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Best Restaurants in Melbourne 2019: Must-Book Eateries

From Middle Eastern to modern Australian, these are the best restaurants in Melbourne to book a spot at

Pinchy's
Pinchy's

Throughout 2019 we indulged in Melbourne's foodie scene to taste test our way through the newest and coolest restaurants to come to town. From casual cult classics to luxurious fine dining, we've pulled together a delicious edit of the best restaurants in Melbourne from 2019. These are the tables you need to dine at ASAP. 

DECEMBER

Pastore
Pastore
Pastore

Star chef Scott Pickett has set his sights east, but not without borrowing a little from his already celebrated restaurants. Replicating the woodfired grill from fine diner Matilda and the Mediterranean focus of pasta bar Lupo, he’s opened an attention-snapping restaurant in the luxury new Hotel Chadstone. The sleek brass and stone space is contrasted by cosy, traditional Italian food given Pickett’s trademark Australian tilt. Expect dishes like lasagna made with David Blackmore wagyu and ricotta gnocchi crowned with Warrigal greens. 

1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone

Lagoon
Lagoon
Lagoon

The longtime pasta and espresso bars of Lygon Street now neighbour the aroma of wok-fried XO noodles and charcoal roasted charsiu of mod-Asian restaurant Lagoon Dining. Having worked together at Ezard and Longsong, the team behind this buzzy new spot know a thing or two about playing with cross-continental flavours, resulting in dishes like garlic chives with nduja and shiitake and salted fish fried rice sprinkled with bottarga. Easily one of the best restaurants in Melbourne 2019!

263 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC 3053

Pastore
Pastore
Small Axe Deli

Come for the shelves gleaming with Italian pantry goods, stay for the fresh pasta and Sicilian wine. Part providore, part cafe and part wine bar, Small Axe Deli is plying locals from morning to night with the best of Mediterranean drinking and dining. During the day you can grab colourful fresh salads like fennel and orange or smoked eggplant with radicchio alongside rotating panini and Code Black Coffee, while at night it’s all about pasta. Sit up at the shiny terrazzo bar for lush veal lasagne, meatballs in sugo and squid ink spaghetti with 'nduja and seafood before ringing up a limoncello-spiked Tom Collins to end the night.

625 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Oscar’s Teta
Oscar’s Teta
Oscar’s Teta

As the name suggests, many of the dishes served at this new Lebanese mezze bar stem from recipes passed down from the owners’ grandmother, honed overtime after being cooked countless times for family and friends. While the restaurant itself is a picture of contemporary comfort, with a mixture of bar seating, banquettes and high tables, the menu espouses traditional faves like sambousek, kibbeh and samke harra – almond crumbed snapper in a tahini yoghurt sauce. The well-stocked bar, on the other hand, serves arak and house cocktails, including a pistachio espresso martini.

143 Hudsons Road, Spotswood

Pinchy's
Pinchy's
Pinchy’s

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, and is arguable one of the best restaurants in Melbourne. 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

NOVEMBER

Gaea
Gaea
Gaea

Lovers of creative cuisine will want to book into Mo Zhou’s adventurous venture, a place where you’ll find a fridge packed with fermenting vegetables he’s foraged himself, an eclectic drinks list and a six- or eight-course menu that frequently changes Zhou’s whims. The only thing that’s guaranteed is that there’ll be bao made with organic grains milled daily (the fillings will change), plus eons of fine dining-honed technique in every bite.

1/166 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Hazel

Refined yet inviting restaurant Hazel is the culmination of two years’ work by the Mulberry Group, the powerhouse company that brought us celebrated venues Higher Ground and Top Paddock. Housed in a historic Flinders Lane building, tall windows invite natural light to fall on a soft, neutral-themed interior marked by pale woods, leather and stone. The menu is modern Australian fare centred around a woodfired grill, with plenty of seafood, handmade pasta and showstopping meats, plus a fun-loving section devoted to luxurious things ‘on toast’ – think crab, fromage frais or duck liver pâté.

164 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Elektra
Elektra
Elektra

Elektra, a contemporary European restaurant, is where weekly changing menus take inspiration from across borders. One of Melbourne's best restaurants of 2019, adventurous snacks could include taramasalata hash browns or pickled shiitake tacos, while a collaboration with Lune Croissanterie results in flaky vol-au-vents filled with butter chicken. With a neat selection of classic cocktails and 30 wines by the glass, Elektra is pitching itself as a place for all occasions, be it a quick post-work or pre-show bite, a leisurely dinner or late-night escapade.

