Great, casual restaurants in Melbourne?
January 16, 2013 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Fabulous, hidden gem restaurants in Melbourne?

I'm about to get on a plane and fly to the other end of the globe to go to the Australian Open. I've been to Melbourne before but wished I had eaten a bit better. For this trip, can you recommend some restaurants that are central? (I don't mind a small streetcar ride, but am staying at the Langham.)

Fabulous brasserie? Great dim sum? Cozy and casual? Wonderful seafood? Your hidden gem? All very much appreciated!
posted by meerkatty to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I wouldn't call it a hidden gem as it's very popular, but my favourite Melbourne restaurant right now is Chin Chin: Great food, great atmosphere. They don't take bookings but if you arrive early for dinner (say 5:30pm) you should be able to get a table without too much of a wait. It's on Flinders Lane so it's quite close to where you're staying, almost on your way from your hotel to Rod Laver Arena.
posted by RubyScarlet at 4:03 PM on January 16, 2013

This is not a posh eat, but it's a great cheap eat: I think the okonomiyaki at Teppansan is really good. China Town has some excellent, cheaper, Asian bites. The upper end of exhibition st - near RMIT (Swanston to a lesser degree) have many good, cheap Asian restaurants.

The Cellar Bar at Grossi Fiorentino regular has food as good as the much posher, much more expensive restauarant upstairs, in my opinion.

The European on Spring does excellent breakfasts in my opinion. The coffee is very good and the eggs benedict and huevos rancheros were both excellent, imho.

It's been nearly ten years since I lived in Melbourne, so I'm loathe to recommend everything else, for fear of sending you in the wrong direction or that the business has closed down. Have no fear - there is so much great food it's a wonderful town.
posted by smoke at 4:03 PM on January 16, 2013

Best answer: I travel to Melbourne from time to time for work, and I'm a fan of using Broadsheet for finding out about cool places to eat or drink. If you will be smartphone enabled, they also have an iphone app that is good about showing you interesting places near your location.

With that said, restaurants in the CBD that I've liked:

in the vein of Malay\South Asian\Euro hybrids that are new h0tness in Australian foodie circles:
Chin Chin

small plates
Cumulus (run by Chef Andrew McConnell, who has some really good restaurants up by Fitzroy if you want to swing up that way on the tram)
Movida Spanish tapas

1000 Pound Bend (nice bohemian cafe with some interesting events from time to time)
Brother Baba Budan (and really, anything that's operated by the Seven Seeds folks)
Little Mule (but only if you're a bike nerd, like me)
Commercial Bakery and Gill's Diner This was my usual stop for my morning pastry before going into the office.

lunch spots
Purple Peanuts Good Japanese lunch spot, though can be crowded with office workers on weekdays, and cash only
Wonderbao awesome Chinese sandwiches, and a good switch from tired old dim sims.
posted by bl1nk at 4:05 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

oh, and to add to RubyScarlet -- most of the above places are not, by any measure, "hidden gems" but they are good, and with the exception of Cumulus, not terribly overpriced (though, of course, all food and clothing in Melbourne is expensive compared to other countries)

If I had to skip one on my list, I'd probably pass on Movida, especially if you have access to good Spanish food in your neck of the woods. Their stuff is solid, but not exceptional, whereas many of the others are doing things that have a nice nod to Australian geography, agriculture or the new mixing pot heritage.
posted by bl1nk at 4:09 PM on January 16, 2013

Seconding Cellar Bar at Grossi Florentino - they have some streetside seating and if it's a warm night it's lovely to sit out there and watch the world go by as you eat some delicious, reasonably-priced Italian food. Last time I walked past it was closed though, I believe they're renovating the restaurant over summer and I'm not sure if it's reopened yet.

I think Teppansan may have changed hands recently as I went there maybe six months ago and it was the worst Japanese food I've eaten in Melbourne. Izakaya Den, also on Russell St, gets rave reviews but it's another one where you'll need to arrive super early as they don't take bookings and it's incredibly popular.

