The 21 Standout Dishes Every Melbournian Should Try
Eat your way through this bucket list of standout dishes in Melbourne.
Trends come and go, but truly standout dishes are forever. They’re not always beautiful (though many are) but they’re certainly delicious, genre-defining and worth eating again and again. We’ve travelled far and wide to put together this bucket list of must-try dishes that range from easy cheap eats to luxurious fine dining. How many have you tried?
Convivial Lebanese bakery A1 is famous for their $1.50 zaatar flatbreads – likely the best value snack in Melbourne – but consider splashing out on the $5.50 shanklish pie, a pillowy soft, boat-shaped bread vestibule filled with tangy yoghurt-based cheese, tomato, onion and dried herbs. Hot, saucy and filling, it’s a true breakfast of champions.
643-645 Sydney Road, Brunswick
It’s the pastry that needs no introduction. Lune’s perfectly shaped croissants have had a grip on our butter-loving imaginations for almost a decade now, with even the New York Times declaring them “maybe the finest you will find anywhere in the world”. Their almond croissant is particularly luxe, hefty with lush frangipane and finished with an armour of flaked almonds for a multidimensional crunch.
119 Rose Street, Fitzroy
This tiny Thai carpark eatery may not be so much of a secret anymore, but their steamy boat noodles still hold up with the best. For only $15 you’ll receive a deeply satisfying noodle soup rich with the fragrance of soy, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass and galangal. At once beefy and herbal, you can choose your preferred noodle and toppings (don’t skip the crispy pork crackling) to round out your perfect bowl.
38 Mcilwraith Place, Melbourne
This off-menu (but always available) snack quickly rocketed itself into cult status upon Sunda’s opening, and for good reason. Ripples of crispy, airy and terrifically buttery roti are accompanied by a curry sauce ingeniously spiked with Vegemite for a bomb of umami. Every item at this South-East Asian fine diner is a winner, but this one’s still its #1 must-order.
18 Punch Lane, Melbourne
This no-frills Richmond bakery is an institution for pork roll lovers, with lines out the door every day of the week. Soft yet crunchy bread envelops a trifecta of savoury Vietnamese hams in their traditional pork banh mi, but their grilled pork number steps it up a notch with juicy barbecued meat laced with caramelised onions and sweet soy marinade. Freshness comes via crisp lettuce, coriander, cucumber and pickled carrot, plus a smattering of fresh chilli if you dare.
206 Victoria Street, Richmond
Tucked inside the unassuming Midcity Arcade is one of Melbourne’s favourite dumpling destinations. Shandong Mama’s famed mackerel dumplings are made from deboned fish meat mixed with coriander, ginger and chives. The result is a light and fluffy mousse-like filling that tastes like no other dumpling you’ll find in town.
7/200 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Melbourne’s gelato scene is packed with top-tier contenders, but it’s in the heart of Lygon Street’s Little Italy that you’ll find one its best. While you can’t go wrong with classics like pistachio, bacio and dulce de leche, it’s their fun original flavours that keep us coming back. The bright tang of their lemon curd cheesecake flavour cuts through the rich creaminess of the gelato, making it both satiating and refreshing at the same time.
334 Lygon Street, Carlton
Proper jam doughnuts aren’t easy to find in Melbourne, and once you’ve tasted these pocket rockets you’ll never go back. Head to Queen Victoria Markets to find their retro blue and white van, outside which a queue snakes for one thing only – hot, crispy doughnuts sent straight from the fryer into a bath of sugar, then piped with a shock of sweet plum and raspberry jam. Watch your fingers though, these are always served fresh and super hot.
Queen Street, Melbourne
It’s an unlikely contender for star dish at a sleek modern wine bar, but then again, nothing about this snack is pedestrian. Loved and lauded by all those who try it, this crispy croquette of pork terrine bursts with juicy savouriness upon first bite, cushioned by a lick of startlingly green mustard leaf mayo and fluffy white sandwich bread. Pair it with a cool glass of pét-nat and you’re in heaven.
49 Peel Street, Collingwood
Beloved pasta restaurant Tipo 00’s take on the classic tiramisu is one for the ages. Starting with a dense choc brownie base filled with mascarpone cream and dark rum, it’s capped with a disc of dark chocolate and then theatrically poured over with a salted espresso, caramel and dark chocolate sauce at your table. It’s meant for sharing, but trust us – you won’t want to.