72 Flinders Street, Melbourne

Marameo

We have the team behind Bar Carolina to thank for Marameo, the CBD’s spot for easy-breezy all-day Italian. Refreshing the space previously home to Sarti, they’ve opened up a laneway terrace for summery arvo spritzes, while a grand marble bar beckons inside. The menu is anchored by an extensive salumi and cheese selection plus imaginative antipasti such as carrot crisp topped with bug tail, corn and salmon roe, while an extensive wine list gives equal love to local and Italian drops.

6 Russell Place, Melbourne

The Hardware Club
The Hardware Club
The Hardware Club

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 new all-day trattoria from Nicola Dusi (Baby Pizza, Chin Chin) and Andrea Ceriani (+39 Pizzeria) is serving 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.

43 Hardware Lane, Melbourne

OCTOBER

Lomah
Lomah
Lomah

Young gun chef Charlie Carrington, best known for his globetrotting fine diner Atlas, has brought the vibrant street food of Israel to Prahran via a casual eatery on Commercial Road. Lomah, which stands for ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, serves a simple menu of pitas and trays centred around a main. Gippsland lamb, smoked river trout and roasted eggplant are just some of the options. Accompanied by a colourful array of hummus, zucchini and cauliflower slaw, chickpea salad, tabouli and tahini. The décor takes its cues from Tel Aviv too, featuring hanging greenery, distressed white walls and plenty of outdoor seating. You won't want to miss a thing at this Melbourne restaurant!

202 Commercial Road, Prahran

Oster
Oster
Oster

Modelled on the traditional osterias of Northern Italy, this polished all-day diner is plating up simple, produce-driven fare that takes an innovative hand to tradition. There’s gnocchi made with buckwheat flour, giving the pasta a nutty edge and gluten-free properties which shine in a pumpkin, caper and almond sauce, while braised beef cheeks served atop creamy rice polenta are the peak of comfort dining. And while the food looks towards the Mediterranean, the wine list leans firmly local, with drops from the Derwent Valley to Daylesford served across their strikingly contrasting recycled timber and concrete bar.

76-78 Bridge Road, Richmond

Red Sparrow Prahran

Getting a table at Red Sparrow’s original Collingwood location is a bonafide sport – don’t even think about turning up without a reservation towards the end of the week. Now, the Prahran offshoot means that Southsiders are also getting their fix of Melbourne’s best vegan pizza. Napoli-inspired corkers made with 70-hour cold-fermented dough and topped with not just one choice of dairy-free cheese but four: mozzarella, fior di latte, parmesan and feta. It won’t be long before those cosy booths are also filled to capacity with plant-based and meat-eaters alike, ploughing into slices of vegan pepperoni and buffalo “chicken” wings.

260 Chapel Street, Prahran

Pho Thin

Back in Hanoi, Pho Thin is widely known for their signature noodle soup, which unlike traditional versions is topped with garlicky stir-fried beef to give it a heartier edge. After opening locations across Asia, they’ve come to Melbourne, setting up shop in Hardware Lane to ladle what’s sure to be countless bowls of their aromatic pho; and it's already one of the best restaurants in Melbourne. You can jazz it up with house-made chilli sauce, pickled chilli, fish sauce and lemon wedges. While you can’t go past the main attraction, they’re also doing banh mi, vermicelli bowls and traditional desserts, plus fresh coconut juice and Vietnamese beers to cool down with.

389 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (entry via Hardware Lane)

SEPTEMBER

Parcha
Parcha
Parçha

Parçha is gracing Frankston locals with lively, vibrant Turkish food that’s made for sharing. Days begin with classic brunches given a fresh touch, think date syrup drizzled over buttermilk pancakes and sujuk with your eggs. From Thursdays to Sundays they stay open late, firing up the charcoal grill to make spicy koftes, smoky skewers and share plates à la cheesy bourek, dolma and moussaka. They display local pride in the drinks list, with drops sourced from nearby Mornington Peninsula and Dromana, but you’d be remiss not to sink a Turkish pilsner or two while you have the chance.

