Melbourne’s CBD: The Best Places to Eat, Drink and Be Seen At
From cool cafes to swanky restaurants, here are some of hippest places to wine, dine or simply kick back that this delectably cosmopolitan city has to offer
In a city where cafe culture reigns and a discerning crowd sifts through the uninspiring, Melbourne’s Central Business District offers the gamut, from cool cafés and hipster hangouts to swanky, high-end restaurants.
One of 2019's most buzzed-about openings was dreamt up by the same folks behind café hits such as Higher Ground and Top Paddock. Their ambitious new venture marries an eatery, grab-and-go, 200 label-strong wine shop, cheese store and private dining room within a sleek Art Deco-style space at Collins Street. Here, curved banquettes and marble tabletops blend into an inviting environment awash with neutral hues—a breather from the more masculine Manhattan-style establishments of the same era. Nosh on the familiar—think hot rotisserie chicken rolls with gravy and the likes—as well as inventive creations such as the Mapo tofu and noodle bun (yes, we are talking about noodles and tofu in a bread roll) and sip on silky lattes made with beans from Square One Coffee Roasters.
Liminal | Ground Level, 161 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia | +61 3 9639 8264
For a taste of a comfort classic, head to Holy Crumpets on La Trobe Street. Famous for homemade, toasted crumpets elevated with a variety of toppings, this café is a proponent of cooking from scratch, from its dough—freshly-milled stoneground whole wheat flour that's prepped for over 24 hours—to its home-grown fruit and vegetables. Toppings include cream cheese and candied walnuts, along with sweet-savoury options such as caramelised onions with thyme and local honey.
Melbourne, like any hipster city worth its (pink Himalayan) salt, has cottoned on to the Japanese sando trend. Have your fill of Panko-crumbed, deep-fried pork, chicken, prawn or beef cutlets, sandwiched between pillowy, crustless white bread at this little gem on Collins Street. The pièce de résistance here, of course, is the option with Wagyu, which boasts a marbling score of 7 to 8 and is served medium-rare. Aside from the cold-foam matcha lattes and pour-over beans from a Japanese roastery, other must-tries are Saint Dreux’s range of Japanese teas and wobbly Castella sponge cakes.
Saint Dreux | Level 2, Shop 2/08/260 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia | +61 3 7016 8973
Bincho Boss at upscale Little Bourke Street may not be quite as snug as the izakaya crammed into one of Japan's alleyways, but its lively atmosphere and fusion cocktails make it a place to linger at. Snag a seat at the bar and watch the resident mixologist prepare your Matcha Highball (cinnamon whisky, regular whisky, green tea and soda). Pair your tipples with some of the most elegant bar bites around, including lightly smoked, chilled duck breast on a daub of sweet miso with sorrel and mustard; and teriyaki-glazed turkey meatballs with black pepper and leek, grilled to a perfect caramelisation. The finesse of the dishes is not surprising, considering it is chef Tomotaka Ishizuka of famed kaiseki-style restaurant Ishizuka. at the helm.
Ensconced in a Lonsdale Street basement, this late-night French-inspired bar-meets-restaurant feels like a well-kept secret. Designed to resemble a New York subway station with its white, rectangular tiles, the space is dominated by a sumptuous, back-lit bar, while recessed booths offer privacy. The food here is hearty and unpretentious, with bistro favourites that include a sloppy, double-patty burger with bone-marrow sauce, while three-gulp classic cocktails help keep things interesting.
Melbourne has no shortage of swish restaurants for the well-heeled, and many of them can be found within the CBD. Spread over two floors of a historic building at Flinders Lane, Hazel's minimalist interior—blonde oak flooring with pale leather banquettes accented with architectural light fittings—belies its sprawling menu that covers an ambitious 31 items. Sink your teeth into their speciality house-made sourdough toast, topped with anchovy and kefir butter, house-made fresh cheese, fried nduja and guindillas (a type of chilli) or grass-fed beef rump tartare with creamy anchovy sauce.
Di Stasio Citta
If you are a fan of Cafe de Stasio at St Kilda's, then Di Stasio Citta, its more formal outpost at Spring Street will impress even more. The concept combines arthouse film perfection with video installations by Australian artists Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell and baby blue Murano chandeliers with a menu of classic Italian fare. White-jacketed waiters serve pasta cooked al chiodo (firmer than al dente) with guanciale, tomato and pecorino, and golden suckling pig paired with slow-roasted apple. Oenophiles can dive right into their list of vintage champagnes and wines from the house of Gaja.
Pepe's Italian & Liquor
Nostalgia for the golden age of New York City seems to be sweeping over Melbourne, with restaurant interiors gleaming with plump leather booths, brass fittings and terrazzo floors. Pepe's Italian & Liquor, an Italian-American inspired restaurant at Exhibition Street is no exception, oozing old-world charm. Skip their wine for a martini, and pair with unpretentious mains such as clams casino and veal parmigiana.
Dari Korean Cafe and Bar
Riding on the K-pop wave is Dari Korean Cafe and Bar at Hardware Lane, where you can get your fix of Korean street snacks. South Korea-born owner Yoon-Ji Park puts a bold spin on the inkigayo sandwich, named after a Korean TV show, with creations such as fluffy white bread sandwiches filled with egg and potato salad and strawberry jam, and soy-marinated bulgogi beef sitting in a milk bun drizzled with sesame mayonnaise. Other treats include savoury pancakes with calamari and chilli, washed down with malted rice-based drinks.
JiYu Thai Hotpot
Feeding Melbourne's newfound obsession for hotpot is this botanical-themed Thai option, which opened at Little Bourke Street last December. While the cosmopolitan city is no stranger to Southeast Asian fare, the experience of dipping raw fixings into bubbling pots of broth brings a whole new dimension to its communal dining scene. JiYu jazzes up this ritual with eight choices of broth including creamy tom yum, fish head, pumpkin and crab, and kangaroo tail with tomato, along with premium ingredients such as abalone, crayfish tails and Wagyu.
Whether you are in Melbourne on business or leisure, Citadines on Bourke Melbourne is an ideal place to stay at and explore the city from. Their serviced apartments, each with fully-equipped kitchenettes and separate living and dining areas, as well as in-house amenities such as a gym, indoor pool and sauna, offer all the comfort of home while placing you right in the centre of all that the hip, coastal city has to offer.