’t outnumber the guests. If somehow, within the madness of MICE and WBC, you’ve managed to meet someone nice and plan to take him or her on a date, this place looks pretty much perfect.
Builders Arms (211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy) – Housed in an 150 year old pub, Builders Arms is absolutely one of the most intriguing entries on this list. The bar and bistro area offers a contemporary update on the classic public house it once was, with fine beers and wines on tap but also standards like Coopers and Carlton. There’s a beer garden, and an awesome wine list, and a separate dining room called Moon Under Water, offering a nightly 4 course menu for $75. This spot intrigues because, to a visitor’s eye, there’s something about it that seems to encompass modern Melbourne while nodding to its past. Fun and not too fussy, but by no means dingy, it’s the kind of bar every cool neighborhood should have.
Stokehouse (30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda) – You could spend a week in Melbourne and forget it’s a seaside town, or you could journey out to St. Kilda and really get a sense of where you are: a thriving coastal metropolis on the bottom of the world. Stokehouse has fine dining upstairs, a less formal cafe downstairs, and delicious food in both. Seafood, of course – Melbs is mad for seafood – as well as awesome sounding steaks and desserts. And you’ll be right on the beach...near the penguins!
Loop back ’round to our Melbourne info portal, why don’t you? Good on ya!