Restaurants and Bars - Eat and Drink

For the culinary traveller, Melbourne is one of the best destinations in the world. There's an abundance of restaurants and cafes representing almost every cuisine, from cheap eats to WHOA. Though tipping is not compulsory, it is suggested, particularly if you receive good service or are dining high-end, 5-10% tip is adequate. In high circulation are take-away pizza, Thai, fish n' chips and sushi shops - you'll see them wherever you go.

Melbourne has a long and rich coffee culture beginning with Victorian era coffee places and further enhanced by Italian migrants arriving in the aftermath of World War II. As a result, cafes are everywhere. They serve as meeting places, study areas, people watching posts and, for the self-consciously hip Melbournians, a place to be watched. There's lots of competition so expect good coffee.

There are so many wonderful cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs across the city, you'll have great time exploring and discovering them. This compiled list of particular standouts should help you along the way!

City Centre

As a rule the best and most upmarket restaurants are located here, but it is also a melting pot of diverse cuisines. A great spot to go is Little Bourke Street, Melbourne's China Town. It has fantastic (and often cheap) dumpling houses, Korean BBQ, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants.

The city is also sprinkled with Melbourne's famous 'hard to find' bars down seemingly deserted alleyways. Many are unsigned, their frontage being a simple door down an alley, but the general rule is: the harder it is to locate, the cooler it will be! Once you find one they seem to pop up everywhere you look.

  • Gingerboy An awesome, modern SE Asian restaurant serving an innovative menu of hawker-stand inspired dishes in a slick, sexy restaurant. Order the Son in Law eggs, the red duck curry and a Thai Moon cocktail, and enjoy the fabulous service. It's so cool; highly recommended.
  • MoVida Spanish tapas/bar/restaurant very close to Fed Square, it's very popular so you may have to book ahead. Check out the graffiti in this laneway too!
  • Mamasita One of Melbourne city's few, if only, really good Mexican restaurants. The food is fresh and delicious! Go when it opens at 6pm to get a table, but expect a wait.
  • The Press Club A Melbourne icon serving Modern Greek fare, one of the best.
  • Longgrain An excellent modern Thai restaurant; the food is top end, along with the prices! Try the betel leaves and crunchy garfish. Mmmm.
  • Camy's Dumpling House Head here for Shanghai style dumplings by the bucket load. They're so cheap and you can wash them down with a Tsingtao beer! It's always busy so expect to wait, but it won't be long. Service is sometimes hilariously rude, but just think of it as adding to the aggressive charm of the place!
  • Pellegrini's Espresso Bar An Italian style no frills value for money cafe. It's been around for years and will last on.

  • Young and Jacksons The most famous pub in the city, mostly because it's right opposite Fed Square and Flinders St Station...and it hangs illustrious upon its wall a famous painting of a nude lady.
  • Riverland Nestled on the banks of the Yarra, it's a must do in Summer when it attracts a relaxed and fun-loving crowd sipping wine and watching the glorious lights over the river. Very nice.
  • The Workshop A second floor dark den of a bar to get lost in! It has a wonderful geometric interior with a comfy indoor/outdoor area and serves really cheap pizzas till late. A cool place to hang out and have a Bloody Mary.
  • Madam Brussels One of the most popular bars in Melbourne; it has a vintage croquet vibe, decorated with chintz, patio furniture and fake grass, and bar staff dressed in tennis whites. Take the elevator up three flights and have a Pimms!
  • Section 8 It's a bar. Down a lane. In a shipping container. Yep.
  • Cookie, The Toff in Town and Rooftop Bar and Cinema This building contains three great bars, you just keep climbing flights of stairs till you get to them! Cookie is popular with the after work crowd and has wonderful cocktails, The Toff has awesome private tram carriages which serve as booths (you can even close the doors and have some, a-hem, private time), and Rooftop is an outdoor bar and cinema on the sixth floor with fantastic views over the city, great in Summer.
  • Hell's Kitchen Getting there involves two ally turns, an unmarked doorway and a flight of dingy stairs lined with beer kegs. You are, however, rewarded with the cream of quirky Melbourne and hilariously bouffanted or moustachioed staff who seem to always be pouting. It's fantastic; so laid-back, so easy and so Melbourne.
  • Chill On Ice Lounge Made entirely of ice, including the bar and glasses, and with an ambient temperature of minus 10 degrees, it's definitely the coolest bar in Melbourne! Ha ha, pun.
  • New Gold Mountain A single unsigned door marks the entry to this warm, über decorated bar with nooks and crannies, velvet and secret rendezvous abundant. Choose red floor or green floor and one of the interesting cocktails! It's above another great bar, Double Happiness.
  • Sister Bella..lets see if you can find this one!

