What’s that they say about choosing your favourite child? Nominating Melbourne’s best restaurants is a bit like that, but we’ve done the hard work and whittled a thriving dining scene down to 10 failsafe winners. Have your napkins at the ready…
Best for fine dining
All roads for the serious gourmand lead to chef Ben Shewry’s door in Ripponlea, where an unassuming façade hides a restaurant that surprises and thrills with a keen eye for native ingredients and improbable combos (wallaby-blood pikelets, anyone?). Little wonder Attica is Australia’s top entry in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea; (03) 9530 0111
Best for city views
Vue de Monde
Perched 55 floors up at the top of the Rialto tower, Vue de Monde enjoys a stunning bird’s-eye view of Melbourne but Shannon Bennett’s food is no second banana. A proud Aussie chef-auteur, he plays with native ingredients and French technique and comes up trumps.
525 Collins Street, Melbourne; (03) 9691 3888
Best for a special occasion
This Cape Cod beach house transplanted to the St Kilda foreshore has been packing in the diners for two decades and its joie de vivre brand of hospitality is still going strong. Donovans’ menu is packed to the gunwales with sunny Mediterranean flavours and the drinks list is as deep as the waters of Port Phillip Bay.
40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda; (03) 9534 8221
SEE ALSO: The 11 Best Rooftop Bars in Melbourne
Best for a country drive
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Dan Hunter has realised the Platonic ideal of the chef’s own restaurant in Brae, a farmlet two hours’ dive from Melbourne, with a thrilling modern dégustation menu backed by a fiercely self-sufficient and sustainable ethos.
4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra; (03) 5236 2226
Best for a romantic dinner
Recently reborn after the fire that gutted the St Kilda icon nearly three years ago, Stokehouse is back on top as the glad-rag-worthy place to see and be seen. It is wall-to-wall beautiful people, oysters, sophisticated cocktails and Med-leaning fare in the luxe first-floor restaurant overlooking the bay.
30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda
SEE ALSO: One Perfect Day in Melbourne
Best for a casual lunch
Andrew McConnell was the originator and perfector of the small-plates, all-day formula that’s taken the city by storm, and Cumulus Inc remains its finest proponent. A mixture of seasonal, zesty food, high-octane buzz and polished good looks of the warehouse-like space make this Melbourne’s favourite an all-day haunt.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9650 1445
Best for a big night out
It’s the busiest restaurant in Melbourne, but dining at the no-bookings Chin Chin isn’t all about cooling your heels in a two-hour queue. Leave your name with the door staff and head to the recently remodeled downstairs bar GoGo to enjoy cocktails and bar snacks before the fiery South-East Asian onslaught: it’s a multi-pronged attack that’s sure to please.
125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 8663 2000
Best for a surprising experience
It’s backstreet Richmond but it could be downtown Tokyo. Minamishima is the polished, minimalist restaurant from Koichi Minamishima where it’s best to sit ringside along the sushi counter to enjoy the theatre and joy of a sushi master in action.
4 Lord Street, Richmond; (03) 9429 5180
Best for a family get-together
The Greeks are synonymous with family and at George Calombaris’s modern tavern Hellenic Republic the kids are welcome and the food is served sharing-style. Multiple generations can get stuck into lamb off the spit, village salads and the best saganaki (with peppered figs) in town.
28 Ferguson St, Williamstown; (03) 9393 1000
434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East; (03) 9381 1222
26 Cotham Road, Kew; (03) 9207 7477
Best for old-fashioned charm
There is no rival for Flower Drum’s genteel service in which no dropped napkin goes unnoticed. The ratio of waiters to diners in this august temple to Cantonese fine dining is ruinously high – and the incredible food from Anthony Lui is the epitome of the art form.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9662 3655