Planning a big night? These restaurants and bars offer hunger-busting eats after hours. You’ll thank us tomorrow.￼
Reviews by Morag Kobez
Just a hop, step and a stagger from the seamy bars in the Valley mall is a meat market of a classier kind where you can ogle some impressive charcuterie. Take a seat under the stars or claim a spot at the contemporary-chic concrete bar. Whether your nightcap of choice is a well-made negroni, a glass of Rioja tempranillo or an intense aged Madeira, you’re in luck. Booze-friendly snacks include spicy sobrasada Dagwood dogs with corn purée, an excellent Wagyu cheeseburger and all of those salumis – the jamón Ibérico, from rare black-foot, acorn-fed pigs, is aged for three years. Or sample the satisfyingly salty air-dried, spiced and cured pork neck. The charcuterie comes with good bread and deliciously crunchy house-pickled vegies. When you want to keep yourself nice, right until the bitter end, Gerard’s Bar is easily your best option in these parts.
13a/23 James Street, Fortitude Valley; (07) 3252 2606
Reviews by Larissa Dubecki
Bar Lourinhã isn’t open quite as late as your average tapas bar in San Sebastián (it closes at 1am on Fridays and Saturdays) but this little taste of Iberian culture in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD exhibits the freewheeling spirit that makes Spain and Portugal such seductive propositions. Amid the cheery chintz of the laneway bar – small yet so popular it occasionally feels like a competition to see how many people can get inside the narrow space – the European wines flow freely with tapas chasers, such as the signature black kingfish “pancetta” with lemon oil or the salted shrimp and chilli croquetas. Grilled Padrón peppers play chicken with the tastebuds (one in 10 is reputed to be scorching hot), while an aïoli-topped prawn tortilla arrives sizzling in a cast-iron pan. It’s a thrilling combination of food, booze and bonhomie... Spain without the airfare.
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 7890
She’s a looker, the Dutchess. The second-floor restaurant at the expensively revamped Duke of Wellington Hotel – now simply The Duke – is all cream-leather circular banquettes and has a best-party-shoes vibe. Thursday to Saturday there’s a DJ spinning tunes during your dinner set, offering ’70s funk to accompany your barbecued octopus with tomato and dehydrated olives or hapuku grounded in caramelised cauliflower and seaweed powder. Chef Dylan Kemp earned his stripes at the salubrious Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld but that doesn’t mean he’s above a midnight-and-beyond menu. Until 3am on Friday and Saturday, the kitchen will whip up dishes ranging from the luxe kingfish and piped avocado in a ponzu dressing with a fresh finger-lime pop to the hangover-busting dry-aged beef burger with truffled fries.
Level 2, 146 Flinders Street, Melbourne; (03) 9810 0055
Hang out in Melbourne long enough and eventually your late-night road will lead up the threadbare staircase at this Celestial address. The room is nothing to shout about – “utilitarian” will suffice – but for 39 years this Chinatown institution has been pumping out excellent, affordable Cantonese fare until 2.30am every day. The menu might well be carved in stone but that’s not a problem when it features steamed oysters in ginger and soy with spring onions; meaty XO pipis; and an eggplant, minced pork and salty fish hotpot that’s as restorative as you’d want it to be after midnight. As for the barbecued suckling pig, just do yourself a favour and order it. Little wonder the city’s chefs and waiters head here when they knock off work for the night.
15 Celestial Avenue, Melbourne; (03) 9663 4759
By Bridget de Maine
Evoking traditional Japanese eateries with a cosy wooden façade, there are lines snaking out from the entrance of this soothingly rowdy ramen restaurant at even the most unlikely time of day (or night). Specialising in the tonkotsu type of ramen – which drowns meat, veg and noodles in a thick, cloudy pork-bone soup as a result of over twenty hours on the boil – ramen is obviously the recommended choice. There are also smaller bites such as pork mince gyoza and fried croquettes, all worthy snacks to order with a beer or sake (of which there are plenty of options). The restaurant stops serving alcohol between five and seven am but, if you’re not here for the ramen, you’re probably missing the point.