Carlton

Italian cafes and restaurants are plentiful throughout, but are in greatest concentration on Lygon Street, where you can run the gauntlet of very loud and very Italian restaurant spruikers.

  • Seven Seeds Along with St Ali in South Melbourne, this coffee roaster and cafe produces hands down the best coffee in Melbourne. Put your hands down other cafes, hands down. They have a sister cafe called Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke St in the city.
  • D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar A slick pizza bar making contemporary yet authentic pizzas piled high with fresh, interesting ingredients which the locals line up out the door for. The service it quick with a joke, a smile or a wink (so beautifully Italian), and are not too bad to look at either! You'll love it.
  • iLCantuccio Restaurant An authentic Italian family restaurant, thankfully sans spruikers, with Al fresco seating and heart-warming homemade pastas. Try the hand-made gnocchi or squid ink spaghetti!

St Kilda

  • Wabi Sabi Garden A sweet little Japanese restaurant in the backstreets between St Kilda and Windsor. The interior is warm and the garden out the back is a tranquil oasis. Have warm Sake and try the pork belly with blueberries.
  • The Local Taphouse East St Kilda is known for its cool hangouts, and this is one of them. You'll find a long bar downstairs boasting an excellent array of international beers from crispy white to rich black, then another bar, a cosy restaurant and a beer garden (outdoor area) upstairs. A backpacker favourite, The Local is a multicultural, flavourful, sexy place, i.e. it's like Melbourne!
  • Lentil As Anything In a shop between Acland St and the gardens lies this interesting place. It is, as you'd imagine, vegetarian fare but the meals are huge and very tasty. Uniquely, you pay for what you think the meal is worth - there are no set prices.
  • Claypots A St Kilda gem, this rustic place offers up delicious seafood in a warm and buzzing environment. They don't take bookings so get there early to get a table, or expect a wait. It's not too expensive, around mid-range but not a cheap eat.
  • La Roche Cafe Cheap food and a buzzing ambiance are the key features of La Roche. It's filled with backpackers taking advantage of the value nightly specials, and the days see groups enjoying the outdoor seating and views of the eclectic St Kilda pedestrians over a pint or five. The menu is your standard steak, fish and pasta affair; not flash, just large!
  • Republica A hugely popular bar with mostly outdoor seating overlooking the St Kilda foreshore, perfect for a Rosé and some oysters in the sun (you should eat the oysters in the sun, not leave the oysters in the sun!) It's located at the back of the St Kilda Sea Baths. On warm nights expect a queue.

  • Pure Pop Records Just down the road from Claypots, near the corner of Acland and Barkley St, is Pure Pop. From the outside it looks like just a record store, but wander through and you'll find a lovely courtyard with a small stage and hopefully someone playing some ripping music on it. See the website for listings.
  • The Vineyard When you hit Acland this is the most obvious, fun looking place. It's right opposite some parkland and Luna Park, with a super outdoor area and often some live music like jazz. Perfect for a weekend drink.

