Named one of the world’s most livable cities, stylish Melbourne is known for its laid back lifestyle, multiculturalism, and maze of laneways. It’s also blessed with a vibrant and edgy arts scene, rolling landscapes with iconic vistas (Great Ocean Road), and not to mention the adorable Phillip Island penguin parade. However, it’s Melbourne’s progressive and diverse dining scene that has the food-obsessed all abuzz.
Upscale Modern Australian
A hub for innovation and creativity, some of world’s top restaurants call the coastal state capital home. Tucked in the suburb of Ripponlea, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants–recognized Attica takes guests on a gastronomic journey where native ingredients play a profound role in supporting the stories and vignettes that head chef-owner Ben Shewry portrays in his thoughtfully prepared tasting menu. An imperfect history of Ripponlea is explored, for example, through the dish of the same name: a trio of brilliant tartelettes showcasing lilly pillies as an homage to Australia’s Indigenous peoples; refined black pudding for the English ex-pats who named the neighbourhood; and chicken matzo ball soup-like jelly for the Jewish community prevalent in the 1930s. It’s a bucket-list destination where attention to detail and delicious contemporary cuisine find harmony with nature and the environment.
From an inviting front lounge that shares the space with the open kitchen or in a sexy leather booth flanking its luxe dining room, try chef-restauranteur Andrew McConnell’s finessed modern-eclectic Australian menu at Cutler & Co. Well-matched wine or inventive mocktails compliment superb wood-grilled marron that’s slicked with a rich sauce américaine; smoked maple glazed duck is sided by an interesting dulse and rose infusion that mimics the tannins and aromas of a pinot noir. After dessert, venture next door to sister wine bar, Marion, for a nightcap.
Southbank’s massive Crown Entertainment Complex doesn’t only house the luxe Crown Metropol hotel, high-end retail, and a virtual reality centre and cinemas, but also 50-plus restaurants and bars including celebrity chef Neil Perry’s multi-award-winning Rockpool Bar & Grill. The sleek and sophisticated Yarra River–flanking outpost is a mecca for meat. Choose from dozens of cuts, finishes and breeds, like the Blackmore Wagyu prepared on wood fire and washed down with some of the best vintages sheltered in their renowned cellar.
Coffee and Café Culture
From café-lined laneways to trendy hotspots, Melbourne’s coffee scene continues to grow from its 1950s Italian immigrant espresso roots (still found at charming, family-run institution Pellegrini’s) to become a revered leader in the third-wave coffee movement. Coffee culture is best experienced at standing room–only Patricia, a favourite among connoisseurs for artisanal coffee that’s ground on-site, brewed with exactingly standards, and served as white, black, warm, or cold-filtered.
Move over, flat white—“the magic” is here. Considered the perfect blend, the magic is a six-ounce drink made by pouring steamed milk over a double ristretto. Try it at Liaison, a ground floor café in the rail-thin Monaco House that uses Golden Bean-winning Zest Coffee, or head to Auction Rooms in up-and-coming North Melbourne. The latter, a former auction house, has a weather-beaten blue façade fronting an open, industrial chic space dripping with poly pipe–shielded pendant lights from its rafters. Besides coffee, enjoy hearty bites such as pressed lamb shoulder with a lightly-dressed couscous salad. Part café and all-hipster watering hole, Captains of Industry is where the mister can browse for leather shoes, get a straight razor shave at the barber, and enjoy a coffee while getting measured for a bespoke suit. But for café culture, park yourself on a nook, greenery-enveloped perch, or lounge seat under Higher Ground’s vaulted ceilings. Dine on technique-driven and highly Instagrammable café cuisine like a fluffy ricotta hotcake topped with a garden of seasonal fruits, seeds, edible flowers, and maple syrup while nursing brews using beans from their own roaster.
Oozing creative and colourful bohemian vibes, Fitzroy is where unique and affordable cafés and old-school pubs mingle with swanky restaurants and bars. For the world’s best croissant (named by every serious publication), join the snaking and unavoidable queue at Lune Croissanterie. Using a non-traditional engineering-like approach, siblings Kate—a former aerodynamicist for Formula One—and Cam Reid have developed a three-day process that transforms the Normandy butter-enriched dough into a blissful, buttery (but not greasy) aromatic pastry that has shattering golden layers. Choose from textbook-perfect French croissants, Danishes and cruffins (invented here) filled with lemon curd. Or secure a stool at the experimental Lune Lab for a three-course pastry flight and a full view of the Cube, the minimal industrial-designed space’s temperature- and humidity-controlled glass box pastry kitchen.
Tipplers should take an unassuming ascent to the Everleigh, a dim vintage reading room with a long marble bar, and sip on the bartender’s choice, a Second Serve (created by sister bar, Milk & Honey in NYC) or any other golden era–inspired fizzes, Old Fashioneds, sours, and Sazeracs. Another must-visit is the Elysian Whisky Bar on Brunswick Street, which draws inspiration from Japanese whiskey bars. With over 350 bottles of the rarest and most interesting drams, this is the spot to taste whiskeys unavailable in other parts of Australia, or anywhere else in the world.
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