Flights From Mel To Mya – Australia’s culinary capital has long boasted an incredible range of small hole-in-the-wall cafes, hidden alleyway cocktail bars, bustling bistros and extravagant fine dining. Now, thanks to a new wave of bars and restaurants, Melbourne is experiencing another gastronomic renaissance. Want to banish the pandemic blues and explore the vibrant heart of the Victorian capital? From the CBD to the suburbs, you can find the best of new restaurants and bars here.
If you’re in the mood for a special night out, with “lumps” of caviar and raw seafood sitting on ice-filled silver plates, look no further than Scott Pickett’s new CBD restaurant in Melbourne. As well as being old-world in style, elegant Chancery Lane offers a menu that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris, including a beautiful wood-roasted duck that brings the ooh là là.
Flights From Mel To Mya
Head west and take a seat at the green Italian marble bar which is the latest addition to Yarraville’s growing food and wine scene. Bar Romanée’s confident European menu – think candied ocean trout with beetroot and horseradish yoghurt or fried potato gnocchi with ‘nduja and burrata – is a testament to the talent of Michelin-starred chef Anna Quayle, while the laid-back nature is just as worthy of a quick pit stop or a casual evening out.
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That’s what you get when Melbourne’s favorite celebrity chef joins forces with a revitalized Fed Square icon. Hero, Karen Martini’s new restaurant at the Australian Center for the Moving Image, is a force of Italian spirit in a magnificent room spoiled by Chris Connell’s design savvy. From Martini’s deservedly famous blueberry potato focaccia to the perfect custard tart, it’s quite the show.
The sibling of Fitzroy North’s neighborhood favorite, Old Palm Liquor has built its own following, thanks to its found-object aesthetic, fantastic collection of retro vinyl spins on the turntable and wood-fired protein and veg. It also has a wine list of 300 wines with a focus on minimal interventions from around the world.
A bar on a platform in the middle of the Yarra River? Located under the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge, Ponyfish Island is the pinnacle of Melbourne. A recent remodel has seen the business revamped with a Palm Springs vibe, and you’ll find an equally sunny outlook with a short menu of oysters, skewers and sliders, plus fun cocktails.
Modeled after Tokyo’s “listening bars” (cafés where customers listen to carefully selected vinyl records), this cool New Brunswick wine bar is the place to stop for coffee, a glass of natural wine or local craft beer, and some honey-paired snacks. , all set to the soundtrack of an epic (and eclectic) vinyl collection – or nightly DJs and live music.
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Named after a Filipino slang term meaning “to eat”, West Footscray newcomer Chibog is all about Filipino-style comfort food. Sisig, the signature dish, is a symphony in the key of sizzling pork (or tofu), or you can simply opt for sweet and spicy fried chicken wings.
Proving that sometimes you have to be hot to be really cool, Firebird (pictured above) is Windsor’s new home of Vietnamese-style barbecue. The large converted warehouse is moody and beautiful, and the flames and smoke of the open kitchen double as the stage, bringing dishes such as wood-roasted vegetable curry and charcoal chicken with roasted chilli fish sauce and charred lime squeeze.
A deli and bistro with urban appeal, Zsa’s is in a sweet spot at the top of Northcote’s Ruckers Hill, where curbside tables are occupied by diners enjoying an aperitif hour with a sunset-hued Aperol spritz. Nostalgic interiors will transport you to Europe on the wings of bistro desserts, such as French onion dip with crispy chicken skin and steak frites.
A stylish first-floor bolthole in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, Italian restaurant Marameo has a stunning rooftop terrace perfect for after-work drinks and a Sophia Loren-chic dining room. The trend-following menu confidently approaches the canon, whether it’s spaghetti, cacio e pepe with black truffle, or the ultimate pork chop cotoletta with coleslaw and vibrant salsa verde.
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The “moment” in Gertrude Street continues with Gae, an ambitious tasting restaurant with 16 seats at a time. The happy couple will be treated to an eight-course menu that combines classic technique with local and artisan ingredients. Chef Mo Zhou is in shock about the new one, but – luckily – you can always expect some kind of his Chinese-style pancake with seasonal additions.
Melbourne’s cult dial-a-lasagna service has put down permanent roots in Thornbury, where irreverent carb-filled good nights are guaranteed beneath retro-style red brick arches and mid-century lighting. Lasagna remains the main focus (choose between the classic meat bolognese layer with béchamel and sugar or a vegetarian version), supported by a choice of salumi, pickles, addictive garlic butter bread and salads.
Cheap, cheerful and hard to miss even in the hustle and bustle of Hoddle Street (maybe it has something to do with the bold blue and yellow color scheme, wall-mounted sombreros and hanging piñatas), The Happy Mexican is Melbourne’s go-to for Mexican food. Expect scrumptious soft tacos filled with slow-cooked pork marinated in orange juice or a flat top in beer batter and mezcal and tequila to get the party going.
The posh Bistro Frédéric, a tailor-made restaurant for Cremorne’s creative clique, keeps its Gallic credentials in order while winning public votes with its bare-brick, banquette-filled charm. The sweetcorn madeleines with mayo-laced crab are a worthy signature, and the recently added rooftop Frédéric in the Sky has fantastic views of the CBD.
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The Espy is a true Melbourne icon, recently given new life with a stunning multi-million dollar renovation that has transformed it into a wonderland of food, drink and music. A dozen different bars and three stages offer plenty to explore, while food is served up with pub classics in the main Espy Bar, excellent meats and grills in the Espy Kitchen and hearty pan-Asian delights at Mya Tiger.
Lygon Street shares have risen again following the long-awaited reopening of King and Godfree stables. The heritage-listed corner building has reasserted its Italian heart with espresso bar, deli and wine bar Agostino, where chilli-dusted tiger prawns and saffron risotto await. Head to the building’s rooftop for its crowning glory, the umbrella-shaded bar Johnny’s Green Room, which boasts 360-degree views of Melbourne and the inner north.