Windsor

  • Orange A Chapel St fixture, this cafe/bar/restaurant has been around for years and seems to step up its upmarket-ness at they tick over. The wooden footpath seating holds a constant stream of Chapel Scenesters, smoking and drinking the excellent coffee on offer. There's a lovely courtyard out the back which moulds itself around a large tree, and the food is excellent but expect to pay a bit.
  • Dukes Coffee This is the new player on the Windsor coffee scene, which, by the way, Melbournians take very seriously! The coffee is rad (roasted there), the space well thought out and funky, the service professional and the food fantastic. And reasonable priced too...*Orange ahem*. It'll serve you a glorious Windsor breky and cuppa after a glorious Windsor night out!
  • Borcht, Vodka and Tears Yay for this place! The vodka and cocktail list is impressive to say the least and the food is sort of Polish tapas, which sounds weird but is all kinds of wonderful. Try a spicy Moscow Mule with a side of Pierogi. Also, ask for a Polish Bitch or two. Go on, do it.
  • Lucky Coq A huge, shabby chic, multi story bar on the corner of High St with comfy couches below and a courtyard above. Great $4 pizza specials and beers on tap. The toilets are decorated with decoupaged vintage magazines from the 50's - that sums up the vibe.
  • Hoo Haa An upstairs bar and Italian restaurant on Chapel, modern inside, but with an intimate vintage feel. It gets pretty busy on Friday and Saturday nights with young Chapel revellers, but a weeknight dinner will be flawless in both service and substance. Look for the sign on the street to find the door.
  • La La Land Another icon of Windsor and one of the forerunners of Melbourne's bar boom, just a few doors down from Orange. It's just a cosy little bar and the drinks aren't too expensive, you can even get longnecks (large beers). Grab a couch by the fire and curl up in Winter, but on weekends make way for the crowds.
  • Windsor Castle Hotel It's tucked in the back streets which doesn't seem to effect it's popularity at all! It's got a warm, shabby-chic interior and nice food, but people really go for the large colourful courtyard out the back. It's a good place for a drink most times and gets very busy on Sundays. Look fot the pink elephants on the roof!
  • mothersMilk Another small, hip, designer bar with outdoor seating and a good covered deck upstairs. It’s open really late so people flock here on the weekends when other places close, particularly the Windsor Castle.

Prahran and South Yarra

  • Gurkhas Nepalese Restaurant Get the table in the window and enjoy a meat filled dinner whilst sitting on the floor.
  • Piccolo Espresso A cruisy little cafe by day, bar by night. Weekends see DJ's and it has outdoor seating on the footpath. If Chapel Street is getting too much for you, this is a good escape. Try the coffee shots!
  • Hanoi Hannah A relatively new lady on the Widsor/Prahran circuit, Hanoi Hannah serves tasty Vietnamese-inspired dishes to hungry locals. The interior, like many new-wave Melbourne restaurants, is smooth and eclectic, and, honestly, the jostling, cool vibe of the place out-does the food. That's not to say it's not terrific, just that you can get the same food in a cafeteria on Victoria Street, but you're not hanging out there for the ambience, are you? Here's hoping she sticks around!
  • Oriental Teahouse It's a shop, teahouse and restaurant in one. Go for the Yum Cha and check out the delicate modern teapots and interesting teas.
  • Squires Loft Steakhouse You think steakhouse and visions of sawdust covered floors and a T-Bone out-sizing your plate come to mind. Forget that, this place is the opposite. Beautiful meats in a lovely setting.
  • Electric Ladyland A popular Chapel venue set in a lovely old warehouse conversion. It's pretty low key and comfy when it's not Fri or Sat night, and the paintings on the walls are superb. You may have to queue so look your best!
  • Revolver A famous Melbourne club, known as 'Revs' to the locals. Even if they don't remember it, everyone has had a night there, or finished a big night there, on one of the many couches. It has live music and bands, great hip-hop and dance acts, a good restaurant during the week and even a monthly market. Of particular note are the massive Shepard Fairey and Banksy stencils in the main room.
  • Red Bennies A burlesque themed club which holds live performances and circus acts on the weekends. It also has an indoor-seeming outdoor area which neatly dodges the smoking laws!
  • College Lawn A pretty vine-covered hotel, a good example of your typical Up Market Aussie pub, popular with footballers and private school kids. Cover bands, trivia and a bistro.
  • Lamb on Chapel It's late, you need a kebab, head here with the rest of Chapel Street. Try a lamb 'Souva' with garlic and bbq sauce. Win.

