Our experts go fork to fork over Melbourne’s best dining haunts.
The chef: Andrew McConnell
Chef-owner of landmark Melbourne restaurants such as Cumulus Inc, Supernormal and Cutler & Co.
The critic: Larissa Dubecki
Qantas magazine’s Victorian food reviewer and author of memoir Prick with a Fork.
But first, coffee...
LD: In a city that takes its coffee very seriously indeed, Patricia Coffee Brewers stands out from the pack. You’ll be standing – there are no seats at this tiny bolthole in the legal district – but it’s worth the hardship for an exacting, award-winning brew made by the best baristas in the business.
The restaurant that nails the Melbourne vibe
AM: Definitely Bar Lourinhã in the CBD. It’s an Iberian-style tapas bar with a fantastic personality and a relaxed, professional vibe that is anchored by great food. It’s been around for more than 10 years and the food is always delicious.
LD: Marion wine bar in Fitzroy. It’s the kind of place where you go to meet a friend for a quick drink but three hours later you’re still there and you’ve eaten multiple small plates of delightful things and developed a wine crush on an obscure Portuguese varietal recommended by the sommelier.
The best fine dining
AM: Attica in Ripponlea. I think chef Ben Shewry and the team have created a new benchmark for chefs across the world. Dining here is always thought-provoking and fun.
LD: Ben has done such an incredible job with Attica and his evolution – seeing the restaurant move from serving Thai food to great upmarket Australiana – has been extraordinary. The food is always so clever and Ben hasn’t lost sight of how to make it delicious.
For a late-night bite
AM: I’m not out after midnight that often but I recently went to Bar Margaux on Lonsdale Street and it was brilliant. It’s open until the early hours and is the perfect spot to have a good burger or steak and salad along with a nice glass of wine.
LD: I love the food at Arlechin in the city. The team serves a punchy little menu until the early morning. Their bolognese jaffle is just what you want to munch on after a few drinks.
A great spot for a casual lunch
AM: I just love Tipo 00 on Little Bourke Street. The vibe there makes you feel like you’re in a provincial trattoria. There’s always something interesting to drink and the quality of the food is stellar. They serve some of my favourite pastas in Melbourne.
Also top: Tipo 00 Melbourne chef Andreas Papadakis making pasta
LD: I can’t go past Tipo 00 – it’s such a great pasta bar, with a truly wonderful atmosphere. If you don’t have a booking, you need to get there at about 11.30am to have a hope of making it through the doors. My go-to is the squid ink tagliolini served with squid and shaved bottarga.
AM: Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar (66 Bourke Street; 03 9662 1885) off Crossley Street is an institution. It’s where I had my first coffee and my first spaghetti carbonara – it holds such a sense of nostalgia for me. It’s a special place for many Melburnians who all seem to have a shared connection to this café.
LD: Sunda on Punch Lane is a South-East Asian eatery that opened in 2018 and its head chef, Khanh Nguyen, is creating such clever things – last year he introduced Melbourne to the Vegemite curry. His menu ties together the best from a variety of cuisines, including Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese.
AM: The Lune croissant. I remember when Lune Croissanterie opened in Fitzroy; I was sitting in my car, taking my first bite and having one of those, “Oh, I can see what the fuss is about” moments. The store is a temple to great pastry.
LD: I love the yellowtail kingfish “pancetta” at Bar Lourinhã. The kingfish has this beautiful texture that is a bit firmer to the bite than a normal crudo and it’s served with lemon oil, red onion and herbs. If it ever came off the menu, there would be a small riot.
The ultimate dessert
AM: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Southbank serves the chef’s famous tipsy cake. It’s basically balls of soft brioche with a crunchy crust, basted in brandy caramel and served with woodfired pineapple – simple yet sophisticated.
LD: The cannoli at Rosa’s Canteen in the CBD are legendary. There are a lot of traditional cannoli in Melbourne but you don’t mess with Rosa’s – hers are so Sicilian that they stand out. Just beware: they can be pretty boozy
so maybe don’t drive afterwards.
AM: I love Lee Ho Fook in the CBD. The crisp eggplant with spiced red vinegar is one of my favourites and has become a staple dish of the city. If you’re tight on time, they’ll feed you amazing food and have you out the door in 45 minutes.
LD: City Wine Shop, right next to the Princess Theatre, does beautiful European food that is easy to enjoy with a couple of glasses. My go-to order is the chicken schnitzel with Italian slaw.
AM: Maker & Monger at Prahran Market. Anthony Femia, who runs the show, is one of Melbourne’s best affineurs. It’s part cheese shop, part food stall and it serves some of the most delicious grilled cheese toasties you’ll ever get your hands on – one of my favourites is the cheddar and jalapeño.
LD: Nothing stays a secret very long in Melbourne but Soi 38 has managed to fly under the radar for a while. It’s a small Thai eatery tucked into a car park in the CBD and the boat noodles with crackling are really good.
SEE ALSO: Our Guide to Melbourne’s Best Wine Bars
Image credit: Harvard Wang (Marion); courtesy Bar Lourinhã; courtesy Maker & Monger