Essential Eats: Must-Book Restaurants in Melbourne CBD
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 Melbourne’s CBD. These are the restaurants to get in line for.
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
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 St, 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
Photo Credit - Vue de Monde
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
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
Photo Credit - Tonka
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
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
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
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
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
Photo Credit - Mamasita
Not only is Mamasita worth the hype, but this colourful Mexican joint has managed to sustain its buzz in the eight years 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 host of authentic, flavourful dishes – all washed down with a dash of mezcal. This place is the real deal.
1/11 Collins Street, 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
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 St, 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
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