Fitzroy and Collingwood

  • The Horn African Cafe & Music Lounge African food is a relatively new cuisine de jour in Melbourne, and this popular Ethiopian eatery is trendy locals, had a super courtyard and live music most nights a week.
  • Grumpy's Green Sort of half pub, half restaurant with some live music thrown in. It has 'vegetarian pub food' which sounds iffy but really is super scrumptious with huge portions for a good price. This is a great place to relax and knock back some ciders.
  • Veggie Bar Another vegetarian restaurant, or rather THE vegetarian restaurant in Fitzroy, a suburb that's rife with them. It's always packed with a fun buzzing vibe, and the food is fantastic.

  • Kent Street An awesome bar/cafe with great coffee. Inside it looks like a vintage furniture shop but sit on the pavement for some people watching. They don't serve food but they allow you to order from the Japanese next door (which is really good too). Try the sweet potato Gyoza!
  • The Napier Hotel This great little backstreets pub is very popular with the locals, good for a relaxing beer and has a wonderful menu including a "roo parma" and the "bogan burger", a burger with...nah, you should find out yourself!
  • Moroccan Soup Bar A wonderful and cheap little Moroccan vegetarian place, exceedingly popular so get there early because they don't take bookings. It's simple, fast and cheap.
  • Bar Open If you want to see the music of underground Melb, this is the place. It's an open space which anyone can get booked to perform in, and it's generally free. There's a nice grungy sort of bar downstairs and exhibitions, film and performances by the weird and wonderful upstairs.
  • First Floor Go up one level and you'll find this funky club. It has lots of live music, particularly excellent DJ's, electronic and hip-hop acts.
  • The Night Cat Step back into a more glamourous age, raise your hands and say 'We love this place!' because you will. It's a huge groovy dance space which often hosts 12 piece Latin or funk bands and sexy singers. It gets packed but you won't mind as you'll be too busy swinging your hips!
  • The Grace Darling Set in a majestic old pub (Melbourne's second oldest) this place is a hive of activity on weekends. The trendy locals hangout, people eat in the restaurant (which offers superb food) and bands play upstairs. A great venue.
  • A Bar Called Barry A very popular bar, particularly with travellers, that gets jumpin' on the weekends. It has three bars and three dance floors on which to enjoy Saturday pop night or Thursday drag night. It's a bit trashy but fun.
  • Panama Classy upstairs bar and dining room in a warehouse conversion with huge windows which make you think 'I wish I lived here' and look over the street below. Good beers on tap.

Brunswick

  • Hellenic Republic Located down the Brunswick end of Lygon St, this is a more casual sister restaurant to the Press Club. Very good Greek food.
  • Jellystone Simple, quality food backs up the best coffee in the area in this old bluestone building turned cafe. It has a rustic atmosphere and an expansive outdoor area next to a park that attracts lots of parents and those out for a walk with their pooch! The staff are funky friendly; it's soooo Brunswick, you'll love it.
  • The Green Refectory A busy cafe serving homemade food amongst an eclectic mix of the Brunswick artsy crowd, university students and young professionals pushing prams. Look for the 'Illy' coffee sign out the front.
  • The Retreat Fashionably unfussy interior, pub food and live music. The courtyard out the back is green and huge! It gets very busy on the weekends.
  • Edinburgh Castle A favourite with the locals, this pub is a live music venue, a popular hangout place and also has good food. Go for the $10 'roo' and wine night on Mondays, the ukulele collective on Wednesday, or have a hit of table tennis out the back any night of the week!

