Good dishes come and go but the true stayers insert themselves into a city’s collective hearts and minds. Go forth and taste the town with these 10 edible icons that never leave the menus of top Melbourne restaurants.
Anchoa at MoVida
This meaty Cantabrian anchovy and a quenelle of smoked tomato sorbet on a thin crouton raft has rightly become MoVida’s calling card across its restaurants from Melbourne to Bali. It’s meaty, salty, squishy, crunchy and altogether perfect – and Melbourne’s favourite tapas bar wouldn’t be the same without it.
1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9663 3038
Tagliolini at Tipo 00
It has only blessed Melbourne with its presence for four years, yet Tipo 00 is so indelibly a part of the city’s food scene the locals could be forgiven for wondering how they ever did without its life-affirming pasta. Its best incarnation? While it’s a bit like choosing a favourite child, the tagliolini al nero – the supplest strands of squid ink-black pasta twirled around swatches of squid and dusted with bottarga – is numero uno.
361 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 9942 3946
Lobster omelette at Café di Stasio
Despite being on the cusp of its thirtieth birthday, Café Di Stasio shows no sign of becoming staid. That isn’t to say the menu isn’t dotted with stalwarts as beloved as family members, such as the lobster omelette sitting in a deep, rich bisque moat. It’s note-perfect luxury, wrapped up in simplicity.
31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda; 03 9525 3999
Wild barramundi noodles at Flower Drum
Rightfully rusted onto the menu since their invention by Flower Drum owner and executive chef Anthony Lui seven years ago, these improbably elastic noodles are composed almost entirely of wild barramundi fillets, complemented by finely diced Chinese pork sausage and a pinch of dried tangerine zest. Stir-fried with shiitake mushrooms and garlic shoots, they’re a thrilling homegrown addition to Flower Drum’s high-end Canto oeuvre.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9662 3655
Saganaki at Hellenic Republic
Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city in the world outside Greece and Hellenic Republic’s saganaki is here to do the strength of that influence justice. A pitch-perfect rendering of toasty sizzling kefalograviera cheese with a viscous-sweet addition of peppery figs, it’s the sort of thing you want to go back for again and again.
434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East; (03) 9381 1222
26 Cotham Road, Kew; (03) 9207 7477
Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown; (03) 9393 1000
New England lobster roll at Supernormal
The lobster roll needs no introduction. As the New England interloper at the modern Sino-Japanese celebration that is Supernormal, it’s the perfect marriage of chilled lobster, warm buttered brioche roll, watercress and Kewpie mayo. Order one, or two – everybody else does.
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9650 8688
Supernormal Canteen, 2/157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda; (03) 9525 4488
Chickpea bake at Moroccan Soup Bar
It’s a singular place. A spoken menu, no alcohol, all vegetarian, plus a chickpea bake to die for. Otherwise known as fatteh, it’s a combination of oven-roasted chickpeas, crunchy shards of pita bread, herbs, spices and yoghurt that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
183 St Georges Road, Fitzroy; (03) 9482 4240
Chicken schnitzel with Italian coleslaw at City Wine Shop
Sometimes they call it a cotoletta, sometimes it’s a schnitzel. The one constant is that the golden-crumbed, pan-fried chicken is one of life’s simple pleasures for a lazy lunch at the City Wine Shop. The Italian coleslaw, piquant with capers and boasting an umami-fied burst of parmesan in the dressing, is the perfect accompaniment – not counting a glass of Riesling of course.
159 Spring Street, Melbourne; (03) 9654 6657
Bully burger at Tuck Shop Takeaway
How very Melbourne – an off-menu burger that you have to ask for by name. “I’ll have the secret burger” won’t cut it at Tuck Shop Takeaway – you need to specifically order the Bully burger and an excellent burger it is too, with a double beef pattie (perfectly pink on the inside) with double cheese, double free-range bacon, jalapeños and Sriracha on a lightly toasted brioche milk bun.
273 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North; 0431 406 580
Kingfish pancetta at Bar Lourinha
The yellowtail kingfish “pancetta” has been on the menu since the very start of this now 10-year-old portal to Iberia lurking in the upper reaches of Melbourne’s CBD. Lightly cured in salt and spices, the yellowtail kingfish is served thinly sliced and finished with lemon oil, red onion and fresh thyme leaves. So simple, so good.
37 Little Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 7890
Top image: Supernormal