361 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
If Supernormal’s lobster roll is ever taken off the menu, you can expect a revolt. Soft, buttery brioche buns hug cool chunks of sweet lobster meat, married with the perfectly balanced sauce of Kewpie mayo, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and mustard. It all eventuates in two or three bites of pure luxury, just enough to leave you wanting more.
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
If you didn’t wrap your hands around a warm, delicious borek at Queen Vic, did you even go? This legendary cheap eat is a Turkish specialty, with fillings such as spinach and cheese, spicy lamb and potato encased by crisp yet fluffy bread. Grab one from the friendly ladies on your way in and you’ll be energised for the shop ahead.
Queen Street, Melbourne
Avo toast may be the workhorse of Melbourne brunch culture, but this Aussie-Japanese café’s rendition is worth crossing town for. At IMA, they first slather their sourdough with nori paste, a savoury spread of seaweed boiled down with soy sauce. Then comes slices of creamy avocado, a blanket of crispy kale and a shower of furikake – a sweet and salty seasoning of sesame seeds, nori and dried bonito that adds loads of umami and texture.
169 Elgin Street, Carlton
When you ask chefs where they eat, Flower Drum is the name that comes up time and again. A paragon of Cantonese fine dining and impeccable service, they’ve played host to countless special occasions and high-powered business lunches. One dish that exemplifies their brand of refined cuisine is pearl meat – sourced from Paspaley’s pearl-producing oysters, this delicate ingredient is skilfully sautéed with spring onion, garlic chives and asparagus, before being served in its shimmering shell.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne
The enduring combination of perfectly cooked steak, thin fries and lightly-dressed salad lives on at classic French bistro France-Soir, where it’s been on the menu for some 30 years. They don’t mess with the formula here, sticking to 250 grams of prime scotch fillet cooked medium rare and topped with a dollop of tangy sauce Bearnaise. Let the somm pour you a glass of big, spicy Shiraz and you’ll be living the good life.
11 Toorak Road, South Yarra
You’ve seen it confound contestants on Masterchef and grace Instagram feeds everywhere. IDES’ show stopping dessert is the dramatic finale to every degustation, taking the form of a mysterious jet black cube accompanied by a miniature steel hammer. Smash the cube open and a beautiful rubble of components is revealed – the exact mixture changes often but includes elements like caramel mousse, nutty crumbs, compressed fruits, jellies and pearls.
92 Smith Street, Collingwood
Suitable for both a hearty breakfast or a light lunch, Napier Quarter’s anchovy toast is the sophisticated European cousin of the things-on-bread genre. Crisp organic rye sourdough is the bed upon which dollops of mayonnaise, fanned-out slices of egg and luxe Olasagasti anchovies lie – all jazzed up by a generous drizzle of zingy salsa verde.
359 Napier Street, Fitzroy
At this adorable Collingwood café the humble Japanese dish of okonomiyaki reigns supreme. Hearty, chunky and filling, it’s the kind of comfort food you’ll travel miles for. The plate-sized savoury pancakes are chock-a-block with cabbage, leek and your choice of fillings (think pork belly, seafood, tofu), grilled until they’re crispy and golden, then topped with a crosshatch of sauces.
22 Smith Street, Collingwood
MSB’s chickpea bake is the stuff of legend. Crispy, brown butter-brushed flatbread is layered with garlickly yoghurt and tahini, toasted chickpeas and smatterings of smoked paprika and parsley. The result is a festival of texture and flavour, as filling as it is addictive. Loyalists bring their own tupperware and take it home by the kilo.
316 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
Very Good Falafel makes very, very good falafel indeed. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and fragrant with onion, garlic and herbs, we’re not afraid to call it the best in Melbourne. Served fresh and piping hot, they’re best enjoyed slowly on a plate with an assortment of dips, pickles and salads.
629 Sydney Road, Brunswick
This elegant pasta dish is easily recognisable as an Osteria Ilaria original. Paccheri – big tubes of al dente pasta – sit in an addictive bisque of seafood, tomato and sorrel that’s then garnished with sweet prawns and fragrant prawn oil. Every saucy, flavourful mouthful will keep you coming back.
367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
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