Food and wine is as important to Melbournians as their football team’s form, with the Victorian capital offering everything from gourmet street food to fine-dining establishments staffed by celebrity chefs. The Queen Victoria Market is an icon of the Melbourne food scene with the Deli Hall on Therry Street worth a visit to buy goodies for a picnic and the summer season’s Night Market is the location for an informal nomadic degustation.
Immigration has been good to Melbourne food with the waves of migrants, starting with the Chinese that arrived during the Gold Rush in the 1850s, bringing ingredients and cuisine styles to the city. An assortment of city and suburban streets have become home to clusters of restaurants from one community or another so try Lonsdale Street for Greek and Little Bourke Street for Chinese or venture outside the CBD and visit Carlton’s Lygon Street for Italian or Victoria Street in Richmond for Vietnamese.
When it comes to fine dining Flower Drum and Grossi Florentino are two city icons, Longrain and Red Spice Road serve a modern interpretation of Asian cuisine, and Crown is home to celebrity chefs like Neil Perry and Heston Blumenthal. And, if that’s not enough, the settlement is home to the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival which takes place before Easter every year.
Our top picks
45 Flinders Lane
Chef Andrew McConnell is a star of the Melbourne epicurean scene with Cumulus Inc, and sister property Cutler & Co on nearby Gertrude Street, guaranteeing fine food in relaxed surrounds. The Flinders Lane eatery is open from early in the morning until late at night –breakfast, lunch, dinner, day-time snacks, coffee and cake, a glass of wine, or drinks at the bar – with The Full English a hardy way to start the day.
99 Lygon Street
Italian is one of the five food groups in Melbourne with chef Johnny Di Francesco celebrated far and wide for crafting the best pizzas in the city at 400 Gradi and sister property Gradi on the riverbank at Crown. His Lygon Street cafe is always rammed with locals and many start with a plate of salumi before moving onto gourmet pizza made in the ``real Napoli style’’ or a plate of pasta.
Eat like a local
Sites across Melbourne
Coffee is serious stuff in Melbourne with many of the city’s best cafes, staffed by baristas that live and breathe beans and brews, concealed in lanes. Manchester Press serves bagels and has enough space to open a newspaper, The League of Honest Coffee’s pastries are as good as the beverages, Cherry & Twigs is a quiet spot up the ``New York end’’ of Flinders Lane, and Chez Dre is a haven for Francophiles in South Melbourne.
Yarra Pedestrian Bridge
Ponyfish Island, smack in the middle of the Yarra River below the pedestrian bridge that connects Southbank and Flinders Street Station, is a favourite with Melbournians who occupy the rustic wooden-box stools for hours after work and on weekends. The kitchens serves casual options at breakfast, lunch and dinner – the smashed avocado is a morning favourite and the toasties are great during winter – but the real attraction is the view.
Sites across Melbourne
High tea – an elegant afternoon experience featuring scones, crust-less sandwiches and petite fours – is a Melbourne ritual with The Langham, The Hotel Windsor, the Sheraton Melbourne Hotel, and the Park Hyatt Melbourne some of the most graceful. For something a little less formal head to Brunetti, in the City Square near The Westin or Carlton’s Lygon Street, for a serious Italian-style coffee and the city’s favourite cannoli.