Essential Eats: 31 Must-Book Restaurants in Melbourne CBD
From iconic eateries to shiny, new venues, these are the best restaurants in Melbourne CBD you need to try at least once.
From authentic hole-in-the-wall eateries and cult takeout joints to refined fine dining – no matter what the set-up, Melbourne takes food very seriously. And in a city that seemingly has a new culinary hotspot opening every night (and most of which don’t take bookings), chances are you’ll have to queue for your meal if you want a taste of the very best. Luckily, some things are worth the wait.
Join us as we dine our way through the best restaurant in Melbourne CBD.
New Zealand's premier steak and seafood restaurant Botswana Butchery has arrived in Melbourne, and the three-story venue is every bit as luxurious as its counterparts. The star of the show is, of course, the premium cuts of meat. From the Butcher's Block, there's a moreish four-hour slow cooked whole roasted roaring forties lamb shoulder, which is our favourite dish on the menu. Other menu highlights include the O’Connor Rib-Eye, the King George Whiting, and the yellowfish tuna crudo from the raw and cured menu. Head Sommelier, Piers Haszard, is sourcing a whopping 1000 wines to pair with your meals, carefully curated to hero the best local producers from Victoria and across the pond.
66 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Not only is Mamasita worth the hype, but this colourful Mexican joint has managed to sustain its buzz in the decade since it first opened its doors. Indeed, people are still patiently queuing down Collins Street for a taste of the famed fish tacos (try them) and a host of authentic, flavourful dishes – all washed down with a dash of mezcal. This place is the real deal.
1/11 Collins Street, Melbourne
Opening as part of HER Melbourne, a glamorous multi-level venue in a CBD heritage building, BKK serves Bangkok street food and tropical cocktails in a quintessentially Melbourne setting. With everything from spicy ocean trout salad to barbecue skewers, charred meats and Thai curries on the menu, we recommend sharing multiple dishes and sampling them amongst friends. Wines are picked to match the flavour profiles of the food, so you can rest assured you're washing down your dish with an appropriate drop. Don't forget to head upstairs to the stylish European-inspired rooftop for a nightcap and a dance afterwards.
Level 3, HER, 270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Asian-style hawker feeds with a disco spin, Gingerboy is a vibrant and playful eatery and bar. Renowned for its colourful plates and sweet treats, Gingerboy sends out dishes celebrating seasonal ingredients, best enjoyed when shared. Look out for the ‘Bottomless Sunday’ sessions, featuring endless mimosas and signature dim sum.
27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne
After a bunch of successful pop-ups the lobster roll-hawking Pinchy’s has finally found a permanent home in Bourke Street’s Mid City arcade. The playful space is awash in neon and pink, with velvet-clad booths and disco ball-like lights, while two separate bars beckon – one serves cocktails and craft brews, and the other is devoted to bubbly be it Champagne, prosecco or local sparkling. The menu’s a seafood-first affair, starting with the star attraction Maine lobster roll, in which plump lobster meat is dressed in a simple yet lush mixture of mayo, lemon, butter and chopped chives, and joined by snacks like crab and avocado tacos, sardines with tomato compote and octopus with potato salad.
Level 1/200 Bourke Street, Melbourne
One of the hippest eateries in a city brimming with hip eateries – it might have been on the scene for a few years now, but everyone’s still raving about Supernormal. The sleek Japanese inspired décor matches a menu that is in equal parts adventurous and moreish, offering everything from crispy suckling pig to yuzu tuna. One thing’s for sure – it’s all worth the wait.
108 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Respected Melbourne chef Alejandro Saravia has brought his vision to establish an embassy for Gippsland in the heart of the CBD. All areas of the striking three-level concept champion the true essence of Gippsland, celebrating the diversity and richness of produce from the region. You'll find the restaurant on the middle floor, and the food is more formal; best suited to long business lunches, formal dinners, and special occasions. The open kitchen is fuelled by charcoal and wood, bringing a sense of theatre to the rustic yet elegant dining room.
6/80 Collins Street, Melbourne
Far from a flash in the pan, iconic Asian eatery Chin Chin has become even more popular since it’s 2011 opening debut. A local institution turned tourist destination – there’s a reason you can expect to wait up to two hours for a table. Namely, because the food is so damn good. From gooey, sticky pork to sizzling jungle curry – grab a seat at the bar and savour the wait.
125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Chancery Lane, a European bistro by Scott Pickett welcomes diners to the historic Normanby Chambers building. Suited for any occasion, from a glass and a bite at the bar to a private dinner party, you can expect classic European dishes with a twist. The 100-seater bistro is ensconced in a rich palette of dark green, checkerboard tiling and dark timber, emulating old-world charm and opulence of La Belle Epoque. Antique brass and textured gold details are featured throughout.
