Oh, Melbourne, how you’ve changed. From after-dark wasteland to cosmopolitan night owl in a few short decades, this arts-loving city centre has plenty to offer around the clock.
It’s like a Parisian bistro magicked into the CBD (with Melbourne coffee). Recently expanded into larger digs in Katherine Place as well as the Hardware Street spot, these cafés encourage you to start the day the French way with a breakfast bellini and lobster Benedict, while fried brioche lavished with hibiscus syrup, meringue and Chantilly cream brings the oh là là.
The cult roti with Vegemite curry isn’t on the menu – only 25 serves are made each night. But that’s not the only innovation at Sunda, in Punch Lane. A scaffolding-lined fit-out sets the scene for chef Khanh Nguyen’s skills and love of Indigenous ingredients in dishes such as Fremantle octopus with bush tomato, lemongrass sambal and onion.
Di Stasio Cittá
The Spring Street outpost of 31-year-old St Kilda institution Café Di Stasio bounds out of the blocks with its unique art-driven personality and a menu of instantly recognisable produce-centred Italian perfectionism. Join the top end of town celebrating la dolce vita over aperitivo, pasta and roasted suckling pig.
A raucous rock ’n’ roll bar usually open until 3am, Heartbreaker on Russell Street is beloved for its cocktails, jukebox stacked with 1960s and ’70s tunes (Bohemian Rhapsody is all but guaranteed) and New York-style pizza.
Bomba Rooftop Bar
Five floors above Lonsdale Street, Bomba doubles down on the city’s rooftop bar obsession with an excellent drinks list celebrating sherry, gin and cocktails and a winning array of Spanish snacks, including “bikinis” (don’t be alarmed – they’re Catalan-style toasties).
Melbourne is no identikit city and QT is no cookie-cutter hotel. Video art, quirky objects and staff with the dial set to cheeky make this Russell Street haunt that rarest of finds: a hotel with a sense of humour. It still takes the fundamentals seriously – as seen at Pascale Bar & Grill, the antithesis of the bland hotel restaurant, and the leafy Rooftop at QT bar with some of the best sky-high vistas in town.
It’s a city that’s best explored on foot, thanks to the laneways and arcades that snake through its famous Hoddle Grid. Set out on a voyage of discovery (maps are available at Federation Square and the Town Hall but why spoil the fun?). Be sure to find your way to the “vertical laneway” of historic Curtin House on Swanston Street – six levels of eating, drinking, live music and shopping topped with a rooftop bar and cinema.
But first, caffeine...
Get your fix at Patricia, a bolthole in the heart of the legal district with standing room only. Choose from black, white or filter, served in handmade ceramic cups.