36 Wells Street, Frankston 

Leo's by the Slice
Leo's by the Slice
Leo’s by the Slice

Building on the success of log cabin dive bar Leonard’s House of Love and fun-times diner Leonardo’s Pizza Palace, Nick Stanton and co have branched out again with Leo’s by the Slice. A snappy little joint inspired by the massive, one-hander pizzas you get in New York. They may be going retro-chic on the décor via checkered tiled floors and red countertops, but the pizzas have thoroughly modern DNA; crispy slow-fermented sourdough bases carry innovative toppings like meatlovers with black pudding and a vegan Chinese bolognese. To drink, there’s tinnies, wines and fun-loving cocktails like an Oreo-sprinkled frozen Irish Coffee.

363 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Isme
Isme
Isme

Can you think of a more joyful sight than a table covered corner to corner in vibrant mezze? Modern Lebanese eatery Isme is a worthy entrant in Fitzroy’s busy dining scene, plating up contemporary takes on familiar formats. There are arancini filled with zaatar and feta, fatteh loaded with spicy prawns and for dessert, a baklava cheesecake you’ll be fighting over. The bar’s mixing up some killer Middle Eastern-inflected cocktails too, like a cardamom-dusted espresso martini.

152 Kerr Street, Fitzroy

Neighbourhood Pizza
Neighbourhood Pizza
Neighbourhood Pizza Shop

Neighbourhood Pizza Shop’s nondescript name belies the full extent of its offering. Yes, they do pizza, spun Neapolitan style with fluffy, crisp edges and classic toppings, but they also make some seriously fine pasta. From pillowy gnocchi with lamb ragu to a classy casareccia with confit tomato, basil pesto, porcini and pinenuts. Neighbourly by name and by nature, it’s a top pick for casual weeknight dinners, but easily lends itself to longer evenings with an impressive wine list alongside Negronis and spritzes.

20 Beatty Avenue, Armadale

Bia Hoi
Bia Hoi
Bia Hoi

Maven of modern Vietnamese cuisine Jerry Mai is following up her acclaimed restaurant Annam and casual eatery Pho Nom with a convivial beer hall in Glen Waverley. There’s a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, with a funky fit-out that sees colourful cloth and bamboo lanterns and hanging greenery throughout. The menu’s a mix of beer-friendly snacks such as chilli beef skewers plus larger dishes including fried barramundi in tamarind caramel and steamy hotpots. As for the beer, there’s both classic Vietnamese lagers and serious craft ales to keep everyone happy.

235 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley

AUGUST

Eazy Peazy
Eazy Peazy
Eazy Peazy

The founders of sak brand Toji have combined forces with an ex-chef from Hong Kong’s celebrated Yardbird to create a sleek Japanese restaurant on buzzy Swan Street. Focussing on izakaya-style snacks and yakitori skewers, expect bites like chicken wings dusted in yuzu spice, katsu sandos and duck gyoza dipped in sweet umeboshi sauce. They go hand in hand with an eclectic drinks list featuring local wines, Japanese brews and of course, sake – both on its own and in cocktails like the ‘MSG’ featuring matcha, sake and gin.

108 Swan Street, Richmond 

Daughter in Law
Daughter in Law
Daughter in Law

Empire-building restauranteur Jessi Singh’s Daughter in Law is steadfastly “inauthentic”. Wearing the label as a badge of pride, daughter in Laws playful menu includes naan pizzas topped with tandoori chicken or masala paneer, beef tartare seasoned with green mango powder and their signature sweet and spicy General Tso’s cauliflower. On the walls, you’ll see iconic ‘70s Bollywood films projected under art deco lights. However, the room’s dusty pink palette, velvet booths and natural wine-heavy drinks list prove they’re switched onto today’s trends.

37/41 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne

Piccolo Grand
Piccolo Grand
Piccolo Grand

Part pizza parlour, part cocktail lounge with a generous pub heart, Piccolo Grand is Richmond’s spot for Italian favourites. Sixty hour-fermented pizza dough is stretched thin and fired until blistered and puffy-edged, with toppings including truffle mushroom and speck, or nduja and cherry tomatoes, while curious eaters should also head straight for the vincisgrassi lasagna layered with beef, chicken liver and lamb brain. Cosy banquette seating and warm woods slot well with the current season, while the outside beer garden is sure to be a hit during the summer.