430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
A true Melbourne institution, sleek and chic Coda is widely agreed to be one of the city’s best. Always buzzing with its own special brand of energy, not only is this the place to be seen on a Friday night (or any other night for that matter) – but you’re guaranteed a brilliant meal in the process. Trust us, the yellow fin tuna alone is worth the wait.
141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
To find high-end kaiseki dining in Melbourne you’ll need to visit acclaimed chef Tomotaka Ishizuka’s ultra-exclusive, hidden basement restaurant. Seating just 16, all guests are served the 11-dish tasting menu in which luxe ingredients, exceptional technique, and art gallery-level plating shine in complex yet restrained dishes. Come here for a masterclass in Japanese perfectionism.
139 Bourke Street, Melbourne
A light-filled contemporary eatery serving up award-winning fare, Cumulus Inc. is well-loved within the Melbourne foodie scene. Acclaimed chef Andrew McConnell is a jack-of-all-trades, plating up deceptively simple breakfasts and sophisticated yet wholesome lunch and dinners. Make sure you wander upstairs to sister bar Cumulus Up. for one of its signature cocktails.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Located on Little Bourke Street within a small yet sophisticated laneway locale, Tipo 00 serves as a nice little reminder that eating spaghetti cooked al dente is good for the soul. Named after the finely ground flour used to make pizza and pasta, this venue takes an unfussy approach with clean, simple elements. Try one of the restaurant’s best-sellers including the squid-ink tagliolini or gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and braised duck.
361 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Expectations will be as high as the 55 levels above ground level that this Melbourne institution sits on, but it more than delivers and lives up to its name. With executive chef Hugh Allen at the helm of this Shannon Bennett establishment, you’ll be treated to the chef’s tasting menu, made up of a 10-course degustation. The Tasmanian sea urchin with caviar is a standout, whilst the dry aged duck with Leatherwood honey is an experience in itself. Pair your fine-dining adventure with the 360-degree views of the city and you’re in for a night to remember.
Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne
There is something about Gimlet at Cavendish House that makes you want to sit back and sip on cocktails (gimlet’s of course) until the wee hours of the morning. Bringing old-world charisma to this landmark 1920’s Chicago-style building could only be the brainchild of renowned restaurateur Andrew McConnell (Marion, Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co, Supernormal) and Sydney firm Acme & Co. Contrary to what the name suggests, the food is held in equal regard as their prized Gimlet which can be paired with fresh rock oysters, premium wood-fired meats and seafood. If you’re looking to really step things up, the caviar service is always a go too.
33 Russell Street, Melbourne
Cosy and casual yet effortlessly sophisticated, Osteria Ilaria instantly signals good taste and serious intentions. Modern Italian plates like paccheri pasta with Crystal Bay prawns and sorrel, and rhubarb semifreddo with rye and coffee will have you sighing with pleasure, while the list of ace European wines will buy you more date time after the last dish is cleared.
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Down your tools for fresh, contemporary Italian food served from the glossy surrounds of what used to be a social club for members of the hardware industry. Sporting a cosy, neighbourhood feel, the intimate all-day trattoria serves up antipasti, handmade pasta and pizza by day, before branching out to share plates by night. The wine list hones in on Australian and Italian wines, accompanied by a snappy selection of Italian cocktails including negronis and spritzes. Bellissima!
43 Hardware Lane, Melbourne
Some things never go out of style, and Longrain – Melbourne’s favourite Thai restaurant – is one of them. Here, the food is simple yet flavourful, while the elegant bar offers up the perfect spot to while away the wait for a table. With a contemporary take on classic dishes and an eternally buzzy atmosphere, there’s a reason this city still can’t get enough of Longrain.
40-44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
With a focus on high-quality food and wine with top service, Flower Drum is an intimate and elegant Chinese restaurant serving authentic Cantonese cuisine. Dishes are inspired by the seasons to create fresh and unique fare, using only the best of locally sourced ingredients.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne
A cheap and cheerful Melbourne institution, Shanghai Village has hungry hoards queuing up outside its iconic red lacquered doors at all hours. The chief domain of dumpling fans, here you’ll happily leave with change from your $20 after indulging in what’s sure to be a boisterous meal. While it might be low on frills, Shanghai Village more than makes up for it in both taste and atmosphere.
112 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
This dark, wood-lined CBD wine bar is as sophisticated as it is laid-back. Abuzz every night of the week with colleagues, friends and lovers, mid-week revellers can’t get enough of the aperitivo vibe at Embla. Think thoughtfully curated small plates (green olive sourdough and pickled mussels FTW) and “slightly weird” natural and small producer vinos. Two appetising reasons to check it out.