Richmond

Eating out on Victoria Street, Richmond is a must whilst in Melbourne. It is one of the Vietnamese areas of the city and the street is literally lined with restaurants one after the other with names like Thanh Ha, Thanh Phong, Thanh Thanh, Thy Thy, Tran Tran and Tho Tho (actual names!) There are some that look more upmarket than others, but this is no indication of quality, just look for where the people are and you'll find good food, even if the place looks like a cafeteria. There are lots of Pho (noodle soup) shops and restaurants offering other Vietnamese and Chinese favourites, try rice paper rolls or Vietnamese coleslaw!

  • Pho Dzung Tan Dinh‎ A cafeteria-looking Pho joint colloquially known as "chicken and a cow", due to its undisplayed name and colourful animal signage. It cannot be beaten for cheap Pho, all you have to do is choose chicken or beef and the bowl size, and stay away from the pizzle.

  • Der Raum A heavily awarded cocktail bar on the forefront of 'mixology', considered the best in Australia and one of the best in the world. It's in a very unassuming locale and has drinks served in jars, syringes, beakers and even a flask in a paper bag! You'll have to dig deep for the cashola though, and book a table ahead online.
  • Great Britain Hotel A local favourite filled with couches, pool tables and a good courtyard out the back. See if you can get to the basement...
  • The Corner Hotel A Melbourne favourite, it's been hosting huge live music acts for years. It's your typical well loved, shabby band venue with a pole blocking your view! Check the website to see what's on.
  • Holliava Just down the road from the Corner with a completely different clientele. This place is upmarket for the fashionable glam crowd so dress up.
  • The Terminus When you're done with your Vietnamese feast head down the road to 'The Termy', they have stuff on most nights of the week like trivia, bingo and open mic nights, and you can also get a good pub feed if you're not already full to the brim. Great courtyard.
  • The Swan Ah...the dirty Swan. If you like cover bands, sticky floors, footballers and loud shrieking girls, this is the place for you. It's an icon of Richmond because it's so very terrible and so very popular at the same time. Good for a dance or to find that special someone...

Honourable Mentions Around Town

  • The Abyssinian (Kensington) A hugely popular Ethiopian restaurant, filled with locals looking for an elaborate, novel and relatively cheap dinner. The aromatic stews and curries are served on a large pancake in the middle of the table and everyone eats with their hands, which is messy but fun. The goat curry is to die for.
  • Bagelicious (Elsternwick) This bakery, and the entire area including East St Kilda, is great for boiled Jewish bagels. They serve up top-notch bagels with a variety or fresh fillings, and it's always busy! Head to Glick's across the road for sweet, sweet Challah bread.
  • Bombay by Night (Caulfield South) It looks like your average suburban Indian joint, and it's menu would indicate that too, but the food is a cut above. The curries are simply beautiful, and you have to try the kulfi for desert.
  • Attica (Ripponlea) Nestled in the unassuming suburb of Ripponlea is this famous Melbourne restaurant. It's won countless awards for its innovation and interesting culinary practices, such as potato cooked in the earth it was grown. It's ranked as the 53rd best restaurant in the world, which is quite an achievement considering how many are even listed here!
  • Misuzu's (Albert Park) This one is worth the trip to Albert Park. The value for money combined with the quality of Japanese food on offer is outstanding, and the restaurant itself is very cute with lanterns adorning the trees outside. Don't forget to book at it's always teeming with locals.
  • St Ali (South Melbourne) Tucked in the back streets of South Melbourne, any serious espresso connoisseur will enjoy visiting this cafe/roasters. The food is good too!

  • The Wesley Anne (Northcote) Northcote is another great place to go out in, it's not clubby, just smoothly cool and laidback, just like the Wesley Anne. This old pub has great food and holds live performances and music with a huge treed courtyard out the back.
  • Bar 303 (Northcote) Another Northcote bar worth mentioning for its commitment to live and local music. The front bar hosts a ukulele open mic night the first Tuesday of each month (unbelievably hilarious) and the back room has a large stage for band performances.

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