331 Burnley Street, Richmond

Rokkbank & Co
Rokkbank & Co
Rokkbank & Co

This South Melbourne fine diner promises spectacular food without the fuss or fads, and with a two-hatted chef at the helm, you can probably take that promise to the bank. Brendan McQueen, who’s spent time on the pans at Jacques Reymond, Ezard and Matteos invoke the best of contemporary Australian cuisine in dishes like white miso-baked black cod with spanner crab fritters and yuzu carrots, blending European techniques with Asian flavours. Open for lunch and dinner; they also do a more casual tapas menu to go with wines from their extensive cellar of new and old-world drops.

334 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne

Maha East
Maha East
Maha East 

Listen up, Maha fans – Shane Delia’s influential Middle Eastern fine diner has spun off a casual sister restaurant on Chapel Street. Here, a 120-strong wine list accompanies à la carte bites including fried buns filled with creamy taramasalata, chemen-cured kingfish and french fries tossed with za’atar and crumbled kefalograviera. The moody, dimly lit space invites you to settle in, an easy thing to achieve given their impressive offering of quirky wines, craft beers and imaginative cocktails.

36 Chapel Street, Windsor

JULY

Lupo (Credit: Peter Dillon)
Lupo (Credit: Peter Dillon)
Lupo

Collingwood's Lupo is the brainchild of Scott Pickett, one of Melbourne’s most recognised chefs. As to be expected, he’s taking a creative approach to the well-trodden form, doing things like cooking gold potato tagliatelle in Japanese dashi and garum, a fermented fish sauce, or sandwiching spanner crab and sunrise lime inside a lasagne. If you’re feeling luxe, you can add black truffles to any dish, and gluten-free folks will be made happy with a switcheroo to chickpea flour available for most pastas. The newly renovated space is warm and inviting, awash in whites, soft greens and glowing lights, making it perfect for dinners with lovers, family and friends.

300 Smith Street, Collingwood

Grounds of Arcadia
Grounds of Arcadia
Grounds of Arcadia

You can get a double dose of Greek culture at the Hellenic Museum's Grounds of Arcadia. The sun-lit restaurant, situated in the building’s courtyard pavilion, serves up hearty regional specialties from leafy surrounds, with dishes like whole baked snapper with sautéed fregola, caoers and sundried tomatoes, and kritharaki, a risoni with seafood, parsley, garlic and chilli. Of course, you can expect lots of ouzo, raki and Greek beers and spirits to match, as well as crowd-pleasing desserts like house-made galaktoboureko and baklava.

Hellenic Museum, 280 William Street, Melbourne

Omnia Bar & Bistro
Omnia Bar & Bistro
Omnia

Although technically only a pop-up, Omnia has all the trappings of a restaurant that’s set in stone. It’s gorgeously kitted out with velvet armchairs, soft leather booths and an arresting display of art. Meanwhile, acclaimed bartender Orlando Marzo is mixing cocktails and the kitchen is headed by Stephen Nairn, who’s worked everywhere from Matilda to Eleven Madison Park. The space is intended to be a testing ground for dishes that’ll be served at a permanent venture opening in 2020, but in the meantime you’ll have first crack at refined bistro-style fare like jerusalem artichoke velouté, steak tartare with smoked egg yolk and pomme gaufrettes and stuffed quail with pine mushrooms and sauerkraut.

23-25 Toorak Road, South Yarra

Good Nights Windsor
Good Nights Windsor
Good Nights Windsor

The folks behind Brunswick’s wholesome Vietnamese eatery Good Days are back with a rambunctious diner in Windsor called Good Nights, and the difference is as stark as well, day and night. Instead of pared-back décor and soft lighting, you’ll find a purple glow washing over a restaurant filled with kitschy-chic touches from floral tablecloths to a disco ball. There’s still plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, which encompasses street food-inspired snacks like banh khot – crispy coconut turmeric pancakes with scallop and prawns – osso bucco congee and grilled barramundi in banana leaf.

12 Chapel Street, Windsor

Taquito
Taquito
Taquito

Tortillas are the star of the show at this pint-sized taqueria in Carlton where they’re hand-pressed from ground corn before being topped with everything from smoky pumpkin and avocado crema to slow-braised beef and zingy salsa verde. Making tortillas and corn chips onsite allows the kitchen to optimise flavour, softness and structure, so these staples shine beyond being simply a base. The Taquito team is also picking habaneros for salsa from plants out the back and mixing up killer jalapeño-spiked margaritas – we have a feeling this one will be a instant neighbourhood fave.