Hutong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane has the best dumplings in Melbourne in my opinion. Their Xiao Long Bao is excellent. I wouldn't bother with most of the cheaper dumpling joints in Chinatown that are popular with the student crowd - their dumplings are usually pretty average.
posted by RubyScarlet at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2013

I'd also highly recommend Trunk Diner on Exhibition St for a great breakfast or burger in a cool outdoor setting, or if you're after a quick bite that is close to your hotel then the burgers at The Merrywell at Crown are pretty decent and highly rated on Burger Adventure.
posted by RubyScarlet at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2013

Second Hutong for dumplings - but with the warning that booking is essential.
posted by pompomtom at 4:40 PM on January 16, 2013

Should also mention Mefite favourite Rockwell and Sons (get the 86 tram from Bourke Street), which does American food which is quite odd here. Anyway, it was all new to me but really good.

Good beer list too.
posted by pompomtom at 4:48 PM on January 16, 2013

Yum yum Mamasita
posted by latch24 at 6:14 PM on January 16, 2013

Seconding Hutong Dumpling Bar in Market Lane

For a very melbourne experience:
Movida, Movida Aqui or Movida next door, all offshoots of the original Movida (spanish tapas - all City based)
Longgrain (thai fusion -City)
Mamasita (mexican tapas - City)
Mama Baba (high end Greek & italian with modern bar, the latest from celebrity chef George Caloumbaris, this is in South Yarra)
Rockpool (Southbank - steak and fine dining)
Guiseppe Arnaldo and Sons GAS (Southbank italian seasonal fine dining)
Cutler & Co (fine dining - gertrude st fitzroy)
Flowerdrum (fine dining cantonese - city)

** Rockpool and Longgrain melbourne are each sister restaurants of their original Sydney siblings.
** Most of these places wont take bookings for less than 8, you need to either rock up early for a table (6pm) or wait and likely sit at the bar to eat if its packed.

Generally awesome City spots for drinking and bar food:
Bar Lourinha (Iberian tapas, very hip)
Siglo on Spring St (open til 6am, fancy cigar bar opposite Parliament)
EDV Melbourne
Cookie (a melbourne city drinking institution), upstairs is the Toff in Town and above that way up the stais is the Rooftop bar, make sure to visit all 3 in one, all owned by the same co.
Berlin Bar (this is super new and although i haven't been ive heard its worth a visit)
I also really like Melbourne Gastronome Food Blog, specifically her blog on city bars, she did a review on EDV see here

I can also highly recommend Bennetts Lane Jazz Club for a live music venue in the city.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:20 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

btw i say fine dining in alot of those but they are not like 3 michelin star restaurants. they are however definitely the upmarket choices in town.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:29 PM on January 16, 2013

I'll second Rockwell & Sons, and add Izakaya Den for izakaya-style Japanese eating just around the corner from where you're staying.
posted by russm at 11:04 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite] for amazing old school Italian... A short tram ride to Lygon st east Brunswick on the 1 or 8 tram.
posted by sconbie at 3:01 AM on January 17, 2013

Another one to add to your list: the delicious Dainty Sichuan has just opened a branch in the Melbourne CBD. The new one is at Lvl 2, 206 Bourke St and it has a very different menu to the Toorak Rd one. I went there tonight and it's even better than its South Yarra branch. If you like spicy food then you will love it. I believe Dainty is generally considered to have the best Sichuan food outside of Sichuan itself.
posted by RubyScarlet at 4:38 AM on January 17, 2013

Response by poster: AskMe to the rescue again! Had a fabulous supper at Chin Chin last night. Now debating your recommendations for tomorrow's! Thank you.
posted by meerkatty at 10:02 PM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: Got to Cookie last night - great food! Thanks!
posted by meerkatty at 1:50 PM on January 22, 2013

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