Melbourne – Prepare Thyself.

Slippery When Wet - by Mugley
Image used courtesy of Mugley

I know what you think… You Melburnians. You think that you live in a city blessed with the finest and best value restaurants in the world. With hidden bars so cool that no one knows about them, with liquor laws so relaxed that most bums on the street are running funky little wine bars out of their shopping trolleys. Your espresso flows with the flavours that only a rich Italian heritage can imbue, and celebrity chefs are lining up to fill your casinos with the fanciest dining experiences available.

But I’m not buying it.

My last trip to Melbourne was a disaster. I was young, naive… immature. I thought I could gayly prance my way about the city and run into good food, wine, and coffee at every turn of the corner. That every tram stop was just a hidden alleyway away from the best dining experience of my life, and that every cafe was just waiting for me to order a coffee that would be the best I’d ever tasted.

Ok, so I was clearly delusional. Still, I had somehow built up that idea in my head. Only to be presented with bland over priced food, terrible coffee, and “institutions” that should have been closed down years ago (Perugrinos, most of Lygon St).

This time around, I’m not leaving anything to chance. I’ll be coming over for the finals of the Australian Barista Competition, so the coffee issue should be well and truly sorted. Restaurants, and bars however, are entirely up for debate.

I’ve been hearing many things about many restaurants of late, and have been checking out plenty of blogs for inspiration, but what I’m hoping fellow food lovers and seekers of truth will be able to share with me are those little pearls of wisdom that never quite make it into the travel guides and search results for “best restaurant melbourne”.

I really want some great, unique dining experiences that showcase the best of what Melbourne has to offer, at all stages of the price spectrum.

So far on my tentative list are:

Bar Lourinha or Movida
St Judes Cellar and/or Panama Room
Bistro Guillaume
Lau’s family kitchen
The Commoner
The Press Club
Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons

This of course may not work out, because I’ll be there for roughly 6 nights, and there are clearly more than 6 restaurants on that list. A little whittling down to the absolute essentials may be in order.

So… those in know… please step up to the plate. Let me know where the real Melbourne is, and also how to tell the difference between the cool alleyways, and the ones I’m going to get mugged in.

58 thoughts on “Melbourne – Prepare Thyself.”

  1. Hey Matt,

    I stumbled upon an intriguing article that mentions Melbourne’s Lentil as Anything:

    It’s Sri Lankan / Tibetan fare, and vegetarian (so don’t say I didn’t warn you). It’s also a “pay-what-you-like” format: pay what you feel the food is worth, even if you walk away without spending a dime. Not sure if you’d be curious enough to try this with all the excellent suggestions you’ve already gotten, but it’s rare that I get the chance to suggest something to you from across the pond =) I may check out another PWYL-format restaurant that has cropped up in Seattle the next time we go States-side.

    Have a good trip!

  2. i can finally post on your site! in a roundabout way read your website and found out u are buddies with urbannexus =) anyway, here are my two bits’ worth:
    brekkie / coffee joints: fandango on errol st north melbourne is fantastic, it has been reviewed on several melb blogs. gas in south melbourne has awesome french toast.
    bakeries: dench in n fitzroy, babka on brunswick st fitzroy (not on mon) for shoofly buns+blintzes and manno a fatto on gertrude st (not on mon) for pizza slices cannot be beaten.
    coffees: st ali’s has a joint on l bourke st, near hardware lane, called brother budan. the ceiling chairs is a great photo op! otherwise ango’s on flinders lane, journal on flinders lane and mess hall on bourke st are great spots too.
    dinner: seamstress for modern asian (also open for lunch), wood spoon on smith st for japanese, da noi in toorak for sardinian, jacques reymond is still consistently the best in food and service, attica is superb and interlude is good for the gastro-science. verge is a good jap-fusion place which has consistently done well through the years as well. i agree w above posts, bar lourinha and movida are different – BL for hanging out w friends, movida is more of an occasion. the press club is ok only …
    nobu is overrated.

  3. Davy, I’d like to know how thats possible coming from Perth :) But having just bought a jacket and with a few espresso’s under my belt I’m feeling very Melbourne.

    I can now officially state that St Ali is the shit – 3 coffees all superb – plus great simple tasty food, San Churro is overrated (I had the kids meal in the QV building, churros dry, chocolate unremarkable, hundreds and thousands cute), Journal is stylish but unwelcoming and serves mediocre coffee.
    Caboose looks cool, but I’m full and need to save room for VdM.

    More reports as they come to hand !!

Leave a Reply