350 Drummond Street, Carlton 

JUNE

Photo credit- Pretty Little

Pretty Little

Located in the heart of Balaclava’s main strip, this stylishly moody restaurant that’s centred around a communal table, deals in boutique wines – predominately Aussie drops – and a daily changing menu of contemporary Australian food. Dishes on the board might include chorizo in turmeric mayonnaise, pickled Port Arlington mussels with candied tomato, and pumpkin and chestnut tortellini. But every day is different, so at Pretty Little you’re always in for a delightful surprise. Whether you’re popping in for an after-work aperitivo or keen to settle in for a leisurely dinner, the dishes are designed to share, so make sure to bring a group of friends, along with your appetite.

296 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Photo Credit - Aromi
Photo Credit - Aromi
Aromi

Aromi thrives in efficiency: their sleek, compact dining room seats just 40, and their tight 25-bottle list showcases mostly Italian wines. This laser focus allows them to really hone their craft – they make everything in house, from the focaccias and pasta to the liqueurs in their aromatic cocktails. The menu’s a contemporary Italian affair, spanning bites like goats’ cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers and tomato spaghetti with spanner crab and macadamia.

312 New Street, Brighton

Photo Credit - Rising Embers
Photo Credit - Rising Embers
Rising Embers

From the folks behind spicy food institution Dainty Sichuan comes Rising Embers, a futuristic grill restaurant putting a dash of interactivity into your meal. Using a tablet, diners order a spread of proteins and veg that arrive ready to be fired up at your table, with options including spicy pork ribs, 9+ score marbled wagyu, chilli dusted squid skewers and garlicky clams. That condensed grill-to-mouth time allows for maximum heat and juiciness, before the meal is wrapped up on a refreshing note with tea, yoghurt and fruit for dessert.

139 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Photo Credit - Akai Ito

Akai Ito

Recently opening in Flinders Lane is bold new Japanese restaurant Akai Ito. The dining room is awash in dark hues, sporting black marble tabletops and grey banquettes, but a glance above reveals a dramatic blood red sculpture – a curling figure meant to represent the thread of fate connecting destined lovers. The upmarket modern menu features plenty of premium produce, including luxe ingredients like ootoro tartare, grilled glacier 51 toothfish and Japanese wagyu.

349-351 Flinders Ln, Melbourne 

Photo Credit - Hanoi Hannah
Photo Credit - Hanoi Hannah
Hanoi Hannah Vol. II

After eight years of jam-packed nights, Hanoi Hannah has finally expanded, taking over a new site down the road with double the capacity and even punchier food. Vol. II sports al fresco seating, a shiny new bar and an open kitchen with space for the chefs to cook a bigger menu of Vietnamese street food-inspired bites. New highlights include claypot mussels in lemongrass and coconut kaffir lime with banh mi for dipping, plus grilled chicken ribs with pickled chilli and lime salt. Don’t worry though – all the old favourites, from their peking duck rice paper rolls to the turmeric fish vermicelli salad, haven’t gone anywhere.

306 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick 

MAY

Photo Credit - Tamura Sake Bar
Photo Credit - Tamura Sake Bar
Tamura Sake Bar

Part izakaya, part sake bar and part record store, this Fitzroy restaurant exudes personality in spades. Owners Fumi and Takako Tamura’s love of jazz and funk is expressed over the venue’s speakers, and their menu is just as fun. Spy drink-friendly snacks like yakitori, fried chicken and crispy salmon skin, as well as regular mains including sashimi, ramen and curry. You’ll also want to have a good gander at their selection of sake, yuzu wine and craft beer, which includes two collaborations with Brunswick’s Temple Brewing Co.

43 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Photo Credit - Spitfire

Spitfire

Grungy rock’n’roll venue Stay Gold has scored itself a new front bar that’s serving stellar woodfired dishes cooked by a former Bluebonnet chef. But unlike at that particular haven of barbecue, vegetables get a starring role here, with blistered padron peppers, truffled cauliflower and juicy king brown mushrooms all licked by the kitchen’s flames. After 10pm, when gigs are in full swing and the place inhabits a dive bar feel, a late-night menu kicks in for souvas and snacks with a twist, like lamb nuggets and eggplant tenders.

133 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 

Photo Credit - Chotto Motto

Chotto Motto

Good-times dumpling and beer house Chotto Motto was built to grab attention, from the bold black-and-white mural lining its exterior to the full sized Okinawan slot machine tucked inside. In fact, the entire place is a retro Japanese haven, filled with knick knacks and curios as far as the eye can see. A fun-loving menu is centred on Hamamatsu-style gyoza, which are served in a crisp, lacy-edged circle (and showered with cheese if you so desire). To drink, there’s matcha sours and ume highballs, or grab yourself a craft beer from their Japanese vending machine.