225 Russell Street, Melbourne; (03) 9654 0989
Stumble into this 24-hour Bourke Street diner in the wee small hours of the morning and you’ll likely be thrilled with the hearty, heavy menu. Comfort food rules at this split-level restaurant – from classic grilled cheese toasties to chilli dogs with jalapeños and cheese, there’s plenty to soak up your excess abandon. The more health-conscious of late-night diners can still find an outlet – a roll of crispy tofu and Thai vermicelli slaw or a seasonal spring salad dotted with falafels and kimchi might do the trick. If not, a classic cheeseburger with bacon is the ultimate in democratic devouring.
10 Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 9639 7324
If the hordes of hungry customers (especially after a night out) don’t prove the cult-like status of this Melbourne institution, how does a Lord Mayor’s ‘Generational’ Commendation strike you? Since 1978, various generations of the Konstandakopoulos family have fronted the traditional Greek eatery Stalactites, serving up some of the city’s best lamb and chicken giros souvlaki, as well as much-loved options of tzatziki, dolmadakia and saganaki 24 hours a day. Sweets are just as tempting (homemade baklava and galaktoboureko – a custard and filo layered pastry with sugar syrup and cinnamon – both feature) so don’t fill up on the kalamari.
177/183 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 3316
Inconvenience aside, there are upsides to a queue – especially when it comes to a shopfront spruiking baked goods. When Daniel’s Donuts (opened after the success of Daniel’s Bakery) flung its doors wide in February for around-the-clock confection, the supply was met with demand. Customers lined up at all hours (yep, this donut den is open 24 hours a day) to get their hands on the pillowy sweet treats, signalling to the rest of us just how desirable these donuts were. And with delectable and inventive flavours such as lemon meringue and Golden Gaytime, it’s little wonder.
819 Princes Highway, Springvale; (03) 9547 5950
Reviews by Lucy Barbour
With its polished-concrete floor and retro flourishes, this relaxed establishment raises the bar. The after-work crowd sips crisp Beechworth chardonnay and robust French grenache while grazing on share plates of juicy brussels sprouts with salty pepita cream or tender wood-grilled carrots with crunchy black-sesame granola. Choose between bar stools and window seats or tuck yourself away in one of the soft leather booths while candle flames flicker and vinyl records spin in the background. A silky comté is the perfect way to finish but the Jane Lane cocktail, with white rum, apricot and vermouth, is equally smooth and delicious. Open until late from Tuesday to Thursday and until 2am on Friday and Saturday.
First floor, 65 London Circuit, Canberra; (02) 6230 6222
The Highball Express
The next time you’re heading to the capital, pack your Cuban cigars and dancing shoes because The Highball Express is calling. Fun-loving locals go to this hip and happening bar to sashay and salsa while sipping on zesty mojitos and punchy piña coladas. The name is a nod to the airline that flew party-hungry Americans to Cuba for wild weekends during the Prohibition years. But entry to Canberra’s own tropical paradise is much easier – via a custom-built spiral staircase located down a small laneway in the city. Cocktails and hard liquor are core business here so food options are limited but the charcuterie platters are simple and satisfying. On the breezy balcony, watch the sun go down, barrel-aged rum in hand.
Level 1, 82 Alinga Street, Canberra
Reviews by Anthony Huckstep
￼The ducks are hanging in the window, the lazy Susans are spinning and the beer glasses are clinking. Yes, this Sydney institution has finally found a new home – in the Spanish Quarter – and the energy in the room is surpassed only by the bang for buck on the plate. BBQ King has been feeding sleepless feasters since 1983 (it’s open until midnight) but with the reopening, things have gone to the next level. There’s a bit of polish on the service and there are now three levels (for takeaway, casual dining and even a VIP mezzanine) but the show is in the Cantonese umami shotgun that shoots out of the kitchen. Think pipis in XO sauce with crunchy noodles, Peking duck pancakes and sang choy bao – and duck tongues for the brave.
76-78 Liverpool Street, Sydney; (02) 9267 2433
10 William Street￼
This backstreet two-storey terrace is a home away from home for the restaurant industry so don’t be surprised if you see famous chefs sharing a bottle and a dish or two until midnight. They’re here for a reason: it’s dark, it’s boisterous and it’s a rollicking good time. Even better is the cracking Italian- and French-inspired wine list and food that’s as playful as it is lip-smacking. There’s whipped bottarga pretzel; prawn tartare with Campari oil; lamb cutlets with anchovy and potato waffle; and tagliatelle with pork ragù. The wine bar embodies the very reason why we go out to eat: for a great time with friends at a place we can rely on.