122 Russell Street, Melbourne
Centrally located (and in the minds of most Melbournians), Cookie is one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Fusing together a Thai restaurant, a beer hall and a cocktail bar, Cookie is a one-stop-shop, guaranteed to delight everyone in your party. Always buzzy, you’ll find diners digging into the likes of drunken noodles, crispy pork belly curry and moreish beef ribs with lemongrass and star anise. Bookings are recommended, especially if you’re after one of those coveted balcony tables.
First Floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Three storeys of delicious wood-fired pizza, pool room fun and rooftop cocktail relaxation, Dom's is the place to be. Start on the ground floor with a delicious dinner of wood-fired pizza and charcuterie, then move to the pool room for some fun and games, before retiring to the rooftop bar to take in the city skyline views.
Unit 1/301 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Fiery Indian cuisine with a refined and contemporary touch is what you can expect from this CBD mainstay, tucked off one of Melbourne’s most iconic laneways. The luxe white tablecloths won’t be pristine for long after you devour Tonka’s glorious saucy and succulent dishes. The lamb curry with roasted coconut and black cardamom is hard to pass up or try something from one of the Tandoor ovens, like the whole spatchcock or Petuna ocean trout.
20 Duckboard Place, Melbourne
B'Churrasco brings the sizzling art of Brazilian barbecue to Melbourne. Here you’ll be able to see long, sword-like skewers of beef, pork lamb and chicken cooked over open flames then carved straight onto your plate. The whole experience is packed with theatre and surprise, as waiters bring a procession of salads, sides, meats, and desserts to you – no menus needed. All you have to do is eat until you’re stuffed to the gills.
61 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne
If you’re looking for Melbourne’s best ramen, you'd better get in line. Nestled on bustling Russel Street, Hakata Gensuke serves up steaming bowls of Japan’s much-loved export for discerning devotees. With a signature tonkotsu broth based on a secret recipe simmered for 12 hours and queues as long as three hours – you know you’re in for some very impressive eating.
168 Russell Street, Melbourne
Ending a big night with a hot Stalactites souvlaki is basically a rite of passage in this city. This 24-hour icon of Melbourne has been operating for over 40 years, doing simple, classic Greek fare across dips, giros platters, grilled meats and homey comfort food just like yiayia makes. Let’s be real though, the souvlaki is the main calling here – fluffy pita wrapping crisp lettuce, tomato, onion, homemade tzatziki and your choice of lamb, chicken, spiced bifteki or veggie and feta patties.
177/183 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
With a prime spot on the Yarra River, alfresco setting and serving up quality Japanese fare, Saké Restaurant & Bar is a Melbourne favourite. Using traditional Japanese techniques on fresh local produce results in delicious and beautifully presented dishes. To get the very best from this fine-dining institution, be sure to dine off one of the set menus. That way you get a taste of all the signature dishes without the added stress of having to decide between them.
100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Tucked away up Paris end of Collins St, the latest venture from acclaimed chef Philippe Mouchel is a must-try for French loving foodies. It might only be a few steps down off the street, but this cosy basement eatery will have you feeling a thousand miles away. With its open kitchen at the helm, Philippe’s refined menu might read traditional, but the final product is far from played out. Atop the crisp white tablecloths, perfectly manicured servers place exquisite plates of Wagyu beef tartare, twice baked cheese soufflé and Bannockburn rôtisserie chicken. And for dessert, it's crème brûlée all the way!
115 Collins Street, Melbourne
When you’re after a warm hug in a bowl, this cult Melbourne cheap-eat spot hidden inside a Bourke Street arcade. Mr Ramen San may be easy to miss but it always impresses some of the best soup this side of Tokyo. With noodles made onsite daily and the eatery’s signature meat stewed for hours to achieve that melt-in-your-mouth sweetness, you’ll really have no problem ordering anything off the menu.
Shop 12A/200 Bourke Street, Melbourne
You’d be forgiven for mistaking spiffy new hotpot restaurant Chef David for a nightclub, with all the neon lights, chrome chandeliers and patent leather seats in tow. A new sibling venue to soupy stalwarts David's Spicy Pot and David's Hot Pot, you’ll find not only the standard, tongue-numbing Sichuan beef broth here but eight other options including Thai tom yum, Malaysian seafood and oxtail soup. From there you can take your pick of thinly sliced high-grade meat, vegetables, tofu, seafood, dumplings and noodles to bolster your pot. You’ll want to have a crack at the drinks list, too, with an extensive list of everything from beer and bubble tea, as well as mocktails and cocktails designed by former Lûmé head bartender Orlando Marzo.
1/462 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
I'd love to live near