287 Wellington St, Collingwood 

Photo Credit - Kekou
Photo Credit - Kekou
Kekou

Craft beer and Asian food aren’t often billed together but at Kekou they make a point of pairing the two- rotating 18 ales from breweries like Boatrocker, Balter and Blackmans to sink with punchy pan-Asian dishes. You’ll find Chinese pork belly baos, Malaysian chicken curries and spicy salmon tartare sitting pretty next to each other on the menu, confidently executed by a kitchen that knows its nuoc cham from its sambal. Whatever you do, save space for the killer calamansi parfait with palm sugar caramel and lemon myrtle meringue.

396 Bridge Rd, Richmond

Photo Credit - Hakata Gensuke Ramen
Photo Credit - Hakata Gensuke Ramen
Hakata Gensuke Yatai Ramen

With the lines at Hakata Gensuke’s city-based locations holding strong as ever, fans of their rich, hearty tonkatsu ramen will be pleased to know they’ve branched out to Carlton. Taking the name ‘Yatai’, their shop is inspired by the open air noodle stalls of Fukuoka, where the origins of their winter-ready speciality lie. Warm up with their classic soup or trick it up with nutty black garlic, while the brave can try their hand at the super spicy ‘God Fire’ edition.

126 Lygon St, Carlton

APRIL

Photo Credit - This Borderland
Photo Credit - This Borderland
 This Borderland Preston

Armed with a quirky origin story (owner Xavier O'Shanassy funded the place with winnings from an appearance on Million Dollar Minute) and a custom-built smoker, This Borderland is winning fans with faithful renditions of American diner classics, from fried chicken and waffles to moreish pecan pie. Vegans are also well catered for – they offer plant-based versions of every menu item, using seitan to create burger patties and nuggets every bit as juicy as their omnivorous counterparts.

208 Tyler St, Preston

Balagan Kitchen Windsor

Inspired by a trip to Israel, Italian restaurateur Luca Lorusso of Pizza e Vino and Café Latte fame has turned his sights eastward. At Balagan Kitchen you won’t find pizza or pasta but instead silky dips, charred whole-roasted cauliflowers and desserts like halva semifreddo laden with dates, pistachio and bright pink Persian fairy floss. Light woods and neon wall art give the dining room a bright, modern feel, while playful house cocktails like a melon frosé make it a place you’ll want to hang around.

184 High St, Windsor

Katori

Situated within The Chen’s boutique hotel, Katori is a Japanese restaurant specialising in yakiniku – a.k.a. Japanese barbecue. Sleek surrounds warmed by gold pendant lights create a fine dining atmosphere as premium marbled wagyu gets seared over binchotan grills for melt-in-the-mouth luxury. With sushi, sashimi and à la carte dishes prepared by chefs who’ve sharpened their knives at Nobu and Saké, this is one opening fans of Japanese food won’t want to miss.

850 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill 

Photo credit- Le Lee Macedonian
Photo credit- Le Lee Macedonian
Le Lee Macedonian

Prepare to fall in love with traditional Macedonian cuisine at Lé Léé, a neighbourhood restaurant expressing spades of warmth and generosity in its cooking. Light vegetarian meze like pindjur – roast peppers and eggplant relish with feta – prepares the tastebuds for the hearty meat-driven mains that follow. Toast shots of rakia – a beloved Macedonian fruit brandy – between bites of claypot meatballs and slow roasted pork belly, before delving into moreish squares of rich cherry and walnut baklava.

236 High St, Northcote

MARCH

Photo Credit - Graham Denholm
Photo Credit - Graham Denholm
DiStasio Citta

After three successful decades in St Kilda, legendary Café Di Stasio has finall expanded north with a new CBD branch on Spring St. Loyalists will find plenty of familiarity in comforting yet elegant pasta dishes such as slippery linguine with prawns and pillowy semolina gnocchi with pan-fried veal, while an ample wine list and beautiful brutalist surrounds ensure you stay for hours.