10 William Street, Paddington; (02) 9360 3310
Press Food & Wine
Press Food & Wine is one of those places that can’t say no – and that includes welcoming people who walk in when most sensible kitchens have started closing. So long as the wood grill still glows, the full menu is on call, with smaller dishes including one of the best late-night burgers in town and mains such as truffled mushroom and Taleggio pithivier with cauliflower purée, and six-hour braised beef brisket with macaroni cheese. Dishes from the grill include steak frites and an 850-gram Coorong Angus rib eye for two. The shared long tables downstairs are walk-in only but a reservation upstairs will get you a comfy booth or banquette. The wine list alone is worth the visit.￼
40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide; (08) 8211 8048
Reviews by Max Veenhuyzen
Chinatown, as a rule, is the hungry night owl’s friend. That’s certainly the case out west, where Northbridge institutions Billy Lee’s and Uncle Billy’s do a roaring trade in salt-and-pepper squid, sweet-and-sour pork and other staples on the lazy Susan. Those after something a little less predictable, however, set course for Vic Park, the city’s other great destination for Asian eating. Whereas most menus focus on Cantonese(ish) flavours, Lin’s Cuisine celebrates the tastes of China’s other regions – in particular, the incendiary flavours of Sichuan province. Chilli and peppercorns lend spark to a yabby hotpot, while chilli oil renders cold poached chicken and porcine offcuts hot and tingly. From 8.30pm each evening, skewers of meat heavily spiked with cumin are cooked to order on an outdoor grill. And – bonus – Lin’s is BYO.
9/910 Albany Highway, Victoria Park; (08) 9361 1880￼
Strictly speaking, Alabama Song is more dive bar than diner. The atmosphere on weekends is rowdy, the walls and shelves are festooned with whisky and Americana, and blues and honky-tonk bands perform behind chicken wire à la The Blues Brothers. The kitchen, meanwhile, comes to the party with a brief menu of calorific but comforting items – exactly the sort of pre-emptive strike enthusiastic drinkers might need before calling it a night. A five-figure pressure-fryer speaks to a serious commitment to fried chicken, and Alabama Song’s deeply coloured, well-spiced version is one of the city’s juicier bits of bird. Cradled in a pillowy bun, the American cheeseburger nails the sweet/salty balance and deserves to be on any burger fiend’s radar. The only drawback? Resisting the urge to order “just one more” at this lively late-night den.
Level 1, rear of 232 William Street, Northbridge
Reviews by Jo Cook
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant
This handsome cocktail bar and restaurant features tables, lounges and upholstered seating clustered around an impressively stocked central bar repurposed from the old boardwalk at Seaport. The wood-fired pizza is so good that you could live on it alone but be sure to try the scallops, celeriac and crisp pancetta or the roasted pork knuckle with swede purée, apple and cabbage. (The latter is a classic partner for Mark Robertson’s Lost Pippin sparkling pear cider from the Coal River Valley.) For something more substantial, order the pan-fried hapuku with Jerusalem artichokes in three different forms (puréed, roasted whole, skin crisps) served with toasted buckwheat and pickled clams. Linger over a glass of vintage wine – 1997 Penfolds Grange, anyone?
186 Charles Street, Launceston; (03) 6331 3652
￼Hearth Pizza & Small Plates
In a previous life, Hearth was Monty’s on Montpelier but chef Terry Clark and his partner, Lucy Chambers, have moved away from fine dining to offer a more convivial experience. While the smart interior hasn’t changed, the menu has been simplified to offer small plates and pizzas – perfect for sharing. If it’s a warm night, enjoy a drink on the verandah (try Van Dieman Brewing’s White Hills White Ale) or a late-night feast in the front garden. Have something small – bresaola, celeriac slaw, fermented garlic and pickled walnuts or octopus with quinoa tabouli – or try one of the 10 cold-fermented, hand-stretched, stone-baked pizzas. The lamb shoulder, onion marmalade and fetta pizza goes down very nicely with the Domaine Simha Simla Field Blend based on pinot noir.
37 Montpelier Retreat, Battery Point; (03) 6223 2511 ￼