45 Spring St, Melbourne

The Estelle

Back in 2018, Scott Pickett sadly announced the closure of his acclaimed fine diner ESP, to much despair. Since then however, he’s knocked down the wall between ESP and his bistro next door to create The Estelle – a more relaxed diner that’s still cooking the inventive modern Australian he’s known for. Best of all, you can just as easily drop by the bar for a quick wagyu bolognese or kimchi toastie, as you can sit down for an indulgent five-course tasting menu.

243 High St, Northcote

Co Hanh

Flinders Lane is home to punchy Vietnamese in Co Hanh. Dig into flavour-packed dishes like crispy prawn fritters and spicy bun bo hue or roll up with a crowd and order a barbecue banquet served with traditional accompaniments. They’ve also given cocktails a regional twist with a dragonfruit gin number, and their take on the espresso martini, which pairs rum with vanilla liqueur, Vietnamese drip coffee, a dash of Baileys and condensed milk.

348 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Slider Diner

This fun westside eatery is bringing sliders back into fashion, and we’re here for it. Mix and match varieties such as classic cheeseburger, buttermilk fried chicken with kimchi slaw or crumbed calamari. Dine inside the quirky room of contrasting royal blues and pastel pinks while enjoying boozy milkshakes and pie of the day for dessert.

82 Charles St, Seddon

Giro D’Italia

Named after a century-old cycling race, Giro D’Italia will transport your senses on a journey through Italy, all from the comfort of a Carlton North terrace. Twirl your fork through classic tagliatelle bolognese or spoon up Sardinian fregola and lamb ragu – perfect for pairing with a smooth glass of Chianti. For dessert, we can’t go past owner Dom’s luscious tiramisu, featuring savoiardi and mascarpone made from scratch.

651 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

FEBRUARY

Mr Joe

At Richmond’s all day diner a calming yet unadorned interior focusses the spotlight on food, which in comparison pops with vibrancy. On the plate are Japanese-inflected dishes like crab croquettes with yuzu miso, sweet tamagoyaki omelettes with grilled pork and cheesecake drizzled in matcha syrup for dessert.

362-364 Burnley Street, Richmond

Pho Xua, Malvern

Modish Vietnamese comes to Malvern via Pho Xua, where you can get an espresso martini with your bun bo hue. Start by sharing a few plates of fresh summer rolls and grilled beef in piper lolot leaves before ploughing into old favourites like banh xeo and sugar cane prawn vermicelli.

267 Glenferrie Road, Malvern

Mamma’s Boy Trattoria

Here’s one mamma’s boy you don’t need to avoid – this Brunswick restaurant specialises in homestyle Italian cooking, with a few novel inclusions like a bruschetta bar offering a wide choice of toppings from porcini pesto, salami and grilled eggplant to black truffle, sausage and scarmoza. Mangia, mangia!

6/10 Tripovich St, Brunswick 

Melba Social

Pub food gets a modern sheen at Melba Social, where you can get panko crumbed mushrooms in queso sauce, crispy pork belly with apple cranberry compote and three cheese gnocchi with gorgonzola, grana padano and vintage cheddar. Pair your meal with a selection from their wide-ranging wine list of go for $10 cocktails on Mondays and Tuesdays.

524 Macaulay Rd, Kensington 

JANUARY

Leonardo’s Pizza Palace

From the team that brought you Chapel St funhouse Leonard’s House of Love and casual fine diner Ramblr comes Leonardo's Pizza Palace – think massive, eight slice pepperoni pies dipped in ranch dressing, thick cuts of herb stuffed porchetta and spag bol under a shower of parmesan.

29 Gratton St, Carlton 

Mya Tiger

Within the revamped Espy is a flash Cantonese diner serving favourites like sesame prawn toast, ginger chicken dumplings and XO pippies in plush surrounds – velvet booths, ornate lights and views over the water hark to an opulent era, while lychee martini slushies and fusion desserts à la mango coconut pudding and red bean mille feuille keep things fun.

11 The Esplanade, St Kilda

Prince Dining Room

The Prince of Wales Hotel is a beautiful, local gem – the kitchen’s drawing inspiration from the flavours and spices of the Mediterranean, with a focus on cooking over flames. Dine on casual yet refined dishes such as grilled baby snapper with zhoug and Flinders Island lamb with fermented chilli from a beautifully designed room full of soft curves and natural light.

2 Acland St, St Kilda


Trying to catch up on the best restaurants in Melbourne 2019?  Don't stress! We have got your covered with our round-ups of Melbourne's best café and bars openings of 2019, that will have you caught up and in-the-know in no time!